Progress So Far

Reviewing my posts on this blog, I realised that I have written little about my progress as a new author despite this being one of the reasons I started. Perhaps, therefore, it is time for a review of progress so far.

I started writing at the end of February this year with the chapter on the Worcester. I thought that, as so much had been written about this incident both at the time and almost continually up until the present day, all I needed to do was decide what I  believed happened and write a summary of events. There is a vast amount of material but I was correct. Once I had read all the material and analysed it, I produced a timeline (see my blog post number 10) and was off. Less than a week later, I had written over 5,500 words. Of course, I have reworked this first chapter a number of times and am now up to version 7 but I proved to myself that I could do this writing thing. It was a good start.

By the time I finished the Worcester chapter, I had already decided what my next should be – the chapter on Pirates. I really did not understand how much the subject of Pirates excites readers. That I discovered when parts of the Worcester chapter was reviewed by the follow-up group of Gill Blanchard’s Writing Your Family History course. The Worcester story touches on piracy but pirates play other roles in Thomas Bowrey’s life. Clearly Pirates would be a strong selling point for my book of his life.

I began writing this second chapter in late March. It took a little longer but two weeks later the first draft of almost 6,000 words was completed. Again, I have reworked the chapter a number of times and am now up to version 6 but at least the first chapter was not a fluke.

The next chapter excited me – it was that about Bowrey’s projects. These brought him into contact with a number of prominent people including Daniel Defoe, Robert Harley and the King of Prussia and, in addition to Pirates (yet again), touched on money, slavery and the South Sea Company. I started, full of enthusiasm, in mid-April. Enthusiasm alone proved not to be enough and, for the first time, I found this chapter difficult, getting stuck  more than once. This was partly, but not solely, because I needed to do more research.

It was a great help to have had a couple of successes in hand. Had this been my first attempt at writing, I could easily have given up. I would strongly suggest that any new author considers very carefully where to start writing. The beginning of your book is not likely to be the easiest and it would be so easy to become disillusioned.

I did not complete the first draft of the Projects chapter until the beginning of July this year, over ten weeks later but I had written over 6,000 words. By now I knew that there would still be a number of rounds of rewriting and  am up to version 5 of this third chapter.

My next chapter was more like a duty. It was one that had to be written to provide background but was not one that interested me a great deal. Bowrey spent the first part of his adult life in the East Indies as a mariner and merchant and the second part trading there as a Wapping merchant. Never employed by the East India Company, he did in later life own shares in the Company and traded alongside it. Some background on the Company is essential to anyone reading my book, but how much?  The history of the companies (yes, what is known as the East India Company was actually a number of different companies over time) is complex but I did not require all that detail. I needed to decide what information would interest my readers. This was to be another summary, just like my first chapter.

I began writing in the third week of July and completed the first draft in just a few days. OK, this was much short that the first four chapters – less than 4,500 words this time.

At this point, I hit another unproductive period. I start each chapter with a preparation stage that precedes each of the start dates I have given. Two weeks is usually enough for this. For my next chapter, on Bowrey’s life in the East Indies, I managed to complete this preparation on schedule but was then diverted. It all started with reading Anna Winterbottom’s Hybrid Knowledge in the Early East India Company World. I make no excuses for mentioning this book yet again.

In addition to an interesting book in its own right, in my opinion, Anna has completed more thorough research than other current writer using the Bowrey papers as source material. She has interesting things to say about him and his associates. Not only did her conclusions challenge a number of my opinions but she introduced me to new sources. The result was a flurry of visits to archives including, for the first time, the library of the School of Oriental and African Studies. What I found pushed me into digging further into the material at the British Library. I uncovered some interesting material – some confirmed my opinions, especially concerning Bowrey, but I also found a great deal of new information about the Smith family, in particular.

By now real life intervened: I was not feeling at my best, there were lots of jobs to do and, of course, there were the late night due to the Olympics and Paralympics. Eventually, there were no excuses left and I started writing again two days ago. As things stand, I have written nearly 2,000 words …

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