Aging rock stars, sports heroes, entertainment icons and politicians can get away with simply telling occasionally sanitized stories of their lives in their memoirs. Our celebrity-obsessed culture laps them up. That won’t work for the rest of us. The reading audience wants more. Vivian Gornick in The Situation and the Story, put it well when she wrote, “Truth in a memoir is achieved not through a recital of actual events; it is achieved when the reader comes to believe that the writer is working hard to engage with the experience at hand. What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense the writer is able to make of what happened.”
Should you publish your family history as a print book or an ebook? The first place to look for an answer is your audience? How do they prefer to read books? Their preferences should guide your decision on the form your book should take. But they are not the only consideration. What are your goals for your family history? In most cases, preservation is a high priority.
Did you hate it when they taught outlining in school? The teacher went on and on about where the Roman numerals went and whether this line should have a capital letter, a lower case letter or an Arabic number. I hated it. I think a lot of other people did too. I was speaking to a group of people this weekend who were in the process of writing family history books. I asked how many had an outline for their book. Only about a third did. Too bad! What they were doing was letting straight chronology lock them into the way they told their story. More importantly, by being guided solely by chronology they were risking taking only a superficial look at the events they were describing. Deeper insights that reflection on those events might have produced went by the boards. The result was almost sure to be strictly reportorial rather than dramatic. Developing a good outline (not the one you learned in school, but a well thought out plan of major topics and subpoints) before you begin to write allows you to discover ways to engage your readers that aren’t immediately apparent when looking at the facts you know. Experimenting with different ways of telling your story can help you to discover new insights into what happened and to show them to your audience in a more interesting way than a plodding chronology can ever do. Let’s look at some.
If you are doing genealogical research, you’re a bit like a geologist searching for precious metals. You’re drilling back into the past looking for connections among generations of ancestors over time. The bore hole is deep, but narrow. When you write a family history book that focus on people connected by blood is only part of the story. A family historian seeks not only to establish such kinship connections but to relate ancestors to contemporaries beyond the family. The result connects your ancestors to the times and places in which they lived as well as to each other. Your family history puts the lives of the people in your pedigree chart or family group sheet into a historical context.
We’re looking forward to the Arizona Family History Expo which begins Friday in Mesa. One of the things we enjoy is that the participants come ready to learn. Many come equipped with questions they want answered before the expo ends on Saturday. If you have attended a few genealogy conferences you know that the questions people thinking about writing or already working on a family history book will ask usually follow a predictable pattern. Here are five we are sure we’ll here more than once.
You’ve been thinking about creating a memoir or family history book. But you may feel a like you’d be setting off on a bit of an uncharted course. Creating a book may seem like an overwhelming task. Understanding the six steps every book goes through on its way to print will give you a roadmap which will make successfully seeing your book through to publication much less daunting.
What will you leave behind after a lifetime of genealogical research? It’s a question that a lot of people ask themselves as they accumulate more and more information about their ancestors. It often leads people to think about ways to pass on their growing knowledge of the family history. There are many methods including creating a databases, creating a family archive, maintaining a family history blog, or a Facebook page. But creating a family history book remains the option of choice for a large number of people.
Getting books from the desk of writers to the hands of readers has always been a three step process: • Writing • Creating the book: editing, laying out the interior, designing the cover, and printing • Distributing, Promoting and Marketing Traditionally, writers have been involved in only one of those phases. Creating the book, distribution, promotion and marketing were responsibilities turned over to the traditional publisher. Beyond finding an agent and signing a contract with the publisher, the author didn’t have to worry about the business aspects of the book trade. Self-publishing changes that. A self-publishing author is an independent publisher who is responsible for all three stages of the process. A successful indie author must become a project manager who understands each step of the process and makes sure that the requirements of each are carried out well. Let’s look at what that means.
You should self-publish your book! We said so in our first post of this year, Publishing a Book in 2013? Self-Publish It! But we think you should do it knowing what your will be getting into. What are your options and why should you choose self-publishing? In our last post we explored The Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Publishing. Today, we’ll do the same thing with self-publishing. Then, on Tuesday in the final post of the series, we’ll discuss the best ways to take advantage of the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls self-publishing presents for authors.
Planning on publishing a book in 2013? In our initial post of 2013 we advised you to “Self-publish it!” In this post and the two that will follow this we’ll look at the reasons you should do that. Today we will analyze Advantages, Disadvantages and Recent Changes in Traditional Publishing and what those things might mean for authors. Our next post will do the same thing for self-publishing. The third post in the series will look at the emergence of a new role for the self-publishing author. So, let’s get started.
Want to publish a book in 2013? Do it yourself! The world of book publishing has changed dramatically since 2000 when Stephen King made his internet novella, The Plant, available on his website for $1 per download. ...So, as we begin 2013, best-selling author Guy Kawasaki, in his book APE: How to Publish a Book, advises, “The advantages of self-publishing far outweigh the disadvantages for most authors.”
A lot of people think creative nonfiction is an oxymoron. If you are writing a memoir, a family history, reporting on current events or historical ones, you are writing about things that have already happened. Your job is to recount the facts of those events as they happened. You are a reporter. Where’s the creativity in that? It’s in the way you choose to deal with the facts. Think of the way a young child recounts what happened. He presents a list of “This happened…” then “That happened…” statements as if the meaning of the events should then be self-evident. But meaning is really seldom self-evident. It is the role of the writer to turn the accounting of what happened into a narrative which captures the dramatic nature of the past and attempts to interpret its meaning.
Holiday gatherings are often a time for family historians to gather and share treasured photographs. Unfortunately some of the photos come without identification of the people pictured. So you might have gotten a picture of great-great-great-grandfather or somebody to whom you have no relationship at all. How do you figure out which? Here are some suggestions.
The brouhaha over Amazon book reviews continues. Today the New York Times ran a front page story Giving Mom’s Book Five Stars? Amazon May Cull Your Review. In the latest chapter of the controversy over the validity of reviews which appear on Amazon The Times reports: After several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews, Amazon is cracking down. Writers say thousands of reviews have been deleted from the shopping site in recent months. Amazon has not said how many reviews it has killed, nor has it offered any public explanation. So its sweeping but hazy purge has generated an uproar about what it means to review in an era when everyone is an author and everyone is a reviewer. ...What do you think about the controversy? Post a comment.
Well written dialogue in a book does not duplicate the way people really talk. It simulates how a real conversation might sound, but it doesn’t try to recreate one. Have you run across the advice that the way to learn to write dialogue is to listen carefully to people’s random conversations and then to incorporate the elements of what you hear into your dialogue? That’s a good idea because it will help you to reproduce the way speech sounds. Novelist Elmore Leonard, who writes some of the most crisp, witty dialogue around, said, ““I'm very much aware in the writing of dialogue, or even in the narrative too, of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it … Interviewers have said, you like jazz, don’t you? Because we can hear it in your writing. And I thought that was a compliment.” Listening to people talk can help you to get a feel for their rhythms. But don’t try to reproduce the way they actually talk. Real conversation contains a number of things that will kill the dialogue in a book.