Welcome!

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...

Monday, 26 August 2013

Weight

I’ve finally laboured to the end of Chapter 10 of the monograph. What I had envisaged as a light-touch, comparative, brief sketch of attitudes towards the Reformation around the courts of Europe has turned into the longest chapter in the entire book, currently weighing in at 45 pages.

So long as the chapter isn’t so long as to be boring (and the risk of reader boredom rises exponentially with every page), the main problem with a heavy-weight final chapter is that it might unbalance the book. I’ve always had a sense that writing a monograph is a bit like building a bridge, that you have be mindful of which sections are going to be the most load-bearing. It feels instinctively right to have a brief and arresting introduction, the meatiest chapters in the middle, and then (like an athlete) to give the reader a warm-down in the final chapter or so, a gentle descent towards the end. But readers of this book will find that, rather than limbering down with dignity, the MS as it stands revs up dramatically in the last chapter.

I currently feel that the book argument requires this, because the comparative material has to come at the end (after the Polish case-study has been presented), and it has have some minimum level of detail, precision and close argument in order to be convincing. I think readers don’t like being taken by surprise, however, so the introduction will have to flag up what the reading experience is going to be like, and what to expect when. Perhaps it should include a diagram, saying ‘this book is not like this’




‘But like this, less elegant but hopefully still exciting’...


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