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A Life Less Ordinary

IWSG Writing Update – December 2016

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing.  Since August, the IWSG likes to see a particular question answered in each blog post of their members. This month that question is “In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?”

Last month, I hinted at maybe trying to add 50,000 words to my memoir in November. That would mean write, write, write, and don’t look back, don’t edit, don’t improve, don’t polish and don’t criticize. While this is a good way to “get it all out there”, it is not really how I have been working recently, so I chose to maintain my current goal of writing one chapter every week. Thanksgiving week and my birthday made that a bit tough but I mostly succeeded. I wrote 18,500 words. Much less than 50K, but these words are more polished material. To be completely honest, I didn’t exactly write all those words this past month. I cheated. I mostly copied and pasted hunks of text from blogs I posted and notes I took in the past – which was then the present – to make up the bulk of this part of the book. But, I rewrote and edited as I saw fit, creating coherent first draft chapters. That has to count for something, right?

As I am progressing with my memoir, I have been changing tactics. Initially, I was just writing off the cuff, incorporating notes from my original outline. Later on, I wrote from memory, then cross referenced with outline ideas. Next, I digitally leafed through collections of photos I posted of that period of time, followed by reading all my It’s Irie blogs covering that location and time period. I added new insights to the manuscript and worked chronologically, something I hate to do but have found to be the easiest approach right now. Next, I browsed my hundreds of pages of notes, thoughts, and sometimes articles about my life on Irie. It was – and is – a lot of work and this will only increase as I approach the end of my story, since the emails, notes and experiences I penned down during that period rival none!

Recently, I inverted that method. I now begin with a few valuable experiences that I jot down, then I grab the blogs that jive with what I want to share. I start from that, adding tidbits and memories as I read, review and write, sometimes looking for more clues in other notes. That approach seems to work better and faster for me. For now. I realize that I will end up with too many chapters that are too long, and with a first draft memoir that will resemble a phone book. I assume that’s when the shaping of the story will take place, and loads and loads of cutting!

About that IWSG question of this month… Five years is a long time. I find it difficult to think – let alone plan – that far ahead. Mark and I basically live from day to day and don’t even discuss anything over a few months in the future. So, let me split this incomprehensible period up for my own sake and to humor the world. In two years from now, I hope that my memoir will be published and inspire many readers to live a life less ordinary, or at least provide them with excellent and entertaining reading. I plan to get there the same way I am trying to achieve that goal right now: slow and steady, with a lot of determination. After that, or maybe even during, Mark and I will be on our next adventure, which I could see myself mold into another memoir five years from now, if the first one was a success. 🙂


  1. Keep going and you’ll get there!

  2. Loved reading this post especially after our conversation last night. I admire your determination to bring so many amazing adventures and life experiences together. It sounds like you are finding ways to make it more manageable. I very much look forward to reading it once it is complete. Till then very best wishes for writing success.

    • Thank you, Sue. I wish it was as easy to write stories down as it is to tell to some new friends. 🙂 And, I hope that the readers of my memoir will be as supportive, interested and captivated as you both last night!

  3. I think everyone has to find the method that works for them and it sounds like you found what does the tricky for your project. For me, NaNo worked this time around in the sense that I actually got words down on paper. Before, I would end up getting paralyzed and constantly go back and edit, delete and start over again. The words I have aren’t great ones, but at least I’ll have something to work with.

    • I agree, Ellen. If I were to start from scratch, like I did in November 2015 (or for a new project), getting down all those words is essential. When I wrote my outline last year, I dumped 90,000 words in one month. It was insane, but it was a start! Now, I am using some of those and assembling the first draft that way. Congratulations on finishing NaNo this year and in such a timely manner!!!

  4. dconnollyislandgmailcom

    December 7, 2016 at 15:47

    I look forward to reading your memoir, Liesbet!

  5. Wow, that’s quite an undertaking! I love the idea of writing 50,000 unedited words in one month but I wonder if I could actually do that (assuming that I actually had something to write that many words about), but I’m not sure my anal side would let me. I am a tortured writer who is constantly second-guessing myself and re-thinking everything I write. Good luck with your project – I look forward to reading the results!

    • Thanks, Janis. And, I am a bit like you when it comes to “perfectionism” in writing. As an exercise, I can just write and let it flow without editing. But, if I know that the result will become public at some point, or just writing a first draft for myself, I cannot leave typos uncorrected or inaccuracies unchanged. This is counter productive in some way, if you want to write a lot, but I do it nevertheless, even though 2/3 of this draft will probably never make the cut.

  6. I am so looking forward to reading this memoir! I really love your blog. 🙂 Your adventures are what first drew me here–I was thrilled to find a kindred spirit, though, in truth, you are WAY more adventurous than I am. Which is awesome!

    I like your way of thinking. Planning is good, but not if it gets in the way of opportunities and adventure. Happy holidays, dear friend!

    • Thanks for swinging by on your busy blog hop quest as a co-host, J.H.. Your brain and fingers must be exhausted by now. 🙂 And, thank you for your kind words as well. You are quite the adventurer yourself, and in many different – unorthodox – ways! Let’s cheers to an adventure where our paths might cross, and wishing you happy holidays as well!

  7. What an interesting process you have for this! One of my critique partners is writing a memoir, and she actually sits down and does a visual map of images and notes and thoughts before she does a chapter.

    • That’s interesting, Shannon. I find it hard to somehow incorporate all the stories, notes, memories, photo occurrences and so on into the manuscript. I sometimes think it would have been easier to just have a diary to start with (which I have kept as well, but they are all with my parents in Belgium, so inaccessible) instead of a multitude of other note collections and photos. I am trying to imagine how your critique partner combines all this visually and goes from there. That must be a lot of material as well. I guess what I do is pretty similar, but stored on different websites and in desktop folders…

  8. Enjoyed reading about your process. My birthday was near Thanksgiving too on the 30th. Happy Belated Birthday.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  9. You touched on two philosophies that are a prominent theme around here in your blog post: Don’t reinvent the wheel (unless you have to). And slow and steady win the race. Good luck with your writing, Liesbet. What you’re doing is pretty darned amazing. 🙂

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • That is so nice of you to say, Stephanie. The idea of writing a memoir is pretty amazing, but what I am doing is not really. If it ever turns into a published memoir, I will full-heartedly agree with you! 🙂 I hope you are right that slow and steady wins the race. I am a pretty impulsive person (the way I hooked Mark or dove head first in adventures, or claimed I was going to write a memoir), so having to deal with commitments that drag on is a new thing for me! But, I am determined and stubborn… 🙂

  10. You live an amazing life. It’s understandable that you don’t plan 5 years ahead. I’m a firm believer in plodding along at your own pace. Good luck to you.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family.
    December co-host

    • Thanks, Diane. I am a fan of living life at my own pace. Problem is that one can get used to being “lazy” and one might need some deadlines or pressure to get things done, so they don’t drag on forever. BTW, that “one” is obviously me! 🙂 Happy Holidays to you and yours as well!!!

  11. Excellent work on the book! That is something to be pleased about, and who cares how the words got there. IMO if already written words get the job done, then the job gets done. Personally, I can’t wait to read what you create. I’ll buy an advanced copy first chance I get.

    • That is so nice of you to say, Ryan. Let’s hope those copies, advanced or not, ever find their creation! Good luck with your writing the coming days. Getting up to speed again will be a bit tough, but I have a feeling that your little break in the big city was exactly what you needed to pick up pen and inspiration once more. Well done on the Wednesday postings! 🙂

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