This blog takes you behind the scenes of the writing of an academic history book – like a ‘making of’ featurette. Its aim is to make visible the traditionally invisible process of what it’s like for a university academic in the Humanities to write a research monograph, i.e. a single-authored 100,00 word book.

I’m a History Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, and the book I’m writing has a working title of The Elusive Church: Luther, Poland and the Early Reformation. This project is supported by a British Academy Mid Career Fellowship (2012-13).

On these pages, you'll find a regular 'log' of how the book is progressing, plus information about the project. I welcome your comments and thoughts - whether you're studying or teaching history at school or university, or writing non-fiction yourself...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Don't look down

Denver skyscraper, by Jose Kroezen

When I first learnt that I would have the whole academic year 2012-13 to finish this book, as British Academy funded leave, I drew up my most detailed ever work plan – a 20 page document which timetabled, month by month, the drafting of chapters, copying of sources, trips to archives and conference outings. This was a comforting experience at the time, a reassuring way of getting a handle on the 19 months of book-writing stretching out ahead of me.

I stuck to this plan pretty closely in the spring and early summer, but today  I took a close look at it again for the first time in a few weeks. The schedule isn’t panning out exactly as foreseen (chapters written in unanticipated orders, old articles to revise at short notice for journals), but everything is basically on track. However positive that conclusion might be, I did feel a bit weighed down by just how much there still is to do – 5 more chapters, plus a difficult introduction, in the coming year. At the moment, I feel there is plenty of momentum, energy and general good karma about the book writing… but I wonder how easy that will be to sustain for another 12 or more months!

Perhaps writing a monograph is like standing on a high ledge – you shouldn’t look down at the months of work stretching out ahead, but just open your eyes to take a quick peak, now and again.

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