March 13th Update: I’ve decided on a word limit, probably 2,000 words, but I am also going to do a one page timeline. I’ve always liked timelines because they give you at a glance all the important parts of a story. A finished timeline may also give me a template for the actual article.
Original post below:
I’ve been reading a great deal about the Newlands Project. It was originally a Federal Reclamation Act project designed to use the waters of Lake Tahoe to irrigate north-central Nevada. I’ll need to write about it if my Nevada agriculture book goes forward.
But at every turn this writing assignment enlarges itself because the Newlands Project has been involved in controversy and courts since engineers first started moving dirt in 1903. I’ve never been faced with such a complicated story. It is an expanding balloon, seemingly limitless in size. What to do?
I think the thing to do is set a limit. Say, 2,000 words, even if that leaves the story lacking in important details. Four or five pages? The book I envision would be 200 pages, the word count perhaps 70,000 words. How much should I devote to a single story? Perhaps as I go on the problem will resolve itself. Right now I am wallowing in writing quicksand as each new detail threatens to suffocate me.
Leave me a comment below if you have ever been presented with a sidebar story so vast that it warrants its own book.