[Lack of] book progress

It’s been nearly a month since I posted my last book progress update. When I posted the last update the summer still seemed to stretch ahead of me, yet now it’s the middle of July with the beginning of the fall semester feeling imminent. What’s worse, I don’t think I’ll be able to hit my goal of having the first draft completed by the end of the summer.

There are a few reasons for this. First is my precalc class, which has met for three hours a night, three nights a week, since the beginning of June. I go to the lectures the same days that I work an eight hour day so by the time I get home at 9 PM I’m usually wiped out. I do have Tuesdays and Thursdays open but math is the priority and most of my time on those days is spent doing homework. My final exam is this Friday so I should soon escape math for another month before starting up physics and statistics in September.

On top of that I’ve been hard at work on my chapter about T.H. Huxley’s views on the close relationship of dinosaurs and birds. Given that Huxley changed his views about form, persistence, and ancestry over time tracing his thoughts can be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m glad to tackle. At the moment it is my writing priority, and being that next week I’ll be done with math and my wife will be away on a business trip I will have plenty of time to finish it.

What does this mean for the book? As it stands now the chapters on the evolution of birds, whales, horses, and humans are reasonably complete and I have little doubt that I could finish them up by the close of August. These chapters will likely make up the backbone of what I start presenting to agents as I continue to work on the remaining chapters.

I will probably add at least two more chapters as I go along, one about the earliest tetrapods and another about elephants, but at the moment they are little more than ideas. I’ve mulled over a number of evolutionary transitions I could feature but given that I know vertebrate paleontology best I think it’s better for me to stick to that area rather than pick something that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the book. I don’t feel entirely at ease about this, particularly since I’m focusing on charismatic animals rather than more “successful” organisms like beetles or bacteria, but I think I’m on firmer ground talking about what I know. Perhaps I’ll develop enough of an “inordinate fondness for beetles” to write a book featuring their evolution in the future, but at the moment I know so little about entomology that I would probably require at least a year of further research to even begin to approach the subject.

I would say that I wish I had more time to write my book but I know that I would make such a comment even if I had all day, every day, to work on it. There’s so much information and never enough time to read the papers I want to read, write what I want to write, and otherwise complete this project that I’ve been working on for the past two years. As I go along what fits becomes increasingly clear and what does not (however interesting it may be) is discarded, and I really do hope that I’m able to get this thing out on shelves eventually. If I’m lucky it’ll open up some new opportunities for me and smooth my path to pursue a career that I’ll actually enjoy, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The latter half of the summer is going to be filled with long days and nights of writing, but by the end of August I will have something to show for my efforts.

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