I'm about to start organizing someone's life story to eventually send to a biographer to write a book and would like some suggestions on how to start and organize the process, please.

As they are unable to type and not very techno-savvy, this is my plan:

  • Have them audio record the events of their life
  • I will create a timeline structure to begin transcribing the details into. This will provide the ability to continue to add more details as they arise

Having some way to auto-generate a table of contents for time periods would be nice. I will also need to add scanned photos, etc. Other than literally transcribing in a large word document, from those in the community who are familiar with the process, are there tools better suited to this process and what suggestions can you kindly provide?

  • One way of doing it would be to put everything in a final document that will gradually take shape as you fill it in and organise it, but it may be better store your notes separately from your final text. It may be better to separate the record of your research from the final document you are writing, as you will have a lot of background material that does not make the final edit. Software such as MS Notes is good for storing large amounts of unstructured data.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 5, 2022 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


What you describe seems similar to the corkboard feature in Scrivener.

This feature visualizes your content as index cards on a corkboard where each index card could be a bundle of items including text and images. You can also create nested corkboards: the higher level could be by life period, e.g. childhood, teenage years, life as a young adult, etc...; within each life period you can further arrange items based by year, or by events.

I have not written biographies, but I use this feature a lot when I don't write scenes in random order. After I craft a scene, I move it around to where I think it should go in the final timeline.

In addition, if you organize your manuscript by folders, you can dynamically generate a table of contents to check how your project is progressing.

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