Getting Started

My most recent two posts set out the source material I have accumulated to write the biography of Captain Thomas Bowrey. In addition to his own papers and the published works touching on his life, Bowrey is also named in a number of official documents ranging from parish registers and wills through the archive of the East India Company to State Papers.

As I do not live near any major archive, I set about obtaining copies of much of the published material and digital copies of the documents and manuscripts. I am extremely grateful to all the archives and libraries for making it possible for me to do this. The availability of out of print books has been made so much easier with the advent of the Internet and online second-hand book sellers. Those books that are unavailable, or too expensive, are usually available as eBooks but, when all else fails, there is the interlibrary loan system.

At this stage, I was in danger of falling into the common beginner’s error of not knowing when to stop researching. It would have been so easy to never stop. I now have almost 10,000 digital images and could spend the rest of my life just studying them. Each time I perform another Internet search, I find new online sources. Then, there is such a wealth of background material for the period of Bowrey’s life. If I concentrated on all this, I would never start writing.

Fortunately, in the autumn of last year, I joined Gill Blanchard’s Writing Your Family History workshops in Norwich and learned that I needed to produce a project plan. Having spent most of my working life as a project manager, you would have thought that would have known this but, no, it took Gill to make me understand. By the end of the series of workshops, I had an achievable plan in place and was ready to start writing. Although a biography is not strictly a family history, I can highly recommend anyone hoping to write their first book to consider joining a class or workshop such as Gill runs. An online version is now available at: http://writingyourfamilyhistory.co.uk.

My achievable plan recognised that there were things I needed to get done before I started writing but I used the interim period to get myself a small organiser in which to record my plans and progress plus a small notebook to carry with me at all times. I jot down any ideas I have in the notebook and even take it to bed with me to record those thoughts that would otherwise keep me awake worrying I may forget them before morning.

Then, at the end of February this year, I was off. My first session was just under two hours. I wrote almost 700 words. I could do this!

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