The great thing about telling and preserving your story is that the process, as well as the finished product, is immensely rewarding — and a lot of fun!
Following is a description of how the process might work for a client who "just wants to talk" and leave the managing of the project to us.
Free No Obligation Consultation
It all begins with a free, no obligation consultation at your residence where you and I explore the project together and get to know each other. I do a lot of listening as you talk about your ideas and how we at lifewriters.ca can possibly help you. Together, we discuss options and try and get an idea of what the project will entail and if we’re a good fit for each other. Will you be comfortable working with us?
Letter of Agreement
Following a request from you, I prepare a quote, or Letter of Agreement, for the manuscript portion of the project. This detailed contract describes the project, the services we will provide, a schedule, and a full, all-inclusive fee and schedule of payment.
We usually prefer charging by the project rather than on an hourly basis, as this ensures that there are no surprises for you or for us. The fee is firm, includes all revisions, and will not change unless you alter some significant aspect of the project. (When it comes to money matters, we are firm believers in "no surprises.") This document will guide us throughout the process. Read a Sample Letter of Agreement.
Once a Letter of Agreement is signed, I ask you to complete a questionnaire and take part in one or two "pre-interview" sessions, either on the telephone or at a place of your choosing. This helps me to get to know you and better prepare for the actual interviews. I then schedule a series of audio-recorded interviews with you. Prior to the first session, I send you a number of memory-jogging questions. I also ask you to gather relevant photos and memorabilia, as these often evoke powerful memories.
The interviews, which are relaxed and informal, usually take place at a location where you feel comfortable and which is free from distractions. Typically this is your home or office. (Upon request, I will conduct telephone interviews or use Skype.) I set you at ease and then pose questions that are carefully designed to stir up your memory and get you talking! The more you talk, the better the interview. I'm a good listener! The recording equipment is unobtrusive, yet picks up everything you say.
Generally speaking, a complete life story takes between eight and fifteen hours of interviews. The interviews vary from one to two hours in length and are spaced about a week apart. This gives you time to preview and reflect on the questions for the next session.
Ideally, the story-telling process should not be rushed. Some compare it to peeling back the layers of an onion — as you engage in it, you dig down through layers of memories, uncovering things long forgotten. This takes time and if not rushed, makes for a better, more authentic, finished product.
A professional transcriptionist then transcribes the tapes word for word. If you wish, these transcripts can be made available to you. By prior agreement, we can also provide you with a set of CDs containing the audio recording of the interviews.
Research and An Outline
I complete any necessary research, gather supplementary documents, conduct any other interviews, and then prepare a detailed outline of the project for your approval. This includes basic chapter breaks and overall themes. This document serves as the blueprint for the work that follows.
Editing and Revising
I then go to work on the transcript of the interviews, organizing and crafting it into a polished, readable, and engaging narrative that retains your voice and character. It is you talking to the reader without the distracting “umms” and “uhhs.” As necessary, I weave in extracts of documents and interviews from other participants as well as research material, which often provides background information about the times in which the events took place.
Once the draft is complete, I submit it to you to read over and make changes and suggestions. I complete your revisions and submit it again. Normally, you will have the opportunity to review the manuscript thee times and make changes. After a final copyediting and proofreading, the manuscript is finalised and we move to the second phase of the project — designing, printing, and binding the book.
Photos, Memorabilia, and Book and Cover Design
At this point I discuss with you the different possibilities for publication. What photos and memorabilia will you include? What dimensions will the book be? What kind of paper and cover? Does the book need a cover designed? How many copies will you need? Will they be hardbound or softbound? The book designer, Bill Glasgow, is on hand for advice, if needed.
I then prepare a second Letter of Agreement for you that covers all remaining services and costs. Again, the fee is all-inclusive and your satisfaction is guaranteed.
I work with you to choose the photos and other memorabilia that you would like to include and then I help you write the captions. Our book designer scans them, retouches the photos if necessary, and places them in the manuscript. He then prepares a number of customized book and cover designs for you to look over and choose from.
Chapter divisions are finalised, a Table of Contents, credit page, and index are created; an ISBN is assigned; and the formatted manuscript, or page proofs, is presented to you to review. After incorporating your changes, we give you a revised version. You normally have two opportunities to review the page proofs and request changes. With everything finalized and approved, I give the book a final proofread.
The designer then designs a front and back cover for you to review and suggest changes.
Printing and Binding
Once everything is finalised and approved by you, we coordinate with a printer to ensure that the book is printed and bound according to your specifications and delivered to your door! Mission accomplished! You have created a priceless gift for present and future generations.