2019 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 2): Boosting writing confidence, scheduling writing time, software

TAA Textbook AwardsA couple of weeks ago, we reached out to winners of the 2019 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. We had so many great responses we decided to create a five-part series to share them. The first installment focused on why they decided to write their textbook and how they got started.

This second installment in the five-part series focuses on how they boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use.

Q: What have you done to boost your confidence as a writer?

Maxine P. Atkinson, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Sociology in Action, 1e: “I write a lot.”

Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5th ed.Frank M. Carrano, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5e: “I’ve worked closely with the same copy editor, who helped me write more clearly. Good feedback about my content from reviewers, adopting professors, and students gave me more confidence in my ability.”

Ralph G. Carter, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, IR: International, Economic, and Human Security in a Changing World, 3e: “Write a lot; publish a lot”

Dave Dillon, author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Blueprint for Success in College and Career, 1e: “Became a TAA member. Attend TAA Conferences. Participate in professional development. Read. Write. Communicate, collaborate, and support other writers.”

Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner's Guide, 2nd ed.Nicole M. Gage, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience: A Beginner’s Guide, 2e: “As with many of my peers, chapters of this text began as lectures. The students responded very positively to our approach and that boosted our confidence. But many many thanks to TAA for acknowledging both this edition and our first edition of Fundamentals of CNS — that has done wonders with my confidence as a writer!”

Mary Ellen Guffey, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Essentials of Business Communication, 11e: “My confidence is continually boosted by seeing the royalty figures representing sales.”

The Science of Vehicle Dynamics: Handling, Braking, and Ride of Road and Race Cars, 2nd ed.Massimo Guiggiani, author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, The Science of Vehicle Dynamics: Handling, Braking, and Ride of Road and Race Cars, 2e: “I try to figure out what the reader thinks while reading my book.”

Thomas Heinzen and Wind Goodfriend, co-authors of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Social Psychology, 1e: “Rewrite. Read books about writing. Rewrite. Did we mention rewrite?”

Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6th ed.John Hennessy, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6e: “Find focused, thoughtful, and critical reviewers, listen to their advice, and rewrite.”

Timothy Henry, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Data Structures and Abstractions with Java, 5e: “Worked with a mentor.”

Milan Jirásek, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Creep and Hygrothermal Effects in Concrete Structures, 1e: “Our previous book was very well accepted, so I did not have any problems with confidence.”

Essentials of Business Communication, 11th ed.Dana Loewy, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Essentials of Business Communication, 11e: “The collaboration with an experienced established author and mentor with very high standards who trained me has truly done wonders for my confidence as a writer.”

Robert (Bob) W. Lucas, author of the 2019 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Customer Service Skills for Success, 7e: “Quite simply, I continue to write and speak to groups on topics of the 39 books that I have written. I also have four blogs on a variety of topics, am on various social media sites, and often contribute content to other blogs and websites. The more content that I put out, the greater the reception and feedback. That input helps me improve my style and provides new ideas for additional content development. I also submit my books to writing contests, such as TAA. Each new award helps boost confidence and reaffirms the value of what I do. As a trainer for 4 decades, I enjoy sharing ideas and learning from others, so all these efforts help form a circle of writing, getting feedback, improving my style and content, and writing more.”

Attainable Region Theory: An Introduction to Choosing an Optimal Reactor, 1st ed.Matt Metzger, co-author of the 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award winner, Attainable Region Theory: An Introduction to Choosing an Optimal Reactor, 1e: “Publish a range of papers, advise students in their own writing”

David Patterson, co-author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, 6e: “The more I write, the better I get.”

Andrew Pennock, author of the 2019 Textbook Excellence Award winner, The CQ Press Guide to Writing in Public Policy, 1e: “I had faith in the process. Someone told me one time, you over estimate what you can do in one year and underestimate what you can do in five years. This book didn’t take five years but it did take more than one! I also knew that this book was needed. I was meeting a need, not writing for my own ends. Having faith that putting in the work would result in a good product helped people helped me through the rough patches.”

Fundamentals of Weed Science, 5th ed.Robert L. Zimdahl, author of the 2019 McGuffey Longevity Award winner, Fundamentals of Weed Science, 5e: “I have continued to write books and other publications”

Q: What strategies do you use to fit writing time into your schedule? How much time do you spend writing each day?

Atkinson: “I write 30 minutes a day.”

Carrano: “Writing while teaching was difficult for me. If I could take a day, or half a day, to stay home to write, I made progress. Otherwise, I wrote during the summer and/or leaves of absence. Now that I no longer teach, I write for a few hours each morning.”

IR: International, Economic, and Human Security in a Changing World, 3rd ed.Carter: “Don’t write every day but probably the equivalent of 3 days per week”

Dillon: “Still searching for the right balance and strategies. Depends on the time of year, other work commitments, etc. Difficult to estimate a daily average.”

Gage: “I schedule writing time for an entire day and during that day I never schedule meetings or appointments, I close my email, ignore the phone, and focus on the writing. This works better for me than allocating an hour or two during an otherwise busy day.  I always begin each new chapter with a framework which is then fleshed out to an outline, and finally to a narrative.”

Guffey: “At first, I used all my free time to write. When I started my second book, I began to take sabbaticals and reduced teaching loads to free up time. When I was into my third book, I retired from teaching and devoted myself totally to revising my three books.”

Guiggiani: “I do not have a schedule. However, I stop writing as soon as I feel tired.”

Social Psychology, 1st ed.Heinzen and Goodfriend: “We each created clumps of time within out academic schedules through a combination of institutional support, team teaching, and just finding the time.”

Hennessy: “First thing each day, if I am on a writing project–book out the first 2 or more hours.”

Henry: “I write 4 – 6 hrs a day. I remove all distractions (urgent emails and todos) before starting. I block out writing time the same way I block out classes and meetings.”

Creep and Hygrothermal Effects in Concrete Structures, 1st ed.Jirásek: “I was not able to work on the book on a daily basis. In certain periods I focused on writing, mainly during holidays, but there were also long periods of inactivity. Several times I visited my co-author at his university during the summer as an invited scholar.”

Loewy: “This is the trickiest part. I tend to become obsessive and when I’m ‘on a roll,’ I keep going—sometimes for 10-12 hours. The price I pay is reduced productivity the next day. Regularity and structure are challenging for me to this day.”

Customer Service Skills for Success, 7th ed.Lucas: “I view my writing as a fun activity and a hobby in which I provide information to others and learn new information as I research. I am not an author who sits in front of a keyboard for hours each day. If I feel the need to take time off, I do so. After writing for over two decades, I know how to schedule my efforts to meet deadlines. I also continually gather new ideas and content and file it so that when ready to write, I have reference information on hand. That cuts down on research time and allows me to focus on the writing process. When actively working on a book, I generally write 4-8 hours a day with time off as I feel necessary to give my brain a break.”

Metzger: “Bring in younger scientists to learn the material and do the majority of the writing.”

Patterson: “If I get 1.5 to 2 hours of quality writing time in a day, its a good day. I am an early riser, so usually do my writing wearing pajamas and a bathrobe.”

Sociology in Action, 1st ed.Zimdahl: “Most days I try to write from 7 to 10 on at least five days each week. Sometimes I return later in the day to solve a problem or make what I have done better.”

Q: What software do you use to organize your research and other files?

Atkinson: “This is my biggest weakness. I just save files in a google drive.”

Carter: “Word, Excel, and Stata”

Blueprint for Success in College and Career, 1st ed.Dillon: “Dropbox.”

Gage: “Elsevier has some applications for authors that are hugely helpful for organizing materials, art, permissions, etc. I use all the usual software on my computer to work on both text ms and color graphics. My key is that I keep items completely organized by chapter so that I can maintain version control — nothing more annoying than finding you have just spent an hour revising the penultimate version.”

Guffey: “I use no special software–only MS Word to keep my research and manuscript files in folders.”

Guiggiani: “LaTeX and Mathematica”

Heinzen and Goodfriend: “The digital databases (PsycINFO) have made this much easier; at one point, I threw away about five yards of carefully collected paper articles.”

Hennessy: “Mixed: Google drive to share information, spreadsheets, and other tools.”

Jirásek: “I am not sure what is meant by ‘organizing research.’ I work under Linux and I use open-source software. The manuscript was prepared in LaTeX.”

Loewy: “I primarily use Evernote and Dropbox.”

Lucas: “I am pretty basic and use Microsoft Word file folders. I also still have a manila file folder where I put copies of newspaper and other articles I come across on various topics that I write about. I have learned that you cannot simply capture a domain link and expect it to be available months or years later. If I think content is worthwhile, I copy and paste it into a Word document file or print a copy to have access later.”

The CQ Press Guide to Writing in Public Policy, 1st ed.Metzger: “Endnote, OneNote”

Patterson: “Google Docs and Google Sheets”

Pennock: “I’m old school and simply use Word and Zotero. Simple and easy.”

Zimdahl: “I work with Word Perfect. I know most peplum use MS Word.”

View all of the 2019 Textbook Award winners


Read the first installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 1): Deciding to write and getting the interest of a publisher

Read the third installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 3): Pedagogy and marketing involvement

Read the fourth installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 4): What they wish they had known before they started, writing advice

Read the fifth installment in this series: Textbook award-winning insight (Part 5): Key to textbook longevity, preparing for the next edition