Three years in the making, as they used to say in movie advertising—and still counting. At one point this summer, I passed unofficially from the first draft to the second draft stage of the book I’ve been working on. In fact, the first draft is not 100% done, call it 98%. There’s at least one more chapter to write and an introduction.
Now I’m dealing with several issues. One of them is no doubt similar to that of a novel writer, whose project has evolved since the initial conception. A few parts were written simply as blog posts, before there was even the idea of a book. Quite a few more date from when that idea was only coming into focus.
So revision has been producing its surprises. For one thing, I now see how I kept raising my own standards as I took what I was doing more seriously. Write-ups of research I did at the start are sometimes awkwardly organized, with off-topic digressions. Sometimes there’s a breeziness that is OK for blog writing but sounds amateurish now. For at least one chapter I’ve had to go back and redo all the research from scratch. There will no doubt be more.
Audience. I remember taking a while to figure out the readers I’m writing for. Early on, I knew that I wasn’t writing for academics or scholars. They’re welcome to read the book and may get something from it. But academic writing means that you are taking part in a discourse among experts in a particular field of research.
The discourse on my book’s subject—early frontier fiction—has been going on for a while, and to join that conversation, I’d have to find and read what scholars have already said about it. Fine for a graduate student working on a master’s thesis and with easy access to a university research library. But that made the project too much like work, and a whole lot less fun.
Since I’m an old-school literary historian by training, the current practice of theory-driven cultural studies isn’t so interesting to me either. I’ve heard papers read at conferences so dryly analytical and full of jargon an ordinary person walking in off the street would think they were hearing a foreign language. I’d be obliged to learn that language if I were to write to that audience.
So I decided instead to write for what I think are readers of this blog. That is, book readers and writers who enjoy westerns and frontier fiction and who share my curiosity about the origins of the genre. That audience may include academic folks, but I wanted what I wrote to be clear and interesting for the person who was simply a fan of the genre.
That meant writing plain English, informally, with some humor if I could manage it. The idea was to both illuminate and entertain—not an easy task, and one that I’ve only been able to approximate at times. But clarifying that target audience was an essential part of the book’s evolution—and now the revision process.
Whether that audience is actually out there is a question that enters my mind as I do this. But as long as I’m clear that I’m not doing it for fame or fortune, the number of readers the book finds isn't my main concern right now.
To be continued. . .
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Last Crossing
I think you are pursuing the right course. For some reason academic historians have moved into realms that could barely be described as history. These papers are largely written for other academic historians, and usually exclude the reading public. The best history these days is being written by popular historians, gifted people writing for broad readerships. That is also true to some extent in the world of academic literature. For years I looked over the conference schedules of the Western Literature Association, wondering whether to attend, and I noted that the material was so esoteric--some of it seemed purposefully designed to exclude anyone interested in western literature--that I gave up any thought of attending. And more of it was simply diversity politics, social science, not literature in any traditional sense of the word.ReplyDelete
I believe the shift to cultural studies in English departments is partly to blame. The rest is the tendency of academic writing to make itself difficult to understand by even normally intelligent readers. Difficulty is supposed to indicate analytical rigor. It is often the dressing up of a simple idea with jargon and abstraction.Delete
well I know I will be an audience for this.ReplyDelete
Well, when I think of the readers I'm writing for, I think of you and others here in the blogs.Delete
Not only have I enjoyed the variety of books you've written about, but the sheer number of them. What once seemed to me a dusty card catalog with Owen Wister and O. Henry's HEART OF THE WEST has grown into a living, moving, jam-packed frontier book fair under your tutelage. My hat's off to you, sir!ReplyDelete
Thanks for your kind words. That has been the experience for me, too.Delete
Clear thinking. You are on the right trail.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jim. Appreciated.Delete
My husband is wrestling with these issues as he writes a book meant more for a general audience than a purely academic one. Years of training are hard to put aside.ReplyDelete
Years working in marketing communications, where you're made super-aware of audience, helps me make the shift.Delete
Dammit! Charles always steals my comments.ReplyDelete
He does that to me, too.Delete
Ron, I share your curiosity about the origins of early frontier fiction and I look forward to reading your book and learning more about an epochal period in American history. I wonder if you might not consider writing about your overall experience in this project from the time the idea came to you, the reading of many early westerns and their reviews, the drafts and revisions, to the culmination of the project; perhaps, as a sort of an epilogue.ReplyDelete
Looking forward to reading your book because I know it will be well-written and intersting.ReplyDelete
toko viagra asli
jual viagra asli
viagra asli jakarta
toko viagra jakarta
jual viagra jakarta
agen viagra jakarta
cialis asli jakarta
titan gel asli
titan gel jakarta
titan gel asli jakarta
viagra cod jakarta
obat viagra jakarta
obat viagra asli
obat kuat viagra
obat cialis asli
obat kuat cialis
obat cialis jakarta
toko cialis jakarta
jual cialis jakarta
agen cialis jakarta
jual titan gel
toko titan gel
hammer of thor
permen soloco asli