My book began three months ago when I started my initial research, so I’ll backtrack a bit to get us all caught up.
Writing a novel was always a passing thought for me. I have written short stories, and even feature length screenplays, but the idea of producing anything on the scale of a full book was both terrifying and seemingly unachievable. Around February of this year (2018), however, I said “Why not?”
My brain of course threw dozens of reasons back at me as to why not, but I said “shut up brain” and started thinking about my novel anyway.
A few years back I had sketched out some concepts of a girl stumbling through the desert, ending up in a forgotten mining town. We were to discover that this was an alternate history, years into an extended version of The French and Indian War, where both sides were exhausted of resources but equally unwilling to relent. (The ‘extended’ part would have been impressive considering the actual war was 9 years long.) I didn’t get far, but the girl stuck with me, as did Indian warfare.
I’ve grown to love history more and more with each of my own passing years. Maybe this is the natural state for aging men. At some point I’ll end up with a collection of WWII model planes that I don’t recall asking for but my grand-kids get me for Christmas every year because “that’s just what Papa collects.”
When I started thinking about this novel I realized that there is no need for an alternate history when the real events and characters are often more interesting than what I am able to conjure. I knew I wanted a war to be the backdrop because, well, it’s easy to establish conflict. The Civil War and the World Wars’ tales have been told many times so I set out to find another time in history. This brought me to The War of 1812.
Like the French and Indian War, the War of 1812 had two major powers at war with Indian support in the overall campaign. 1812 pitted the Americans against England once more, only decades after the Revolution. I will cover a lot of the details of the war in later blogs, so for now I’ll get back to generalities.
To get started I chose the starting year, 1810. I wanted some lead in to the war but as I wrote I realized that the bulk of the story was to be in 1812, leaving only a few scenes in the past for better understanding of the relationships of the main characters. My location is Pennsylvania, mostly because it is such a key state in the life story of the USA. I knew I wanted a father and daughter because I have a daughter of my own, and I wanted that girl from the desert to tell her story.
From there I drilled into supporting characters (I’ll write one or more blogs on how I did character development later) and began researching the details of the environment around them all. This included housing, clothes, professions, and the flora and fauna. If this were just ten years ago I would have had to go to several major libraries but with the Internet I found just about everything I needed. I even found an 1812 census listing the residents of Berlin, the town in Pennsylvania I randomly chose my characters to live near!
Waist deep in research my wife said “just start writing,” so I did. It was really the best move because so much of the story evolved as I began to write, making some research irrelevant and requiring more to support my new directions. (Look for a research phase detailed blog to follow as well.)
I have committed myself to completing this book and seeing it published, even if that means it’s self-published and no one reads it but my wife. Hopefully she’ll read it. Despite a lot of resources available to writers, I don’t want any future writer to feel alone in what they’re doing and I don’t want to be alone during this process either, except when I’m writing. (SHHHHH!)
Just about complete with a first draft on three chapters (Act I) of my book, I am both invigorated and scared, but my doubts have fallen away. I am a writer and I will continue to write.
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