A bookshelf with books and papers on it.

I’m making progress on my story about Troy’s Armenians in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it is painfully slow. And not from lack of commitment, but rather from new solid gold resources popping up just when I’m settling into the next chapter of the story.

A picture of an expired receipt.
A picture of an expired receipt.

I’ve received all kinds of advice on how to manage this dilemma. The predominant one is just write the story and flesh it out with what is in all the resources later. That’s counterintuitive to me. Up to this point I have stopped when a new resource came to my attention. My reasoning? Many of the resources I’ve tapped up to this point have taken my story – or a chapter of my story – in a different direction that I’ve found valuable. Or a resource could change the tone of even a single chapter or story line. In other words, the new resources have nearly always enriched the story. How could I possibly not give each resource its due.

One recent new set of resources was loaned to me by the priest at the local Armenian Apostolic church, St. Peter’s in Watervliet. Although Searching for Setrik focuses on the Armenians in Troy who founded the protestant Armenian Church, all of the Armenians who settled in the Troy area have stories in common. So examining the experiences that my ancestors had in common beyond the church — as Armenian refugees from their ancestral homeland, as survivors of horrors at the hands of the Turks and Kurds — provides a richer and more comprehensive understanding of their lives, not just their lives within a specific church but also their adapting to life in upstate NYS.

I do have to remind myself periodically that I’m not writing a history book. I’m writing historical fiction. But how can you paint a rich picture of the characters and the settings in the story without having a comprehensive understanding of their lives both in and out of their chosen church?

So I keep pursuing the new angles, absorbing the details of their lives…

And reminding myself that my ultimate goal is to finish the story!