2. Begin by gathering your materials. That includes photos, journals, letters to and from you, newspaper articles, clippings from magazines, baby books (if one of your parents was nice enough to do this), school writing projects, souvenirs, yearbooks, email messages, blog posts and anything else that you might have written or might have been written about you. I suggest that you have a box in which to put everything.
3. Make a timeline of your life. Since it is a timeline, keep it simple and chronological. Include all important events—marriage, graduations, certificates, birth(s) of children, travel, death of loved ones, jobs, promotions, volunteer work, membership organizations’ events, household moves. You get the picture. A printout of the timeline could be placed in a three-ring binder.
4. Look at your timeline and start writing the things that easily come to pen or keyboard. Name the incident, event, and write it into your timeline, showing that you have it. Add the file name and location.
6. When it becomes difficult, connect with a friend, family member, or acquaintance who may be able to fill in gaps of memory or knowledge. They may have more information about other family members who are deceased, events that happened when you were too young to remember, or enhance your memories with another view. Write those events/memories. Keep notes of the names of people who gave you more info and link it to the info given. File these new writings and keep the timeline up to date with location and file names.
8. Before you begin polishing your rough draft, work with someone unfamiliar to your story. Print out a hard copy for your reader. The reader will read your rough manuscript (don’t have them fix the typos now—you may delete part of the story or rewrite much of this anyway). The reader’s job is to write questions in the margin. Who is this? Why was this event significant? Where were you? All the questions to which you know the answer but have forgotten to write in your closeness to the story. I suggest that you have three readers using three separate clean manuscript copies. You then take all comments and put them onto one draft. Some authors might use a clean draft on which to write all notes and questions. On the other hand, one of your reader’s drafts may have the most significant edits and questions—I would use one and add the other comments to it.
9. With that marked-up draft, begin filling in the blanks. Continue with your writing schedule until you have a completed rough draft of your book.
10. Now is the time to get someone to edit. You need to ensure that everything is spelled correctly and the facts are as true as you know. The editor will also see when transitions are missing and will either prepare suggestions or notes for you regarding what needs to fixed. Notes such as “needs transition,” “you haven’t introduced this person to your readers” or “time sequence seems off.” Fix those and then prepare for another round of edits.
Nancy E. Randolph operates Just Write Books LLC offering consulting and coaching to writers. With over 50 years of writing experience and two decades in the publishing industry working with dozens of writers, Randolph has learned how to produce a manuscript that is ready for publication. Randolph uses that knowledge to help writers and authors reach their publishing goals. An active community member along with two others she founded and serves as a member of the board of Save Our Swinging Bridge.Org to ensure the maintenance of the historic Roebling-designed and -built bridge connecting Topsham and Brunswick.