Monday, October 10, 2011

Sometimes You’ve Got To Write It, To See It!

As many of you know, I’ve been really concentrating on writing the Mary Ann Coe book lately. I’m 380 pages into the first draft, and have now decided that instead of a feature length film this book will need to be a mini-series (hopefully HBO!) I’m certainly learning a lot during this process, and I thought I’d outline a few of these “Aha” moments here.

1. Where do you begin – We’ve done so much research that it seemed daunting at first to know how to organize all of it so that it made sense and flowed. I decided to start with an outline, and as chapters suggested themselves, I would add them later. I then created one page in Microsoft Word for each chapter. This has had the added benefit of making it easier to find the chapter I’m looking for as I scroll through the ever growing document, as the chapter header is visible when using the right scroll bar.

2. What to do when you’re stuck – Sometimes finding the words to actually start the book seemed the hardest of all. I remembered back to a college level writing class I took at Syracuse University, and remembered my professor saying that it’s often easier to write in blocks, where the inspiration hits, not necessarily in a linear pattern, from beginning to end. So, if the intro is bringing you to a standstill, go on to a section of the book where you have something to say, and come back to the introduction later.

3. It’s important to put your subjects in context, to their times and communities. While writing about a certain place, I have found it helpful to have a copy of the history of that place at hand. It really helps to learn more about the geography and the other people in the towns where your family lived, as they will play a part in the story also. And don’t discount the importance of religion – if you can identify the church or society your ancestor belonged to, you can better understand the circle that he or she moved in.

4. Most importantly, I’ve learned that writing about your genealogy research allows you to look at it as a whole, as opposed to just reviewing it in a genealogy database. I found that when I was writing that entire new avenues of research would open up to me, as I would be looking at several people at once, as opposed to the way you look at individuals or families in a database (one person or family at a time). In writing about all these interrelated individuals, I have noticed connections that I had not previously made. Sometimes you’ve got to write it, to see it!

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