I am still grinding away at my hoped for book, slowly getting more and more done each week, usually every day. Recently, I have been listing story ideas for that section of the book and have even started writing some of them.
A few are now in what I consider "close to completion" phase - perhaps I will nitpick at some wording or phrases, but the research and organization are done and most of the writing is complete as well. This is a good start and I think these stories are worth telling and, hopefully in the future, worth reading.
Several others are not quite to that level yet - I have done most or all of the research, taken notes, organized my thoughts, and started writing some of the narratives, but they still need quite a bit more work before even the "almost done" phase. Others are not even that far along.
I suppose I should pick a few stories and work on them until complete and then deal with additional ones in a similar fashion, but I'm not that focused or disciplined right now. I find if I write on a story for a bit and then come back to it a few days or even a couple of weeks later the fresh perspective helps me find better ways to tell that story or sometimes raises new questions I need to research. This is a positive to having my own time frame and I think it does improve my writing. Sometimes I return to a soldier's profile and realize my original attempt was just not good. I guess these are called drafts, but tht process is helping me - or so I believe.
I also now question myself about how to organize these stories. I had figured that a simple alphabetical listing (based on soldier names) would be easy, sensible, and logical, but as I work on more stories, I’m finding more similarities that would make for other organizational ideas. For instance, I have found three casualties from the Battle of Perryville. Should I group them together in the same se goon or chapter? Or should I combine them into one story, perhaps minimizing their individual stories, but making for a fairly sensible single narrative? I have also uncovered five or six young men who enlisted while well under the age of eighteen. Should these be kept close together instead of separated just because of their names? Or how about men from the same units or same nation of birth? Should I add a separate index of all these names sorted by unit? For a couple of regiments, I have more than a couple dozen names, close to 60 for one group. Maybe this all means that I will need to do a detailed index to help readers find these similarities. Decisions, decisions...
Of course, I still have much research to do, with lists of name to confirm as soldiers and other birth, death, and burial information to uncover. (I will add that my virtual cemetery now contains more than 600 burial sites, which amazes me.) This is a long-term project that will require much more work than I have already done, but I am still making progress and still am enjoying this challenge. It is a fascinating experience and I believe I’m starting to appreciate “real authors,” who have actually published books even more.
I also must say that this research is making me more aware and appreciative of immigration in the 1800s. I have found a lot of foreign-born soldiers and sailors who lived in this area.
Also, this way of studying the war - through the records of individual soldiers of varied backgrounds, in many different units is so much different than what I have done for most of my life. I have spent much time reading books and articles and blog posts, watching videos, and attending classes, but this is new to me. It is fun too, at least usually. In traditional books, I may read about soldiers deserting the armies, but now I'm finding individual cases of such desertion or of other misbehavior that led to punishments. I'm uncovering individual men who were killed, captured and/or wounded at famous battles or at smaller, obscure actions, but also some who earned promotions due to their service. These kind of finds do make this enjoyable for me.
I will continue to blog here when I find good ideas and will, as previously mentioned, also post occasional updates on this larger project. Hopefully I will have happy thoughts to share, but maybe I will need to vent frustrations at times too. This is something new for me and I am looking forward to batlling through the questions and challenges that arise.
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