If you have a very strong pitch and idea from the outset you can plot out your entire book, or at least the sections, from the very beginning. The danger being that you miss out on really useful ideas or developments by being too restrictive and getting too locked into ‘your idea’. I knew from the beginning that there was more than enough material for a book, but being realistic, knew I’d have to leave a lot out in order to be coherent and interesting. I knew the stories of several of the residents I’d definitely include ( people like Booth, Prioleau and the Mellys and Ripleys), but also suspected there were a lot of stories I didn’t yet know. So I took a parallel approach. I started gathering together material I knew would be of use, and doing general searches of archives with keyword searches, and at the same time started a methodical recording of every occupant from censuses and trade directories while reading general Liverpool histories.
It brought up a lot of ‘potentials’, a few extra ‘definites’, and gave me a broader picture of how the occupancy had changed through the decades. I quickly realised that the nineteenth century has the richest vein of untapped stories, and decided to focus solely on that century. Not least because I wanted to finish before I died of old age.
I’ve been asked numerous times if I’ve got a publisher yet, but it’s an area I’ve deliberately avoided in the early stages. Until I knew what sort of book, what size, and what tone I wanted to write, it wouldn’t have been sensible to approach publishers with a half thought out proposal. I’m now at the stage, with a draft layout and drafts of the first few chapters, where I’m in a better position to decide the people I want to approach. It’s a personal decision, and by taking this route I’ve missed out on the possibility of guidance on the earlier planning stages, but in this particular case it’s allowed me to work at my own pace and iron out my own thinking on what I’d like to write. As publications aren’t part of my day job, and the aim of this isn’t dependent on financial matters, I have a lot more freedom in where and how to publish than others, and can even decide myself whether a book is the best medium of getting my research across to the public. Which makes it for me what writing and researching is all about, enjoying yourself.
Slight ramble there, but you get the point. Back to facts next time, and what I’ve done so far, and what comes next.