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Saturday, January 19, 2008

SAA Trimming

I'm in the process of cutting down a 45-page chapter into a 12-page SAA paper. Impossible, you say? Perhaps. I'm at 17 1/2 and counting.

UPDATE: Down to 14 pages plus a couple little orphaned sentences on page 15. Offloading into footnotes is a nice trick.

UPDATE 2: Done! I have no idea whether the thing is any good, but I'm rather proud of my ability to trim. I may have trimmed not only fat but every other part of the animal as well, but ...

  • At 1/19/2008 07:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Mine is only 5 pages long so far. It needs more material. Can I borrow the stuff you cut out? I'm sure no-one would notice.


  • At 1/20/2008 06:01:00 AM, Blogger Bardolph wrote…

    tiny font? huge sheets of paper? cut out all uses of the word 'that'?


  • At 1/21/2008 12:40:00 AM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    So you mean you'll have a 12 page paper plus 15 pages of footnotes? Sounds like something I might write. Come on, you can do better than that!


  • At 1/21/2008 01:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Reduce block quotes to one line and incorporate: no one ever reads them anyway.

    BTW, I've decided to try my hand at teh blogging, so from now on I'll comment as "Erasmus." Blog will be at Northern Humanist if anyone is interested. (And as if the world needed another academic blog.)


  • At 1/21/2008 09:16:00 PM, Blogger Erasmus wrote…

    Sorry about munging up the Firefox rendering: looks like one of those old slashot troll hacks.


  • At 1/23/2008 03:21:00 AM, Blogger Bardolph wrote…

    c.f. The Trimming of Thomas Nashe Gentleman (1597), a thinly veiled allegory of pruning back a SAA paper.


  • At 1/23/2008 03:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Since I'm not trimming an SAA paper, a tree, or Thomas Nashe, I thought I'd offer a new installment for Holzknecht Redivivus, if you're interested. It's the Beaumont/Fletcher/ Massinger collaboration/revision called Love's Cure or, The Martial Maid. If you'd like to add it here, feel free to cut and paste from my blog.


  • At 1/28/2008 08:52:00 PM, Blogger Innogen wrote…

    Relating to the SAA trimming...I am worried about the yo-yo dieting effects on prose, having just chopped a 50 page chapter into, first, a 17-page talk and, now, a 14 1/2 pg SAA offering, which still must be whittled further...does this get easier with practice?


  • At 1/28/2008 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Hi Innogen,
    You know, I think it does get significantly easier with practice. Although, I have to say, I'm by no means certain that I have cut only fat and not fat, meat, bones, and all.


  • At 1/29/2008 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Innogen wrote…

    Erasmus' suggestion about digesting all the block quotations is great, but then I had a perverse thought-- what a fun SAA forensic exercise (or parlor game) it would be to do the exact opposite: assemble all the quotations, minus argument (the meat and bones)and pass them out and see who can reconstruct your argument based on your evidence!
    Ok,maybe only I would think that was fun. Back to slicing and dicing...


  • At 1/29/2008 05:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I have to admit that my solution has always been to disregard the length requirement and submit, say, 25 pages, on the principle that people can stop reading when they get bored (which is what they do anyway).


  • At 1/31/2008 08:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Being an SAA amateur, I'm curious about others' responses to the previous "anonymous." I've heard others resent unedited essays, and I have to admit that I'd be more likely to carefully read a draft if I knew the author had tried to meet me halfway. Is there a consensus among BR readers?


  • At 1/31/2008 08:57:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Personally, I don't like it. Sure, I can stop reading whenever I want, but why should it be my responsibility to edit your paper for you?

    (That's the generic "you", of course.)


  • At 2/01/2008 04:22:00 PM, Blogger Innogen wrote…

    I don't like it either, though loads of people seem to do it...this will only be my second time at the SAA, and last year I was appalled to receive everything from 10 to 40 pages (the last from a very highly-respected senior scholar.)

    That said, though, since I needed to send the dingy-dang thing IN and get it off my desk, I just sent out a slightly too-long paper--I front-loaded the arg., though, and prefaced it with a note to the effect that people should feel free to stop reading at pg. 12. I don't know if that counts as "meeting people halfway," but I tried...(it's not that I think my deathless prose is so scintillating people will CRAVE an extra 2 pgs., but that I had to get the bloody thing off my desk and move on to the next project and couldn't for the life of me figure out what was fat and what was lean anymore.)

    I too am curious to see how people respond to this one.


  • At 2/01/2008 04:25:00 PM, Blogger Innogen wrote…

    ok, realizing slight pitch of hysteria in previous comment...as though everyone else is not equally or more busy and swamped with multiple projects!


  • At 2/02/2008 04:01:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Must trim. Can't trim. But must trim. My own theory, this time through, has been to try and think of my SAA paper not as a condensed but faithful version of a longer document – which it really can’t be, anyway – but as its own, separate thing, with its own, separate purpose: not to prove a point, but to generate conversation. To provoke.

    So what I did was to more or less mercilessly junk the whole “middle” of my argument. The thing to do, I was thinking, was to throw the largest claims I could out there, and not worry about trying to demonstrate them or clinch them in any way. Maybe a couple of symbolic or resonant details. That’s it. Because the danger in an SAA seminar, in my experience, is the danger of relentless particularity. If there's going to be a conversation, it's going to have to take place at the level of the "big picture." Historical evidence, close readings – all that stuff has to go.

    At least, that was my theory. We'll see how it turned out.


  • At 2/09/2008 03:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    original length-requirement-ignoring-anonymous here: in previous years, my approach has been to do exactly what inkhorn does and to write up a stand-alone piece, like a sketch, that just tries out the maximum amount of argument and tries to clarify ideas for myself about a piece of whatever I'm working on. I have found that this to be extremely helpful, and I have tried (tried! and even succeeded in some years) to devote no more than a weekend to this process. It has been great when it works. This year I needed to write an essay anyway and wanted to use the seminar as an occasion to get started in a significant way and get some feedback. So I decided to let the argument go further, to a natural resting place, and not worry so much about overall length (24 pp in this case). 40 is definitely too long! And I am more irritated by people who don't tailor / write for the subject of the seminar than at the length per se...that is the gesture that annoys me. It's not that I want people to "edit" my paper! I am perfectly capable of cutting and removing pieces myself. It's just that sometimes you need a little more space to work through an idea, and if people aren't interested in the ideas then they can just stop reading them and start reading something else. I suspect most of us do this in practice anyway. In any case the paper doesn't really need "editing"; what it would benefit from is engaged conversation about a set of ideas. So I think that from year to year it's OK to exceed the limit, esp. if that limit is very short. I have always interpreted these short limits as a *minimum*, not as a maximum, to reduce the burden and to ensure that people submit *something* rather than defaulting and risking the seminar (in the case of our seminar, the page length wasn't ever stipulated as a *maximum* length). But I am no doubt construing things to serve my own interests!

    love the blog - look forward to reading your excessively long papers... ; )


  • At 2/18/2008 11:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Have been most interested in, and encouraged by, this discussion to use seminar in SAA Dallas 2008 as the first proving ground for typescript (Some Versions of Piscatory) currently under consideration at multiple university presses. At 150,000 words perhaps slightly too long. I have provided co-seminarians with detailed instructions for maximally efficacious excerpting. Is it unheard of for publishers at book exhibit to permit authors to display draft typescripts alongside more completed products. With extreme gratitude as always for your weblog. FMT (Dr)


  • At 2/18/2008 12:03:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Hi FtR (or FMT, as the case may be),

    Thanks for your comment. I've never heard of a draft typescript being displayed at book exhibits alongside the finished product--not sure what would be in it for them. The only type I've seen non-finished products at the book exhibit has been when a page proof copy is displayed because the final bound copies will be out shortly after the conference.

    So, did you give them the entire 150K word typescript and tell them what 12 pages to read? Wow. A new record perhaps.


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