(Or Tips to Thrive During A Love/Hate Relationship: Part 1)
For the last month, I’ve spent many days writing: reports, reviews, term papers. I’m tired of writing! However, after a few days on holiday and some Florida sun, I think it is time to add another blog post. And I’ve decided to write about writing.
Vermeer A Lady Writing a Letter 1665
I enjoy writing. I probably wouldn’t have started a blog unless I did. But I also absolutely detest writing. There is nothing quite like the horror of a blank page. And I am a very slow writer. Filling a page with sentences sometimes feels like using my head to bash a hole through a 3-ft concrete wall.
Or, as Gene Fowler, the American journalist and screenplay writer, noted,
“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Earlier this month, someone asked me about my personal writing method. Here is a short list I compiled about my writing process “Before/During” and “After”* I finish a solid draft (of an academic paper). Perhaps some of these ideas are obvious, but I hope that one or two are useful for you.
- READ, READ, READ–Before I start to write, I always spend a significant time reading about the subject. I read not only to learn/find sources, but also to study writing styles. What words are typically used to describe a phenomena/technique/concept? What clichés should I avoid? What is the tone of a particular journal/field? What are effective transition phrases? Sometimes I use a different highlighter to mark a particular passage or phrase that I enjoyed for its literary value. Later, I review these “good writing-highlights” –what about that phrase did I enjoy? Why did I think that passage effectively summarized an idea?
- Use Thesaurus.com: There are many words/phrases that I use too often-“noted” “moreover” “interest/ed” “theme” “use”. When I am writing a draft, I search through my document to see whether I am using a particular word/phrase in excess (CTRL-F). Sometimes seeing the word/phrase highlighted makes me more aware that I’ve used the word “use” more than three times in one paragraph. Then, I use an online Thesaurus to swap these offenders…perhaps “utilize” instead of “use”. Plus, utilizing an online Thesaurus or Thesaurus app definitely enriches my vocabulary (just don’t go overboard, seriously).
- Try Different Outline Methods: When I write I make a general outline in Word. Then, I fill each section of this outline with all the sources I plan to use and a sentence fragment about each source. After, the general outline is completed, I work section by section. I open a new Word Document and copy/paste a section of the general outline. I keep organizing the source+sentence fragments until the notes are in the order I plan for my draft. Working off this more complete outline, I write a draft version in the initial general outline document. –something like this (completely false sources)
- Save Multiple Versions: Every time I work on a draft, I save a new version (Report 1, Report 1.1, Report 1.2, Report 1.3…). If I make large changes in one version and the next day I decide I like the original better, I have the older draft saved! Sometimes, I return to an early draft just to remind myself about the overall flow of the paper.
- Use a Tool to Manage Bibliographic Data: Zotero, Mendeley, Standalone….definitely worth using one of these programs!!!
Hope these ideas help. *Part II (After Tips) will be online soon.
HAVE A MARVELOUS CHRISTMAS SkOPE READERS.
SEE YOU IN 2016–HAPPY EXPLORING