While it’s easy to get lost in the stories and facts of writing your book, it’s important to consider some of the more technical aspects of writing too. Obviously, the intention of writing your family history or your story is not only to preserve memories it’s also for your audience to enjoy the journey.
I’ve broken down four components to story-writing. The first is the story itself, the content. Secondly, there’s punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Thirdly, comprehension and lastly, the one that many people don’t realise is the visual appeal of the word on paper.
When you write, you always need to consider your reader; you don’t want them to have to work hard. By that I mean have your words flow so well, they don’t have to go back and re-read something. You not only want to engage your reader and keep them interested you want to make it easy for them to read.
To help you, here are five technical elements to consider when writing your stories for your book.
If you find yourself caught up in the flow of writing, it’s easy to repeat individual words or points. Be clear in your mind what point you want to get across, and make it as soon as you can. If you find something may be vague, think of another way of saying it. Be economical in your words and wherever possible remove words that are redundant. It’s preferable to have only one idea in a paragraph; this will help you keep on track. Your readers will be able to follow the story easily.
Avoid words that require the reader to look up the meaning. They may sound impressive. However, you want anyone to be able to understand and enjoy your story. Engaging your reader should be a priority. If they are confused or feeling intimidated, you risk losing them. Think of a book or material you started reading. Was it was full of jargon and words you didn’t understand? Did it make for great reading or was it boring and you put it away? If you find yourself using words that are uncommon now, find a way to include the meaning somewhere in your book.
Most people are visual, and when something looks beautiful, it’s pleasing to the eye. The same goes with your writing. You can make yours more appealing by implementing a few simple ideas. Align your margins to justify both left and right. It gives the text a clean look and appeals to the eye. Another is avoiding long paragraphs where possible. The same goes for sentences. If you find you have long sentences, go back and see if you can shorten them or break them into two. Now look at how many words are on the last line of your paragraph. If only one or two try and trim out a word or two in your paragraph, so there’s nothing left hanging at the end. You will avoid having your page look untidy. So cast your eyes over your paragraphs as see if you have any leftovers.
It’s very easy to change tenses when you write. The main point is being consistent. If your writing is mainly non-fiction, which is what most family historians write, there may be situations where you will need to switch tenses. You will mainly do that to indicate there is a change in the period you are writing in. For example, you may start as a narrator, and then switch to a particular ancestor or period. The ‘simple past’ or ‘past simple’ is the tense which refers to the ‘time before now’.
If you are inclined to do a lot of word dumping, it’s easy to fall out of a logical sequence. Now is the time to put all the tips above into action. Check if all your ideas run in an orderly sequence, within the paragraph, as well as the paragraphs themselves. At the end of each paragraph and page, read what you have written out loud. Vocalising provides a different perspective than reading inside your head, where all those thoughts initially originated.