I have received numerous emails over the past year inquiring as to when my book, tentatively titled, Searching For Black Confederate Soldiers, will be completed. While I greatly appreciate the interest, these messages left me feeling incredibly frustrated. To make a long story short, it has been very difficult focusing on this project over the past few years. I have experienced bursts of energy on a few occasions, but nothing sustaining. Chalk it up to being burned out and distracted by other projects.
But this past week I realized that there was another problem. I have spent so much time on this subject over the past 8 years that I lost sight of what it is I even want to say in the form of a book. Naively, I believed that my familiarity with the subject meant that I did not have to waste time outlining chapters and smaller sections. Somehow this book was going to write itself.
What ‘woke me up from my dogmatic slumbers’ was picking up a copy of Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published by Susan Rabinder and Alfred Fortunato, which was suggested to me by a friend in my book writing group last spring, but I had never bothered to read before now. This book was just the kick in the ass that I needed. Almost immediately I started sketching a proposal along the lines suggested by the authors. What question will this book pursue from beginning to end? What will the table of contents look like and what specifically will be addressed in each one. Why is this book needed and why am I the person to write it? Simple questions, yes, but framed in a way that allowed me to approach the subject with fresh eyes.
For the first time in years I am once again excited about this subject. Yesterday I completed a draft of the proposal that outlines what the book is about and its central argument. I have sample chapter that is also close to completion. Today and tomorrow I will work on two sections that focus on the books that already occupy this market and how my own research, writing, and public outreach on this subject will help to set my book apart from the field. Once it is ready I will share it with a few friends, have them tear it apart, and start all over.
Finally, I am going to pursue an agent to help with selling the proposal as a trade book. This project has all the elements of a solid history trade book and I have absolutely no doubt that it will sell well. It is definitely a step in a new direction and I am going to rely heavily on the advice of my good friends in Book Squad, but I am convinced that this is the right move and the right time to pursue it.
Not too long ago I was convinced that I had missed my window of opportunity, but the horrific events in Charleston last summer and the continued debate about Confederate iconography that ensued all but guarantees that the debate about Black Confederate soldiers will remain a popular and misunderstood subject.
Again, thanks to all of you who have expressed interest in this project. I hope you can hold out with me for just a little longer. It will hopefully be worth the wait.