I began the research project which ultimately led to this book in the summer of 2014 and had been thinking about it for a year or more before that, so it’s almost hard to believe that last week saw me write the final chapter (an unexpected addition which I only realised I needed quite late in the day) and find myself in the possession of a complete draft of The First Scottish Enlightenment.
But so it is. Not only do I have a complete draft, but most chapters are ready to go, with only two or three needing any substantial revision and the rest just awaiting polishing, cross-referencing and general putting in order. I’m still a bit behind schedule – all of this was meant to happen last week – but it feels like a huge achievement nonetheless. Now I’ve begun the penultimate end-to-end read, ferreting out sections where I’ve repeated myself, or changed my mind, or thought I made sense but actually didn’t. While I’m finding plenty to tweak, so far nothing truly awful has reared its head and occasionally I can even tolerate my prose.
Reflexive back-patting out of the way, though, I wanted to continue in the spirit of this series of posts by talking a little more about how I’ve been approaching revisions to the manuscript. I’ve been taking it chapter by chapter, beginning with a paper copy (in which I find it far easier to catch grammatical and typographical errors). I mark up the paper copy with any minor changes – typos, punctuation, an additional clause, etc. – and make notes of any more substantial additions in an Evernote file to return to later. At the same time, I’ve been creating an index of where I mention key individuals, books, manuscripts, and events to avoid duplication and make sure I introduce them properly when they first appear. Finally, I take note again of the sub-sections within the chapter and ask myself if they make sense, flow well, or need to be renamed or shuffled about.
That’s the first step – working with paper copy in hand. Then I copy over all of my handwritten changes into the relevant Word file before working through my notes for more extensive additions or revisions, taking these one at a time, usually while ensconced in the St Andrews university library (the closest research library to home), where I can easily check references. At this stage, I’ll also make any revisions or cutting and pasting which the index reveals to be necessary.
Once these two stages are done, each chapter is ready to be sent off to my kind and extremely patient readers. At the same time, however, I’ve also been taking a separate set of notes on anything which may need to be returned to once the whole book has been gone through in this way: mostly cross-references, occasionally lists or tables dependent upon other chapters, and similar material. I’ll attend to that at the end.
And that’s where I stand. Eight weeks from my submission deadline – the end of July – and, I think, in pretty decent shape. I like this stage of the process, the conscientous and meticulous working out of small issues, tidying of prose, and all the other things that go with revision, and look forward to seeing it through over the next couple of weeks.
Copyright © 2018 Kelsey Jackson Williams