Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Visual Aids: TOC, Document Map view, mind maps

There are three main visual tools I use to help me grasp the big picture of a book and track its progress.

First is the Table of Contents, a few working versions of which I have already reproduced in this blog. (Click the TOC tag to see those.) Mostly I use this as an easy way to scan chapter headlines and keep in mind the overall flow of the book. For the first two-thirds of the editing process I usually keep a hard copy of the original draft of the TOC close at hand for reference and note taking.

Second is the MS Word Document Map function. This is particularly useful at the chapter level, allowing me to look at just the primary and secondary headlines of a chapter in order to see how the logic of a chapter unfolds and the pattern and consistency with which concepts are labeled. (More thoughts on the role of heads and subheads appear in this entry on my personal blog.) As the book takes shape through the editing process I can also look at patterns and consistencies across chapters and Parts of the book. During this time I am also keeping an eye out for headline redundancies, inasmuch as a 12-chapter book could easily have 100 headlines and subheads.

The third method involves the use of mind maps (I use Mind Manager software). Mind maps are incredibly valuable tools to me, and play a role in tracking or planning almost every part of my business and personal life. When I can see that an editorial project is going to become at all complex, I create a map for it as a visual reminder and summary of the progress of the overall project. At the top of this post is a thumbnail  of a simple map (click on it) that summarizes the status of four of the chapters in Brian's book. Especially when a book is only one of several work projects I may have underway, such a map is vital for maintaining a clear view of the status of various chapters.

Looking at this map section, for example, I can recall at a glance:
  • that chapters 2 - 4 are back in Brian's court
  • that I have done significant editing on chapters 2 and 3 (because it made sense to do so before returning them to Brian)
  • that I have done no editing to speak of on chapters 1 and 4 (because structural issues in those chapters suggested that Brian do some work prior to my editing)
Not all of this information is explicit in this map, but I fill in enough as I go along so that what the map is saying is always clear, at least to me. 

I don't make it a priority in these maps to keep the working chapter titles up to date; that's not one of their primary functions. Also, in the case of this particular map, the task roll-up feature — a kind of project-management lite function that tracks the progress of particular tasks by percent completed — is not working quite right. This project is not complex enough for that to be more than a nuisance. Usually this feature works fine.


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