As you may or may not know, my current work in progress is a work of non-fiction. Now I have dabbled in this area before (the evidence is here, in case you hadn’t previously strayed onto the other pages of this site), and what I’ve found is that, even if you’re writing a computer manual, you still need to have some kind of narrative. By which I mean, you’re still telling a story. If you’re not telling a story, you’ll very quickly lose your readers’ attention.
The problem with the current WIP is that it involves historical elements, some of which go back to the 18th century and some of which go back twenty or thirty years. And as you pull all the facts together, you do get some kind of sense of what the overall story is (and in fact in this book, there are several) and so that’s what you write your narrative around.
But every so often you come across something – a link to a website that you’d forgotten about, perhaps – that doesn’t quite fit. And when you’re dealing with areas of history that are only covered by unreliable sources, this tends to happen quite a lot, whether you’re dealing with the 18th century or indeed the 1980s. When this happens, it’s actually quite exciting, because you’re actually forced to adopt a position. Do you stand by your narrative and dismiss the newcomer or do you absorb the new facts and readjust your narrative?
And then, suddenly, you realise you are literally making history. It’s a scary thought, isn’t it?