When you have trouble at the beginning, how do you start writing?

I have a couple of techniques that have worked for me and I thought I would share it with you.

I seem to have a hard time starting the paper…you know, those pesky first couple of paragraphs where you want to engage the reader to read more and, Heavens, to not be boring.  I absolutely struggle with this and have found that sometimes I should just start writing in the middle or “the body” of the work, rather than trying to start with the first word.  Sometimes tho’ I find it better to just sit back and let the words “stew” a little and play with them in my head.  The challenge with this latter strategy is that if you are under a deadline, you may not have that luxury.  Both of these work for me under different circumstances.

I have been working on the Client Report for the past week, very hard.  There are to be two parts to this work.  The first part is what I call a graphic narrative.  This is a very readable, but fully cited, document that is not in NGS standard form but rather is more like a magazine article.  The second part is the traditional lineage report.  Both of these comprise the presentation to my client.

You may know that the Pacific NW experience a heavy snowfall and ice storm on Wednesday through Friday.  Although I worked some of each of the days at my job that really pays me, the rest of the time I spent working on the graphic narrative.  I had great fun with this.  The words seem to flow; I had more information than room and so the language by default became tighter and more efficient.  I printed it for the first time on Friday and am quite pleased with it.  The challenge with this document was to blend the Civil War day to day experiences of Jens T. Dahle of his battles, and providing the historical context of medical care and prisons.  (For example, did you know that the Civil War was the first time that there was any systematic focus on trying to save the wounded and to contain prisoners.  In previous wars, except for occasional single individuals (see Florence Nightingale), the wounded were left to shift for themselves and prisoners of war were eliminated.

Today, I turned to the lineage report and realized that I had the formal lineage writing done but not the opening paragraphs.  Arrrrgh! I again had several false starts, until I remembered the first lesson of a beginning genealogist, “Start with what you know”.  🙂  I realized that was where I needed to start because I had not even provided the genealogical proof  that Jens T. Dahle of Waseca County, MN was the same person as Jens Torkilson Tjøn of Sogn og Fjordane County, Norway.  I have now written the proof and while I am not fully satisfied with it, it is a very good start and “a keeper”.  Yeah.  I certainly do not have it cited; that will take some time.

So, I hope your writing goes smoother than mine.  I also hope that you may find some hints/techniques here when you have that “begin the paper” syndrome that I exhibited in both of the papers associated with the client report.

Do you ever have problems starting?  What techniques do you use?

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post: LOTS! Wrote the graphic narrative which I feel is now in a final draft form, rewrote the beginning the Lineage Report associated with the Client Report.  Worked on my class assignments (note: I did pass this last quarter!) for this quarter and visited the Fiske Genealogical Library here in Seattle which I had never been to before.  I even found some very interesting information about prisons and hospitals in the Civil War.


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