Thursday, April 4, 2013

Going from 750 blog posts to "The Scholar's Survival Manual" book.

I was encouraged to make my blog, This Week's Finds in Planning, into a book. I had perhaps 750 postings over 15 years, only some of which would be suited to a book of advice for scholars.

1. I got a complete digital file of the blog, used Search/Replace to separate it into a new page per post, and then tried to sort all these pages into categories. It was easy to get rid of the postings that were obviously not relevant.  But lots of work was needed to find a classification that seemed like a rough working sort.
2. I then needed to arrange the posts into the categories, transferring the paper piles into the digital version. I had to get rid of all sorts of formatting text that was irrelevant.
3. I then had to figure out how to organize each of the categories into subcategories, and again arrange the posts digitally.
4. Some posts seemed out of place and I moved them.

So far, this is lots of work, lots, but fairly mechanical. I did not need to attend to the details of each post.

5. I needed to sort and order the posts in each subcategory, eliminate obvious repetitions, and decide which repetitive posts might remain (often they were not near each other) since the message needed to be repeated.
6. The headings for each post needed to be edited and improved.
7. I needed to remove any material in any of the posts that was too specific to my situation, my university, or a particular problem. References to most people needed to be cut out.  In general, each post needed to be edited to be sure it held together nicely. Here, there is lots of detailed work.

8. Then I needed to write a preface that guided the reader how to use the Manual, justified its episodic form with repetitions of advice in different contexts, and gave away the main ideas that motivated the Manual.

Now I could send it off to a publisher for consideration.

9. Readers had a number of suggestions, both about organization and each of the posts, and that involved a major editing job. I needed to fix some of the order, and the subcategories. One reader asked for a detailed background essay about me, to set the stage and give some background. I wrote that essay, but the editor of the press thought it was not needed. I put a very condensed version of it in the preface, but if you wish to see in full detail. it go to my webpage, right hand side. The editor wanted a shorter book, and at this point I tried to throw out postings, rather than try to cut a sentence here, a paragraph there.

I always had to ask myself, Do I really believe this is good advice? Will this work for many people? Will I get in trouble at my home institutions for saying something that is not about the institution but might be taken personally?

I also produced a version of the manuscript for undergraduates and graduate students, but that did not fly with the publisher's readers. I decided not to argue since they were going to publish the main book.

10. Copy editors then fixed all my inconsistencies, my mistakes about hyphenation and commas, and the infelicities. The text still bore the marks of its being a blog, rapidly produced for the day. Not something carefully crafted. I had to clean it up, make it less rough.

11. My nightmare is that there will be prejudices and biases I have not considered. I see no reason why I won't be found out in that way.

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