Red Line Proofs and Vivid Figures

It’s the first week of classes and I am flailing about trying to finish up a few projects before the onslaught of the semester gets under way. For this week, I have three projects that need to be shoved unceremoniously forward before the creep of on-campus responsibilities brings my productive days to an end.

First, I got redline proofs from my book, The Bakken: An Archaeology of An Industrial Landscape on Friday. I spent the weekend being politely overwhelmed by the prospects of tidying up a 40,000 word text in less than a week, but, yesterday, I got on with the program in earnest. So far, I’ve been relieved the the text is pretty tidy, but like any text that has come into being over the course of a couple years, rather than a couple months, there are consistency and style issues:

1. Second Person or Impersonal. When I first started working on the the book, I allowed myself to use the second person a bit: “you will see on the left an important workforce housing site.” As the book went through various revisions, I decided that this was a lazy way to write and not particularly consonant with the style in the vintage tourist guides that I was trying to imitated. With each revisions, I’ve found a few more examples of second person to the stamped out.

2. Adverbs. My writing – particularly in early drafts – reads like an adverb truck dumped its contents all over the page. I use adverbs relentlessly (see what I did there) both out of habit and to add sparkle to my prose. But like Usain Bolt’s limited edition Hublot chronograph, there can be too much of a good thing. While ites, green, and gold go a long way to celebrate Bolt’s legacy, my adverbial bling makes for some mighty tedious reading. My book could lose about 60% of its adverbs with no ill-effect.

3. Details. At a picnic yesterday to welcome new and returning graduate students, we were discussing ways to get our students to pay more attention to details. I stood awkwardly silent because I am not a detail oriented person (as any reader of this blog knows). In fact, most of my career has involved me surrounding myself with people who’s attention to detail can compensate for my own inattentiveness. The copy editing to The Bakken is first rate, but there are matters of detail and precision throughout that I need to tidy up before the book is typeset. I can’t imagine catching all the little problems in the text, but I can certainly catch most of them.

My second project for this week is pulling together some images for a forum submission to the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology on the work of the North Dakota Man Camp Project (and this involves me studiously ignoring several larger, simmering projects like an Oxford Handbook contribution and an archaeological volume!). It’s basically the only thing I managed to write this summer and the thin line between a productive and unproductive summer writing season. We received some very specific and focused feedback from the forum’s editor, Yannis Hamilakis, and have tidied up the text and made it more engaging and vivid. 

The last thing to do is wrangle the images for the paper and this involved both finding a good (as in already drawn) map and  bringing together an appealing gaggle of photographs. One thing that I do want to work on is preparing some images that include multiple photographs to illustrate a larger point or to show a sequence of events. This involves using Adobe Illustrator and (excuse, excuse, excuse) will get done this morning before it gets too hot.

Finally (and, yes, I know that I only had two things on my list), I have a few gestating web projects that just need to be tidied up before the links can be circulated or the sites taken live. There isn’t much work to do here, but the work that has to be done is fussy enough that it’ll take me some time. So look for some live links later this week and some images from the Bakken and more the The Bakken book.

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