Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Writing Family History

Saturday I attended an all day workshop on writing your family history. The St. Louis Genealogical Society offered the class, and the woman who taught it expressed surprise when I arrived. "What are you doing here?" She is aware that I have authored other books, but as I said to her I have never written a family history. Unlike a memoir where you can draw upon your own experiences, memories and stories, writing about people you have never met presents a challenge for me. How do you take the mundane statistics of birth, marriage, death, etc. and turn it into something people will want to read? Because if no one wants to read it, then what is the point?

Unfortunately that wasn't covered on Saturday. It was mostly about the physical structure of your family history book in terms of how it will look. I learned a bit about formatting, printing, building an audience, etc., so I am glad that I attended the workshop. But I need to know more about the actual writing process so that the book will be an enjoyable read. Most of the people at the meeting were only concerned about getting a book put together with all of their collected data so that they can share it with family members. I know how much work goes into getting a book into print, so I would like to make mine something more than so and so begat so and so. I think looking at examples of some family histories will be of benefit to me, so that is my next step.

1 comment:

Mrs. Wryly said...

I can understand your dilemma! You don't want your book (or family) to come off as a yawn, which would make it just as painful to write as to read.....

I do think you must find some family history books that you enjoyed reading to take notes and highlight examples of how the authors kept you turning the pages.

A few years back, I attended an all-day workshop to improve my writing. The instructor was pretty cockadoodle-doo, but she did share one great tip that I implement a lot, which is to begin a sentence with "action."

"Emerging from his mother's womb into the dankness of the taxicab, Baby Anthony had no way of knowing how nerve-wracking his arrival was for his parents."

Believing this is probably very basic to you, I am sharing it anyway!