If you wish you could write a family history that your family wants to read, then this is the post you need to read. Great family history stories begin with a completed rough draft that has been put through the following four steps to proofread your family history story.
Complete the First Draft
You can't write a compelling family history if you never write your first draft. Rough drafts are SUPPOSED to be terrible.
Tell your inner critique to take a hike when you turn the names, dates, and places in your family stories into sentences and paragraphs. I explained this in the webinar I did for Legacy Family Tree webinars, which you can watch here.
A perfectly crafted family history inside your head is less valuable than a grammatically incorrect, boring story written longhand or typed into a computer.
Get your first draft done.
Step 1: Read Your Story Aloud
After you write your first draft, read it out loud. Actually, set your first draft aside for a week or so and then read it out loud. The week's delay will help you read your story with fresh eyes.
This simple trick will dramatically improve your family history stories. As you read the story out loud, how does it sound to your ears? If you find it awkward to say, your readers will likely find your story difficult to read.
You'll be surprised at the mistakes your ears pick up on.
Step 2: Use a Grammar Editor
While many English teachers have shunned the use of computer-generated grammar assistance, I think they often save my bacon.
I have a subscription to Grammarly that I can use with Google Docs or any web-based writing program. (They even have a Microsoft application, but I haven't used it.) Grammarly helps me with clarity, reduce redundancy, and put the commas where they belong.
I don't accept all of the recommendations from Grammarly, but combined with a read aloud, I'm ready to share my story with others.
Watch this video.
Step 3: Share Your Story With Others
If you really want your family to enjoy your family history book, have someone read it before you publish it. Or, you can share a proof copy of your story with some else.
In writing, we call this stage, finding beta readers. You can learn more about the power of beta readers in this article.
Ideally, your beta readers are reading for understanding rather than grammatical correctness.
You want beta readers to tell you:
Can you follow the story?
What do you not understand?
What terminology am I using that needs more clarification?
What is my story lacking?
What seems redundant?
What would make you want to read this story again and again?
After you get feedback from your readers, then you can improve your story even further. You'll also want to proofread your adjustments once again by reading your changes aloud and running them through the grammar editor.
Notice I haven't mentioned story crafting techniques. At the bottom of this post, you can find some cool tips for writing a better story.
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Step 4: Hire Professional Proofreaders
When you're ready to finalize your story for printing, do yourself a favor and hire an editor (even if you are an editor by trade). That extra set of eyes focused online and copy edits will help you catch things that you have missed.
To learn more about the types of professional editors you can hire, check out this post.
Celebrate Your Published Family Histories
You can honor your ancestors, or teach your family how to overcome the past, by sharing stories in books or other formats.
If you haven't finished this task yet, stop overthinking your story and just start writing. Complete that first draft, and then edit the awesomeness into your story.
Additional "Family History Tips" Show Notes
For more great tips on writing your family histories, check out these articles and videos.
Tips for Writing Compelling Family Histories (FHFXtra Video)