A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I’m working on an article for North&South magazine on the battle at Hanover, Pa, between Jeb Stuart’s cavalry and Kilpatrick’s troopers on June 30, 1863. The article is based on chapters 4 and 5 in the book by Eric Wittenberg and myself on Stuart’s ride to Pennsylvania.
I had mentioned also that the chapters total about 21,000 words, and the article word limit is about 10,000 – necessitating quite a cut.
I’ve been plugging away at it for an hour or two a night, and making some progress. Currently I have it about 16,000 words – still a far cry from the final version, but I’m only about half way through the text. I’ve been finding it easy to abridge in some areas, very difficult in others. As I also previously mentioned, Eric and I desire the article to have value on its own – not simply an abbreviation of our book chapters. To that end, once I get close to the final word count, I plan to do some revising in order to freshen the material a bit.
Some other things need to be done with it as well – in order to place it in context, I have to have a capsule introduction, and a conclusion as well that wraps the event within the entirety of the ride. I also plan to make more of the “lost dispatch” we revealed in the book in chapter 3 – an item I discovered in a period newspaper literally as we were going to press with the book. All of this, of course, adds more words. So, really, I need to take the current 21,000 words down to about 9,000 before adding in this other material.
Eric is working on a similar article based on one of his manuscripts, and is facing the same problem – his blog post on the dilemma was titled “Slashing and Burning” – and for good reason. It’s very difficult taking a text that you worked so hard on to be complete, and now you have to make it a shadow of its original version.
I am plugging away at it, however. And as I said, I want it to be worthy of its own existence – and I want readers of both the book and this article to enjoy each of them.
More as I progress.