As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I've started writing a book and hope to get a decent draft done this summer. I hammered out a draft of the introduction last Friday and have started a draft of the first chapter. Although I think things are going pretty well so far, in that I'm getting a lot to paper and feel like I have a lot of the book mapped out clearly in my head (though everything so far is very first-draft-y), as I write it I can't help but be struck about how difficult of a project this is going to be.
Although I've written a "book" before (namely, my dissertation), it not only wasn't of publishable quality (few dissertations are); it was also much more narrow than the book I'm currently embarking on. One of the difficulties I've had so far in writing the first chapter of the book I've just started is that I have to do a lot of summarizing to clear the ground for the book's main argument. Specifically, I have to survey how a ton of other people have approached the problem I'm addressing, not only recently but throughout philosophical history.
This is difficult because, frankly, I'm not an expert on a lot of the views I'm summarizing. I don't think I have to be in order to write the book because, frankly, (1) what I know of the views in question is enough to distinguish my view from them, and (2) my aim in the book isn't to disprove those views but instead offer an alternative that I think avoids or resolves many of the major problems commonly attributed to existing alternatives. Be that as it may, I have the sneaking suspicion that I'm going to need a lot of help for my summaries on these things (things, again, I'm not an expert on) not to look like the summaries of a dilettante.
I've had a couple of third-personal experiences which suggest to me that this problems are not usual when writing books, and that a book's author often ends up relying quite a bit on others to help them fill in gaps in their knowledge. First, I was at Arizona when John Tomasi came to discuss a draft of his book Free Market Fairness. I recall quite a few of my fellow graduate students being somewhat taken off-guard by how unfinished the book seemed. Quite a bit of stuff seemed not all that well thought-through. But, as I'm starting to write my book, I sort of "get it" now. It would take me an insane amount of time to become "expert enough" at a lot of the ideas I'm summarizing. Offhand, it would seem much more efficient to me to summarize the things as I understand them (I'm not a total dilettante on them!), and then appeal to others for help to fill in the gaps of my knowledge (for instance, through asking others to read chapter drafts). Is this the normal way to go about things? Judging from the acknowledgement sections of published books, it seems clear to me that a lot of people contribute substantially to the writing of good books -- that authors typically have a lot of people read chapter drafs for feedback, in part because it's so hard for any one individual to have expertise on everything relevant to the book.
Which brings me to the subject of this post. I'd like to ask those of you who have written books: do you have any general tips for how to go about it? For instance, at what point, exactly, you begin sharing chapter drafts with people? How far "done" must they be? And who do you seek out feedback from? And how? Any tips, on these questions or any others relating to book writing, would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance to anyone and everyone who chimes in!