Writing the Book is Only Part of the Story

I’ve allowed myself three years to write the story of the local swimming pool I frequented as a teenager. I didn’t realize how many new skills I’d need along the way. I’m a writer and this is a story I want to tell. I thought I’d research and write and produce a book. Wrong! The reality is this book is taking me on an amazing learning journey.

My book is a local history one, a social history, the story of the local Municipal Baths from 1917 until closure in 1966.That sounds easy, gathering up information and writing. But there’s more to a book than that, as many of you wiser than me already know. I feel as if I’m undertaking a personal three year on-going education course – and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Of course, there’s the research. This is new for me and I’m already learning rapidly. The people at my local library are amazing, showing me where to locate information and how to access it. The old newspapers are giving me an insight into community reaction to the building of the baths in their town. The Archives contain lots of valuable data. I’ve been recording my own anecdotal stories and will soon be delving into stories from people who experienced the baths long before I did.

The research will continue for a long time yet. I hadn’t ventured too far into the project when I realized I needed to put this story into context. What was the local community like at the time, especially in the 1920s and 1930s? I’m off to the library and onto the internet, gathering stories of the local community and the swimming world of the time.

All this sounds fine, but the book needs to written in a style appealing to a wide readership. I hope to blend facts with my personal stories. This will involve a different style from  my writing so far. I enrolled in an online Creative Non- fiction writing course and this is proving a wise investment of time and money. I’ve been reading a book about undertaking research. I’m also reading books, both novels and factual, which weave backwards and forwards in time, rather than tell a chronological story. I’m getting a feel for how my book will be written.

I’m now six months into my project. My writing skills are improving, I’m getting more skilled at research and I’m becoming e of a social and local historian. Who said writing a book was easy? But I can tell you from personal experience, learning as you go is lots of fun.

Start by Writing the Very First Word

Can you remember the first time you picked up a pencil or other writing instrument and wrote your first real word? I mean really remember, not simply basking in the glory of stories told by proud parents.

My first word is etched on my mind. I held a large white piece of white chalk in my hand to scrawl the letters MUM on the concrete path in our back yard.

“Mum! Mum!” I called as I dragged her from whatever she was doing inside.  “I can write.”

A few days later I started school.  I’d been told I’d learn to write even more words and bubbled over with excitement.  I wanted to fill my page with words like those in my story books. My teachers taught me to form letters and words, to leave finger spaces and to remember to include capital letters and fullstops. My skills progressed steadily until I could put a few sentences together and call what I’d written a story.

Some of you will have similar memories, starting with chalk on a blackboard, or on the path as in my case, progressing to pencil, followed by pen and ink.

Nib pens, ink blots and blotters to mop up the spills are no longer part of children’s school life. Many write their first word using a keyboard instead of chalk. But all written stories need to start somewhere.

All stories start with a single word, followed by another and another. Without the first word the story will remain untold. Every writer needs encouragement to write that very first word. Is today the day when you write yours?

A Writer’s First Written Word

In Search of Good Sentences