Ol’ buddy Eric Wittenberg recently posted about having to pare down his writing in order to make it fit the reduced word count for a magazine article. Specifically, he’s working on cutting down a 19,000-word chapter from one of his books to a 10,000-word article. Keith Poulter, publisher of North&South Magazine, has been asking for battle and campaign articles recently, so I’ve been working on one about the June 30, 1863 battle of Hanover Pa between Jeb Stuart and Judson Kilpatrick. This particular article will be adapted from two chapters of our recent book on Stuart’s ride on Hanover. The all-day slugfest at Hanover was a major delay for Stuart’s progress that ultimately took him and three of his cavalry brigades to Gettysburg, and I have always found it, one of the few examples of street fighting during the war, extremely fascinating.
I’m facing, however, the same dilemma as Eric – we have over 20,000 words in these two chapters in the book. To reach the 10,000-word target, I have to cut at least half the material out, all the while adding and revising the text to place the whole event in context. Therefore, more than half of the wording has to be cut out.
That’s going to mean a loss of a lot of the personal accounts. It’s easy to eliminate anything that’s repetitive, or anything that’s tangential to the story – but that’s probably not more than 1000 words or so.
But the one thing I want this article to do for Eric and me is to still tell the story – we want it to be worthy of standing on it’s own. We don’t want it to simply be a cut-down version of the full narrative in our book. Fortunately, there are a couple excellent personal accounts to add that aren’t in the book – they came in after it went to press – so there will be some new material in it.
But to accomplish the task of having this article be worthy of its own existence, I’ve decided to substantially re-write it rather than a cut-and-paste from the original manuscript. Hopefully, along the way, I’ll have a little writer’s inspiration that will give it some fresh narrative. We’d like the article to be a fresh, enjoyable, and informative read for anyone whether they’ve read our book version or not.
It still certainly won’t be as difficult as writing the article entirely from scratch, but it will definitely take a bit more time than just doing a cut job. But in the end I believe we, and the readers, will be much happier with it. Stay tuned for details on its publication.