8 Biggest secrets to writing a winning manuscript
In her 2018 Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference presentation, “Discover How to Deliver What Editors and Publishers Need: Demystifying the Publishing Process,” Dr. Kathleen King shared key strategies for planning the work and working the plan toward successful publication.
As a professor, award-winning author, and editor, King shared her successful experience – having published more than 30 books and 150+ articles – summarized in the following eight biggest secrets to writing a winning manuscript.
1) Develop robust research and relevant topics
In addition to preparing your article or book contents with robust research, the same care and preparation should be applied to selecting the venue or journal for publication. Research potential journals and publisher options to ensure that your work fits the venue. Then define how your manuscript can make a substantial “stand out” contribution.
2) Maximize writing time
King suggests four steps to maximize your writing time: 1) develop a research and publication agenda, 2) schedule writing time, 3) track your writing and submissions, and 4) set writing goals in order to maintain a flow. Writing time, according to King, should be planned and prioritized as a calendar event. In order to avoid the potential of others moving your writing time, schedule appointments with a name (i.e. your dog’s name) to preserve the time on your calendar.
3) Meet the guidelines
The first step in writing a winning manuscript is to read the author guidelines, said King. These provide information on the audience and limitations associated with publication. Not only does reading the guidelines help the author know whether their work fits the venue, but how well the guidelines are followed tells editors how it will be to work with you.
4) Focus on audience
Once you know the audience targeted by a journal or publisher, you can tailor your manuscript to reach that audience directly. In this process, you should examine the current conversation. In addition to previously published work in your selected venue, King says that it’s important to be familiar with the related literature, gaps, opportunities, theories, and methods in your research discipline.
5) Organize writing
When developing your manuscript, King advises to communicate significance up front. To create and support a logical argument or thesis, King says “don’t overlook the power of outlines.” By outlining your argument, you can more effectively organize and edit your work.
6) Set your hook
King asks, “The fish is playing with your bait…What is your first step to catch it?” The answer – ”Set your hook.” When setting up your manuscript, write a compelling introduction that draws in your reader, reviewer, or editor. As King states, “put your best foot forward” by identifying the significance of your work, and then use data to make your point.
7) Support your thesis
King reminds writers that the entire manuscript should support the thesis. “Don’t stray or overreach,” she says. It is important, however, to keep the reader engaged. Writing techniques such as metaphors, themes, scenarios, examples, cases, narratives, and appropriate quotes can increase engagement. King also advocates for the use of visuals as powerful tools to break up long blocks of text and improve readability. Additional support elements can be beneficial in activities, appendices, or ancillaries.
8) Effective project management
Finally, King notes that a winning manuscript requires effective project management. This requires working the plan. She suggests setting deadlines and then establishing milestones leading up to each deadline to ensure continued progress. To hit deadlines, King says that it’s necessary to build a support team and leverage resources. Adding milestones to your calendar and understanding the necessary and available resources will keep your project on track to a successful completion.
Dr. Kathleen P. King shares these eight secrets and much more in the TAA workshop, “Discovering How to Deliver What Editors and Publishers Need: Demystifying the Academic Writing and Publishing Process”. Learn how to schedule this workshop at your institution today.