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Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Little Help from My Friends

Cutting the first 22,000 words of the 30,000 my publisher wants me to cut was the easy part.  For a time I was at a loss about where to cut 8,000 more.  So I put out an SOS and got some good advice.  Both William Glenn Robertson ("Backdoor to Richmond") and Hampton Newsome ("Richmond Must Fall") recommended cutting the three chapters between the Prologue on June 18, 1864, when the Petersburg Regiment returned to its home town, and the battle of Seven Pines, when the regiment began to fight.  The suggestion made good sense to me.  The reason I composed a Prologue in the first place, about 1990, was to try to get the reader through those fourteen months of Norfolk garrison duty, when the only combat in which the 12th Virginia or any of its soldiers participated was naval--the battles of Gosport Navy Yard, Hampton Roads and First Drewry's Bluff.  I considered doing away with those chapters entirely--that would have gotten rid of more than 8,000 words!--but garrison duty is part of army duty, the regiment was formed then, and the main characters--the main diarists, letter writers, and memoirists--are introduced.  I had already cut about 4,000 words from those chapters when the suggestion came to look at them, but afterward I cut another 2,200 words.  Less than 6,000 to go and I just cut about 300 from chapter 4, about Seven Pines, where I thought there was nothing left to cut.  So now I'm pretty confident about squeezing out the remaining 5,500 from the nineteen chapters that remain.  And I still think the book will be the better for the cuts.  Thanks, Dr. Robertson!  Thanks, Hampton!