Here are tips that can make your personal history project go smoothly before you dive in:
*Think positive. Organizing shoeboxes of material, and more so organizing a story from thin air can be a daunting thing, but it has been done in the past, and it can be done again.
*Think of the the end result. It’s hard to get motivated to start – let alone finish – a personal history. But when you think of a grandchild’s excited expression to discover your book and the stories within it, you will be inspired to tackle it finally.
*Recognize that this project will take up a substantial amount of time for writing, editing, and designing your book. Look at the calendar and schedule when you will be doing what. Deadlines are helpful. Take into account holidays, trips, and other events.
*Choose a recent photo that you want for a cover (for a custom cover or a title page) or arrange to have one professionally taken. Two weeks before publication, my clients decided to customize their cover. It was a little rushed, but we made it work, with photos they already had. With some planning, you could have the luxury of using a photo that is the very best you can have at that time.
*Gather photos early on in the process. They will jog the memory and could even provide a framework for your story. Scan them in at 300 dpi jpeg format so you can refer to them easily as you write your story. I got a scanner/printer from Walmart for $60 which I use solely for scanning, and I’ve been very pleased with the convenience of not having to run to the local copy place, or wanting to scan something at night when I have time.
*Make a list of important milestones in your life. Times when you made a decision, experienced intense emotion, learned a lesson, achieved a goal, didn’t achieve a goal. You can use this as a checklist for when you are writing your story. Change and conflict usually makes stories more exciting.
*Decide on your audience even before you write your story. An ideal audience would be a 12 year old grandchild. You will be more apt to share details that you wouldn’t feel like you have to share with, say, a sister or parent. This will affect the style and purpose of your book.
When I wrote my own memoir, I wrote it with my older sister in mind. As I look back now, I’m grateful to have her to motivate me, but some details were lost along the way because I didn’t feel like I had to explain them. Rainy days and frogs in puddles, for example, or why I love corn on the cob to this day having bought so many from the roadside vendor, or the feeling of tropical heat. My tongue burning from a hot fishball, or the sound of church bells signaling the noon hour.
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In my next post/s, I will write about tips as you write, edit and design your book. For a free consultation on how I can help you or your loved one finish that personal history project, contact me.