I’m posting this to give readers a general sense of what scholars do when they write for publication — specifically, the amount of reading and work involved. I’m not particularly exceptional in this area. I have friends who read faster and more than I do. The reading load I describe below constitutes a partial list of reading that I did for an introduction to and chapter of an edited anthology I’m working on. My chapter was on Plato and Derrida, and over the Spring 2018 semester and into a bit of the summer (maybe the third week of June), I did the following reading just for the Derrida part of my chapter, which makes up about 16 pages of a 32 page chapter. This reading also added about two to three paragraphs to my introduction.
- Webpages: 4 (maybe 30 pages of text)
- Articles: 41 (about 800 pages of text)
- Books: 7 (about 2100 pages of text)
- Book chapters: 2 (about 180 pages of text, and yes, one of them was about 150 pages)
I was tempted to list everything individually with page counts next to it, but I’m not any more up to posting that than you are up to reading it.
So I did a total of about 3000 pages of reading to write just under 20 pages of text, or I had to read about 150 pages of text for every one page of text that I wrote. This number is consistent with my experience writing my dissertation. My committee asked me to add about one paragraph covering a scholarly conversation in one area, and I found that I had to read over 100 pages just to add that one paragraph. I didn’t feel like I’d read that much.
Now I did this work over the Spring 2018 semester serving as department chair and teaching a four course load (which means reading for that — course materials and then grading). I was not working in a research position in which I only had to teach one class, and for all that reading, I still feel like I didn’t do enough.
I have not yet discussed the time I spent writing. Almost every time I would sit down to write, I would reread what I had written. If I write every day for three weeks, that means I read a document that started at 12 pages (my Plato section), went up to 15, then 20, then 25, then 30, then finished at 32, re-reading the entire draft as I had finished up (to that point) almost every time before I started writing again. So we’re talking about re-reading an average of probably 20 pages of text over a dozen times.
Not only that, I have some friends who read my work and provide feedback (thank you, you great people), so when they send me back my chapter with comments, I carefully go through their comments, revise my chapter, and then reread it again.
Again, I’m not particularly exceptional and do not have the reading load of research faculty. Your professors work hard in ways most of us haven’t tried to work. Respect that work.
6 thoughts on “What it’s like writing for publication…”
Sounds darn right exceptional to me, Jim! Each time I begin either the reading or writing leg of a new book project I am daunted by the vastness of the scope given how many publications are out there, and frustrated by professional and personal interruptions. And as I recall this is only one of several book publications you got out there in the last year, right? I will think of you each time the project seems too much to manage! 🙂
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You’re too kind — yes, I basically signed three book contracts about 18 months ago. Two of them came out earlier this year. This was the third.
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What you failed to mention to your audience is that beyond all this you also make the time for colleagues such as myself and write letters of recommendation! I’m sure it went a long way to getting this job for me in Montreal.
Ah, you earned that job on your own :). BUT, you earned the recommendation too. I was always happy to recommend you.
I will do my damnedest to live up to your kind words, Jim!