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Writing a philosophy book

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This is a guest post by Fiona Ellis, University of Roehampton, London There’s no one way of planning and writing a book (whether philosophy or otherwise), and much of it has to do with temperament. Some people like to map everything out in advance (Iris Murdoch), others make it up as they go along (Haruki Murakami), and most people probably do a bit of both of these things. The first important thing is the big idea – this is the book’s main selling point, and it makes the project worth doing in the first place. In my 2014 book God, Value, and Nature (OUP), the big idea was that there are expansive (i.e. non-scientistic) conceptions of nature which can be pushed in a theistic direction, and that predictable ways of resisting this move involve a contestable conception of God. I like to have a fairly clear sense of where I’m going, and once I have the basic idea I set out a provisional chapter structure. This was easy to do for God, Value, and Nature because I was following a particular line of argument and reproducing its structure at different levels of content. I knew where I wanted to go, and it was mostly a matter of spelling out the relevant arguments. There were surprises along the way, but nothing too shocking. Things are trickier with the book I’m planning at present, for the argument is more complex, and there are murky depths which will surface only when the writing process begins. I usually aim at 7 or 8 chapters, and squeeze the initial plan into a couple of pages. It took about 2 years (including a term of sabbatical leave) to produce a complete draft of God, Value, and Nature. I wrote most of it before getting in touch with a publisher because I didn’t want to be constrained by a particular plan or timeline, and it meant that the submission was in the best possible shape. I write each chapter as if it’s the finished product, and try to avoid having a series of incomplete drafts. Loose ends and gaps mess up the developing argument, and my books tend to. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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