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, 8 March 2013

Steep Tracks

Train climbing Mount Snowdon
Photo by blogee

When I wrote the book-writing rules for myself almost a year ago, I’d had an assumption that, correctly handled and planned, the process of drafting the book would proceed at a steady and even pace throughout the year of British Academy-funded leave – like a well driven train, just puffing along.

I had some hazy recollections of the last 2 months of writing my first book being slightly grim, as I ran out of physical and intellectual energy, of crawling to the finish line: a large envelope stuffed with the MS in the post to the publishers, and a plane to the Canary Islands. This book has now had nearly 12 months of steady ascent, but the track suddenly seems to have got steeper, and the general feel of the book-writing experience more intense. There is ever more to think about, as you keep realising, as you work on chapter x, how what you’re writing will affect paragraph y in chapter z. There’s a sense of the key arguments starting to lock together, but with a lot of mental noise and effort.

This sense of entering a more critical stage is probably tied to the fact that I’m about to start writing the two core chapters of the book, on how religious identities are constructed (or not) in early 16C Poland: ‘What is a Lutheran?’ and ‘What is a catholic?’. Whether one these are drafted the track will even out, or even enter a gentle descent towards the concluding sections, I still don’t know... 

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