Friday, 11 January 2013

At last, the hard work is about to begin!

Troops receive a warm welcom at Ostend, Belgium, at the beginning of the war

After six months of fascinating research into letters and diaries from the First World War, the time has come for me to start writing my book, and just as these troops must have felt when they arrived at Ostend in Belgium at the beginning of the war - the hard work is about to begin!

My background is in journalism and although this may sound well suited to book-writing, I'm afraid that's not quite the case. Writing for newspapers involves getting the facts across to the reader in an objective way, usually in as few words as possible because space is tight. Generally, there is a formula to writing news stories, they begin with an intro which gives the story in a nutshell, then continue with paragraphs explaining: who, what, where, and when.

A year or so before I was offered the chance to write this book, I moved on to writing articles for magazines, a fairly big jump in writing style which meant allowing my words flow rather than expressing everything in short, factual sentences.

Finally I'm starting work my book and yet more new skills are called for. I am having to develop a writing style which is comfortable and interesting for the reader. This means, among other things, not starting each new paragraph with 'However...', and lengthening my sentences with a few sub-clauses rather than pouncing at the earliest opportunity with a full-stop. I am now also interpreting information and presenting it my own way, rather than simply setting out the facts for the readers . This is very liberating - and also rather exciting - but I must constantly remind myself that I am allowed to do so!

There is one way, though, in which journalism has prepared me very well for this book - it taught me how to sniff out a good story. Without journalistic experience I would probably have taken the war letters at face value, simply as letters, rather than looking behind them for stories.

This is where those who have let me use their WW1 material have been so helpful. They have filled me with some some fascinating stories about their relatives during the war and I would like to say a huge thankyou. Their helpfulness, friendliness and interest in my project has made the last six months of research a pleasure.

My task now is to do justice not only to the letters but also to the men and women who wrote them. So let battle commence! (Meanwhile I'm still on the lookout for WW1 letters and diaries, so please get in touch if you have anything which may be of interest. Contact details are to the right.)

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