11 January 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 7 comments

Drew Wagenhoffer asked me if I would post some of my experiences in collaborating with other authors. Since it’s an interesting topic, I thought I would accommodate Drew’s request.

By way of background, I have had nine books published of which I am the sole author or editor. The tenth is about to go to the printer. I have had one book published of which I edited a journal that someone else compiled but did not have the expertise or resources to edit properly. I was asked to review this manuscript for publication by Brassey’s, saw the potential, but realized it needed a lot of work. When I made suggestions as to what needed to be done, the publisher asked me if I would undertake the process of editing and annotating the manuscript, and I agreed to do so. Considering that it never started out to be a collaboration, or even a project that I expected to undertake, it worked out quite well. Jean Husby, the compiler, pretty much let me have carte blanche with the editing and with maps and photos, so for all intents and purposes, it wasn’t really even much of a collaboration.

That leaves several other projects wherein active collaborations have taken place. The first, and longest-lived, was the biography of John Buford I’ve been working on with a friend. My friend is a terrific writer. However, he moves slowly, and he has young children and job that requires a lot of travel. Thus, while I’ve had a functional draft of my half together for a long time–it needs polishing, as it was written ten years ago, when my skills weren’t as honed as they are today–it’s been a LONG haul. I don’t talk about it much, as I get tired of answering the inevitable question of when it will be done. The answer is that I have no clue. And I don’t like saying that, so I avoid the topic. If my co-author wasn’t such a good friend and such a good writer, I would be pretty bitter about it. Now, I’m just kind of resigned to it.

Then came my regimental history of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry. I had been working on gathering material for it for years. Then, I heard that Ed Longacre had proposed a history of the Lancers to Combined Books. Since I knew that there wouldn’t be a market for two new histories of this unit, I suggested a collaboration to Ed. The deal was that we would primarily use the trove of primary source material that I had accumulated, and I offered to take the more difficult half, covering up to and including Brandy Station (June 9, 1863). Once I was done, I would then ship the box of files to Ed, and he would do his half. I went ahead and wrote my half, and then waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, Ed informed me that due to other commitments, it was going to be another couple of years before he would have time to work on the thing, and said that out of fairness, he thought the right thing to do was to pull out of the project, so as not to hold me up. And with that, it was done. But it meant that I had to do the other half of the book, which I have since done, and it’s now nearly finished, subject to some final searching at the National Archives that is underway as I write this. There’s a trade-off here: on the plus side, the entire book now is done my way, to my standards. On the down side, I had to do the other half, which I hadn’t expected, and it actually proved more difficult to do the second half than did the first. Go figure.

So, those two experiences haven’t been so good. That now brings me to the current collaborations. The first one, with old friends Mike Nugent and J. D. Petruzzi, is a very tactical study of the retreat from Gettysburg. With that, we had very clear delineations of who was responsible for what as the primary author. Then, when those things were done, we circulated drafts among ourselves for input from the others. It worked out very well and went very easily. That book, which is part of Ironclad Publishing’s “The Discovering Civil War America Series”, will be published this year.

The other is the book on Stuart’s ride during the Gettysburg Campaign that I did with JD, and which will be published by Savas-Beatie in June. That one was a dream to do. First, and foremost, JD’s writing style is very, very similar to mine, so it makes blending our work together very easy. Second, it was easy to divide up the work, and we then gave each other input on each other’s work. Third, we have the ability to communicate, and it makes it easy to get over the rough spots. Fourth, neither of us has an ego about this stuff–you can’t be thin-skinned–so we can be blunt and honest with each other. It’s gone so well, in fact, that we have other collaborations in the works: a bio of Alfred Pleasonton, a volume on the Battle of Monocacy for “The Discovering Civil War America Series”, and one on Price’s Missouri Raid, also for the series. I enjoy working with JD a great deal.

I’m also working on a collaboration with Mark Smith and Wade Sokolosky, the authors of Ironclad’s new book on the Battle of Averasboro (which is supposed to ship from the printer today or tomorrow) on a study of the March 8-10, 1865 Battle of Wyse Fork, which is also sometimes known as the Second Battle of Kinston, NC. Mark and Wade will be the primary authors of this one, with some contribution from me. Talk about a neglected battle. ๐Ÿ™‚ This one is still in the research phase, and I have yet to even visit the battlefield. That will happen some time this spring, as soon as we can identify a date that works for all of us (Mark has a new job after retiring from the Army, and Wade is a lieutenant colonel on active duty).

At the same time, I continue to do stuff on my own. The Dahlgren bio is strictly my work, and I’ve also signed a contract for a book on John Hunt Morgan’s 1863 Ohio and Indiana Raid that will be exclusively my work. For me, it’s all about finding the right mix.

I hope that answers your question, Drew.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Mike Peters
    Wed 11th Jan 2006 at 12:16 pm

    Eric:

    Your collaborative works with JD & Mike, Monroe’s Cross Roads, regimental on the Lancers, bio on Dahlgren, Morgan’s Raid. Man, I envy your discipline.

    Mike

  2. Wed 11th Jan 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Mike,

    Either that, or I need to get a life. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Eric

  3. Wed 11th Jan 2006 at 2:08 pm

    It does, Eric. Thanks! I asked because it seems a dilemma. If one guy does all the research and another does the writing then it seems a great deal can be ‘lost in translation’. On the other hand, if you go halfsies, it seemingly would be difficult to meld the two writing styles enough so that a reader cannot tell the difference between them. I often wonder how Shea and Hess did it for their Pea Ridge study as I could detect no differences in writing style, level of detail, etc over the course of the book.

    Thanks again. And btw, of all your upcoming projects, I am most looking forward to the Price’s Raid volume. Can’t wait. Hopefully, yours and Sinisi’s efforts won’t come out at the same time.

    Drew

  4. Wed 11th Jan 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Drew,

    My pleasure. JD and I have to make a trek out there and stop the ground before we’re in a position to think about putting pen to paper, and frankly, the others come first. Given that, Kyle’s book will definitely be out before ours.

    As for the halvsies aspect, I would agree. However, JD’s writing style is so similar to mine that we think–and hope–that the transitions are seamless and that nobody will be able to tell where those switches took place.

    Where there is a big difference in styles, I can see how it could/would be a major problem. Fortunately, we don’t face that problem.

    Eric

  5. Wed 11th Jan 2006 at 3:13 pm

    Also, good to hear that I can begin checking my mailbox for “No Such Army…”

  6. Tue 17th Jan 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Eric,

    Been so busy (as you know) the past week or so, I just got a chance to read this blog and the others after it.

    Just wanted the folks to know that I enjoy working with Eric a great deal. As he said, our writing styles are so similar – it’s almost scary ๐Ÿ™‚ Not sure why that it, but once in a lifetime I guess you meet a person with whom you share a similar way of expressing yourself. Like the great marriage I have with my wife, Eric’s and my researching, interpretation, and writing styles meld wonderfully. We’re both tempermental, but our egos fall to the background so easily that it’s natural for us. We get excited over “discovering” the same sorts of things and we support each other like brothers.

    That also makes it very easy for us to edit each other’s work. I’ve hardly written anything (including all my past magazine articles) that Eric hasn’t deftly edited. I’ve been reviewing and editing just about everything he’s written over the past few years, and it seems easy for me as well. I agree that on our collaborations, I seriously doubt that anyone would be able to discern two different writers in the same project. My wife once said that she could read two pieces – one written by me, one by Eric – and she literally wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.

    So, I guess that either means we’re both pretty decent writers, or…

    …we stink alike. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Either way it’s a great combination!

    Maybe our talks in front of groups, on such things as battlefield tours, is the same – this past year, Eric gave a wonderful tour of East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg for our CWDG discussion group, and I piped in here and there with comments. One fellow walking with us commented that being with the two of us was like “walking Waterloo with Napolen and Wellington.”

    I hope I get to be Wellington…

    J.D.

  7. Tue 17th Jan 2006 at 12:28 pm

    JD,

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m too tall to be Napoleon, and so are you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    It really does work. It’s that rare collaboration, like Elton John and Bernie Taupin, as an example, where it just clicks. Let’s hope it stays that way. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I look forward to continuing to collaborate with you on stuff for years.

    Eric

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