Sunday, August 28, 2005

Diary 3: Writing new book on Adam Smith for Palgrave's Great Thinkers in Ecoomics series

I am now on chapter 3, but progress is slower than usual because of my decision to check out every factual statement or opinion before moving on to another sentence, and noting the references details in a 'footnote'.

This causes quite a lot of searching work through my library and my notes or copies of articles. The idea is that I will be able to speed up the drafting and re-drafting process later in the project and that searching for the exact reference while I am on that page means I either find it, or don't. Later on, when I would normally go back to check all references (a chore either undertaken voluntarily or one enforced by the copy-editors) I often cannot remember the references or the context and I take ages trying to find them or reluctantly have to drop the material requiring a reference. If this is at the copy-editing stage, when time pressure is on (once a manuscript gets this far into printing the schedule is fixed by production) it usually occurs while I am engaged in something else.

I should make clear I am not usually enthusiastic about footnotes and normally do not use them, especially where they are used to add a commentary on parts of the text, or worse, merely inform readers that that point is expanded on earlier or later. At this stage of the writing programme, I see the references more a part of the 'scaffolding' of the text; whether they survive the drafting stages before arriving at a Final text remains to be seen. Given the important of the Great Thinkers in Economics as a near 'definitive' accounts of the people studied, I will probably feel obliged to keep them in in some form - but not for mere comments, etc. If it is not worth putting into the main text material it probably should not be in a footnote.

Already, the chapters are rather longer than will probably be required or accepted by the publisher. Palgrave's word limit appears to be firm. But that is OK; it is infinitely easier to cut back than to expand out, and any book can be improved by judicious editing and a bit or re-arranging.

Also, the usual 'problem' is arising and it too slows down writing - looking up a reference easily slips into reading the section of the book or article, which also slides into re-reading the entire chapter or article.

The main thing is that progress is being made; the book's themes are taking shape but we have some ways to go before it develops its 'voice'.

Meanwhile, site traffic is increasing and pages read on the visits is now over 3,000 a week, which I see from another Blog is the minimum regarded as 'good'; still a long way short of some Blogs I visit which get nearly 2,000 'hits' a day.


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