How to write a book in a year

Aspiring novelists across the world are wrapping up November with triumph by finishing 50,000-word books they penned in a month as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Many try this feat, few accomplish it.

I’ve tried it once or twice, and though I made great progress, I cannot say I finished.

I have accomplished a different feat just now: I blogged a book. But instead of doing it in a month, it took a year.

As of yesterday, I posted a piece of the story every day for 363 days over at ChurchSweetHome.com. The story? My husband and I purchased a 126-year-old Methodist church last November and turned it into our dream home. We moved in in September.

That explains what I’ve been up to for over a year as I neglected this blog.

Labor Day Sign MessageI now have 93,890 words, raw material for my next memoir: Church Sweet Home. I have a lot of clean-up to do and I am desperately in need of an editor, but I’m in excellent shape to publish this thing in the near future.

If you’re demoralized by NaNoWriMo and you’d like a little more than 30 days to write your book, or you’re interested in creating a blog-to-book, or you think a memoir-in-progress sounds like a great idea, here are a few tips:

Choose your subject carefully

Not all subject matter is appropriate for a blog-to-book or memoir-in-progress. Nonfiction topics (“how to self-publish a book” or “50 ways to cook a chicken breast,” for example) are suitable subjects for blog entries you someday plan to turn into a book. Fiction stories are tougher if you don’t know where the story is going, though I think it could be done with a detailed outline and excellent writing. Memoir is sort of between nonfiction and fiction. I chose a fairly upbeat subject (home renovation) with a clear beginning and ending. I don’t think writing a daily blog is a good way to process a loved one’s death or chronicle a deadly diagnosis. You need perspective and some idea of how the story ends to write a memoir-in-progress.

Settle on a verb tense

In the past, I found turning daily blog entries into a book to be difficult because I generally write posts in present tense, but most memoirs are written in past tense. Rewriting was as hard as writing the first time. With ChurchSweetHome.com, I prepared readers by telling them I was writing a memoir-in-progress, and all my posts used past tense right from the beginning.

Cut-and-paste

I wrote all my original ChurchSweetHome.com blog posts in a single Microsoft Word doc. I cut-and-pasted my entries from Word into WordPress rather than the other way around. When I made a correction in WordPress, I tried to remember to update my master document in Word. The approach helped me write a logically flowing story, and the Word doc was easier to search when I needed to refer back to a subject.

Write the chapters first, blog posts second

My blog was always about two weeks behind real life. This allowed me to write entire chapters about demolition or tiling the shower or managing chaos and then cut them up later into manageable blog posts. Each chapter had its own logical opening and closing, and the serialization created some built-in suspense on days where I introduced problems that I didn’t solve until the next day or two. When things got really crazy and I was writing the day’s blog post right before I posted it, I didn’t always have good flow (this is a lot of the mess I need to clean up in my rough draft).

Help your reader

I helped the reader by using serialization techniques. At the beginning of every blog post, I wrote an “our story so far” summary, and at the end of each entry I teased tomorrow’s entry (I wouldn’t have been able to do this without writing ahead a least a little bit). Each blog post also linked to the next one in the “tomorrow” line. I also created a tab called “How to read this blog” which described what was I doing and provided a link to the very first entry so interested readers could start at the beginning without scrolling to the “bottom” of the blog.

Commit to consistency

I committed to writing at least two sentences a day. I didn’t actually write every day, but I did post every day, and my public commitment forced me to do something every day. (Committing to writing 1,667 words a day, as NaNoWriMo writers do, it a lot more challenging.) Most days I wrote much more than two sentences, but on the days I was really exhausted and overwhelmed, I still managed to post something (sometimes I scheduled entries). Now, even though it isn’t perfect, I have a draft from which to work. If writing or posting every day is too much, commit to every Monday and Thursday, or once a week.

Watercolor Steeple# # #

If you’re interested in seeing how I wrote my memoir-in-progress (and how it turned out!), and you want to start at the beginning click here.

I’ll be working on creating a smoothly flowing second draft, and in the meantime, I’ll be back here posting odd bits about writing, about diaries and about memoirs I’m reading. Good to be back!

 

 

Advertisements