I began writing Little Warrior Brother to talk about my time in the Marine Corps infantry from 2002 to 2006 and my subsequent three tours to Iraq within that time frame. But I hit 100,000 words quicker than I possibly could’ve imagined and was just wrapping up the account of my first deployment when I realized I wasn’t starting a story anymore. At some point, I had finished a book and was just realizing it for the first time.
I think adding my Uncle’s story about his tour in Vietnam had a lot to do with extending the content. Then again, It’s not like I knew what I was doing in the first place to predict this would’ve happened. I started out writing a thirty-page outline and began writing the first scene and so on until all the scenes in the first ten pages of single spaced bullet points were covered. I wonder what happened to the outline. Hopefully it’s somewhere on my computer. Harboring notes of moments from the better part of three years in my life from a time I vaguely remembered until I began writing about it a decade after it happened. I might have to dig it up again to bring back the memories I need to write about to fill a sequel.
Now I’m sitting here with two tours left to tell, my Uncle’s story feeling too complete to revisit, aside from a few isolated stories and his views since writing the book, and a feeling the answer should be as simple the answer was on how to begin the story in the first place. That could be interesting. But maybe I’ve told his story and need to tell my story by itself now. That doesn’t feel right either if I’m being honest with myself.
An interesting idea popped in to my head the other day when I realized I could merge another perspective, the way I merged my Uncle’s with mine in the first place. Maybe I could talk to an Afghanistan War Veteran and put our stories next to each other. Interesting sure, but completely unrelated in the way my Uncle’s and my story had become.
Too bad I never stayed in touch with any of the Iraqi Soldiers from my third deployment. Too bad most of them were probably killed. One of their stories could have been an incredible story to write. I remember a lot of their stories. Something I intend on recounting to the best of my ability. Not just to honor them, but also to share their incredible stories that most never hear about in the media.
With all this indecision, I think for the moment I’ll write my story and continue to see what my Uncle’s story reveals through a series interviews. That’s what I did for the first book. I called and we talked while I recorded the conversation. Later on I wrote down the parts of the conversation I wanted to use in the book.
So that’s where I’m at. Not sure how to move forward but also confident that through enough time spent hammering out my story, I’m sure the path to the answer will become self-evident. Either way, it’s been an incredible experience, and just being able to hold my first book in my hands is enough to feel content with my writing process for the first time since as far back as I can remember.