Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance · Writing

What To Do With 258,490 Words?

           Thousands of words! Forty hours plus of interviews! I have a dilemma! I’m realizing I have to make some decisions quickly on the Marshall Flippo biography. I have 258,490 words from the forty hours plus of interviews. I will edit the interviews as I create the chapters and shrink the word count considerably, but. . .

In the first six sections, I have edited it down to 42,000 words, so I know the final version will be much less than almost 260,000 words. If I stay at that number, the book would be 650 pages which is too way long.

As I thought about a possible tool to help me get organized, I created a database and divided the book into sections:

  1. Front Matter
  2. Childhood
  3. Navy
  4. After the Navy
  5. Abilene
  6. Kirkwood
  7. Tours & Festivals
  8. CALLERLAB
  9. Divorced
  10. Tucson Years
  11. End of Career
  12. Flippo’s Stories about Callers
  13. Stories About Flippo
  14. Letters & Notes
  15. Awards
  16. Photographs
  17. Recordings
  18. Epilogue
  19. Appendix A – Chronology of Flippo’s Life
  20. Appendix B – References
  21. Appendix C – Glossary

In this database, I also did a word count and realize now the largest section is “Flippo’s Stories About Callers” at 72,924 words, Yes, it is rough interview material that hasn’t been edited yet, but it’s the biggest section, and it’s not about him.

Flippo shared stories about many of these callers!

He told hilarious stories about 86 different caller friends because they played key roles in his calling career, and he wanted to share his favorite stories. As I have put together the first six sections of Flippo’s biography, I can see the importance of people in his life, so it’s understandable that he spent so much time in our interviews talking about his caller friends.

Early on in the interviews, Flippo listed 67 callers he had known or called with over the many years of his calling career. We used that list as the guide to all his stories and added to it. When we returned to the list for the stories, some names from this list we crossed off because he couldn’t think of a “funny” story—that ended up being the criteria for including someone. He had to have a funny story about that person.

        Flippo really wanted these stories included in his biography. He asked if we could have a section in the book named, “Callers I Have Known or Have Worked With.” He described the chapter as, “We’ll start out with each caller. I’ll have something about each one. It would make a pretty good chapter, I think. Different stories. I’ll try to tell a funny story with each caller. Let’s do that then. That whole section will be about callers.”

         What he didn’t realize was all the stories he told would total up to be over 70,000 words. I was shocked myself when I realized the length of this section.

What should I do?

        Therefore, I have a hard decision to make: have Flippo’s biography be super-lengthy, and he was emphatic about the size of his book, “It couldn’t be as thick as Bob Osgood’s book, As I Saw It.” Or. . . So, what do I do?

        My husband, Lin, came up with a possible solution: write two books—his biography which would be longer and then a shorter book of his stories about callers. Lin laughed, “His biography will be fun, but the stories about the callers will be funny!”

         I could keep a few of the stories in his biography to honor Flippo’s wishes of having stories about his caller friends in his biography, especially the ones about the callers who helped him in his early career.

        As I have gone through Flippo’s interviews and told his story in the early sections, he wanted to tell stories about his Navy friends, the callers he knew, the employees at Kirkwood and the owners of Kirkwood. These stories were a part of his DNA, but I have to make sure that his biography is about him! So, this is a balancing act.

         I’ll keep you posted on my final decision. What do you think I should do? I need your suggestions!

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