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Friday, February 15, 2013

Down the Runway It Goes

As anyone knows who's written an article or even a long paper, there's a discernible cycle in the author's attitude about his work.  You have what you think is a good idea, you write up the basics, you get discouraged, you put it away, you get another idea and come back to it.  So it goes, on and on, until you decide it's done and it's good and it's polished and it's ready.  I was at that stage last night.

Then I watched Project Runway.  It's a great, fun show to watch.  One of the most interesting parts is watching the designers as they see their work going down the runway.  I'm no fashion critic, but it's usually clear enough when someone has done a really bad job.  And what's striking is that, more times than not, the designer is absolutely delighted with his work.  His smile just yells out, "it's good and it's polished and it's ready."

So OK, so it's hard to be objective about your own work.  But what I'm really curious about is when people know that their work is ready for submission.  What are your last steps?  Another proofread?  Another substantive read to see if you just missed something?  Another footnote?  Another tweak of the cover letter?    I ask this both in terms of what you're insistent on as matter of your personal pride in your work -- what you're willing to have editors see -- as well as instrumentally -- what might make the difference between a good submission result and a bad one.  What are the last-minute fixable issues that matter?  Any thoughts?

Posted by Bill Araiza on February 15, 2013 at 05:07 PM in Law Review Review | Permalink

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I take a glue-gun to the stitches between sections, and double-sided tape to the worst pages.

Posted by: dave hoffman | Feb 15, 2013 5:21:07 PM

My own personal cue is the fact that I cannot tolerate the article one second longer.

Posted by: Bruce Boyden | Feb 15, 2013 5:36:31 PM

I send all my drafts to Nina Garcia. When she says a piece is ready, it's ready.

Posted by: SparkleMotion | Feb 15, 2013 6:14:59 PM

When I find that the only thing I'm doing is changing words back and forth (changing "this" to "that" or "a" to "the") I need to get it off my table.

Or I try to channel Michael Kors--[imagine whiny voice] "It reads like something a blind prostitute would write in her spare time!"

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Feb 15, 2013 8:43:24 PM

Once I've gotten those Michigan and Baylor Law Review rejections, I know my piece is ready.

Posted by: Michael Teter | Feb 15, 2013 9:47:46 PM

I send a draft to a couple of folks who know something about the topic, or at least of piece of the topic. If the consensus is that it's ready, I'll address the suggestions they offer and submit it. I'm submitting one today.

Posted by: Scott Gerber | Feb 16, 2013 9:22:09 AM

When the deadline is here, the paper is ready...

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Feb 16, 2013 12:47:57 PM

I'm with Howard and Scott-- if I've gotten feedback from at least a couple of people in my field, and I've been though it enough times that I'm making fewer and tinier edits (which will approach but never reach zero), then it's probably ready to go out. Putting it away for a month or more and then coming back to it for final edits and trimming is extremely helpful too.

Posted by: gwen stefani | Feb 16, 2013 4:21:10 PM

Post tenure one has a bit more freedom to make sure things are cooked properly even if pre-tenure one has all the incentive to make sure things are cooked properly. Increasingly, I use a heuristic of something like this, which I don't always hold to, but which I certainly recommend: make sure you have at least 2 workshops/presentation venues, at least five area specialists, and ten generalists read the piece if it's going out for a mainstream law review, and make sure you've already incorporated their feedback by the time you send it out. And if you can't do that, make sure at least Mike Cahill reads it if it's in crim law theory.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Feb 16, 2013 5:46:23 PM

Do people still send cover letters?

Posted by: Lawrence Cunningham | Feb 17, 2013 7:01:18 AM

The answer on when just to quit
All that honing of what you have writ
Is when your brainstorm
Comes in limerick form;
Then you'll know it's the time to submit.


Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Feb 17, 2013 7:36:13 AM

Another perspective on quitting
And knowing it's time for submitting
Is when you can say
In a meaningful way
What I'm doing is no longer bullshitting.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Feb 17, 2013 9:46:41 AM

Dan: You can't be serious, right? I mean the part about Cahill.

Posted by: Bill Araiza | Feb 17, 2013 10:09:59 AM

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