27 December 2013

Making Book: Selection Criteria

(With apologies to Teresa Nielsen Hayden)

The 512 collection DeeAnn and I are publishing next month will include one hundred and seventeen stories out of the two hundred and fifty-six from my weekly blog. Why aren't we including all the stories? The main reasons are:
  1. Some have been or will be published elsewhere.
  2. Some are in the process of becoming longer finished works (e.g., novels).
  3. Some of them just weren't very good.
So given all that, how did we pick the stories to include? First, we each rated all the stories independently.

In hindsight, we should have synced up on our rating methods beforehand, because I only used integers (0==no, 1==maybe, 2==yes) and DeeAnn used rational numbers between 0 and 2, inclusive. But we averaged the scores anyway, and discussed any wildly divergent scores or right-in-the-middle ratings.

After we agreed on the set of stories to include, we had to decide on an order in which to present them. To that end, DeeAnn created a new spreadsheet where she summarized each 512 in a logline, and also noted the general theme of each piece and whether it was a strong candidate for an opener or a closer.

Out of all that data, she distilled the themes down to six major sections. Then I took a stab at sorting the sections and stories. (Note my clever use of an old BASIC line numbering trick--i.e., using increasing but non-consecutive numbers to allow later additions--which would have much more useful if I had started doing it before I was halfway through the spreadsheet.)

At that point, we knew exactly what content would be in the book, even if we weren't yet sure about the final order. I spent a few days copying the text of all 117 stories into a Scrivener project, using that latest spreadsheet as a guide, and now we can make whatever tweaks we need to while looking at the actual, mostly formatted text.

So now we have a book, more or less. Yay! What are we going to call it? I'll talk about that next week.