Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Here it is: it's the intervention chapter for Working with Stories. It came out to eighty-some pages with figures. I'll throw the table of contents at you, as an advertisement to get you to look at the chapter.

Chapter 11: Narrative intervention

Ideas for intervention
- - - Listening to stories that need to be told
- - - - - - Narrative ombudsmen
- - - - - - Narrative suggestion boxes
- - - - - - Story sharing spaces
- - - Getting stories to where they need to go
- - - - - - Narrative orientations
- - - - - - Narrative learning resources
- - - - - - Narrative simulation
- - - - - - Narrative presentations
- - - - - - Making stories happen
- - - Helping people work with stories
- - - - - - Spaces for sensemaking
- - - - - - Sensemaking pyramid schemes
- - - - - - Narrative mentoring
- - - - - - Narrative therapy
- - - - - - Theatre of the oppressed
- - - Combining interventions
- - - - - - Diversity = synergy
- - - - - - Where the best synergies lie

The intervention interviews
- - - Shawn Callahan
- - - Karen Dietz
- - - Thaler Pekar

(and then the usual summary, questions and activities.)

Now all that's left in the first book is the Return chapter, which should be half the length of the Intervention chapter, I hope.

For the interested, a few thinking-about-book-production notes, in hopes of feedback.

First, book length. The current in-progress PDF of WWS has 577 pages. This PDF has 92 (though the last 5 or 6 of those are the References section for the whole book repeated). This might lead you to think WWS will be huge when it's printed. Not as much as you think. I've been formatting the book for PDF with only about 450 words per page, mostly out of ignorance and sloth.

But I've been reading about word counts for typical books. Novels are supposed to have only 250 words per page. Non-fiction works of general interest can go up to 400 words per page. But textbooks are often much more dense, up to 600 or 700 words per page. I couldn't decide what to do, so I got out some of my favorite textbooks and counted how many words they had on a page (by counting words on lines and lines on pages). I did this with three books, and each time I got about 600 words per page (for a 6x9 inch trim size). So I'm going to be formatting WWS that way for print and PDF, after I get the last chapter written.

That means that if WWS comes to, say, 700 pages with the last chapter, it's not really going to be that long. It's going to be 700*450/600 = 525 pages. That's not a long book at all, not for a textbook. Right?

Second, layout. I've been struggling with the decision of how to get the books looking good for print publication. Using Word to create PDFs for self-publishing is evidently worse than walking around with LOSER tattooed on your face. I think I've decided to use LaTeX. LaTeX is free; it makes great looking examples; it's widely supported, with abundant examples and answers all over the internet; using it gives me a lot of freedom to make changes in the future; it doesn't create a dependence on a "layout person" who knows what I need to know; and it's just the sort of thing a programmer might enjoy (writing code is always better than fighting with interfaces).

So if anybody reading this has used LaTeX for book formatting, I'd love to hear about your experiences with it, good or bad.

More news when I get it.


Unknown said...

I will admit: I think LaTeX is an excellent tool. Not the easiest to use, and certainly far from a WYSIWYG editor, but it has several key advantages:
1) It consistently generates the same layout, formatting, regardless of who assembles the manuscript, and what operating system they have. It is also relatively easy to switch formatting templates.
2) It is very easy to find out what another collaborator changed, even if they didn't use 'track changes'.
3) You can put chapters into several files to make it easier to manage the scroll-down-until-infinity devil, and still have it compile to one PDF at the end.
4) It handles page breaks intelligently.
5) Paired with BibTex, it can handle citation formatting so that you don't have to make sure the references are consistently formatted.

Cynthia Kurtz said...

Thanks, Sophie. I wrote this post back in October, and now that it's March I've learned a lot about LaTeX. I totally agree that it has many advantages. It has some disadvantages too, but those are less important, and they have more to do with the history of the city that is LaTeX than anything wrong with its content, or community. Another thing I like about LaTeX is that it's a nice comfortable place for a programmer to be. I'd much rather write some code than struggle with a strange GUI element. It feels right to write text mixed with code, because that's how I think. I'm not sure it's as much fun for non-programmers, though. Thanks for the helpful comment!