Observations on non-fiction writing
I haven't written a substantial piece of non-fiction since college. Sure, I've written reports, articles, that sort of thing, but this is my first stab at anything even remotely approaching a term paper in length.
I figured that it would be a slow process, requiring note-taking, drafting and then a slow march through the outline, nothing like the speed I achieve with fiction.
I was wrong.
I'm writing at the blistering pace of 7,000 words per week. My goal is to have the first draft done by the end of June, and it's looking good. Why is it going so quickly?
I think there are several reasons. The first is the nature of the book, which combines a traditional historical narrative with analysis and discussion. The bulk of the book is essentially an opinion piece backed by what I consider to be key data. Much of this came to me while I was reading on the topic so the arguments are familiar to me and I'm just setting down things I've been thinking about for a while.
I'm also not doing a lot of original research, instead synthesizing existing data. That was a large part of my goal -to build a concise military narrative that covered everything I found interesting. That's a lot quicker than going to primary sources and seeking out new information.
Then there's the fact that I've read most of this stuff fairly recently, so it's fresh in my mind. If I was starting from zero, there would be a long pause for research, but that's mostly been done. When my mania hit less than a year ago, I soaked up a lot of information. Now it's largely a matter of refreshing it as I set it down.
Finally, the change in technology has been a major factor. In the typewriter era, one had to get everything set just so before working. Word processing was just coming into play, so I could make corrections easily, but it was a lot harder to bounce around a manuscript and add things out of order.
But that's what I'm doing a lot of right now. I'll address a topic, move on and then find more pertinent information (or a needed correction) while writing about a different area. So I simply bounce back to the relevant passage and add to it. I'm doing a lot of this, particularly as I work on the campaign narrative.
One thing I did not expect to find was such variation on basic information in my sources. I have three different start dates for the Battle of Teruel. I've also found mistakes that could only stand out when one is directly comparing sources. That's a caution for me to watch for, but also kind of cool that I've picked upon stuff the "industry standard" writers missed.
For those who care, the current word count is above 43,000, so it's already about as long as The Vampires of Michigan or Three Weeks with the Coasties.
Of course, that's not entirely accurate in terms of content since this book has a bibliography and I've added an extensive chronology to help the reader (and me!) keep everything straight. Stanley Payne did this, but mine is more detailed and includes external events that I feel are important, like the dates of Stalin's purges, Hitler's moves, etc.
Those don't strictly relate to Spain, but they did have a clear impact on it.
My target length is roughly 60,000 words, so if this pace keeps up, I should get there by the end of the month as planned.
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