Wednesday, May 14, 2014

National Genealogical Society Tips for Writers

Virginia capitol building
Last week I attended the National Genealogical Society's annual conference, which was held in Richmond, Virginia. In an area that is chock-full of the history of the birth of our country and the wars that shaped the future of the United States, it was easy to let my mind roam free on the stories I want to tell about my ancestors. I was especially pleased to see the large number of sessions in the program that pertained to writing, and I took advantage of a number of them. Here are my top ten take-aways for writers from the conference:

1. Use Timetoast Timelines to create and share timelines for your story.
2. When using newspapers for research, don't just look at the town your person came from. Look at neighboring towns and county wide newspapers as well as they often covered events from other locations.
3. It is not how much material you have but what you do with the material that matters for your story.
4. Start your story with something that grabs your audience. It doesn't necessarily have to be the beginning.
5. Show, don't tell, your story.
6. Choose events that have meaning to you, because you will write the story better.
7. In non-fiction, stick to the facts but make them zing!
8. End each chapter with another hook or cliff hanger so the reader wants to keep reading.
9. If you are going to write a family history narrative, make sure your historical facts are accurate.
10. You need to know who your audience is BEFORE you begin to write!