Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Help, help! I'm drowning in notes!






I am writing a term paper.  An enormously daunting term paper for someone who is a pitilessly strict grader. That’s what it feels like sometime. What I’m really doing is research for a new historical novel for young readers set in Puritan Massachusetts in 1675. I plan to call it A Scalp on the Moon. Now that I am in possession of an oldish brain, however, (instead of the newish brain that wrote term papers in high school over 50 years ago) I have to find some new methods of keeping track of old information.


My problem is that I absolutely require myself to write the history part of my story  as accurately as possible.  Apparently, I have been pretty successful at this in my two previous books of this type.  One Amazon reviewer said of The Riddle of Penncroft Farm: “As an author of 6 books on the Rev War, including 2 for young adults, I was very pleased to find that this book by Dorothea Jensen did not have any historical inaccuracies.” A previewer of A Buss from Lafayette (coming out in April, 2016) wrote: “Jensen…paints what appears to be an authentic portrait of life in 1825 New Hampshire as well as the Nation’s response to Lafayette’s final visit to his adoptive land.”

So I have established a standard of accuracy for myself in writing historical fiction. Now I have to live up to it.

Anyone who reads many different sources about historical events or eras, however, knows that just about every single source says something different from every other source.  In order to decide which seems to be the most accurate account of the past, and thus would be the best to use in my story, I REALLY need to keep track of what I read and where I read it. You see the problem.

Somehow, the thought of writing notes on index cardsmany many notes on index cardsby hand does not appeal to me. (Besides, then I’d have to keep track of hundreds of index cards and I’ve always been Organizationally Challenged.) On the other hand, my brain (oldish as I mentioned before) simply will not store hundreds and hundreds of facts about the 17th century.

One avenue I have been using is reading historical accounts etc. online or as e-books. I can select bits to copy, place them in a “notes” document, and the source information is automatically included with the copied bit. However, not all sources are available in digital form. (Although it is amazing what can be found online.)

If anyone out there (especially someone with 21st century savvy galore) has any suggestions for me, please comment below. 

I'm sinking fast.