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Having a particular focus of the family history will help keep you on track when you might stray...if you plan your book to feature the "Life and Times of the Smith Family" you may find yourself armpit deep in too many families with too much information to reasonably include in one book. Specifying "Descendants of John Henry Smith, " "The Smith Family of Smithville, VA," or "Elisabeth Cramer-Her Journey from Germany to Illinois" will focus your book and make it clear just what family or families are discussed.

A good piece of advice to aspiring family history authors is to review a few published family histories which resemble the sort of book you are aiming for; note the font, layout, graphics, numbering format, the way photos and other images are included, footnotes, sources, etc. Make a list of things you like and dislike, and go from there!

Step Two: Inventory!

Make an inventory of your research you have enough information to present in a book? Have you documented sources? Do you have family photos which can be included? Do you have items such as certificates, burial cards, signatures, memorabilia, etc. which you can reproduce in the book?

While you may think a family history is nothing but dry names, dates, and locations, successful and interesting books include photos, some graphics, and other items such as maps, migration routes, letters, signatures, etc. A list of items you'd like to include will serve can server as a reminder for events you wish to discuss.

Step Three: The Dreaded "O" Word

The third step is to create an outline. Many people get panicky when they see that word--the feeling of not having worked with an outline since they were in the sixth grade and were forced to do a report on Peru can be overwhelming and make them shy from the task. However, an outline is easy to create and modify, and is a very important step in organizing your thoughts.

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