Steam ahead or swing back?

Do you zap out your first draft at the speed of bees, ignoring all faults just to get it down? Or do you move like mud, planning down to every detail and laboring over each word, phrase, and sentence before inching to the next?

Which were you taught was the single, inviolable method? Which makes for more effective writing? Which entices you? [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #5: Accuracy

accuracyIn our final discussion of this series on distinguishing features of academic writing, we focused on accuracy. Specifically, we considered what it means to be accurate, how understanding and vocabulary affects accuracy, how to check for accuracy in sources we use, how accuracy affects the structure, style, and grammar of a manuscript, and why accuracy is important in academic writing. Below is a summary of the discussion. [Read more…]

If a hummingbird strikes your window while you write: When to compartmentalize and when to stop

hummingbird“Writing a story is like going on a date — you will spoil it if you aren’t living in the moment.” — Pawan Mishra, On Writing Wonderfully: The Craft of Creative Fiction Writing

Halfway into my morning writing session, I heard a thump. I looked down at the deck. A hummingbird lay on her back, shaking. In a daze, I went out and stared at her. Her wings didn’t look broken, but what did I know?

I called my partner and my mom. My mom said hummingbirds need sugar water, so I found an old container of grape jelly and made sugar water. I fed her with a water dropper, put her in a box, and she slowly improved. I called the animal rescue people, and they eventually came and took the sweetie away after a few hours of feeding. Though I didn’t hear what happened after that, I’m sure she recovered. [Read more…]

3 Strategies and 5 steps to developing your dissertation into a manuscript

dissertation to bookLet’s set the record straight. “A dissertation is not a book.” In her recent TAA webinar, “Writing Your First Book: Developing Your Dissertation Into a Manuscript”, Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz of MargaretEdits shared practical strategies and tips for bridging the gap between completing your dissertation and writing a compelling book manuscript.  

During this session, Puskar-Pasewicz offered three strategies for making the transition from dissertation to book and then suggested five steps to get started on the journey. [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #4: Objectivity

fresh work area with a blank screen on the laptopA good researcher is objectively seeking answers to their research questions and reporting those findings objectively to the community at large. But what does it mean to write objectively? How do we maintain objectivity where possible? Finally, how do we make efforts to identify and avoid bias in our academic writing?

In our fourth discussion of the distinguishing features of academic writing, we discussed all of these questions. A summary of the discussion and related resources is below. [Read more…]

Navigating “permanent whitewater”

permanent whitewaterI was listening to a podcast series by the National Association of Independent Schools called the Trustee Table (I highly recommend it by the way).  A guest on one episode used the term “permanent whitewater” in regard to what he was experiencing in his field.

The phrase has really stuck with me since I heard it. It applies in so many ways to so many aspects of what we are all experiencing. [Read more…]

TAA Webinar: Revising Scholarly Manuscripts – Quickly and Well

Join us Thursday, March 12, from 2-3 p.m. ET for a TAA Webinar presented by Tara Gray, author of Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar, entitled Revising Scholarly Manuscripts—Quickly and Well. Learn how to organize paragraphs around key or topic sentences and how to organize manuscripts around an “after-the-fact” or “reverse” outline. You will also learn how to solicit and use informal feedback effectively by asking just the right readers for feedback and by asking specific questions, such as, “What one place in the manuscript is least clear? Least organized? Least persuasive Organization is the skeleton of a manuscript, its very structure. Get it right and the manuscript works. Get it wrong and it doesn’t.

[Read more…]

Freeing ourselves from creative blocks

Creative blockWhen we experience a block in our writing, we may blame our deficiencies in the technical aspects—grammar, word use, sentence structure, consistency of details. Often, though, when we fixate on technical problems, we’re avoiding the more pervasive creative blocks. After all, editors can fix our technical errors. Only we can fix our creative snags.

In my work as editor and coach for writers, I can point out the faulty technical aspects in their manuscripts—repetition of “pet” words and phrases, passive voice, overuse of adjectives, overload of clichés. I can recommend grammar guides, style resources, and lists of synonyms. [Read more…]

3 Important steps to reconceiving your dissertation as a book

book with lightbulbEarly career academics and newly minted PhDs in the humanities and social sciences often want to turn their dissertation into a book. While this is a laudable goal, it is important to keep in mind that university presses seldom publish unrevised or lightly revised dissertations. Instead, they seek books that grow out of dissertation projects and are substantially more developed. Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz’s TAA webinar offered terrific advice about the big picture of moving from dissertation to book. TAA members can review her webinar for an overview of the whole process.

Where most writers get stuck, I’ve found in my work coaching academics for the past decade, is in the early stage of reconceiving their project. Taking the following three steps can help you shake off the familiar old conception of your work that you’ve lived with for years and chart a new map for a truly book-worthy project. [Read more…]

Writing groups: When, why, how, and best practices

writing groupAcademic writing can be a solitary, isolating experience for many authors. While that may work for some, solitary writing can leave many writers feeling unmotivated, lonely, and lost. I propose, and research has proven, taking a more collaborative, community-based approach to writing can be highly beneficial in terms of productivity, success, and enjoyment.

From feedback to accountability, to pop-up groups to writing retreats and workshops, when faculty meet and talk about their writing, they reduce isolation and improve their craft. Consequently, over time, faculty become more productive and less stressed because they are accomplishing their goals. In addition, they become part of a community of writers. [Read more…]