Monday, August 15, 2005

Diary 2: Writing new book on Adam Smith for Palgrave's Great Thinkers in Ecoomics series

Diary 2 (August):

My ‘best laid’ plans certainly went in reverse not long after writing the first ‘diary’ entry.

Requests for two examination questions with solutions, plus the PDF proof files for the new book, "Strategic Negotiation" for the MSc programmes at Edinburgh Business School, and some contract work, forced me to put off getting to work on Adam Smith for Palgrave’s Great Thinkers in Economics series. However, I completed these tasks, hosted for some guests and family visiting us in France, and returned to Adam Smith 2 work as soon as I could.

I am now into the first 4,000 words, a fairly slow pace for me, occasioned by my decision to find, note and footnote on the draft pages full bibliographical details of any fact I cite, any authority I refer to and any reference I allude to, as I go along. This certainly slows me down but, from experience, the longer the ‘scaffolding’ work is postponed the greater the delays and errors that slip into the schedule when I move from draft to final publishable text.

I find I create several versions in my ‘draft’ category, and it is not unknown to have several ‘Final’ versions too (which I have been known to mix up in the final push for the publisher). Having copy editors asking for something because of incomplete or missing references and searching for them diligently under time pressure, is an avoidable pain, which I intend to avoid with this book. Let’s see how it works out.

On footnotes I have long had the view that they should be avoided, especially when they suffer from ‘foot and note’ disease, of the kind that introduces footnotes into the flow that consist of inconsequential author’s comments, or from that awful habit of authors who keep telling the reader (sometimes in the text too) that he or she ‘discusses this question later’, or worse, on 'page 60', or ‘as discussed above on page 6’. If a point is elaborated later (which the reader will come to) or has been commented on earlier (which the reader would know), why interrupt the flow? I once read a controversial book (the theme with which I sympathised) on political geography which not only did this to excess, but had end notes in place of footnotes, and it proved so frustrating and distracting turning back and forwards for no real value that I stopped reading it after chapter 6 of 18.

It’s early days yet and I have not yet settled down to my ‘voice’ for the book. Reacquainting myself with Adam Smith, his life and Works, is just great. I feel at home with my subject. Spending an hour or so on the LostLegacy Blog is also relaxing because it constantly gives me practice in phrasing short comments and replies (alas, some of them a bit repetitive I know!) on aspects of Adam Smith. The associated correspondence from people whom I have commented upon, in praise or critically, is also helpful and, while I do not always agree with everybody, most correspondents are polite and good humoured.

One, Nicholas Gruen, persisted with remarkable diligence since June to make contact despite every one of my email addresses failed to respond. Since we have made contact, he has added to one of my themes for the new book – great minds think alike (yes, I know ‘fools seldom differ’) – and for which I will gratefully acknowledge.


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