Going where the story leads you

A proper well organized writer probably has an idea or proposal, prepares an outline, understands the length, and makes sure that the article or essay follows the outline and comes in at the desired length.

I do the “desired length” part for columns–a one-page column has to be one page (in my case, for one magazine, about 820 words because I use short ones); a “2,000-word” article can probably be anywhere from 1,800 to 2,100 words, but it can’t be 1,000 or 3,000. And if an article or column is written based on a proposal or commission, it had better match that proposal or commission fairly well.

But Cites & Insights, as noted yesterday, is different.

I’ve found that some stories want to go places beyond where I’d anticipated taking them. I’ve concluded that whenever a story seems to take on a life of its own, it’s probably sound to see where it goes.

The October issue of Cites & Insights will mostly be one of those stories–but split into two parts. Here’s the situation:

  • As noted here, I’d planned to do a five-year followup on “Getting Past the Arc of Enthusiasm” (May 2001), my study of pioneer free ejournals (what we’d now call OA journals, but that term didn’t exist in 1995).
  • As I was completing that essay, using DOAJ as a primary source for URLs, I noted that other listings showed dates of 1995 or before. And began wondering just how many other “pioneers” were around, that hadn’t been reported to ARL for its 1995 directory for one reason or another.
  • I did that “investigation”–there are 189 additional journal listings, but it’s pretty clear that not all of those began to provide free online access in 1995 or before. I’ve written up the results, including my guess/opinion/suspicion as to each journal’s actual status, as Part II of a two-part Perspective. (It suggests avenues for further investigation of the first decade of free ejournals…avenues I’m thinking about).

What would have been 4,500 words is now over 10,000. Does it deserve that length? Maybe, maybe not.

The rest of the issue? Actually, it does follow the short-term projeciton, sort of: A fairly long Old Media/New Media piece on books, bookstores and ebooks. Interesting & Peculiar Products. And the second half of the SciFi Classics 50 Movie Pack (hey, there’s no My Back Pages, and we need some fun here and there.)

When will it come out? Probably this evening. Intrepid early readers who can guess the URL might even find it earlier. And the URLs are so hard to guess…

2 Responses to “Going where the story leads you”

  1. WoW!ter says:

    Well go on, finish your story. Don’t waste you’re time, we’ll eagerly anticipate your findings.

  2. walt says:

    The issue that comes out this evening has “the story” as far as it goes.

    Pursuing the other avenues would be a major time commitment, and would only make sense in terms of a (probably publish-on-demand) book. Since I am back to full time (work, not writing!) I’m not sure the time commitment is feasible…particularly since I’d guess the book would sell a couple of hundred copies at most. Maybe fewer.

    As long as I’m working, there does have to be a distinction between going where the story leads you and letting a story turn into an obsession. Particularly since there are so many other stories that interest me and are worth pursuing.

    I haven’t rejected the idea. But it’s a long shot.