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Changing Gears

January 20, 2016

I’ve got about a week of rewriting left to get this second draft where I want it, and then I’m passing it along to a friend of mine to get his thoughts. This is a big deal for a couple reasons.

First, it’s the first time I’ll have shown this to anybody since I started. I’ve shared a few paragraphs at a time with a handful of folks within the innermost ring of my social circle, and I think my dad saw 15-20 pages four years ago. But most of what I’m passing has been heretofore unseen by human eyes besides my own. I’m happy with where it is right now, but there’s a very tense feeling that comes along with anything like this. I’ve basically been working in a vacuum for more than seven years. In the same way moving a rifle just a fraction of a degree on your shoulder can cause the shot to miss your target by hundreds of feet if it’s far enough away, I’m worried about what I’ve hit. I hope I’m on the right track, but I’m asking this editor-in-pal to be brutally honest (and I chose him specifically because I trust him to do so). Writers develop thick skin early on dealing with editors (or they stop being writers), but it’s been a while since that was a regular part of my life, and I feel myself bracing already.

The other big thing here is that I’m not going to be touching the draft very much while it’s in his hands. It’s interview time. Having read through what I have a few times now, I’ve come up with about 15 people I’ve already interviewed and have follow-up questions for. In most cases, it’s just two or three, but in some cases it’s more than a dozen, and even when there’s just a few, those conversations can branch off into a lot of different directions. But it’s mostly folks who live in Athens and all folks I’ve already interviewed, so I think I can bang them out pretty quickly. The other crop is the group of people I haven’t interviewed yet but would like to. That list is about 60 deep right now and likely to get deeper as I talk to the people on it, as they’re wont to suggest other useful contacts. It’s certainly a long list, but I don’t expect to interview every single person on it. The more, the better, but if even most of them don’t want to talk to me, it’s not going to ruin the book. They’re mostly just to add some color and texture.

The main challenge here is going to be just staying organized. That’s about 75 people I’m trying to interview, which is going to require me to be a bit more coordinated than I’ve been so far. Sending out 75 “hey do you wanna talk to me” emails is easy. Keeping track of who has responded, when they’re available to talk, who I need to follow up with, etc. gets a little tricky. On top of that, I need to make sure I’m transcribing the interviews soon after they’re completed and then working the relevant pieces into my manuscript as quickly as I can. Transcribing is majorly tedious, but I can’t let it get away from me.

I’m planning to be aggressive about the interviews, though, and I think I can bang out the bulk of them in two or three months. If I can stay active folding them into draft as I go, that leaves me with another month or two for additional rewriting and locking down whatever stragglers remain, wrapping up a final draft in the early summer. We’ll see.

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