Civil War News Review

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tips to Beginning Historians and Writers

1.      Gather as much primary information as is humanly possible about the topic you are researching.

2.      Form a hypothesis, if you must. It is best to let the evidence guide you. Do not guide the evidence to prove your hypothesis.

3.      Do not write to deliberately revise history. Be honest and have the courage to discover the history rather than rewrite it.

4.      Learn to write well. Develop your own style but make sure is reads well. Making it too scholarly and erudite will turn off the general public, if they are the intended audience.

5.      Footnote! Footnote! Footnote!

6.      Explain the logic behind your conclusions in the footnotes as you believe they are needed.

7.      Historians are nitpickers and territorial, I included. Anyone who has invested time in their work will try to defend it, some more tenaciously than others.

8.      Accept criticism, if it is well founded.

9.      Re-study the contested topic and be willing to concede error you made an honest mistake or if you did sloppy research.

10.  There is nothing wrong with another author coming to a different conclusion based upon newly revealed sources. It in no way is a negative reflection upon your scholarship.

11.  Never! Never! Never! Attack another author’s personal integrity or their motives for writing what they did. They might be the north end of a southbound mule but do not make yourself one by being personally vindictive.

12.  Be professional. Put your findings in writing by explaining how you researched your topic and came to your conclusions.

13.  Generally, it is best not to get in petty disputes unless someone brings it up to you. Parry the differing conclusion with evidence and logic not with vitriol and pettiness.

14.  Use common sense. Think. Cause and effect. People have not intrinsically changed at all throughout time.
15.  With military history read Erich Remarque, Bill Mauldin, John Hersey, Ernie Pyle, John Keegan and as many letters, diaries, reminiscences, and memoirs as you can get your hands upon, searching for their common ties.

16.  Study psychology to understand how people think.

17.  Study to teach yourself and write to enlighten and educate.

18.  Send your work to a reputable publisher.

19.  Listen to your editors and stand your ground on matters that you deem important. I do not recommend self-publishing. You will make a lot of mistakes which good editors will catch because in your own eyes, your writing is perfect.

20.  Above all, let your passion for the subject and your enthusiasm pour onto the pages you write.

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