W is for Writing it up – get that history recorded

We all plan to do it don’t we – write our memories, write that local history book, write up our family history. It is all so easy to put it off, ‘I will do it when I retire’, ‘I will just finish the research first’. Well, don’t be deluded, you will never ‘finish’ and as for more time in retirement – any retiree will tell you it just doesn’t work that way.

Writing up your research into a coherent narrative helps it to become appealing to your nearest and dearest. You know, those close to you who adopt a glazed visage when you enthuse about great great grandad’s first cousin once removed. Writing up aspects of local history enables you to share with others who are also interested. You may know it is a ‘good thing’ but the mechanics worry you. ‘I was never any good at writing’, ‘I don’t know where to start’. There is help out there. Take a creative writing course, or better still a writing up your history course – I run face to face courses for local and family historians and others do the same in different regions. There are also similar online courses available. There are books on how to write family and local history (see below). There are groups that can help and encourage you. Read what others have done to get ideas of what you do and do not, want to emulate. Use the spelling and grammar checkers on your computer, use the Thesaurus.

You are not writing a three volume novel – start small. Begin with the history of your house, not the whole town. Write about granddad’s war experiences, not the history of the whole family since Tudor times. Don’t just think in terms of writing a ‘book’. You could create a blog, a short article, a video, a presentation or an exhibition instead. Give yourself a deadline, maybe an anniversary that needs to be celebrated. Do it, not next year not next month but NOW. Make a start – you don’t even have to start at the beginning. Once you put fingers to keyboard you will be surprised how easy it is.

Beckett, John Writing Local History (Manchester University Press 2007)
Curthoys, Ann and McGrath, Ann How to Write History that People Want to Read (Palgrave Macmillan 2011)
Dymond, David (ed.) Researching and Writing History: a guide for local historians (Carnegie Publishing Ltd 2009)
Titford, John Writing up your Family History: a do-it-yourself guide (Countryside Books 2011)

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2 comments on “W is for Writing it up – get that history recorded

  1. kristin says:

    I am going to put my grandfather’s letters and what I learned about them into a small book when the atoz challenge is finished. I’ve written a few about my own life for my kids birthdays – “When I was 29” “When I was 40”.

  2. Birgit says:

    You are right! I had to write up a short history of my mom since she was going to long term care (she has dementia). I told it will help the nurses understand who she is and why she does what she does. I know they never read it but at least I now have it marked down and one day, I plan to write her biography

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