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~ Writing a Biography ~ STALKING THE ELEPHANTAbout Writing Biography and Imagining a Life

SARA BARD FIELD: LINKING THE OUTER AND INNER STORIES

Sara Bard Field on tour
    I haven't talked much on this blog about my own work. But a couple of months ago someone sent me some good questions about choosing a subject, researching and writing a biography, and the kinds of challenges biography can involve.
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1. What initially drew you to the subjects you've chosen to write about?

   I tend to become obsessed with stories that can give me and my reader insights into human psychology and social change, especially if I can tell the story from the subject's perspective. I'm happiest writing from the inside out, so to speak.  Read More 
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TO FIND THE STORY, START BUILDING AN INTERACTIVE TIMELINE


    This is the third of four articles on how story and narrative work together in biography.

    Anyone who wants to write a biography that's more than just an encyclopedia article or a laundry list of the main events of the subject's life has to decide early on what story to tell and how the arc of the narrative will advance it.

         Elsewhere on this website, I discuss what what a story is in biography and the importance of the "red thread" for selecting what to include in the narrative. In this post, I'll describe what I consider the most important tool for identifying the story and keeping it on track as your interpretation of it becomes refined by new information and insights. Read More 
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    MANAGING YOUR RESEARCH: A "DEEP CHRONO" TIMELINE CAN HELP

    I know I promised to get back to the subject of organizing primary research in biography, and I'll return to talking about data files and headnotes soon. Before that, however, I'd like to pass on an idea that comes to us courtesy of—get ready—the CIA.

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    First, a brief but relevant digression. In a post last year, I discussed the essential "red thread" of narrative and how important it is to keep an eye on it at all times.  Read More 
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    GETTING ORGANIZED, 4: LOCKING IN THOSE THRILLING DISCOVERIES

    Call me a hopeless nerd, but for sheer mental excitement, I've never found anything better than discovering something new about my characters or finding a clue to their story. To me, that's what archival research is all about.

    In my first and second posts on organizing research, I discuss using MS Word to set up a chronologically-based folder system  Read More 
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    GETTING ORGANIZED, 3: WRITER-FRIENDLY SOFTWARE.

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away—the one where I convinced myself that I could write a biography and still have time to blog regularly—I promised to continue with the subject of how to set up a seat-of-the-pants filing system for storing, retrieving, and keeping track of research  Read More 
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    GETTING ORGANIZED, 2: AN EASY PATH TO YOUR FILES

    This is the second of two posts about setting up an online filing system to store primary research findings.

    In my last post, I discussed how I organize MS Word for  Read More 
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    GETTING ORGANIZED, 1: WE BRING ORDER TO CHAOS


      Whether you're writing your first biography or your tenth, a simple yet flexible filing system can make storing and accessing information simpler, help you remember things, and generally make writing a book a lot easier. This post is the first of two about setting up a computer filing system for primary research in a biography. Or, as the Borg Queen on Star Trek might say, it's about bringing order to chaos.  Read More 
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      AND NOW, A WORD ABOUT FILING. AGAIN.

      One of the occupational hazards of writing biography is that you may develop an intense preoccupation with—well, with filing.

      This is a sort of dirty professional secret akin to wanting to know about the inner workings of mechanical clocks. All any normal person who isn't a clockmaker really wants to know is  Read More 
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      ELEPHANT STALKERS ARE ORGANIZED, PART 2: Setting Up a Filing System

      From orderly tablets, serenity—my desk before I went on vacation.

          Since a number of people who attended the Compleat Biographer Conference in May requested it afterwards, in this post I'll cover the glamorous subject of filing—that is, physically organizing your research. Every project is different. Still, any good filing system will do  Read More 
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        ELEPHANT STALKERS ARE ORGANIZED, PART ONE


              I'm an avid member of Biographers International Organization, the acronym of which, amazingly enough, is BIO. Anyone with an interest in writing (or reading) biography, narrative nonfiction, or history should join BIO, though it's mostly for practicing long-distance elephant stalkers like me.

              Last month I went down to  Read More 
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