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January 13, 2016

I’m finished my final read-through of my first draft, which means I’m now ready to start rewriting what I have and scheduling interviews to flesh out what I don’t. There’s a lot of work left to do, but certainly not more than I was expecting or more than I should be able to handle in the next few months. And feeling like I know what’s left makes it seem easier to tackle.

Not only do I know what’s left, I’ve sorted it into four color-coded spreadsheets. The first is a list of people I need to interview for a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) time and all of the follow-up questions I have for them based on what we’ve already discussed. The second is a list of general questions and talking points I’d like to discuss with folks, but not necessarily anyone specifically. In those cases, they’re topics I’ve already got covered a little, but I want to add more voices and perspectives to the mix. The third list is all of the people I would like to talk to but haven’t yet, which is mostly people on the periphery at this point. That is, if I’m not able to interview anyone I haven’t already, I’m confident with what I’ve got. I think it’ll be better the more of these people I can talk to, but there’s no individual on whose participation this project is contingent. The last list is a chapter-by-chapter list of high level edits to make. There’s all kinds of small edits within the draft itself—sequence these quotes differently, condense this paragraph, expand on this idea—but the high level stuff is more general and typically requires more research.

Of course, that’s not all there is left to do. Within the draft I have now, there are a whole bunch of different placeholders. In some cases, it’s a sentence I need to turn into a paragraph. Sometimes it’s a few bullet points I need to replace with a few paragraphs, or a prompt to dig up a bunch of reviews of a particular record. In all cases, though, I have a kernel of what to write there. I just need to actually write it.

As a bonus, I’m focusing my literary consumption on stuff that might be relevant to this project. Right now, I’m reading Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, by music writer Rob Sheffield. I picked it up at a (now closed, sadly) used bookstore downtown in search of material for a passage about the impact of the cassette tape on music history, and I’ve gotten some, but it’s turning out to be a pretty moving memoir. Sheffield uses a collection of mixtapes he’s accumulated over the years as a vehicle to tell a devastating collection of stories. It’s a breezy read, but it’s also caused me to cry in public multiple times already, so don’t underestimate it.

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