Structure

Just now, the book is laid out in chronological sections as follows:

  1. Up to 1837 (Ancient History, Early Baroque Era, Napoleonic Wars; 3 entries)
  2. 1837 to 1901 (Victorian Era; or, Jeffersonian Era, American Civil War, Reconstruction and Gilded Era; 8 entries)
  3. 1902 to 1938 (Edwardian Era, Progressive Era, World War I, Great Depression, and Interwar Period; 15 entries)
  4. 1939 to 1945 (World War II; 11 entries)
  5. 1946 to Present (Civil Rights Movement, Information Age, Present Day; 20 entries)

So. I almost completely skip anything before the Victorian Era, then cram several major things together, but World War II gets it very own section all to itself… It all seems a little unbalanced. What, women never did anything important before 1837? World War II was pretty all-consuming, yes, but so were some other things in those lists that got combined with others. Like the other World War. They’re kind of arbitrary divisions, really.

I struggled with this for quite a while, in the first draft. I felt like there ought to be sections, to help break the material up into digestible chunks, but had difficulty coming up with what they should be. I tried sorting by area of interest, but the lines are too blurred and fuzzy and there’s too much overlap. Sorting by geography is out unless I choose to add more subjects, since that only emphasizes the diversity problem — but it also has its own problems of overlap when you run into cases of multiple citizenship. Sorting chronologically would, I thought, be the simplest, but at the same time it does rather highlight a few flaws itself.

I’m hoping that Scrivener will help me organize this a bit better. By tagging the entries and then seeing what tags come up in the group as a whole, perhaps I can find some sort of rhyme or reason.

Or perhaps creating a rhyme or reason, by adding and subtracting entries where necessary, needs to be part of the editing process.

Categories: Thinking Out Loud | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Diversity

One of the major hesitations I have about this project is the selection of subjects. Not that any of them are somehow unworthy of inclusion, but looking back from the end of a completed first draft… I realize that there’s actually quite little diversity.

There’s no really good way to put this. Most of my subjects are white, either from the US or Europe. A fairly decent number of those are middle-to-upper-class women. There’s a hell of a bias here. There are, in fact, no entries from the southern hemisphere at all, and only Malala from the eastern hemisphere. (Unless Badass Flying Ace Lydia qualifies, but I think she was flying out of the western part of Russia. Even so.) Seriously, self? WTF?

This was not at all my intention. It just kind of happened. I went looking for women who did many different types of things — science, activism, sports, politics, medicine, and so on — and neglected to think about diversity in other senses. White American and European history is dominant in these parts, so that’s what I found first. I didn’t make the effort I should have to dig deeper.

Now the question I am faced with is: Do I leave the first draft of this volume as-is, on the basis that this is what I have right now and I should continue to improve it with the intention of introducing a second more inclusive volume later, or do I add new content to it in order to be more well-rounded and prolong the already-stretched-out timetable? It sounds like a “duh” kind of choice. Take the time to do it right. And in an ideal world, I would. This is not an ideal world. This is a world in which I have limited time and energy, and if I try to pile on more and more tasks the project might wind up never getting done at all. In which case, what’s the point?

Am I overthinking it, overcompensating for being in what I know is a position of priviledge here? I don’t know. But it’s bugging me.

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Yo. What Happened?

What I’m finding is that if I thought it was difficult to write this book in the first place while also carrying on with the rest of my life, I didn’t know how good I had it.

I’ve not finished the Scrivener tutorial, but I got far enough along to set my own project up. I’ve also gone ahead and bought the full version.

…That’s about it. I haven’t had time or energy or focus to really start digging into the actual work of editing, researching better sources, etc. A combination of impulsive behavior and unexpected expenses has significantly reduced my publication-costs fund, so I’m working on recovering from that.

Also, I figure that actually before I submit the manuscript for professional editing, I need to take care of the images. That is, I need to determine which subjects will require licensing and obtain same. Public domain images will be available for some, particularly those farther back in history, but not for all. I should have all my ducks in a row as much as possible before I send this to anyone else, I think.

I will do this. I know that I can. I must keep reminding myself of this.

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Scrivener

When I take on a new project — or revive an old one — my first step tends to be organization. If I can get everything lined up and laid out, I’ll surely know where to start and what to do! Right?

Well. Not always. But it’s a good place to jump back in, anyway.

I’ve been eyeing Scrivener for some time now. I was thinking of it in terms of novel-writing, honestly, but it seems like it would be a great tool for this sort of project too. The structure of the book breaks down nicely into the kind of hierarchy that Scrivener deals with, but the program still gives me a flexibility that I wish I’d had when I was creating the first draft.

Something else I’m trying to work on right now is curbing my impulse buying. So I’m working with the 30-day free trial right now. I haven’t done much yet, just kind of set up my content, but so far it seems like it’s worth the $45 for the full version. Before I commit, I want to poke it a bit more. See how it handles the Table of Contents. Find out what the files it compiles and exports (to very nearly any format you might choose) look like. I know that there will probably be some formatting work to be done in Word before generating the actual PDF of the draft that I’ll use for editing and publication. Scrivener doesn’t pretend to be a full-on design and publishing suite; it’s a composition and content generation tool. The question is, how far will it get me?

Quite probably this question will be answered as I work through the included interactive tutorial. I’ve begun it, but got distracted and started setting up my own file before I got past the basics. Now that I’m more or less set up, though, it would behoove me to go back and finish. After all, a tool is only as good as my grasp of how to use it. The most sophisticated content generation software in the world won’t do me any good if I never learn how to do anything in it that couldn’t be done as well (or better) in Word.

If I have anything negative to say thus far, it’s that it’s a shame Scrivener doesn’t seem to have any compatible Android apps. (This probably has something to do with its originally being a Mac-only program.) I’ve transitioned to Android for both phone and tablet use, and I like it when my devices can work in harmony, sort of as part of a team, rather than everything being compartmentalized according to which device will handle it. On the other hand, though, I also have to admit that it’s somewhat unlikely I’d really need an app. The most I’d want from it would probably be to add quick notes or photos to my outline easily, and that’s not terribly difficult to do anyway. I can still capture these things on my phone and then transfer the content to Scrivener when I’m back at my computer.

So what I’m saying is: So far, so good.

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What The Hell Is This?

This is, now, my space for writing about… writing. Well. Publishing. Editing. All the things surrounding writing. The one public entry I’ve left intact from the old blog is the one that kicked off my current project. Long story short: My then-six-year-old daughter expressed some rather disturbing opinions about her limitations as a girl, specifically indicating that girls didn’t need to be strong and that she wasn’t any good at math (which is not at all true). I decided then and there to put together a book about women who were strong and/or good at math. Small bios, each with a picture so that the woman in question was not just a name but a face as well. All sorts of women, not just the Big Names you always hear about when people talk women’s history.

Shortly thereafter, I decided to expand it to any woman in any field. Because why stop at math and physical strength?

The first draft was finished in mid-December 2013. I ordered a proof copy through Createspace and gave it to her as a Christmas gift. She loved it. There was some interest from other quarters as well, particularly friends who have young daughters. I don’t flatter myself that my writing would be of interest on a larger scale, but I thought… You know, I already have this set up in Createspace, I could self-publish it so that those who are interested could have a copy.

And that’s my plan. However, I know that as-is it isn’t ready for public view. It needs an editorial eye toward the content and structure. It needs gone over for typos and mistakes. The information needs to be better-sourced and said sources cited. If I’m really, really going to do this, the images have to be legal to use, too — either public domain or rights purchased. So right now I’ve got a second proof copy that I can mark up on my own, and I’m saving up the money for professional editing and image rights. I’m doing what I can when I can, and I’m creeping ever closer to publication.

I’ve hit some bumps, and I’ve tripped over my own feet, and I’ve lost my momentum, so it’s going a lot more slowly than I had anticipated. I’ve also found that my selection of subjects is rather… er, un-diverse in multiple ways. I’ve started collecting names for a second volume, but honestly, I wonder if I might not just throw some of these other women into this volume. I mean, it’s not finished yet. I can still change it.

So as I meander along this path, I thought I’d try to create a space for myself to talk about it. The frustrations, the small victories and milestones, my plans, my progress. The actual content, perhaps. If you’re with me, hello and welcome, and I hope this manages to stay interesting.

If you’re interested, you can see my Pinterest board showing the subjects of volume 1 (as it exists now) by clicking here or the start of my plans for volume 2 (maybe) by clicking here.

Categories: In the Beginning | 1 Comment

Rebooting–Please Stand By

I said months ago I was going to get on self-publishing what I’ve come to think of as The Book. (As though it were the only book in existence. Well, it’s my only book being — at least in theory — prepped for publication, I guess.) I ordered myself a proof copy to mark up, established a savings account specifically for publication-related costs, and… promptly did nothing really at all.

I also said I was going to reboot the blog. I dithered about exactly what to do with it and then abandoned it.

Well. I have no idea whether anyone will actually care about what’s going on in my writing life, but rebooting on that note can’t be any worse than not posting at all. Right? And maybe if I start getting my thoughts about the process out in this space, I’ll get back into it again and finish the damned project.

But first I’m going to clean out the archives. No, I know. But… let’s see, what have we got here… I made one “here I am!” kind of entry in May 2002, and then really started blogging in June. There’s… a tired unoriginal bit on the Pledge of Allegiance, some excitement over the upcoming release of a book that turned out to be crap, griping about Mondays, blah blah movies blah stupid people blah blah, a totally incoherent paragraph about everything and nothing with a bid for approval thrown in, I forgot my password… Yeah. I’m sure that the world will be a much emptier place without that very insightful content, and obviously if I throw it out I’ll be wishing I had it back within the week. Except not. Seriously, fourteen years of junk? No. There’s no need for that. There are a few entries that I’d like to keep around, and I’ve made note of those for myself, but it’s time for some serious housecleaning.

(Edited to add: Done. As you can see.)

And then we’ll see where I’m at with The Book. And honestly… once that’s well-established, this entry will probably go away too, because it’s just more of the same.

Categories: In the Beginning | Leave a comment

Dear Natalie

My dear daughter,

Two days ago you told me that you didn’t care if drinking milk would help you grow up strong, because girls don’t need to be strong. Last night you said you weren’t good at math. I couldn’t tell whether you thought that your being a girl had anything to do with that or not, but after what you said about strength, I was afraid it might. (The truth is that you’re very good at math, at a level appropriate to your age.) I don’t know where you picked up these ideas, but I can’t just stand by and let them go unchallenged.

I could go out and find a book full of little snippets about all sorts of women who were strong, who were good at math. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to go through and pick out some excellent examples myself, and put together a little book for you. Just for you, with the role models I think will help you understand that being a woman does not mean that you cannot or should not do these things. It will be a little rough, because I’m not aiming at professional publishing quality or going through an editor, but I think that I can put together something that’s good enough for our private use.

I will tell you about my personal programming heroines. Ada Lovelace, the Enchantress of Numbers, who wrote possibly the first computer program, before there was an operational computer on which to test it. She did this in an age when girls were usually taught needlework and music rather than mathematics. Grace Hopper, who was one of the early pioneers of computer science in the modern age. She went beyond writing programs and helped to create whole programming languages.

I will tell you about the women who served on the homefront in World War II. How when the largely male workforce went off to war, the women who were used to looking after the kids and cooking dinner stepped into the places now left empty. How they took over the physical work that women were not typically thought strong enough to do. How they built planes and worked the land, and how much physical strength those jobs took.

I will tell you about female athletes. There are so many female Olympians, for example, that I don’t even know where to start. I’ll run through a sampling that covers a wide range of sports, and I’ll point out to you where the strength is required to do that. Sports is not my particular interest, so I’ll have to do some digging, but I’ll do it for you. I’ll find the women who did amazing things, and I’ll find the women who did them in spite of a prevalent stereotype of women as too weak or not good enough. I will share their stories with you.

I will educate you as I educate myself about female mathematicians. I know so little of them beyond my specific field of programming, and that’s my failing. I will expand that to include fields that are not pure math, but use math heavily, like science and finance and engineering and technology.

I will go beyond the women who are famous for these things. The quiet, unassuming, everyday women who did things requiring these skills but didn’t make a big splash are harder to find, but I won’t let that stop me. I will do what I can to uncover their names and their stories too.

Each of these remarkable women will have her own page, and at the very top of the page there will be a picture of her. She will be a face, not merely a name. I will do what I can to make her a real person to you. Names and dates and lists of accomplishments mean very little if you cannot connect to them, I think.

I am doing this because I am sad that you seem to think you have these limitations, these things you shouldn’t care about, just because you’re a girl. It’s true that girls are different than boys — your strength is more likely to be in your legs and core than in your upper body, for example — but different is not lesser. I want you to understand this, that you don’t have to be as limited as some people would have you believe. You’re a girl, and when it comes to intelligence and ability, that means nothing.

I don’t know if this idea will work. I don’t know if you’ll like it, or be interested, or if the intended message will sink in. But I think doing this, and reading through it and talking with you about it, is a way to address the problem. I can hope. I can try. I can show it to you and see what you think.

If it doesn’t work, I’ll come up with something else. I’ll keep sending this message in hopes that if I try often enough, in enough different ways, it will finally get through.

Your loving mother

Categories: In the Beginning | 2 Comments