How can I help with a personal history?

My father and I have different talents when it comes to researching and recording family history:  he does genealogy;  I do personal history and family history.  In other words, in my mind, at least, he does the bones (or the branches and limbs of the family tree, to say it as he might prefer) and I do the meat and flesh (or the leaves and blooms)—I like to dig out and research and add in the stories.

Both parts are necessary steps and both parts are difficult. But here are the ways I can help with your personal history, your family history, or your business history:

I can assist you with

  • categorizing family notes and genealogical research;
  • organizing information into a logical flow and deciding what sidebars and types and pieces of artwork are appropriate;
  • planning and discussing objectives with appropriate parties;
  • applying consistent use of colloquialisms, regional speech patterns and vocabulary terms, and era-appropriate slang;
  • researching partial memories and questionable “stories” (as well as fact-checking where needed); and . . .

of course, getting your information into some sort of printable format, whether you decide to end up with a collection of stories on paper, a story that has more of a continuous run to it, or a script you can use later to create a video program or audio presentation.

Once we have your personal story or family story to this point, the difficult work is done!  And the options are many. At this point, for instance, you can decide to photocopy your manuscript, to seek out a small press or self-publisher, or to post your creation online.

If you decide to actually print the manuscript that we create, I can help you work with your print shop or publisher by

  • proofing for text alignment, word division, line breaks and page breaks, page citations, header and footer formatting, and general page appearance and
  • creating acknowledgments, tables of contents, indexes, and reference lists.

If you decide to go online, I can help you with that, as well—through posts to a private blog site or creation of a public website. 

You and your family decide, and I will help guide you through the variety of possiblilties . . .  Just think about what you might like and ask!

 

Stephen, the-freelance-editor.com
e-mail: editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
text: 832-233-0041

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The “frontier” between fiction and nonfiction

One of my favorite new blogs, A Writer of History, recently posted an amazing interview about the writing of historical fiction—or is it “creative history” or historical nonfiction?  Personally, while some argue that the terms are synonymous for the same genre, I’ve always felt that the genre designation depended on the author, the research, the message, and the presentation, if you know what I mean!  And I’m glad that author Charlotte Gray not only agrees but has definitely earned the right to place her relevant works (Gray also writes pure nonfiction) into the genre of historical nonfiction.

During the interview, which was posted to the blog on February 25, Mary Tod asked two seemingly unrelated questions of Gray: “What ingredients make for successful historical nonfiction?” and “Can you tell us what you mean when you say that the frontier between fiction and nonfiction is under constant negotiation?”

Gray’s insightful responses are actually central to the fiction-nonfiction debate:

Trustworthiness. I have worked hard to establish a reputation as a nonfiction writer who does not invent characters, events, conversations. If I say what somebody is thinking, I know about their internal monologue from private letters etc. So readers can know they are increasing their knowledge and understanding of Canadian history without constantly asking themselves, “Did this really happen?” . . .  A novelist is not under such constraints to stick to the known facts . . . he or she can let their imaginations run! (But if they have somebody driving a car in the 1880s, that’s a problem!)

Jump over to A Writer of History and glean the knowledge that awaits in the many other information-packed answers. While reading, remember that much of the commentary and advice can pertain to other fiction genres and categories as well as it does to any type of nonfiction.

Stephen, the-freelance-editor.com
e-mail: editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
text: 832-233-0041 (temporary)

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The “fiction” in historical fiction; and the why

Those of you who have followed me for a time know that some of my favorite editorial projects are works of historical fiction; the truth is, historical fiction has been one of my favorite genres since I was in grade school.  (Anyone remember the We Were There series?)  Perhaps that’s why, during those projects, I’ve noted one challenge that continually plagues many of their writers—especially newer ones:  “Exactly how much fiction is acceptable in historical fiction?”  Even more seasoned writers have issues, but their challenges are more generally along the lines of,  “When is fiction acceptable in historical fiction?”  Either is a common problem.

Part of a recent  interview with best-selling, award-winning author Hilary Mantel  on NPR’s  Fresh Air  briefly addresses these two questions.  (If you listen to the interview, which focuses on the two finished books in Mantel’s trilogy about Tudor England,  Wolf Hall  and  Bring Up the Bodies,  her comments on writing historical fiction run from about 16:18 to roughly 19:38.)  Her answer is simple, yet complex.

I make up as little as possible.  I spend a great deal of time on research, on finding all the available accounts of a scene or incident, finding out all the background details and the biographies of the people involved . . .  it’s really in the gaps, the erasures, that I think the novelist can best go to work . . .

She then steps into the topic that, in my mind, states the very purpose for writing historical fiction in the first place: to tell “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say—the part of the story that history books cannot easily convey; the part that relates  why  what happened, happened:

. . . inevitably in history, in any period, we know a lot about what happened, but we may be far hazier on why it happened. And there’s always the question: Why did it happen the way it did? Where was the turning point?

In other words, facts are facts, whether they involve a person or group of people, an act or event, or a time or place; but, the why and the how . . . now, that’s where the “story” in history comes in!  At least, that’s my opinion.

So, now that you know the challenge of historical fiction (and how to meet it), get back to that draft!

Stephen, the-freelance-editor.com
editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
phone: 407-495-4801 (temporary)
text: 832-233-0041 (temporary)

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