How to Write a Family Novel – and Why!

Three generations. That’s all you have. And then you’ll be forgotten. Completely. Only your name may remain. Memories of you will have long since passed into the annals of parochial history.

“There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance,” wrote Solomon thousands of years ago.

Ancient Greek statesman Pericles provided a different twist on our mortality: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but is woven into the lives of others.”

That’s the key. Leaving behind a financial legacy is fine for propelling successive generations into greater opportunity and influence.

But what about those more treasured possessions: the storied memories stretching across decades of living, the brilliant moments, the wonderful experiences that mark the uniqueness and peculiarity of your family.

Where will they go? How do you transport the wisdom of the ages to those yet unborn, those who will bear, in some distant fashion, the mark of your life, your upbringing, your very character?

The answer lies in the written word—as it has for millennia past. Transfer your legacy of life and passion to your children and your children’s children, and for generations to come, through a family novel.

Long after you’re gone, your descendants will be able to glean and reflect on their ancestors’ insights and observations. They will cherish your story, which will provide a valuable anchor to those long-passed occasions that helped shape and mold their own lives.

Your story will also provide valuable insight to your own immediate family.

Telling Your Story Helps Shape Future Lives

Every family has a story, those tales of military heroics, of lifelong sacrifices, of tragedies and redemption, even of infamy. The stories deserve to be told and shared—for the sake of the joy, the understanding, and the perspectives they’ll bring to future generations.

Here are 10 tips for writing that family best seller:

  1. Who are your readers? If you imagine your family tales turning into riveting reading, a real page-turner, you’re making a mistake. Budding authors are writing books every day, only to see them sitting on dusty cyber shelves, rarely getting noticed by few people outside their small circles of friends and family. Take heart. You already have a built-in fan base: your family and friends, and more. Your book will be cherished for years to come.
  2. What’s the big deal? You may find the mundane details about little, freckle-faced Tommy growing up in the suburbs of Toledo exciting. But other readers may find the “drama” less appealing. Sure, mention Tommy’s upbringing, his little travails. But delve into the conflict. Tommy struggled with bullies, but later overcame after discovering the true meaning of courage and valor. Inject some factual excitement into the mix. Future generations will thank you for it.
  3. What’s the theme? We’re back to the big deal. What makes your family unique? Were they outcasts in your neighborhood? Were they innovators, community leaders? What were their struggles, their challenges? What did they believe in? What was that one unifying emotional, philosophical, or theological thread that kept them motivated?
  4. What were they really like? What made them different from others? Describe their personalities. Were they stubborn, persistent, noble, combative? How about spirited and ambitious?
  5. How are you going to organize your novel? Don’t do lists. Boring! Structure your book by themes, personalities, or places. How about, for example, something like this: The Early Days in Pennsylvania, The Westward Migration, Building a New Life? Also start chapters with interesting little stories.
  6. How long will your book be? Chapters should be about the same length. Pick colorful or catchy chapter titles rather than numbers. If you have ten 2,000-word chapters, for example, you’ll have a 20,000-word book. Most family history novels are usually self-published. Books can be self-published for free or nominal rates. Top sites include: Lulu, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, Blurb, Xlibris, BookBaby, BookRix, SmashWords, and Draft2Digital.
  7. Make it personal. Readers generally enjoy the details. Use anecdotes or even “quotes” to add pizzazz to your story.
  8. Get readers to review your manuscript before you publish it. Some easy reviewers can provide feedback on your book’s readability. Others can check facts.
  9. How’s it going to look? Envision the design. It has to be easy to read (maybe with large print). Readers also have to enjoy reading your book and toting it around.
  10. What are you going to call it? Don’t choose a boring title: “The Jones’ Family History.” Go with a daring title: “The Wild and Wayward Wanderings of the Williams Warriors.”

 Once you’re done, prepare for the reaction. Some may love it. Some may not. But you did your due diligence for history’s sake. Now sit back and enjoy.

Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.

The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  

Published for the blog on September 26, 2018 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.