google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html But I'm Not a Writer! | The Armchair Genealogist

But I'm Not a Writer!

"But I’m not a writer"  is a common excuse I often hear when I am encouraging family historians to record their genealogy in a book format. Many think, they require writing experience or a  journalism diploma or have previously been published at some point in order to write a family history book. That is not true. What is true is that it takes effort, like anything of value in life, it won't happen without hard work, patience and a commitment.

However, if you really want to consider writing a family history book then I have gathered a few tips that will help you commit to the process while developing your skills and confidence to complete the task.




  •  Create a writing area. Clear away a spot where you can write. Some place you don’t have to clean up and put things away each day. If you have to pull things out and put things away every time you sit down to write, it won’t happen. I wrote the majority of my family history book at the dining room table. It doesn’t have to be fancy it just needs to be your dedicated space. 


  •  The Support of Your  Family. Because it will take time away from them. You need to find the time somewhere and that often means giving up some valued family time, but with a supportive family on your side there will be less guilt involved.


  • Learn from Experts. Locate a writing class. There are many classes at local community colleges or online. Particularly, ones that are dedicated to writing family history. I have sourced a few for you. Committing to a class will grow your self-confidence and skills and put you well on your way to writing your family history book.

  •  Gather the necessary tools. You will need a computer, a printer and Internet service, along with a basic set of reference books in order to get your family history writing headed in the right direction. 

  •  Read. Great writers are great readers. Read a variety of  books on writing, books in both fiction and non-fiction and in particular those with historical content. Read critically, paying attention to characters, plots, the use of details. All genres of books can help you find your style and writing voice.

  • Just do it. Don’t spend so much time thinking put doing. It doesn’t matter if the first couple of attempts are garbage. You have to start. Each endeavour will become easier and more rewarding as your skills improve.

  • Write every day. Make time to write every day. Create a daily goal, whether it means 15 minutes or 2 hours. It could mean getting up early, turning off the TV or staying up late. I find mornings work best for me. Carry a notebook, with you because inevitably ideas will come to you when you least expect it and then vanish before you had the chance to write them down.

  • Develop your writing through other avenues. Don’t be afraid of developing your writing through avenues outside of your history book. Writing articles or a blog are great ways to grow your writing experience and will expand your confidence as a writer.

  • Think small. Start by writing small stories, about individual ancestors, or an event that affected your family history. As you begin to develop the individual stories, you will find the path to connecting them into a cohesive family history.

  • Tell the World. There is no better commitment than a verbal one.  By verbalizing your commitment to the world you are more likely to follow through on that commitment. So tell everyone your writing a family history book then make it happen. 


  •  Write something someone wants to read. If your intention is to be published, avoid the trap of writing only for yourself. Instead, write with the reader in mind. By adapting the same skills of most novelists, you will create a family history book your family will want to read.
Don't be fooled, it takes work to write a family history book. You won't win any prizes or publishing contracts but the satisfaction of having written a family history book will be reward enough.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your Family History

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