November 1, 2012

Lessons from the Trail: Part II

One of the occupational hazards about major biography is the length of time required for research and composition--usually 3 to 5 years I suspect.

My book required 3 years of composition/research, a year further to secure a publisher, and a year after that to oversee publication. What was special was that those 5 years spanned the length of my 20s. I started writing the book when I was 23 years old.

There were multitudes of changes between age 23 and age 28, in my writing method and general approach to life. That shift certainly informed the revision process as it unfolded this year. I sometimes struggled to understand stylistic decisions I must have made at age 23.

The first chapter of Walkin' Lawton especially, "Munn Park," was the product of an early vision for the book's structure. It was a fool's errand, in hindsight. Early drafts incorporated some flashbacks and flash forwards. I had the notion that setting the entire stage of the chapter on a single event in Lakeland's history, with background information all flowing from this one night's political rally.

A year or so into the writing process, however, I decided to stick to standard chronology as strictly as possible for the entire length of the book. During the last few months of revision, I refit "Munn Park" significantly so that it didn't stick out like a sore thumb.

Thematic organization was important to me, but chronology was paramount in structuring the chapters. I like to think that the final manuscript supports that mantra, after five years of personal growth.

No comments: