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…]

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…]

Crafting compelling conference proposals with the LASTT Model

Light bulbs with LASTT spelled outWhether you’re a seasoned scholar or you are just now embarking on your academic career, presenting at conferences can provide invaluable benefits and experience. For some, conference presentations are an important part of a well-rounded tenure and promotion portfolio. For others, these venues serve as a vital catalyst for connection and collaboration. Yet, despite the numerous benefits of presenting, there’s relatively little guidance on how to craft a compelling conference proposal.

Sure, there are scads of resources that promise to guide presenters through the process of assembling a knockout slide-deck or delivering a masterful speech. But what good are all of these resources if you can’t get out of the slush pile of proposals to begin with? To get on the program, you’ve got to get past the reviewers, and that’s no small feat. [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…]

Systematic reviews: Avoiding the common pitfalls that lead to rejection

File Stack and Magnifying GlassSystematic reviews are an increasingly popular academic research method and manuscript style, often garnering many citations when published. In fact, the most recent bibliometric analysis of more than 1,200 published systematic reviews found they were cited an average of 26 times over a 4-year period after publication, or 6.6 citations per year. While publishing a systematic review can certainly add to your academic profile, with 85% of these manuscripts being rejected by journals at submission, success if far from guaranteed.

Although systematic reviews originated in clinical medicine, other disciplines are now finding the method effective to synthesize evidence as well. The following tips will help you avoid the common pitfalls that lead to high rejection rates of systematic review submissions. [Read more…]

11/19 TAA Webinar – “Responding to Reviewers’ Comments”

Mark PedrettiWhether submitting journal articles or book manuscripts, academic authors can expect their work to be anonymously reviewed by expert peers. Sometimes helpful, sometimes infuriating, reviewers’ comments can make or break a publication; a negative review can bring your piece to a screeching halt. Join us Tuesday, November 19, from 1-2 p.m. ET for the TAA Webinar, “Responding to Reviewers’ Comments”, where presenter Mark Pedretti, an Assistant Director of English at Providence College, will discuss strategies for engaging with reviewer’s comments — both positive and negative. He will also:

  • Explore ways to figure out the importance placed upon comments in a given publishing context, the relationship between editor and reviewer, and whether comments are in fact “make or break.”
  • Talk about strategies for documenting responses to suggestions, and how to politely decline to make changes that are off base.

The goal: to equip webinar participants with a set of tools for navigating the unspoken rules of the review process.

[Read more…]

Safeguarding your scholarship in OA: What to look for and what to avoid

As open access publishing matures into an accepted (and in some disciplines, the standard) form of scholarly communication, it is more important than ever to be able to spot what Jeffrey Beall calls “predatory publications”, publications that accept article processing fees but fail to provide essential editorial services.  As academic librarians who have many years of experience helping faculty navigate this new landscape, we recommend using the following strategies for safeguarding your scholarship while pursuing open access options for your work. [Read more…]

10 Tips on getting writing started

Many academics find sitting down at the computer and starting to write to be one of the most difficult challenges facing them. One reason for this, as one of my students put it so well, “if I never start, then I never fail.” Other reasons include getting out of the habit of writing—or never having a writing habit at all.

While tough to overcome, these obstacles do have some straightforward solutions. Here I share ten tips on getting your writing project started and moving it toward completion. [Read more…]