How I Write: The Crucial Phase

I have a very distinctive way of writing books, even though every time I write one, I think it’s the only sensible way to do it.  For years I’ve encouraged my students to do it this way when they write their dissertations, and I’ve talked to friends and colleagues about it, subtly (well, sometimes not so subtly) suggesting they do it.  And so far, after writing books for over thirty years, I’ve not convinced a single person to do it ...

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How Does an Author Write a Trade Book? Phase 2.

On and off I have been talking about the process I take for writing a book, and will continue that conversation here in this post, to explain where I am just now – a very good place indeed – on my book on the origins of the Christian understandings of the afterlife.

In my previous posts I talked about how I go about doing my reading for a book, and what I said there certainly applies here.  I’ve read hundreds of ...

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Self-Reflection on The Process of Writing a Book

Every author has different parts of the research and writing process that they enjoy the most.  Which means there are other parts they enjoy the least.  And it really varies from one author to the next.

My wife, a Shakespeare scholar, especially loves the reading she does in preparation for a book.  There are lots of others like her, people who just want to read, read, read, and then read some more.

I have to admit, this is not the most enjoyable ...

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Doing Research for a Trade Book

Before getting side-tracked on other things, I had started to say that I was at a good place on my book on The Invention of the Afterlife and to lay out how I actually write a book like this.  I explained how I choose what book to write next, and I talked about how writing a trade book is very different from writing an academic one.

I’d like to pick up there since I am at the end of a major ...

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The Tricks of Writing for a General Audience

Yesterday I mentioned how hard it is for academics to learn how to write for a general audience.   In graduate school we are trained to write for fellow scholars – learning the jargon and mastering the background knowledge that everyone in the field shares.  That’s because scholarly writing is a kind of short hand for insiders.  If you had to explain every term, every concept, every assumption then what you could say in an article for insiders would literally require ...

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How a Book Gets Written

Once I decide what I want to write the next book on, the fun begins.  Or rather, the work begins.  I’m not sure I’d classify any part of the whole process as “fun.”  There are certainly enjoyable elements, but I think what drives me is wanting to have the very best end product possible.   Having *done* a book is fun; doing the book is less fun.  If I had to label it as anything I guess I’d say it’s intense.

The ...

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How I Write a Trade Book for a General Audience

I am at a good place in my progress toward writing my book on the afterlife, and thought I could devote a few posts to explaining the whole process.  This is in response to questions I sometimes get from blog members who would like to know what steps I actually take in going from the idea of a book to the final product.

First off: how do I decide what books to write?   Different scholars have different ways of making this ...

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My Life! An Interview with Frank Statio on “The State of Things”

On March 5 I had a radio interview at the local NPR station with Frank Stasio, host of “The State of Things.”   Most of the interview had to do with my religious journey from Christian fundamentalist to atheist; by the end we got to the ostensible reason for my being there, my then new book “The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World.”

Frank is one of the very best interviewers anywhere, extremely good, as you’ll hear.  He ...

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Fresh Air – Christianity’s Path From ‘Forbidden’ To A ‘Triumph’

On March 20, 2018 I had an interview with Terry Gross for her NPR radio program Fresh Air, about my book The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World.   I believe this is the seventh time I’ve done her program (the first one was for my book Lost Christianities, maybe fifteen years ago).  I thought way back then, and I still think now, that she’s the best interviewer on the planet.

The show runs for ...

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A Forger Fooled By Forgery

In my previous post I talked about my scholarly book on forgery (Forgery and Counterforgery) and gave some of the opening paragraphs of the Introduction.  Here I’ll give the very first part of the first chapter.  I wanted to start out on a light and humorous note, even though I was writing at a scholarly level.   And so I began with an amusing anecdote from the annals of ancient forgery, a case where a forger was intentionally deceived by ...

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