Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Civil War Novel

My first book, a Civil War novel, Scarecrow in Gray, was an exercise in patience, diligence, and fidelity. Patience came into play when I struggled with the elements of the story. I knew the basic outline from the beginning, since the story is based on the Civil War service of my great-grandfather, Francis Marion Yelton. However, writing the book and putting together believable and consistent episodes was a challenge.

I wrote at night. I have a demanding day job. As a consequence of this part time approach, I found myself at the keyboard many nights at 11 PM struggling the make the story make sense. Patience, my child, as my kindly muse might say, if I had had one. Patience is not a virtue of mine and I had to learn a lot of it during the nine years or so I struggled to write my book.

Diligence was even tougher. Consistently writing, then re-writing and then editing (since my book is self published and therefore bereft of the noble talents of an editor). I had to grind it out many nights when tired, distracted, unmotivated, etc. Diligence may be a more valuable trait than Patience.

Finally, fidelity must be acknowledged as a guiding principle for any work of historical fiction. You must be true to the period, the cultural background, and (in my case) the military facts including troop movements, battlefield locations, weaponry, equipment, and the mindset of the troops.

For a 218 page book, I probably took longer than a Doctorow, Hemingway, or Faulkner would take to write 500 pages. Forget about Asimov. He could write 218 pages a day (without too much exaggeration on my part). Anyway, perhaps this gives you some sense of the process and how we authors suffer for our art (that's supposed to be funny).

I am in the raw beginnings of doing it again. Look for the sequel for Scarecrow sometime about 2020 AD.

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