Friday, 10 July 2009

Excellent series of posts on writing history

As a history writer with a keen interest in the American Civil War, I was happy to discover Eric Wittenberg's blog, Rantings of a Civil War Historian. Wittenberg has written eleven books on the subject and numerous articles. His main interest is the Union cavalry.

One of my favorite bits in his blog are his rantings against idiotic neo-Confederates and the silly ways they try to rewrite Civil War history to suit their own narrow world view. This hilarious article is one of the best.
Of more direct interest to readers of this blog is a series of articles on writing Civil War history, which is useful to both nonfiction and fiction authors alike. The series is called Things I Wish I Knew Then But Know Now. Part one is "Don't Give Up Your Dayjob", a rather pessimistic view of how much money a writer can expect to make doing books. Well, if you write detailed studies of Union cavalry operations in the Gettysburg campaign like Mr. Wittenberg does, you really can't expect to make a living. You have to go for broader, more popular-level subjects and commercial publishers like Osprey, who still insist on accuracy while selling a lot of copies. It's great that dedicated specialists like Wittenberg are writing books, but narrow topics will get a correspondingly narrow readership. Despite Wittenberg's pessimism, this post is worth a read to sober up enthusiastic beginners who think they'll hit the bestseller list on the first try.

Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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