Going long the right way (maybe)

Think of this as an odd sort of progress report on the February 2011 Cites & Insights (which won’t be out until at least January 17, and possibly not until significantly later)–and, as it turns out, on the March issue as well (assuming C&I continues).

Last week, amidst the various celebrations (including our 33rd anniversary, on January 1), I started preliminary work on a five-year followup essay–five years, that is, since the most widely-read Cites & Insights ever. Just a followup, not some full-scale history or retrospective: I’m neither that brave nor that foolish (well, at least not that brave).

This week was relatively clear: I’m waiting for a set of galleys (or the digital equivalent) but obviously can’t work on them until they arrive, and things post-New-Years tend to be a bit quiet, particularly since I’m not going to Midwinter this year.

About halfway through the set of source documents I was using (yes, Diigo has turned out to be a fine replacement for Delicious, maybe even better for my peculiar uses), it became clear that the essay was too long for a typical issue–and likely to be much too long.

When that’s happened in the past, and given that the source material is usually already split into several major sections (as it was this time), I’ve usually stopped at the end of the section I’m working on and saved the rest for a later continuation. Sometimes that happens (the series on reading began that way); sometimes the rest of the material sits for a rather long time.

This time, given the lack of competing time pressures and that I felt things were going fairly well, I did something different: I continued the essay until I was finished with the source material. Oh, it still needs editing (the actual editing that I’ll do–I’m sure devoted readers will think to themselves “what about the hardnosed editing that an outsider should do,” but that’s a whole different story), but the rough draft is done.

It’s just over 36,000 words. Editing will probably reduce that–but, based on past experience, probably not by more than 10% or so.

That’s the equivalent of two 24-page issues, with no other material. Or one 48-page issue, but I really don’t want to do issues longer than 30-32 pages unless there’s a compelling reason.

So what I plan to do is split this into two parts, using each part as the primary essay in an issue, possibly with some (relatively brief) additional material. The difference: I’m splitting the essay after writing it, rather than starting a separate essay that might not show any continuity at all from the first part. Not that you can expect that much continuity in any case: This is another BASP*–and, for that matter, each half will be a BASP.

It’s not the “right way” for every topic where I have a lot of source material. Some such topics already have obvious subtopics that stand well on their own. At least one has such a gargantuan heap of source material, and seems so far away from any conclusion, that I’m tempted to just delete the whole heap of stuff. (Hint: The initials are GBS, and so far I have 194 items tagged. Arggghhh…)

So now I’ll let the draft sit for a couple of days (doing the usual Saturday backup, and maybe a “once every few months” full disk image backup, since that 1TB portable drive is just sitting there on the shelf), read, think deep thoughts and watch shallow TV…then come back to it, choose a split point, and try to edit it so it’s more coherent and a little shorter–“it” being both portions. Then I’ll see what else makes sense for C&I 11.2.

The significance of this post on a scale of 1 to 10: 0.5. But hey, I felt like posting it anyway.

*BASP = Big-Ass Sprawling Perspective.

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