The semester is rapidly coming to an end, with some of you already finished. Have you given thought to your summer writing goals? Do you write more or less during the summer months? I love this quote, “Write until it becomes as natural as breathing. Write until not writing makes you anxious.” I’m not really sure if writing will ever feel as natural as breathing, no matter what amount of writing I do. However one thing is for sure: not writing does make me anxious. I have to get the thoughts out of my head and onto my computer screen (and sometimes paper). It’s like the throbbing pain in your knee, slightly annoying and always at the back of your mind. But, the only way to cure it is to keep moving, keep running, or it gets worse. Just like the only cure for that anxious feeling of not writing is to keep writing. I’m curious what you think: Is writing as natural as breathing for you? Does not writing make you anxious? And as always, happy writing! [Read more…]
Tip of the Trade: Be strict about the type of editing that is suitable for each stage of the revision process
Advice about academic writing often stresses the iterative nature of the writing process; the creation of an effective final draft generally requires multiple drafts and extensive revision. A crucial corollary to a commitment to extensive revision is an acceptance that revision mustn’t be allowed to go on indefinitely. Otherwise, a certain mania can set in: any draft can always be other than it is. After a certain point, we have to ask ourselves about diminishing returns and about the very real possibility of messing up what is already working. [Read more…]
In this TAA podcast, “The Art of Revising”, Rachael Cayley, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer at the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto, shares strategies to help you revise your academic writing. In particular, Rachael talks about different sorts of revision and the optimal way to sequence the revision process. By developing your overall capacity for revision, you can enhance your experience of writing and improve the eventual reception of your writing. Read Rachael’s article, “The Craft of Revision”, which is based on this podcast, on her blog, Explorations of Style.
Q: What strategies do you use during the revision process?
A: Mike Kennamer: “Before I send the article to an editor, I always read it out loud as part of the editing process. I also try to get colleagues to read it and provide input before I send it off to the editor.
When a section just doesn’t seem to flow as I would like, I will print the article and (literally, with scissors) cut out each paragraph and lay it on the floor in the order that it is in for the article. Then I will start to move certain paragraphs around to see if that helps with flow. I use the floor because it gets me out of the normal place where I write. There is something about sitting on the floor with my work in little paragraph-sized slips of paper that helps [Read more…]
Many novice writers imagine clean, clear prose springing off of the fingertips of accomplished writers. Most writers will assure you that it does not work this way. We first write, and then, revise, revise, and revise some more.
Trying to write perfectly the first time around has three central problems. 1) It takes a long time; 2) It can be a waste of time, as you often can only see at the end of a paper what needs to be cut; and 3) Your writing will not be as good in the end because the best writing comes out of revising.
Writing a spew draft of a chapter or an article allows you to work quickly, and lets you improve your writing through revising. Although you may be able to type very quickly – as quickly as a whole chapter in one week, revising it will take much longer. In their book, Destination Dissertation: A Traveler’s Guide to a Done Dissertation, Sonja Foss and William Waters offer a multi-step approach to revising an article or chapter. I present a slightly modified version of it below, that explains, in ten steps, how to revise an article or chapter.
Step One: Remove all unnecessary information. Take a first pass at your chapter to cut out any sentences or paragraphs that do not contribute to your main argument. To feel better about cutting liberally, save the rough draft of the paper as a separate document so that you don’t lose any writing that you may want to use later. [Read more…]