My first attempts at writing a family history were shredded long ago. I was scattered and unfocused, attempting to share all the research gathered on all my ancestors in one tidy volume. I had many false starts. The projects were too large. I lost sight of the reason I wanted to write in the first place.
The overriding reason I wanted to write my family history was to preserve my research and share it with my family. In doing so, I could (hopefully) ensure that my research would not be lost. But I had to come up with a workable plan to accomplish that goal. My false starts had gotten me nowhere, except to point out how NOT to accomplish my goal.
That’s when it hit me. Who’s my audience? Who am I writing for? My goal was never to write the next best-selling novel. My writing is for my family. I’m writing for my family now living, and for my future descendants. And it’s important to me to write something they’ll actually read (and enjoy reading).
Once I determined who my audience was (my family), the writing got a whole lot easier. Now when I write, I “speak” to them. I write about things they’ll find interesting. I focus on the stories, building context, while bringing life to our ancestors. I write about their communities, their neighbors, and their friends. And I break off small branches from the tree to focus on at one time.
Who is the audience for your written family history? Maybe you’re sharing a well-documented ancestral line with other genealogists who are researching the same surname. Or maybe you want to share the interesting life of one of your ancestors. Or maybe you want to write down all those family stories that have been handed down through the generations while adding more details to the story that you’ve gleaned from your research.
Knowing who your audience is will help guide you through your writing process, and the Get Ready to Write GenGuide will help you get started. Always keep your audience in mind. Write as though you are speaking directly to them. Writing to your audience will help to keep you focused and will help define the route your written family history will take.
Copyright 2017, Phyllis Matthews Ziller, All Rights Reserved.