Making the Sausage

What follows was written as the Bibs & Blather for the August 2007 Cites & Insights. I’m doing final work on that issue now. This isn’t worth the print space, but it might make an amusing, if very long, post.

I’m starting this essay on July 4, 2007—the same day I start writing the first of several related essays for the August Cites & Insights, getting back to writing after a two-week break.

Why two weeks? ALA Annual came first. Then came the aftereffects of a difficult journey back home—it took three days to regain reasonable energy and catch up part of a sleep deficit. (“Sleeping” in Dallas-Fort Worth’s Terminal D was iffy at best). About the same time, I was finishing up the July issue (final copyfitting, etc.) and getting it out—and catching up on blog posts.

Oh, and doing the initial work toward producing a PoD book version of LIBRARY 2.0 AND “LIBRARY 2.0” and the followup PERSPECTIVE: FINDING A BALANCE: LIBRARIES AND LIBRARIANS. By the time this diary/essay is complete (which may be “by the time the August issue is complete”), either that book will be available at Lulu or I’ll have decided it’s not worth the trouble.

Anyway, the holiday gives me a chance to kickstart the writing process. I already knew there was plenty to write about: Folders filled with stuff on MAKING IT WORK, TRENDS & QUICK TAKES, separate essays, NET MEDIA…and some special folders relating to some essays I’ve been promising to do for a while, plus one I’d tried to avoid but find I can’t.Turns out the four essays I have in mind all overlap. They’re all real essays—opinion pieces informed by source material from others, rather than collections of citations and extracts with a few comments thrown in for seasoning.

I’m not sure how they’re going to turn out, or what’s going to wind up in the August issue. So I’m maintaining this essay as a sort of diary as I go along.

Making the sausage? Most of you probably get the reference already—you don’t want to know how sausage is made or how legislation gets written. You may not want to know just how messy the “creative” portion of Cites & Insights is. I think some of you might find it interesting to see how much can change between initial intent and final issue. Thus, this odd essay. Or maybe I’m just postponing actual writing for another 15-20 minutes. You think?

First update, 3 p.m., July 4, 2007

I stopped postponing the actual writing. I was aiming for maybe 3,000 words on disagreement and discussion as the first of three or four essays. I hoped to be done by now. At this point, I have just over 6,000 words (2,000 imported from a Walt at Random post and comments on that post) and I’m not quite done with the first draft.

The overlap between this essay and the second essay (on the literature) is obvious and growing. My comments on toxicity aren’t going to make it into the essay, and maybe that’s for the best. My sense that much of the August issue will be about authority, voice, discussion and relevance—all overlapping—seems likely to be right. Now? Time for a break.

Second update, 4:30 p.m., July 4, 2007

Maybe it’s not time yet to make any decisions about the PoD book—although, as I think about updating the liblog piece from last year (and maybe the other one from two years ago), the future starts to look a lot more interesting than “the past” in the form of adding footnotes and index entries.

First, though, let’s see if it’s feasible to finish the draft of this essay. Today.

Last update for July 4, and close of the first essay

It was feasible. Unfortunately, the essay’s now 8,600 words long—way too long if I plan three other essays and other C&I departments—and I’m not sure how I’m going to cut it without losing context in quoted material. There are worse problems, I know—but when you’re discussing discussion, it’s important to keep the level of discourse clear and to retain context as much as possible. You may disagree. On to the next essay—but not today, and maybe not tomorrow or the next day.

Second Essay

It wasn’t “tomorrow.” It is the next day: Friday, July 6 at around 1 p.m. Yesterday included the last movie of the last disc of a 50-movie pack, so I finished off the OFFTOPIC PERSPECTIVE and posted the Disc 12 portion.

I also verified my tentative conclusion of late July 4 regarding the PoD book. It’s not going to happen for a couple of overlapping reasons:

  • Gven ongoing job uncertainties and the dog days of summer, I only have so much energy. I’d rather devote it to new stuff (including “new old” stuff, namely revisiting liblogs from last year) than adding a little value to old stuff and making it pretty—particularly since I’d guess the book version would never reach high two digit sales, much less three digits.
  • For the PoD book to make sense at all (that is, for time spent on the footnotes, bibliography, index, cover preparation, etc. to be worth at least minimum wage), I’d need to price it at $25 or more—and given that most of the content is from other people, that raises tricky questions I don’t feel like dealing with.

I took off work early today (making up extra time from earlier) to start on the second of what could turn out to be five interlinked essays. I can only hope none of the others will be nearly as long as the first; there is no way I’m doing a 40,000-word issue.

On the other hand, an “all PERSPECTIVES” August issue might not be a terrible thing if it’s not too heavy or too long. The second essay is much more “where I stand” informed by comments from others, on my view of the current literature. It should be easier and shorter. It also begins with a blog post—but this time, portions of the post appear at the start of the essay rather than the end.

Update, 3:15 p.m., Friday, July 6

The second essay, at least in draft form, is a one-shot: I was able to compose it in one sitting. It’s definitely shorter (around 2,800 words at the moment), if perhaps not as short as it could be. I feel as though I cheated a little at the end, pointing to two [later three] posts rather than fleshing out secondary topics, but I really did want to keep this one relatively short. More than enough for now (there’s already enough for a full issue, but I’m just getting started). Next? Either the Gorman/Britannica/linkbait commentary or an essay on ethics, transparency and disclosure. I’m not sure which.

Third Essay

Saturday morning (7/7/07, for what that’s worth)—the time between breakfast and grocery shopping. Time enough to check mail (all list mail except one LinkedIn invite), blogs (not much this morning, as expected), a few other sites—and to set the scene for the third essay, after making notes on some source documents last night.

Looks like it will be the Gorman/Britannica/linkbait/authority essay, and the fun part will be keeping it relatively short. Does an issue with a quartet of true Perspectives—personal essays—and one offtopic perspective make sense? Maybe yes: It’s summer and OK for regular departments to take a brief vacation.

Maybe no: A couple of those departments are getting badly backed up…and there’s the “blog followup” issue looming beyond this one. Maybe it doesn’t matter: Looks like that’s what will happen, like it or not.

Odd. I was really nervous about two weeks without writing—and now I’m ahead of the game. That’s good in this case: I can print out the essays, let them sit for a while, revise them for better quality and shorter length—and get started on the liblog retrospective in the meantime. If I’m not busy looking for work and wondering whether the promised survival of C&I is really such a safe bet, that is.

Hmm. Just realized that it might make more sense to do more of the source markup and start the PERSPECTIVE this afternoon. Can’t possibly finish it this morning in any case. There’s a plan. So I’ll start the file, give it a title, and let it wait.

First update, 12:45 p.m., July 7, 2007.

“More of the source markup” doesn’t mean “all of the source markup”—there’s just too much source material (and I was selective in printing commentaries). It’s now clear that I need to make this one mostly summaries and pointers with relatively little quotation and direct commentary. Maybe one C&I can take four true personal PERSPECTIVEs; it certainly can’t take more than one or two very long PERSPECTIVEs. Splitting these across issues seems absurd given the amount of overlap. So, here we go.

Second update, 4:20 p.m., July 7, 2007

Done—or at least finished for the first draft. I concluded that it made sense to stop analyzing source material after a certain point, at least if the essay was going to be reasonably brief. It’s not terse by any means, but at least it’s not much over 3,000 words. Is it worthwhile? I’m not the judge.

Fourth Essay

Monday, July 9, 2007: I did “other stuff” yesterday, including prep work for the blog projects and finding interesting 50-movie packs for future exercise (two sets of westerns—who woulda thought? and a comedy set I’m still thinking about).

This essay won’t get written in one pass because I’m working “normally”—that is, after work (and exercise). That means no more than 60-90 minutes per day, and I don’t believe I can write this one in 60-90 minutes, although I might get the bones of it (and the cited material) in place. We shall see.

First update, 6:30 p.m., July 9, 2007

Off to a good start—cutting Lessig’s statement down to 20% of original size, offering initial notes, cutting about 20% from Houghton-Jan’s statement, preceding that with notes on previous Ethics essays. So, tomorrow, to deal with Houghton-Jan’s statement, consider the third post (Farkas), and maybe wrap things up with my own stance. Or maybe that will take until Wednesday.

Second update, 4:50 p.m., July 10, 2007

Can I finish this draft today? We shall see.

Final update, 6:15 p.m., July 10, 2007

Yes. It’s finished and it’s a good length—although it can certainly use polishing. So now I have 24,000 words, way more than enough for a summer issue. I’ll set them aside for a few days (maybe a week) while I get started on some other projects. Maybe then I can cut down the longest essay and make some balanced sense of the four interlinked essays.

Afternote: 1,800 of those 24,300 words (after the first round of revisions) were the B&B you just read (if you’re still here). I trimmed another 600 words and did a fair amount of copyfitting to get it down to 26 pages.When will the August issue appear? Maybe Sunday, maybe not. I’m certainly not planning to compete head-on with HP–and there’s other stuff to complete.

2 Responses to “Making the Sausage”

  1. Mark says:

    For some of us, Walt, there is no competition. This is far more exciting to, well, one of us at least. 😉

  2. walt says:

    Thanks. Since I haven’t started Harry 2 yet (seen the movies, we own the first six books, but haven’t read them…), it clearly wasn’t high on my list. Sigh. I suppose I should apologize to anyone who gets this posted four times as I battle with WordPress’ tendency to swallow paragraph breaks…even when marked by explicit HTML.

    Of course, I should know better than to do posts this long: WP doesn’t like it and throws little hissy fits. (At least I didn’t cut-and-paste from Word into the “WYSIWYG” editing window: That yields truly strange results.)

    Tomorrow. The C&I will come out tomorrow. Barring natural or personal disasters, at least.