The joy of copyfitting

Not quite metablogging, but close: Some notes about the process of bringing the latest Cites & Insights to fruition.

Not the writing part. That’s too tedious and strange to discuss, at least for now, combining reading, marking up source material, putting it together in various ways, and writing over the course of several weeks. The (C)3 perspective started out as a section of the (C)3 essay. The “Civilities” essay started out as one or two notes, but it started to come together.

This issue included none of the five “stuff” sections that characterize the journal (some of which is slowly moving here instead), that is, Good Stuff, Library Stuff, Trends & Quick Takes, Interesting & Peculiar Products, and Bibs & Blather. Well, there was a Bibs & Blather section…

This is what I call a “chunky issue”–a few big chunks instead of a larger number of generally-shorter chunks. I never know whether chunky issues are better or worse. They just are.

So: as of last Friday, I had around 22,000 words in five sizable essays and a couple of short sections. Too much for a reasonable-size issue: a 20-page issue can hold at most 15,000-15,500 words (depending on the number of headings and whether I use really short words).

I started by doing an editorial pass on each article. Editing your own stuff is always chancy, and I don’t claim to do an adequate job. That reduced the size by about 500 words…

And on Monday (I believe), as I was starting to put the issue together), Joy Weese Moll’s first-rate report on the ACRL Google & Academic Libraries program arrived. It was clear that it belonged in this issue. The report needed almost no editing (I think I changed one word.) Now I was up to 23,900 words.

Here’s the process from there to here:

  • Big cuts: The 5,000-word Net Media section could be separated from the rest and wouldn’t suffer from being held over. So it’s now part of 5:8 (with probable expansions and further editing). And, sigh, Bibs & Blather really didn’t need inclusion (but was under 1,000 words anyway). So now I’m down to 17,861.
  • Assembling: I chose an order for the remaining essays (seven in all), opened a new instance of the C&I Word template (which includes the banner and issue area, needing slight editing each time), and inserted the files in order (all of them also built with the same template, but only for style handling. Whoops: It comes out to 27 pages. Turning on hyphenation brings it down to 26 pages.
  • Copyfitting 1: I suspect most of you don’t notice that there are very few cases in C&I where the last line of a paragraph consists of a single word, and no cases where one line of a paragraph is either an orphan or a widow (stranded at the bottom or top of a page). Word handles orphans and widows automatically, if you tell it to. Avoiding stub lines (also called widows by those typographers who care about them) takes some doing. The copyfitting process also involves manipulating long URLs so they don’t cause ugly justification problems by breaking to a new line with very little in the previous line (never an entirely successful process) and modifying some headings and subheadings so they’re a little more compact (by changing the wording or reducing the type size). Yes, I’m an old-media type. Note that I produced the pages for most of my published books on my own computers… This process brought the page count down to 24, I think. I could have let it go there, but…
  • Copyfitting 2: I really try to keep issues at 22 pages or less, if at all possible. So I went through eliminating words, sentences, paragraphs–most of it my own commentary that I could label as self-indulgent or peripheral to the discussion at hand (a lot of the latter: geez, I’m an unfocused writer at times!)–and doing special copyfitting when there were significant gaps at the bottoms of pages (thanks to widow/orphan control and instructions to Word to make sure a heading/subheading stays with the first paragraph underneath it: it’s ludicrous to split headings from copy). That process continues until, shazam, the page count suddenly drops to what I want–or until it refuses to, and I have to do something more drastic. This time, it worked. I was now down to 16,352 words–which means I cut 1,509 words in the process of copyfitting. (Actually, that’s wrong: the 17,861 word count, taken from my tracking document, doesn’t include the masthead, which is around 100 words long, while the 16,352 count does.)
  • Final steps: Clicking the make-PDF icon; checking the PDF for reasonable quality and bookmarks. Saving the Word document. Opening it up, stripping the banner and issue line, switching to one column, replacing the template with my “web” template, inserting the web header, stripping extraneous styles out of the template (Word tends to combine and add styles–and every style adds to HTML overhead). Saving that “webtemp” document as web/filtered; opening it repeatedly, stripping out all but one story, assigning appropriate properties, and saving as individual web/filtered pieces. Adding to the TOC document, copying the new issue table to the Index document (replacing the old one), making sure to change the “Current Issue” link in the navigation line, modifying the “old volumes” summary document. Logging on, uploading all the new and changed documents to cites.boisestate.edu, writing a plain-text notice on Topica, writing an HTML new-issue notice on the C&I Updates blogger blog, then copying-and-pasting that notice in this blog and my LISNews journal. (The next day, I forward the Topica mailing that I receive to a handful of lists and people after stripping the Topica ad.)
  • Indexing: Yesterday’s final step, and just about the only time I listen to music while working on my PC: Opening the special “ix5″ document, adding index elements for each page and story as seems appropriate (very amateur indexing, but better than none), then going back and making each element an index entry (there should be a macro for this, but I haven’t spent the time to do one); generating the volume-so-far index and printing it out for use during the year.

That’s it. Now to start on the next issue, after a day or three off (and some other writing)…

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