Screenshot of main screen taken with my iPhone.
_If You’re in a Hurry, the Quick Version
If You’re Not in a Hurry, the 'Get a Cup of Coffee and Get Comfortable' Version
I’ve been asked a few times, “How do you write your family stories?” And I’m always at a loss as what to reply because I don’t know how to explain it. I always start with pre-writing. You know, that boring writing exercise no one wanted to do back when they were in school? Yeah. I brainstorm on paper. But before that, I think about an ancestor and their life. I try to liken them to something in modern times and try to make them real for my readers. [You see, at this point, they’re already real for me. I’ve poked around in their lives. I’ve learned some of their secrets. I’ve brought to light things my ancestors never thought in a million years would be made public knowledge. I’ve even conversed with them. But I digress.]
I definitely look for an angle, usually a humorous one. Okay. I’ll admit to adding a little sarcasm as well. [So sue me.] And there is, of course, a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I kind of tie it all together. [No, not with a ribbon. I’m speaking metaphorically.] And I definitely try to play up the aspects of the story that I think are interesting. Then I add my two cents into the mess [usually in brackets], and I try to talk about the setting and try to explain what was going on at the time. All in a conversational style like we were sitting at a local café talking about family stories over a cup of coffee [or two] and a slice of cherry pie. [And our waitress is Flo from that old T.V. show, Alice. You know the one with the tall hair who was always callin’ everyone ‘Honey’ or ‘Sweetie’ and tellin’ everyone to ‘Kiss my grits!’ when they upset her?]
See? Not very helpful, is it? I’ve never really broken my writing process down to try to explain it to others. I just do it. The creation of it starts in my head, and it keeps growing and growing and growing until my head is about to explode. And I quickly start writing ideas down ‘cause heaven knows I don’t want my head to explode. [I’d just have to clean it up.] Then as I write down the ideas, a story starts to emerge. No, not like a phoenix arising from the ashes. Nothing grand like that. But more like a lost and beaten up soul tripping its way through the murky forest and finally stumbling out of the fog and into the blinding light.
And this is why I’d never suggest to someone who was trying to develop a writing process that they follow mine. However, it looks like I don’t have to worry about trying to explain my writing process, or any writing process for that matter, because someone has already done it. And there’s an app for it as well. That’s right. A writing course tucked into an app that can be accessed with your handy dandy smartphone anywhere you and your smartphone might happen to be.
Screenshot of the 'Getting Started' section.
_Now, I’ve played with the How to Write Your Family History app for several weeks. [And you thought all I was doing was making heritage craft videos over the holidays and messing around on Twitter. *snort*] I wanted to actually take the course, run it through its paces, and compare it to my writing process.
And I’m very pleased with the outcome. Developed by The Professional Writing Academy from the UK, the How to Write Your Family History app is cleverly designed to help the family history researcher learn to write their family history as well as publish it. The course takes you step-by-step through a very sound writing process. As family researchers sometimes we get bogged down in the amount of research we have, and we simply do not know where or how to begin the task of writing. We want our family history to be recorded in an interesting way ~ more than just a ‘who begat who’ tome that no one but the geekiest of genealogy descendants will read, but how do you accomplish this?
Well, with this app, you begin at the beginning. There are 8 main sections of the course:
After every concept is discussed in every section, a ‘Learning Checklist’ is provided so you can evaluate if you are ready to go to the next concept or section. With each point in the checklist, if you are not sure or ready to go on, there are ‘Questions to Ask Yourself’ in order to give you additional information to prepare you for the next section.
Additionally, throughout the app you have the ability to take notes, bookmark, consult the additional reading recommendations, and track your progress through a ‘Course Map’, or outline.
Screenshot of Course Map.
This app is definitely for beginner to intermediate family history writers. In app form, the course is convenient for those who are on the go, but who still have made it a goal to write about their family history in story form. Moreover, it does discuss and help the user to explore the different ways to publish their writing in all its forms. Compared to taking a writing course at a community college or compared to buying numerous books on the subject of writing one’s family history in all its different forms, it is quite affordable at $5.99.
At first glance one might feel some sections could be strengthened with more information. However, as I glance at my large stack of books that fall within the genre of ‘how-to write your family history’ sitting on my bookshelves, I’m not sure if this really is a con in that more information does not necessarily translate into writing. At some point, the writer must make the jump and begin writing, and it’s my opinion this app gives the complete information and suggestions that are needed to learn the writing process and to complete the writing process, and does it in such a way so that it does not intimidate beginners.
Further, it has thought-provoking prompts that would be helpful for the intermediate family history writer to brush-up on their skills and tweak their writing process. I especially enjoyed and appreciated the lists of further reading for the different types of sub-genres of family history. I have always advocated that reading in the genre in which you wish to write is imperative to becoming a better writer. It’s what I like to call the ‘what goes in, comes out’ reading-writing phenomenon [which obviously needs a better title].
This app does what it advertises by teaching the user to write their family history and publish it in the myriad of forms that exist to publish such a history, and I will be incorporating certain aspects of the course into my writing process so that my writing resembles less a lost stumbling blind soul and more a phoenix rising from the ashes. [A flying family story sounds more fun than one that stumbles. Does it not?]
Additionally, I highly recommend visiting The Professional Writing Academy website. Along with this app, they offer online writing courses for all genres, mentoring, and support for those writers of all levels who would like their writing to not only fly, but soar.
Screenshot of Further Reading of Family Stories sub-genre.
Have a genealogy-related app, family history-related app, or an app that can be used for genealogy or family history research in some capacity and need it reviewed? Please contact me.
Disclosure Note: I am not affiliated with The Professional Writing Academy. I was contacted by them to review the app and I received a complimentary copy of the app from them for me to review and keep. However, as always, my opinions based on my use of the app are just that. My opinions based on my use of the app. For more disclosure information please visit my disclosure page.