Guest post by Karl Bacon, whose first novel An Eye for Glory: The Civil War Chronicles of a Citizen Soldier just hit stores. In this post Bacon discusses his goals for writing Civil War fiction, how he immersed himself into the mindset of his characters, and the realities of being a "pantser"...
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." -Philippians 4:6
Pantser, noun; A writer who depends less on planning than on instinct and inspiration; one who doesn't know the story they're going to write until the storty starts happening.
I first heard the term "pantser" a couple of years ago and immediately thought, "Hey, that's me, a seat-of-the-pants writer." When I began writing An Eye for Glory, I was employed by a Swiss machine tool company in the development of some fairly sophisticated metalworking applications, mostly for the medical and electronic fields. I never gave a thought to becoming a writer, and never studied writing, except for those boring required courses in college, but I believed the Lord was leading me to tell the story of Michael Gabriel Palmer. I began to write in 1998, never thinking a published novel would be the end result, and from word one, I set three goals for the story:
(1) Honor the Lord Jesus Christ
(2) Honor those who served by getting the history right
(3) Write the best piece of literature I possibly could.
It took ten years to complete the story. Research rabbit trails often took days or weeks to resolve. I read extensively about the history of the Connecticut regiment Michael Palmer would enlist in. I read about every battle in the story and visited each battlefield at least twice. How did the battle play out over this land? I tried to find the exact spot where Michael would have been. What would he have seen and heard and done? Sometimes I just sat still, soaking up the atmosphere of the place, so I might better bring that atmosphere to life on the page.
When it came to the actual writing, I essentially began to tell Michael Palmer's story as I thought he would have written it. I experimented with first person and third person points of view, and quickly settled on first person, because Michael's story is an intensely personal one, a man writing to his grown children twenty years after the events occurred. I read diaries of soldiers from the war, as much for the historical content as for the use of language, from which I developed Michael's manner of writing and speaking.
The Lord ... drove me back to the writing—he would not let me let it go."
After a few years, I gave what I had written to a Christian editor friend. She gave me great encouragement and pointed out some serious flaws in my writing. For instance, I had never heard of show vs. tell. I began to read books on writing and editing, in an effort to learn as much as I could about how to write. Vacation reading wasn't James Scott Bell's latest thriller, but rather his Plot & Structure. Reading helped a great deal, but I was still a pantser. Several times I came to a plot roadblock. No way through was apparent. I prayed that God would show me the way. Then I usually left the writing, did more research, sometimes over a period of weeks or months, and an answer was always forthcoming.
Anyone who reads An Eye for Glory will realize that the three goals I set at the start of the long process were accomplished, but for this I can take very little credit, as I knew not what to write or how to write it. So many times, particularly after writing an intensely emotional scene, I felt drained and couldn't write another word. In time the Lord healed me, inspired me, and drove me back to the writing—he would not let me let it go.
That I finished the story, that a full-length novel resulted that is infinitely better than what I ever could have dreamed, and that a publisher such as Zondervan wished to publish it, was all the doing of our Holy God working in me and though me to accomplish his purposes, purposes which may remain a mystery to me until my eyes behold him as he is.
Read an excerpt of An Eye for Glory on Scribd.com
About Karl Bacon