Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writing Group: Week One!

UPDATED BELOW, with a word from ADM about next week. Also, check the comments – around #35, I give some feedback and suggestions, FWIW.

Goodness gracious, but we have a full roster this term!

So, welcome to the end of your first week. Here's where you report on your progress, and set a goal to report back on next Friday (this time, over at ADM's place).

Last week, I also suggested that, after checking in with their progress and their goal for week two, people take on one other thing for contemplation: tell us about your writing routine. When do you write? Where do you do it? How long is your daily writing session?

Also, feel free to talk amongst yourselves, yes? This is supposed to be a support group of sorts, so if you see something particularly interesting in what someone else has said, feel free to chime in with another comment.

Now, it's time to take attendance. When I call your name and project, please check in:
  • Sapience: a first draft and a revised draft of the current dissertation chapter
  • Dame Eleanor: Revising a conference paper into an article MS
  • NWGirl: Same thing.
  • ADM: a conference paper for Leeds
  • ABDMama: Draft of an article MS
  • Dr. Koshary: Review-ready article MS
  • Sara: Revision of her research exam
  • What Now: Polished book proposal
  • Avery: Draft of an article MS
  • Jason: First draft of a dissertation chapter
  • J. Otto Pohl: Complete a draft of a two-thirds finished book MS
  • Jeff: Review-ready draft of his completed dissertation
  • Frog Princess: Same thing
  • Erika: Review-ready draft of an article MS (taken from the dissertation)
  • Godiva: First draft of a dissertation chapter
  • Kit: Same thing
  • Eileen: Same thing, too!
  • Bardiac: Review-ready article MS (revision of a draft paper)
  • Scholastic Mama: Revising a conference paper into an article MS
  • Jen: same thing
  • Tigs: Completed dissertation draft
  • Digger: drafts of two book chapters (one already underway)
  • Zcat abroad: write two articles [??] [is this from scratch, or two revisions? Seems like a lot for 12 weeks; just sayin']
  • Caleb Woodbridge: MA thesis
  • Matilda: Draft of one paper [for a conference? or for publication?]
  • Zabeel: Draft of the first two (of four) sections of a from-scratch article.
  • Ro: first draft of an essay for an collected volume (mid-summer)
  • Firstmute: draft of the final [ed. note: YAY!!!] dissertation chapter
  • Scatterwriter: Complete expansion/revision of an article MS.
  • Susan: Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS
  • Travelia: Write two conference papers (possibly more later in the summer)
  • Ms McD: Revising a conference paper into an article MS

Thanks for being part of the group, and see you next Friday over at ADM's place! Oh, and by the way, she says:

Lots of people started out making less progress than perhaps they had planned, for all sorts of good reasons. But we all know that those good reasons still eat into our time, and can often mean a sense of failure that affects getting the writing done. For next week, let's not only post our goals, but also think about one or two small things that, even if life starts getting in the way, we can get done to move the project forward. It could be reviewing a couple of articles, or drafting an outline, or even just freewriting 500 words you think you'll have to dump -- but it should be something you can point to and say, "I did this thing."


J. Otto Pohl said...

I did not get as much written this week as I wanted. Part of this is other work. I had 85 final exams to grade. I still have 25 left. But, part of it is my own laziness and part of it is just adapting to life on a new continent, the fourth in ten years.

I did, however, on Wednesday night write about 1000 words. So the ms is up to 51,000 words. I basically have the basic structure of the entire manuscript already written and am filling in details. I skip around on sections. This has worked for me in the past.

I intend to get back to writing on it everyday soon. I hope this weekend. We are officially on our Long Vacation now so I should have some time.

I am trying to keep it narrowly focused and short. Although I am wondering if it might be too narrow since I am having trouble getting it up to book ms length. Unfortunately there is no publishing outlets between 8,000 and 80,000 words. So a 50,000 to 60,000 word ms is too short for publication.

My source base is more limited than I would like. There is not a lot on the history of ethnic Germans in Central Asia. But, structurally it would be awkward to expand the book to include Siberia or other regions now. The ms is in pretty rough form now. However, if anybody would like to read it over and offer any constructive criticism please let me know. You do not need to be an expert in the field. You can reach me at the e-mail address below.

j.ottopohl [the at sign] gmail [dot] com

Sara said...

Sadly, I haven't written a word this week, though I've got all day marked off to work on the research project today. My advisor is expecting a revision on Tuesday, so I'll be working all weekend and hope to finish up by Monday night.

My writing habits are pretty bad. I'm extremely deadline driven and it's not at all unusual for me to end up in situations like I am right now: having less than a week to finish a draft. I know I'd be more successful if I developed a daily writing habit, so I'm hoping that's one thing I'll get from participating in this group.

For next week: A new draft on Tuesday. After that, I'd like to start a habit of writing for an hour or two every morning. I wonder though, if anyone has any advice for how to stay productive between turning in a draft for feedback and getting that feedback. I tend to put the project aside until I meet with my advisor, but there's probably a better way to spend that time.

Bardiac said...

I'm apparently in good company, alas.

I didn't work on my revision at all this week. I did, however, write one of my three syllabi for fall, and those were due on June 1. So I'm already behind. But I do have hope.

Thanks for doing this :)

Sapience said...

Well, I got a lot of the preliminary work done for the chapter--going through and finding all the poems in one of my author's (rather large) corpus that I think are tied into the issues I'm working on in this chapter, and figuring out the major critical issues on this topic have been in the past and where I might be able to squeeze myself in. Yesterday, I sat down in Barnes and Noble and made myself write an introduction to the chapter, so I think I now have about 1500 new words that will for sure be in the chapter. I have about 12-15 other pages worth of material from past papers I've written that will get worked in as I go.

Right now, I'm working in different places on different days; two days a week I'm at my on-campus office, three days a week I'm at home, and at least one day a week I go someplace like Starbucks or Barnes and Noble.

As for when my writing session happens, I'm thinking I need to change it up. I think I'm probably a better writer early in the morning, but I've been needing to do research and that is usually where my mind heads first thing. I think I'm finally at the point where I need to simply sit down and write in the morning, and then do whatever researching and reading in the afternoon, so I'll be trying that next week.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Keep those check-ins coming, folks!

And for the people who are having trouble getting started: this is common. So what you can do is focus on why you didn't accomplish what you set out to do for this week. Unexpected emergencies? Backlog from other overdue projects? Trouble redeveloping good writing habits over a long hiatus? Whatever it is, identify it now, and then resolve that you'll overcome it by the next check-in. If you got even that out of week one, and it allows you to do weeks two through twelve straight through, then that's worth it.

As for writing habits:

1. Every day. Even if you don't think you know enough to write. Even if it's complete crap. Get some words on paper every damn day.

2. If you've never been an early-morning writer, give it a try. It's not for everyone, but often your brain operates differently before you get the day's clutter in it. Make coffee or tea, turn on the computer, turn OFF your internet connection, and write until you reach your daily goal.

3. Speaking of daily goals: think about what yours is. Will you set it in terms of time, or words? (Personally, mine is 500 words, though that includes those frequent bracketed notes-to-self.) You want to give us a week-by-week goal, and a long-term goal, but if you have daily goals you set (and celebrate!), then you don't end up in the situation that Sara laments.

Keep writing!

Matilda said...

Hello, everyone,

My goal is to finish a journal article, yes.

This week, I have completed the chapter one of "Writing your journal article in 12 weeks (hereafter WJA)", i.e., understanding my (problematic) writing habits and thinking about solutions, doing the tasks, and so on. Actual writing? not started yet...

I have chosen one paper for revision. It has been already published in my own language, but it is very short and not peer-reviewed. I would like to develop an aspect which I only mentioned in the paper into a much more explored English article. It needs more research and drastic revision, but not from scratch.

As for my writing habit, I don't have time in daytime because of childcaring (Obstacle no.12 in WJA), so I try to work at night when my children asleep. I have just started to write daily at least for 15 minutes (I am a serious follower of WJA), and I do really hope it works.

My goal for week two: working through the week 2 of WJA; starting re-reading and revising my old paper.

Thank you for reading this.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Nice work, Matilda. Obviously, child-care responsibilities mean that your writing schedule is not entirely your own. But you've found a good solution.

And I've heard that people with children are actually *more* efficient writers because they know that the hour or two they manage to carve out every day is all they're going to get, so they can't waste time, as so many of us do.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I was officially on vacation when I signed up last week (from a fabulous west coast location) and although I was supposed to start work on Wednesday, when I came back, I'm afraid I spent a couple of days sulking, I mean readjusting to present location. But I did have a good idea while I was gone, about organizing and strengthening the argument in that piece, so today, I promise, I am going to see how that works. I'd like to think of what I do today (and maybe tomorrow) as just playing around, writing little bits, moving little bits, getting set up for more serious work next week.

My optimal writing time is between 6-8 a.m. in my study before I tackle breakfast for 4 cats, but that's if I actually am up that early. If I'm not, for some reason it's very hard to settle down later on, even if I don't have other commitments. If I do get something done early, it's easier to do even more later. I don't really understand this, but writing later in the day is something I need to work on. At least on days I know I won't be up early because of social commitments the night before, I think I need to make myself an appointment at a coffee shop or something like that. It would be nice if I could post to that effect on my own blog and get someone in the group to check on me in comments, later.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Dame Eleanor,

I'm a morning writer myself. The trick is to respect when you do your best work (I have a colleague who's at his creative best at 2-4 in the afternoon, which is when I'm good for nothing but napping).

However, many morning writers also get a strange second wind late at night -- sometime after 9 or 10 p.m. So my advice would be to drag your butt out of bed at the time you know you can write, but if you miss it one day, see if late evening works for you.

Kim said...

I'm here! This week, I ordered and read "Writing your Journal Article in 12 Weeks." I cleaned my home office (pretty terrible with end of semester work everywhere and a home improvement project underway), and wrote out my writing schedule. I also arranged a summer program for my daughter, which will leave me with 2 hours in the mornings to work, for four weeks, beginning in week four. I am a morning writer, so this helps me out.

My main problem to writing is the internet and people like ADM and Notorious, who write such awesome blogs, that I spend too much time reading other people's words. So, to combat this, I will be reading blogs at night, after daughter is sleeping, so that I can start fresh in the morning!

QueSera said...

I am afraid that I have been a casualty of the backlog from other due projects. I'm waiting to get the final ok to upload my dissertation and in the meantime feel like I can't leave it (just one more read through, check footnotes one last time, etc.).

I did review the submission guidelines for the article I'm submitting and pitched my new article idea to the journal and got the go ahead to write and submit.

I got a little discouraged when I realized how long 10,000 words really is...though I do already have 5,500 on this episode in the dissertation (that will likely be completely changed, but I'm not starting from scratch).

I don't know much about writing an article. Perhaps I need to read the book Matilda is reading? Or does anyone have suggestions about successfully taking ideas/themes from the dissertation and writing an article? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I'm a morning writer. I'm going to try to write 300 words a day next week since I know that more is unlikely with the research I need to do.

For next week: I need to go through the primary sources again and possibly find newspaper accounts to see where I want to/can go with the revisions.

NWGirl said...

I managed to accomplish a good deal this week despite having to go to campus one day. Like Matilda, I'm using WJA. I'm on chapter six, working on the structure. I think I've figured out the gaps and what I need to do. I'm planning to have one section completed by next week.

When I was working on my dissertation, I wrote early in the morning, as early as 5 or 6 am, so I could get in a full writing session before going to work. That generally continued after I defended. Over the last few weeks, however, I've had to adjust my writing schedule somewhat. We adopted another rescue dog. He's a young dog, not to mention a notoriously high-energy breed. So every morning, I take him for a long walk right after he has his breakfast. When we get home, he settles down and sleeps in my office for a couple of hours while I get some serious work done. I've found that the pre-writing walk helps me get moving mentally as well as physically.

And I'm one of those morning writers who gets a second wind in the evening. Now that I think about it, it usually happens after we return from our evening walk with the dog! I must be making a mental connection between walking and writing that carries into the evening.

Thanks Notorious and ADM for hosting this group!

Ro said...

Getting started seems a universal challenge. My strategy has been to get a good space ready, set a daily writing schedule (right now a promise, not quite kept, of 3 hrs per day, ideally in the a.m.), and esp. to do a preliminary outline as my very first step, even if I'm not sure yet where the project's headed or what I want it to look like. The outline always gets reinvented along the way, but also provides a way to break the (overwhelming) bigger project into smaller bits to focus on.

The key for me is trusting that it will indeed come together (talking out early ideas with a close academic friend or two helps a lot here) and also setting a firm date for when to switch from reading and outline revision to writing itself. (Yes, I'm telling myself to do this as I type...)

Meanwhile, I've cleared my desk of *everything* and also set up a separate browser with zero bookmarks (or close to it... I have a few reference tools ready for research, but none of the social networking bookmarks or tabs are waving at me.)

Plan for this next week: continue my readings, revise my writing outline, switch from one to the other in 10 days or less, ideally by next weekend.

@Sara I know what you mean about that period of waiting for feedback. I think having one's own break from looking at a completed draft actually really helps - my writing can all start looking the same after a while to me, esp. when I'm plowing through at a fast pace. Maybe send the draft along to another friend or two and have a convo over coffee in the meantime? I've found that talking about the writing can make next steps so much clearer, and in a surprisingly short amount of time.

history said...

Apologies for showing up late: may I still join you? Brand-new Ph.D. (old-ish person, though), hoping to turn a chapter from the dissertation into an article. Copy of WJA on the way.

history said...

sorry; my nom de screen is stupidly enough 'historydoll', but for some reason it's showing up even more stupidly as just 'history'. We may all contain multitudes but I certainly don't contain the entire field!

Dr. Koshary said...

Now I do not feel so alone. :)

I haven't written anything new for my article this week, but I have been doing a little thinking about the material. I realized that some stuff that I thought lay outside the purview of my topic may, in fact, be part of it after all. I scribbled some quick thoughts about this in my field notes, but have not yet expanded them to journal-like style.

I think my goal for next Friday will be to collate all of my bits and bobs on this subject into a single document, and see what it looks like all together. Hopefully, during this coming week, I will also meet for coffee with a colleague with similar interests, and we can trade ideas on our stuff.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Haven't done anything on the Leeds paper but think about it and discuss it -- and how it relates to my horrendously overdue other paper. However, I have gone from nothing to 2300 words on that, and hope to finish all but the polishing today. I think next week may be something of a wash, because at the moment I'm marking essays from 8-5:15 every day through the 8th, and on the 9th will be on a plane to Berks. Then conferencing through the 12th.

So, for next week, my goal is to at least review what I have, write up little chunks in scrivener, then start organizing my list for BL requests.

Travelia said...

I did some good work on the first of my conference papers: did most of the remaining (primary) research and some scattered review of the secondary scholarship. I said that I would finish the revision of my book proposal today, but I didn't quite do that. I started working on it, but still have a ways to go. This revision is very difficult: the proposal is complete, and I know it is strong. However, I also know there are some weaknesses, so I am reluctant to just quit working on it. This document is the type that lends itself to endless tweaking and twiddling. It invites perfectionism.

For next week: I need to do a focused survey of secondary scholarship to reacquaint myself with the key issues. I need to start putting together a draft of the conference paper based on the outline I wrote in May. This paper is related to several earlier projects (some of which stretch back a very loooong time), so I have a lot of material already written but also some new material that needs to be integrated. I hope the paper will be the basis for a longer chapter-length work, so I have to work with that in mind also.

In terms of my writing process I find that I have spent a lot of time fighting with the difference between what actually works for me and my ideal of what an effective writer should be. Unlike so many of you, I am not a morning writer though I have tried numerous times to make myself into one. In the summer I organize my time so that I do reading and research in the mornings, go to the gym and take a break for lunch between 12:00 and 2:00 and then write in the afternoon, usually with the most effective period between about 4:00 and 7:00. I do not write at night unless I have an immediate deadline. As I get further into a project I will revise and edit in the mornings and still work on producing new material in the afternoon.

I also don't find it very productive to count words; rather, I like to divide my drafts into conceptually based sections--often fairly fine-grained--and then set goals based on completing each of those. For example: by the end of Thursday, expand reading of poem 1 and write a paragraph that introduces poem 2 in the context of argument X.

This is all to say that the best thing to do is to recognize one's strengths and weaknesses and, to the extent possible, arrange one's schedule to maximize the former and minimize the latter.

Eileen said...

Does it count as procrastinating if you procrastinate by reading material related to the project? Because that's where I'm at. I went back to check some of my theoretical background, decided I no longer agreed with what I thought I agreed with, and got bogged down in trying to find where I fit. I think I'm also too intimidated by the scope of a chapter--I've written articles and conference papers before, but I've never written a chapter for my diss.

For writing process, I usually spend a lot of time gathering scraps of paragraphs from grant proposals and conference papers, arranging them with primary source quotes or notes before writing anything new. Dumping a lot of text into a blank document, even if it'll get taken out later, makes it easier for me to start writing than staring at a blank page.

I'm not a morning person, so I usually do my rearranging and fact checking first thing in the morning after my partner goes to work, take a long lunch, and then jump into writing in the early afternoon until dinner time.

Scatterwriter said...

Well, let's see. I'm also getting off to a late start. For one thing, I've been helping to conduct interviews for the past week (over now). For another, I'm past deadline for ordering books for a fall course that I'm rethinking, so I've also been trying to review possible texts for that. A new text I was reading for my course turned out to be useful for my other project (my book manuscript), so I also stopped to take notes on that. Needless to say, I still haven't ordered my books.

At least I have found the most recent iteration of my article manuscript. It's 18,276 words. Between now and next week, I want to identify the threads in my new material and see where I can use them to support what I already have. I'll probably need to significantly reorganize (if not cut) much of what I've already written.

One of my problems is that I've been using Zotero to take notes on my new sources. Unless I'm fundamentally misunderstanding something about Zotero, I can't review this material without going online, and going online is a big procrastination trigger for me.

I've also been trying to work both at home and in my office. I think I need to choose one place and make it my dedicated work space.

I don't think I ever mentioned that I am an art historian.

Kit said...

I find myself at a major crossroads with my dissertation. I thought I solved a huge theoretical pickle, and I sort of did, but I now have to choose whether to write about theory or about text. And the former would put me in another discipline, more or less. This is not a problem, apparently, it's "just" a decision I have to make. I've been grappling with this for a while, and now I'm just procrastinating. It feels kind of ridiculous to be at this stage now, especially in this company, but I suppose now rather than later.

So, for next week my goal is to have made a decision on the direction, and to to have a (very basic) outline for the chapter I'm to write and the necessary literature at hand.

I write best in the morning, in spite of not really being a morning person - I just like to look up mid-morning or by lunch and realize I'm only halfway through the day. Like Dame Eleanor, I get more done in a day if I get my morning bit in. If I don't, I spend more time beating myself up than doing actual work. I'm also one of those people who write while I read, which means I end up with mass amounts of random fragments, which is not a bad thing. Journalism taught me to surf deadlines like a pro, so this group will be really good for me, I think.

Kit said...

Eileen, I've been procrastinating - if that's what it is - in exactly the same way. It feels useful, and I'm sure it is, but it's now so obvious avoidance of the work I mentioned above that I can't even fool myself.

Digger said...

I'll post my update shortly... but Scatterwriter: I use Mendeley, which I understand is a lot like Zotero, and allows you to access your bibliography and notes from any internet connection BUT also runs on your machine, so you don't need the 'net to get your notes/stuff.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I totally agree with Travelia about this: "recognize one's strengths and weaknesses and, to the extent possible, arrange one's schedule to maximize the former and minimize the latter."

Eileen, a chapter is like an article. Or you could think of it as a series of 3-4 conference papers. That is a trick I use to break down larger projects. It's not a perfect analogy, of course, because every conference paper needs an introduction whereas the chapter only needs a single introduction (etc), but it helps quite a bit.

I've also found some good breaking-it-down strategies at this blog:

Scatterwriter said...

Thanks for the tip about Mendeley, Digger! I'll look into that.

Zabeel said...

Well, I've made a start. Basically, I'm coming back to some preliminary work I did 6 weeks or so ago, so I spent most of the week reminding myself of what I have, what I need to do, and how I'm going to do it. An "organisational" week, then. The article is my second priority at the moment, but I hope to get my first priority piece (a book proposal) finished early next week, and then progress should be faster.

Goal for next week is to continue collating my source material and working my way through the secondary literature.

I work sloooowly, and it's taken me a while to come too terms with this. I need a lot of time to write, and I need to waste a bit of time first while I collect my thoughts. I work best when I have long periods of time that I can devote to a single project. If I have lots of little things to do with shorter deadlines, they always distract me from my writing. If I'm honest with myself, I also do my best writing on days when I get up early. For me, though, the most important factor is habitual writing. If I spend a period without doing any writing at all, my prose becomes very clumsy.

Anonymous said...

My goal of two articles is for the end of September - and neither of them are completely from scratch. Still being a bit ambitious, I know.

Especially when nothing much was accomplished this week - down in the Southern Hemisphere, semester has just come to a close, and I'm marking essays - or trying to avoid doing so.

My biggest block to writing is the internet though - and it's not even as if I'm doing anything useful there. So, once I have read through all the comments here, I am going to disconnect, and get on with work!

Thanks for this opportunity!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and! Goal for next week is to have a draft of the Leeds paper, so that I can get all my powerpoints in order before we leave.

I don't have powerpoint on my netbook, and it's really expensive to buy! (Anyone know any freeware which works in much the same way?)

I think I write best in the morning, but it's been so long since I've been in any sort of habit about it that I don't really know. Will make an effort to clear out my office, because sitting in the lounge, looking out the window, with the cat on my legs, does not really inspire work.

thefrogprincess said...

So my goal is to produce a review-ready (and potentially final) dissertation draft, with a midway goal of finishing the first version of the draft--a job that involves finishing up one chapter and writing the introduction.

The chapter that needs finishing is a bit of an anomaly. It's the first chapter I wrote a year and a half ago (but the last one in the dissertation), and I wrote it to stand alone, followed by another chapter dealing with another aspect of the main event that the two chapters were dealing with. In the eighteen months since, the dissertation's structure has changed a bit but the initial chapter has also been polished. It was my writing sample for a while, and I presented it at a conference. So now I'm trying to tack a back end--what would have been the second chapter on the topic--onto a chapter that's pretty perfect in its scope and argument. (There are things to be done with it to be sure, but it's a nice, decently written, well-argued and researched self-contained unit.) I'm finding it hard to motivate myself to write this back section, which is only being added b/c the material ties in to another chapter. I also don't want to spend weeks reading up on and writing something so relatively minor in the scheme of things. So I'm trying to figure out the most efficient way of getting through this material and turning it into prose.


What I've done this week: I finished a cursory rewrite of the original chapter, something I do to figure out where I need to do more work. I've also begun to do some reading in this new area. Finally, I did some secondary lit reading for the introduction and, in the past two days, wrote a decent chunk of one section. In terms of words (something I mark in case I get more hassle from the advisor and for my own records but that isn't really indicative of progress per se with all the rewriting and editing I do), I banged out 3800 words, but that includes retyping with minor edits and inserts already written material. In terms of "new content," it was about 1200 words.

What I intend to do next week: optimistically, I'd like to do the bulk of this back section, which I'm now viewing as an extended epilogue, and continue working on chunks of the introduction.

My writing habits: I'm not a morning person, let alone a morning writer. It's not uncommon that I'm not out of bed before noon, and it's rare that I'm asleep before 2 AM. Things aren't helped by the fact that the new kitten I got a few weeks ago wakes me up mewling for food a few hours after I've gone to sleep, throwing me off completely. That said, I am generally pretty productive late afternoon, early evening. If I'm working in the office I have access to this summer, I can go until 9 or 10. If I'm working at home, I tend to go until 6 or 7, but I would have started earlier. I generally do some combination of both in any given week, depending on whether the roomie and I are tiring of each other, where my materials are, or just a change of pace. I'd like to move my timetable up a bit and at least be up and about in the late morning, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope.

Thanks for hosting, notorious!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Zcat: you can use a series of linked webpages (which don't have to be on the web, just on your machine or memory stick), using any WYSIWYG editor. Open a page, put in a table, cut & paste pictures/text in the column or row where you want it, save the page with a name, put in a link to the next named page. This is easier than I'm probably making it sound. Seriously, it's a piece of cake; everything you need is on the drop-down menus, as long as you don't want the flashy whiz-bang PP stuff like text scooting in from the side (which is way distracting for some of us).

The main trick is that the links have to be to the physical location (machine or stick) you'll be using for the presentation. That is, if you make the links to your C drive & then simply copy the presentation to a memory stick, it won't run from there in a different machine, because it will look for the links on the C drive of the machine you're using. To run the presentation from a memory stick, you have to change the links to that physical location. I learned that the hard way.

What Now? said...

I'm still finishing up grading those final exam blue books, so my "real summer" begins next week. But in the meantime I've been getting myself warmed up and reacquainted with the project, which has been tucked away since spring break. One of my summer goals is to write a book proposal for a book I'm still in the midst of writing, so I spent time this week figuring out just what a book proposal looks like. Book proposals require a couple of sample chapters, so I decided which two I was going to use ... and one of them is not yet written! (although I do have pages and pages of notes for it.) So I started reading and taking notes on an important book for that chapter (a book I've been putting off reading for quite some time). I also partnered up with a colleague at school who is working on an article this summer; we're going to meet once a week to read each other's work, which should be very helpful. So no actual new words written, but lots of setting the stage for beginning to write new words next week.

My goals for next week, besides finishing up the school year, are 1) to finish reading and taking notes on that book I started this week; 2) to review all of my notes for this chapter and rough out an outline (I never do more than a rough outline, which I usually immediately start undermining as soon as I begin to write); and 3) to start jotting down notes for the sections of the book proposal and see exactly what the work on that is going to look like. Plus a fourth goal of clearing off my desk in the study, which I'm afraid became something of a dumping ground this spring -- and yes, that's quite the metaphor for how my writing gets treated during the school year!

This is fun -- it's great to know that all of these folks are out there writing on the same summer schedule!

Digger said...

I didn't get nearly as much done as I'd hoped, which is normal for me. I made it through most of my sources to make sure I'd pulled all the data I needed, and set aside some stuff for other chapters that will help fill them out.

I did get a lot of *other* stuff done, writing-wise, just not towards my goal.

For next week: I want to have finished the data database for dating Wheels and have incorporated all that info into the text.

My writing schedule: I wish I had time management skills and persistence to write my own stuff each and every day. I think it would serve me well (in part because I'm learning that I think best about something when I'm writing about something, but also because I'd actually get stuff done). I'm hoping that once I start my graduate work that my schedule will settle down a bit and I can work on that! I seem to work best beginning in the mid-afternoon and into the late night (through 11pmish). I've spent days where I've fussed and fretted all morning about not writing, and just not being able to focus, and then mid-pm, bang, I'm focused, and writing.

I have also learned that I am just not as productive working at home as I am working in a coffee shop.

Gillian said...

I can't see my name on the attendance record - I feel very undergraduate - did I miss out a meeting or not put my name down in the right place or not give enough details about what I'm working on (a possible book chapter)? Like some others, I'm slow this week. I have a complete outline of my piece and I have isolated the key issues, but the complete set of notes from my chief sources didn't get done. Instead, I'll add them to next week's stack (next week is not as plagued by meetings). I made significant advances on my Leeds paper, which wasn't my target but which has to get done, and I did dissertation work, so it wasn't a wasted week by any means, just not one where I did the work that I had intended to do. Since I have to get a complete draft of my chapter done before I leave for Leeds (I'll be away a month and it's due 2 weeks after I get back) I rather suspect I shall be doing a lot more of it this week.

My writing routine is less a routine and more a roller-coaster ride. I tend to work on several projects at once and I like working to deadlines. when there are likely to be pressures (too much to do, too little time) I triage. When there are no pressures, I tend to write novels. If I'm having trouble getting word counts to where they need to be, I'll set up a little counter, but mostly I work solidly through the research and then think it through and structure it in my mind and then revisit research where I have to (which is where I'm up with this piece - I did the research a long while ago, so I need to take notes again, but it ought to be only a few days work) and then I write. After that I let things sit for as long as I reasonably can (between an hour and four years - depends on what I'm writing), and I revise it before sending it.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Should point out Gillian is working on her second PhD, I think, and has a bunch of published fiction -- she's not kidding when she says she writes novels!

Gillian said...

I keep wanting to apologise for the fiction... but yes, it's my second PhD. My first was in Medieval Studies (which explains Leeds). The chapter I'm working on this month is hopefully about Neil Gaiman's fiction, so *not* my Medieval self.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I'd like to break in with some feedback – some responding to individual comments, but in a general way, so don't feel left out if I don't mention you by name. I really am reading all of your comments, even from Blargistan. I'll probably have to break this up into three separate comments so Blogger doesn't eat it.

I'm glad that so many people are finding WYJA so useful. Such a highly structured approach is too constraining for some. Then again, if you didn't need structure, you probably wouldn't have signed up for an online writing group, right? If enough people like it, we could think about using it as a textbook or template for next session (and yes, I'll actually be writing something then, though not nearly as ambitious during the semester as these summer projects y'all are taking on!)

To Kim and other internet addicts: What I did when I was successfully writing every day was this: Before bed the night before, I'd lay out my writing project, then the last thing I'd do before shutting down the computer was to turn off the wireless finder. My reward for finishing was that I got to turn it back on, but not a moment before. Ro's stripped-down-browser approach can work as well, though you have to have at least a modicum of self-control for that, and I just don't. There's also a couple of temporary blocker downloads (free or very nearly) that either block your access during certain hours of the day, or limit you to certain sites. I'll have to look those up for the group.

Part 2 follows...

Notorious Ph.D. said...


If you're in a reading phase (or document transcriptions), and still want to get into the habit of daily writing, I'd recommend freewriting what you've read, and the ideas it's generating. Last summer, I was transcribing documents. I'd do three, then tell myself that I needed to write 500 words summarizing what I read and my thoughts on what it might mean, or ideas for things that I needed to research further to really understand what my documents were telling me. At first, it felt a little like cheating to count those as words towards my daily goal… then I had to write a paper last semester, and I found that those random musings got me the first draft of two-thirds of that paper, almost without effort.

Travelia's "conceptual chunks" is another approach to daily goals, if time or word count aren't appropriate to your project or writing style. This approach works especially well with a detailed writing outline, because you can get the satisfying feeling that comes with being able to scratch off one line at a time from that outline.

Scatterwriter: Zotero lives on your hard drive – at least, it does on mine. You may just have your configurations set up strangely. Or, if you're taking notes from multiple computers, you may just have it set up to all be stored in the cloud. I'd recommend checking your configurations.

part 3 =>

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Kit, while you're deciding, why not try freewriting both ideas, a day for each? What do you know about each, right now? What kind of argument do you think you could make? What more research would you need to do so? How would each affect the organization or direction of the project as a whole? Write your way into this idea.

I like zabeel's point: "For me, though, the most important factor is habitual writing. If I spend a period without doing any writing at all, my prose becomes very clumsy." Sing it, sister.

Gillian – the project sounds interesting! I may have missed you on the first go-round. I have only about half an hour of internet access a day, and several time zones off from my stateside home, so if I missed you, it wasn't intentional.

And finally, a shout-out to Digger (and other like-minded folk): I am TOTALLY a coffee shop worker. With earplugs.

Firstmute said...

This was a tricky week--we had house guests through Monday, and now we're traveling. (I'm actually writing this on my phone wearing a very heavy sleeping 11 month old, who is NOT a good traveler.) So, not too much writing. I took some notes and did some reading but don't have too much to report on the chapter, although I did send off an article.

My plan for next week is to write 3,000 words of a zero draft by Friday.

Jeff said...

Sorry to miss the check-in yesterday. This week I've been working on the biggest outstanding technical problem in my project. (The project is on the philosophy of space and time, and this means there's some math/physics-y claims that I have to work out.) This is the kind of thing where it's always hardest to judge how much progress I'm making. I think that this week I hit on the main idea that will finally make this part of the dissertation run smoothly—but I've thought that before.

My goal for next Friday is to finish proving the representation theorem I need, and write up a hasty first-pass explanation for my chapter. (I'm also going on a family vacation next week, though, so I'm not sure how much work time I'll have, realistically.)

My wife and I are spending a lot of time with our families this summer, which means that we've had to work out new working patterns. (She's also an academic.) This has meant a lot of Starbucks time---because there's one wherever we go, promising power outlets and wifi. So far this has worked out pretty well.

Jen said...

Apologies for the late check-in. Reading all of the previous comments has been so encouraging! Thank you all for all of the good advice. This past week got away from me. I'm having trouble establishing a summer routine. I always seem to fall into a bit of an early summer rut. So, my most important goal for this week is to settle into a schedule. So far, I have organized a lot of piles into more manageable chunks, but did not manage to follow this step with any writing.

Writing in the morning works well for me, but I've been falling into the internet trap. Starting today, I am going to turn off the internet before I go to bed and leave the Scrivener draft of my article waiting for me on the screen so it is the first thing I see in the morning. Thank you Notorious for this brilliant piece of advice! I am also going to schedule a coffee shop day on Friday as a treat if (and only if) I manage to stay on track.

@Eileen-I have the same problem with procrastinating by reading and then looking for more and more things to read. Even though I feel like I know where my argument fits, I can't seem to convince myself that I have control over the literature. I suspect this is a skill that gets easier with time. At least I hope it is! @Dame Eleanor-That is great advice! Thank you. Visualizing an article as a series of smaller conference papers is really helpful!

Happy writing everyone!

Erika said...

I'm irked that missed checking in yesterday. This first week, I wrote very little (c. 500 words) on Article project, but I have been finishing departmental assessments, prepping the readings for a weeklong course, and I am finishing a review that's due in 2 weeks. I DID complete the zero draft of my review and am beginning revisions on it. My article requires me to do a lot of reading in cognate literature trying to figure out where my argument fits in the greater field, so I've been at working reading 1-2 articles and 1-2 primary sources per day this past week. Like Notorious, I love the strategy of writing some set chunk of text in response to my daily reading, and find that material appears as if ex nihilo when I get down to seriously drafting.

Susan said...

A very late check-in. I didn't have ambitious goals this week, as I was crossing the Atlantic, dealing with jet-lag, and generally getting settled in my current place. But I have now (as of late Saturday here) finished what I wanted to do this week -- delayed by various kinds of computer trouble. Also, I had a couple of meetings I had to attend by phone.

What I have done is go through the draft of the first chapter I'm working on, and make notes on the books I need to look at and where I need to add things/ reorganize or polish the argument. This chapter feels fairly doable -- it was fairly polished, and I know hte material. But I have to go back over some of the sources, and read some things I have never read. It's kind of odd trying to finish work someone else started.

For next week, I hope to get through most of hte reading I need to do, so that the following week I can finish up writing. Then I'll move to the second chapter, which is much more of a mess.

I appreciate checking in: it makes me feel more accountable!

zcat_abroad said...

Thanks @Dame Eleanor! I'll play with a WYSIWYG editor or two, and see if I can work it. Must admit that it sounds like a good distraction - so will have to limit my time on it!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hello, everyone!

I'm about to leave for another town on my research trip, and don't know what my internet connection will be like for the next week or so. But I did want to congratulate everyone on checking in, and especially on commenting on each others' comments. This is what a writing group is about, after all.

I also wanted to comment on something Jen said:

"I always seem to fall into a bit of an early summer rut. So, my most important goal for this week is to settle into a schedule. So far, I have organized a lot of piles into more manageable chunks, but did not manage to follow this step with any writing."

As much as I want to emphasize daily writing, what's Jen's reporting here is indeed forward motion. It's an essential step in the process, one that WYJA emphasizes for its week one: getting mentally prepared to write. This includes organizing your writing space (at home or elsewhere), collecting your materials, and plotting out a course. This can take a full week, so if that's "all" you've managed to do, but you did get that part completed, then you've done fine. By Monday, you should be chugging away, having prepared the ground for yourself.

See you all at ADM's place next Friday!

Eileen said...

Thanks Dame Eleanor (and everyone else) for helping me conceptualize the chapter (and for the link)! What I'm finding to be my biggest block, even though I think I have pretty good writing habits, is making the leap from seminar paper to chapter because I've built it up to be so different in my mind.

opsimathphd said...

Trying to catch up. I want to turn the dissertation chapter that everyone was most interested in into a journal article, targeted to a specific journal (though I do have a second choice in mind).

I have worked my way through part of week one of WJA. My goal for this week is to finish that chapter and try to get through chapter 2, as well as to
wind up with both a sense of what my target journal wants, and a sense of what my overall approach will be.

I agree on the daily writing and on the morning schedule. I have the incredible luck of having no other real obligations this summer, unlike many of you; my internal obstacles, though, are pretty mammoth.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of the software solutions I have found for the internal obstacles, though many of them are Mac only, I'm afraid.

There is a program for the Mac called Self-Control, which shuts off Internet access for a period of time you specify; it has the great advantage of allowing you to whitelist certain sites, which means you can still do research but not be exposed to other temptations; it's free. (There's no exact analog for the PC, though someone suggested this:, also free.)

There is also a cross-platform application called Freedom which simply shuts off Internet access altogether.

What's worked well for me in the past, similar to the idea of shutting down the router before you go to bed, is to set SelfControl to trigger automatically at the time in the morning when I want to get started, so that I am not exposed to temptation at all. I will start doing that again this week.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the specifics, historydoll! I'll make sure to include them as part of the main post when we're back at my place in a couple of weeks.

MsMcD said...

Sorry for the very, very late check-in. I've been on a family vacation (between the end of one semester, and the beginning of summer sessions).

I have also had an organizational week. Mostly clearing my desk and setting aside writing times and goals. This is further complicated because I'm a morning writer but am teaching an 8-10am class Monday through Thursday for the month of June. Because of my commute, I'll need to work in the afternoons- we'll see how that works out.

Otherwise, I'm picking up WJA where I left off last time (mid-way through chapter 4), and am slowly trying to work my way through it. This week I chose the journal I want to submit to, and read some past issues, and wrote an inquiry letter to the editor. That was actually very nerve-wracking, I've never done that before.

My goal for the upcoming week is to stay on target. Although I'm heading to Berks on Thursday, I'm hoping that I can get through week 5 in WJA which is mostly related to the literature. Since my article is related to some of the talks at Berks (it's on sexuality in Colonial America) I'm hoping that the conversations will help me clarify my ideas.

Thanks for the added structure!

Cly said...

I put a request to join in on ADM's page, but figured I should do the same here. I am a post-doc medievalist who is currently rather scattered research-wise (i.e. too many research projects to focus on any one). That having been said, I'm hoping to focus a bit over the summer. The projects that have priority currently are article revisions and trying to come up with something sensible to say at Leeds.

No worries if I'm too late.

Su Real Alteza said...

Su Real Alteza here, exercising her royal prerogative to be late, late, late. You see, I was busy writing and got lost in a bathtub of words. 1809 on one day, 2205 on another. Now, many of these words were pillaged from an article I wrote on queens but the words were so good, so appropriate to the task (textbook on medieval queens) that it would have been foolish to reinvent the text. But there were a few new ones in there, too, and as a Queen, I reserve the right to pillage with impunity.

Next week, New Words will prevail.