Writing a book is the most difficult way of recording memories; it does require writing skills, and is the most time-consuming and most expensive method of producing your family treasure. If you are writing it strictly for your own family, you can get away with having less literary skills and less book-production knowledge, but I still recommend learning as much as you can about writing a book – from how to organize it, how to interview, the types of meaningful information to gather, how to put it all into an enjoyable and easy-to-read story with a specific audience in mind. And find someone with good spelling and grammar skills to look it over and make corrections.
I used Microsoft Word set for pages sized 9 by 6 inches, which is a cost-efficient size for book printing. Use a typical font such as Times New Roman or Arial, although I used Palatino Linotype because it looks “friendly” and is very easy on the eyes. Hopefully you know how to set a paragraph – I have seen self-made books with extremely long paragraphs which not only look bad on a page but make for a difficult and annoying read. If you have publishing software, your job of writing and adding photos will be easier, and the print shops do generally prefer pdf files. My MS Word file transferred over well, though.
Writing a book also requires a lot of material. Cherry Blossom in Twilight at 100 pages is a very slim book, which makes it more difficult for the machines to cut the binding nicely. If you have fewer pages than that, I suggest making a booklet. It may well take you several years of writing to produce a book, so be sure that you really want to invest that kind of time and intensity of effort, and that you will have enough stories, photos, and extra details.
As with writing a booklet, ask good questions, get added details, and a sense of how your family member felt about events and experiences because those sensory and emotional details will really make your book into a fascinating read versus a cold just-the-facts production. It is a good idea to assume your readers know nothing about this person and their life, so add those details and explanations… someday great-great-great grandchildren will be your readers!
(see previous entries for tips on scrapbooking, videotaping, creating booklets)