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…]

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…]

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…]

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: March 6, 2020

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ~Ralph Waldo EmersonIn this week’s collection of articles from around the web, we are presented with contradictions to norms and new thoughts on old processes in academic writing. “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” These words from Ralph Waldo Emerson remind us to be open-minded, to face challenges, contradictions, and reviewer comments with receptiveness rather than defensiveness.

Consider the benefits (rather than the distastefulness) of book blurbs, discussion on the discussion section of your papers, and ways to detect the crap in your research process. Examine what research looks like without a “publish or perish” mentality, for indigenous students, and when reflecting your work in your lifestyle choices – even the clothes that you wear. Finally, open up to the possibilities of open peer review and returning to academia from industry.

Academic environments are deeply rooted in tradition but are facing dramatic changes in process and perception. New ideas can bring with them resistance and opportunities. When faced with contradiction to your beliefs or work this week, consider the opportunity and resist the urge to feel persecuted. Happy writing! [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…]

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…]

Finding your writing niche

Writing is like growing up. From babyhood, we learn to crawl (= write junk), wobble half-upright (= write a little less junk), walk in spurts (= write much less junk), run a little (= write more of what really is us), and finally gain balance to walk and run at will (= write in our true voice).

In life, if we could jump into adulthood from childhood or even early adolescence without living through each previous stage, we’d save much time and angst. In writing too, imagine learning enough from watching, reading, and hearing about others’ experiences, mistakes, misguided decisions, and failings so we wouldn’t have to experience them at all. But, unfortunately or fortunately, we have to experience it all. [Read more…]

Take some time away from work to work

Take some time away from work to workWe often think of the December-January holiday break as the midpoint of the academic year. Faculty need recuperative time to gear up for the semester or term, for course planning, fine-tuning, or writing syllabi.

But, what about your own writing projects? In early December, many of my clients need to step away from their daily writing practice to dive into their grading, with final grade deadlines looming. We talk about scheduling for the first week of January, and then we talk about how it will be more likely the second week of January before they sit down to begin writing again. In fact, I start to get a little nervous for them, because I know that come the second week of January, for many of them, the course planning and syllabus fine-tuning will take place that did not happen after the grading in December. And, that is okay. I get it.

However, as you look ahead to classes beginning again in mid-to-late January, what about your own writing? Does it stress you out? If it does, let’s do this instead. [Read more…]

Cultivating your writing garden

cultivate your gardenI admit to being addicted to quotes. I have kept a list for years and it grows with each book I read. “Let us cultivate our garden,” is a well-known aphorism by Voltaire. It applies to so many areas of life: relationships, work, gardening, and of course, writing.

Quite a few authors or would-be authors I speak with feel unsure or uncertain about their writing and editing skills. I get it. Most authors have spent years honing their content mastery and little of their precious “free time” on becoming better writers or editors. [Read more…]

TAA’s 2020 Conference Early Registration Is Open!

Join us in San Diego, CA for TAA’s 33rd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference. Early registration is now open!

TAA’s conference will be held June 12-13 at the beautiful Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, located in the heart of downtown San Diego! With a Four Diamond rating by AAA, the Westin San Diego Gaslamp is located just steps from the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter, boasting of more than 150 restaurants, bars, shops, cafes and galleries. It is also only a 15 minute walk or short Uber ride to the popular Waterfront and Little Italy neighborhoods! [Read more…]