Getting Schooled about the Civil War

trh_smallDear Reader,

Last week I came to the point in The Rebel’s Hero where I realized I need to do more research because I was operating on assumptions. I kind of freaked out and ran to the library to check out fifteen Civil War books. It was rather a sad event, actually. When I wrote Catching the Rose, there were two more shelves of books. For whatever reason, they have thinned the herd a bit. And this being the 150th anniversary year of the Civil War!

Anyway, one of the main events in Catching the Rose was the First Manassas battle (Bull Run to Yankees), so I got out a bunch of books about the first two years of the war. I got home, started looking through the books in detail, and realized if I wanted to give my characters any hope of a happily ever after, I needed to shift the timeline and location.

I’ve shifted the timeline back a year or so, and moved the location from a house in Richmond, Virginia and a plantation in South Carolina to farms in western Virginia and Ohio. Sadly, I know just about nothing about what the Civil War was like in these areas… except:

  1. Any battles in Ohio were in the Cincinnati area when Confederates tried to take over supplies etc and break into Union territory, and
  2. In 1861 western Virginia had seceded from Virginia to be its own state and in 1863 the Union welcomed West Virginia to the fold.

It kind of ticks me off, having to pause writing until I know more about the war and how it affected the areas I’m writing about. This is time I’m losing! But on the other hand, it has to be done. I’m excited to travel to some of the locations I’m writing about because they are within driving distance. At the very least, I need to make friends with the historical societies in Ohio and West Virginia, and chat up my friend who got his undergrad degree in History focusing on the war. I have a plan. It’s a plan that is pushing my deadline out, but it is a plan.

Have you ever had a project, writing or otherwise, where you were excited, going gangbusters, and then had to stop and backtrack to get more information?

Best, Belinda

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This is part of the ROW80 bloghop

4 thoughts on “Getting Schooled about the Civil War

  1. I wish I could travel to the locations I write about. I'm sure it would be easier to write vividly about them if I could do that.

    In my current WiP, I've based the heroes in the city of Lincoln, because it's just up the road and I've been there many times over the years. But I'd love to have been able to do a field trip to Sweden for some of the other scenes.

    I agree, it's very frustrating when you've got your momentum going nicely and then have to rein it in again. Hope you soon get your research sorted to your own satisfaction, and can crack on again. 🙂


    1. Well, this is the first time I've ever written a book where I could visit the places if I wanted to… but with the flooding that's been happening in the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers… I don't think that will be happening any time soon.

      However, when I began writing Haunting Miss Trentwood, I made a lot of use out of Google Earth to get a feel for the lay of the land. It was great! I was able to pinpoint the exact little village I was writing about, and take pseudo walking tours of the area since Mary is such a walker. You should try it! It's a free download.


  2. I'm having the same thing happen. I sent a summary of my story to Kait and Susan and their feedback put a whole new spin on how I should be constructing it. Since then, I've been reading my copy of Story Engineering (My homework per Kait) and can already see how it will help in the long run. That's what gets me through it, the light at the end of the tunnel.


    1. Totally. I'm realizing that each time I go back to the WIP, I get stuck because I just want to know more about the area and era I'm writing about. Such is the life of a historical fiction writer! It's worth the wait, though, and I know my readers will appreciate it. I'm continuing to write, but just on a different book while doing research for The Rebel's Hero.

      The really nice thing is one of my friends was a history major specializing in the Civil War. It's like I have my own expert!

      I haven't heard of the Story Engineering book… I used the Marshall Plan the last time I had a plotting problem. Is it good? I may have to check it out.


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