Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Process

Time is running out...FAST. Next week I have to be in New York with the book in hand. One way or another, I plan to finish.

Part of my process for figuring out the chronological order and pagination for the book consisted of these:

Post-Its on my wall.

During the day I work in my office, sitting behind the desk for 10 or 11 hours straight. Then I carry my laptop the ten paces it takes me to get to my bedroom and work another couple of hours until my brain explodes. When I wake up in the morning I work for an hour or so in bed and then walk my laptop the ten paces back to my desk. Sound like fun? Actually, I do intend to get back to having some kind of a life once the book is put to bed and at the printers.

Anyway, the post-its are on my bedroom wall. Which I like because it keeps all my rock stars nearby. And which I don't like because it keeps all my rock stars nearby. I spend all my time with them and they are beginning to creep into my dreams on a nightly basis. Wait a second...the fact that I socialize with dead rock stars 24/7 was not the topic of this post. And could cause harm to my reputation as a semi-sane person.

What was it? Oh yeah, my process. So, the post-its, which you can probably read if you click to enlarge, have everybody's name on them. Except the first one on the top left is titled 'all about me' and represents the introduction I'm writing, along with the now 5 dedication pages. The bottom right corner of the post-its have the neg numbers if there were black & whites involved and the top left corner has the date. It might be hard to read because I used mostly red pen. There are fewer post-its than people in the book because several bands have more than on dead person and I just used the name of the band to save time and space. And now, as I finish the writing portions of each musician, the post-it gets a black star drawn on the bottom. I guess you can see I don't have near enough black stars. That doesn't mean I haven't started them. Lots of them are outlined and/or partially written. But no star until they're done, done.

Yesterday I started the real pagination...figuring out what the actual page order was going to be. It sounds simple because I've already laid out all the sections with their pictures but I still had to figure out the title page[s] and how I was going to handle my intro story along with the dedications etc. Plus there were certain ideas I had in my head as to what should be a right or left page within the sections. But since I am running it chronologically, I am kind of at the mercy of where things fall. So, I made the list of all the musicians and knew I needed an extra page at the back. I was hoping to have extra pages at the front to have a double title page and some blank pages to keep everything looking clean and simple. But by the time I counted everything up I had too many pages.

I stole one page back from one of the musicians. It wasn't really needed. Then I started hacking off the front - there will only be one title page and fewer blank ones. And then I went through and did a L-R-L-R-L thing next to each of the names to make sure I accounted for all their pages. That worked out really well until I was putting a binder together with three hole paper representing each page and penciling in what/who was on each page. That process revealed two places where I had ended one persons section on an L and mistakenly started the next one on an L. Oops. Once I got that sorted out - it takes longer than you might think - I continued my writing and at the same time began adding the page numbers to the layouts.

Today, I ran into a problem. I finished writing John Fahey, followed by Hank Snow and then I moved on to Darrell Sweet from Nazareth. I opened up his Quark document and realized it was three pages instead of the four I had accounted for on my almighty excel list. Shit!! That screwed everything up. His pages are nearer to the front - starting on page 77 - and losing a page on him would shuffle everything that came after him and it would also screw up the end where I was putting the afterword and acknowledgments. Ultimately causing me to lose another page. I know that sounds weird, but trust me, pagination is a crazy thing because everything works in spreads and one page off means two pages off.

The whole thing pissed me off. I didn't want to try and figure out how to repaginate the whole book - lose another one at the front, add one at the back or whatever that was going to entail. Then suddenly one of my guys spoke up and everything was solved, even better than it was before. Yes, I am crazy...certifiable in fact...some of my rock stars make more noise than others. And they do it at different times. And it's generally in their own self interest, but occasionally it works out to solve a problem for me.

Lately, the noisy one has been Terry Kath. The kind of noisy where I wake up thinking about him and go to sleep thinking about him. It's like he's whispering in my ear, wanting me to look at his pictures. Wanting me to do more research. Wanting me make sure I give him the recognition he deserves. I don't know why...it's not like we were friends. I only met him in passing a couple of times. And I wasn't a huge Chicago fan (a bit too much on the horns) but lately he has made me take note of what an insanely incredible guitar player he was.

And he's not the only one that has done this to me. Almost all of them have whispered in my ear over the course of me putting the book together. Some louder than others, and some happy to sit back and let the chips fall where they may. I swear I'm not playing favorites. I really do love them all.

...it must be late 'cause I'm really rambling...

So anyway, Terry Kath stepped up and saved the day. Between Darrell and Terry were just 18 pages. After Darrell's 4, there were six for the four Blues Jam guys, 7 for John Lee Hooker, 3 for John Denver and then Terry's 6. The other annoyance I had before I caught the Darrel Sweet faux pas was the Blues Jam section started on a right-hand page. I wasn't all that happy about it because they each have two pages and I initially pictured their pages facing each other. The good thing about dropping Darrell's non-existent page was that they re-paginated the way I originally wanted them.

And that's when Terry screamed, "I'll take that extra page." As it turned out, that was the only solution that worked because as Terry's pages were, I had too much writing space to fill. I didn't know him well enough to tell a great personal story (although since he's been bugging me lately, I wish I had). I've been researching him and there's some interesting stuff but that space continued to be daunting to the point that I couldn't write anything. Except one opening line that I swear Terry coerced me to type: Terry Kath is the most underrated guitar player in the history of rock'n'roll. Nice one, TK.

....sidebar question: am I turning into the Jack Nicholson character in The Shining?....Is my book going to come out with every page filled with "Terry Kath is the most underrated guitar player in the history of rock'n'roll."?....

Now if you are still reading this gibberish I'm spewing forth, you must be asking, "If that's the case, how will giving Terry another page solve your problem?" Well, the second page that required me to come up with more words also has a film strip with four images in it. If I take out one of those images and make it a full page, I will need to make the now three image film strip taller so that it runs the runs the length of the page. And when I make it taller, it makes it much wider...lessening the space I have to fill with words. As it turns out, his was the only section that was in the vicinity that worked. And if his didn't work, I would be repaginating the whole damn book.

So, by Terry getting what he wanted, I got the solution I needed. Although if you were to ask him, I'm certain he would say he did it selflessly to make my life easier and that if it had worked out better to lose one of his pages he would have gladly stepped up and sacrificed. He was just that kind of guy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind thoughts re TK.

I am a huge Chicago fan and still miss him. Just listened to "Poem 58" and it made me wish I could see him play that just once.