My Memoir – A Writing Challenge

Several years ago I read On Writing Well by William Zinsser. He recommended that aspiring authors write one story per day for 120 days. After four months, writers should discard everything they wrote. According to Zinsser, it takes that amount of time to find the voice and rhythm for narrating a story. I followed his suggestions for about two weeks but stopped writing.

My 500 Words

In 2015, I came across the website This is a challenge presented by the author Jeff Goins. The basic rule of My 500 Words is to write five hundred words per day for thirty days. I decided to give it a try. However, rather than write a series of thirty articles on random topics, my goal was to write a cohesive narrative where all of the entries connected in some way. I decided to write about a topic I knew well, my life.

In thinking about this writing challenge, somewhere along the way, I converted the 30 days into 120 days, and thus a total of 60,000 words rather than 15,000 words. Even after I realized my error I still committed to completing the longer project. To help me stay motivated I envisioned my memoir as a printed book. As most printed books average 250-275 words per page, I knew that 60,000 words could potentially result in a 200-page book, a reasonable effort.

I wrote 60,027 words in 44 days. After some basic editing, I set up the text as a book and printed it using, an online print-on-demand publisher. As this was a personal project I only printed two copies, which remain on my bookshelves.

The Title

At the time I was editing the pages of the memoir, I came across a series of books by John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. Stephens was an early explorer who entered Mexico in the 1840s. I liked the title and adapted it to my book. Thus, Incidents on the Way to Arkansas was born.

Publishing on

I recently wrote and published Story Secrets from Scripture. Story Secrets from Scripture is about how to develop and deliver children’s stories for worship, vacation Bible school, and Bible study. The book covers how to find personal stories, assign teaching points, and tell these stories for a live audience.

I will be sharing in a future post about the publishing process on Amazon. Incidents on the Way to Arkansas will be my project book to illustrate the steps.

Impact of Daily Writing

Whatever you do every day for a year gets repeated 365 times. If you write 250 words per day, you will end the year with 91,250 words, easily 300 published pages. Even writing 100 words per day gives a cumulative writing output of 36,500 words.

If you have never accepted a writing challenge, I encourage you to start today!

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