Thursday, July 8, 2010

What To Do: Chronological or by Topic?

I am almost through with gathering all of the material about Lodewijk Wesselo and when I am, I will start writing his story in a biography-like format. I have massive amounts of information and I have been thinking about how to approach this. I see two possibilities, each with their own benefits and downsides.

First there is doing it chronologically. I can start with his birth, his early work career, his marriage and children, late work career, some moves in between... Most of the things I have are dated and I have a fairly full timeline.

The benefit of doing it this way is clear, you can read the story and see his life unfold before your eyes. The downside? Not all of the information is dated, so some of the absolute gems of things I found I cannot accurately place on the timeline. For instance, I know he worked on an amazing project sometime before 1920, but when you take into account he started working in 1887, that's not saying much. So where do I put that? If it was just one instance, I would just guess, but there are more examples of this problem.

I could also do it by topic. I could do family life, extended family, religion, work, and health. With these topics I would be able to place every bit of information I have.

The benefits? The spare bits of information I have, those without a specific date, can be far more accurately placed within their given sub-topic. Most of the information I have is actually already arranged according to this pattern, so it's easy for me to organize it like this. The downside, of course, is that you might lose sight of Lodewijk's timeline like this, because while you can do the work topic chronologically, when you go to the next topic, you'd have to start at the beginning of his life again. I'm afraid of losing coherency between the subjects.

As of yet, I am still undecided. What are your thoughts on this? Which would work better in this case?

1 comment:

  1. I personally think chronological biographies can be easier to read but are usually somewhat boring. But why not combine the two approaches? Start with an introduction that lists his main life events. This way the reader has a context to relate the other information to. Then go into depth about specific topics.