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December 5, 2015

In my last post, I explained my process of writing granular passages within a chapter after having outlined the entire book. I’m relieved to say I have just about finished that process, at least for now. That is, all of the material I’ve compiled has been outlined into sections, the sections have all been written to the extent I can write them with the material I have, and those written sections are roughly sequenced into a coherent narrative.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but this is a big milestone. It definitely gave me more trouble than anything before it. Only when I was able to divide it into smaller pieces did it even seem achievable, and only when I moved back to Athens was I able to actually get over the hump. After spending years feeling like I was treading water with this project (if not being swept backward), it’s nice to see signs of actual progress.

I’ve already written a little about what comes next, but I want to get a little deeper into my plan, as much for my own sake as yours.

All of those little sections I’ve written are grouped into chapters, but they’re all still floating around separately. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be threading the sections within a chapter together into an actual chapter. That is, sequenced the way I want them to appear in the book (as opposed to the loosely chronological order they appear in now) and arranged in one cohesive passage. Transitions and everything.

As of now, it looks like I’ll have about 18 of these chapters, give or take. After I’ve finished stringing each one together, I’ll read through it a couple times and log my impressions—basic stylistic stuff that I can correct quickly, large structural ideas that will take some time to reorganize, and gaps in my research that will take additional interviews to fill. I’ll fix the little stuff as I go, but the bigger edits will be tabled for a while. In a given day, I’d probably spend a few hours in the morning working on building one chapter and then switch to reading and editing a different chapter the following day. So tomorrow I might put together Chapter X and give it a once-over, then on Monday, put together Chapter Y in the morning and revisit Chapter X in the afternoon. Then on Tuesday, I’d work on Chapter Z in the morning and go back through Chapter Y in the afternoon. And so on.


Once I’ve finished writing and making basic edits to each chapter, I’ll sequence them and read them together as a whole, which should reveal another pile of revisions to make and questions to answer. Those will be added to the aforementioned list.

Then, I’ll take a look at that master list of big picture changes I need to make and map out who I need to talk to and what I need to talk to each of them about. Some of the chapters are definitely further along then others, and I have a rough idea of what’s missing already, but I don’t want to leave any stones unturned, and there’s a lot of stones, and some of those stones are hard to find, and some of the other stones are easier to find but don’t really check their emails very often or respond to texts, and some stones are just kind of flaky. So I need to be strategic and organized.

Then I split off into parallel tracks.

The first is what I hope will be the final phase of research, namely interviews. In some cases, it’s people I’ve never communicated with, and in others, it’s people I’ve already spent hours interviewing. Sometimes I just need clarification on a little anecdote or some context added to a subject that doesn’t have the right voices, and sometimes I expect multiple conversations to cover a whole lot of disparate areas. I don’t know how much I have left to do in terms of interviews, but I don’t think it will be nearly as in depth as what I’ve already accomplished. I can be a lot more focused in my conversation, and it will be easier to get in touch with many of the people I need to talk to.

Simultaneously, I’ll be working on those chapters: the structural changes within chapters I already identified, content changes between chapters when one passage works better somewhere else, and overall arrangement of the chapters themselves and how they interact with each other. Much of this will be dependent on the interviews I’ll be conducting, and so those will be folded in as they’re completed. That’s another reason I want to be strategic about them.

How long this takes is mostly dependent on the interview process. It will depend on how many people I need to talk to and how quickly I can interview them all. They’ll all have their own calendars and levels of reliability, but I can likely make it happen within a few months. I can see that stretching for a lot of reasons, but I’m still aiming to have a manuscript finished in the spring of 2016, and I think I’m still on track for that.

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