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5 Ways to Start Writing by Charlotte Frost
By the Next 28 Days: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenext28days/
By the Next 28 Days: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenext28days/

By the Next 28 Days: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenext28days/

  1. The relevant quote. Pick up a text that relates to what you’re writing. If you’ve already read this text and have perhaps highlighted useful sections, pick a quotation and write it into your blank document. If you haven’t read the text, do a scan of a few pages looking for the most relevant part and again copy a quotation into your document. Now below the quote, explain what the author is saying, but in your own words. Now take a position, do you agree or disagree, or do you think there are both strengths and weaknesses to this point? Whatever your stance explain it under the text you’ve just written. Now you can either delete the quote (and reference the idea), or move it down so that it directly illustrates your interpretation of the point you just made.
  2. The therapist. A while back I wrote about using 750Words as my writing therapist but you can actually use this approach with many a writing platform. The trick is to ask yourself a set of questions and answer them. Try starting something like this:

Me 1: Hi Charlotte, what do you think you should be writing today?

Me 2: Duh! My book!

Me 1: OK so which bit exactly?

Me 2: The last chapter, the one where I try to frame the different approaches to writing about art online.

Me 1: What is the ultimate point you are trying to make with this chapter?

Me 2: That there are ways of responding to art online that change what we think of as ‘art criticism’.

Me 1: Er, doesn’t that sound like a good starting sentence?

Now delete everything but that good starting sentence and carry on from there. If you get stuck, just ask yourself what’s going on again.

3. The route map. A little like ‘the therapist’, this technique is all about writing down your route before you set off. Think about what you need to do next in your writing project. What section do you need to write? What points do you need to make in that section? What point should come first? Write a few sentences to explain this all to yourself. For example: ‘next I need to explain how some art critics see no difference between writing for a newspaper or a blog. I should offer some examples – maybe three or four….’ Now you know where you need to go, you can assess how much time it will take to get there and set off on the first leg of the tour.

4. The thief. This is not where I condone plagiarism! But we can learn a whole lot from each other on how to do things. Choose a book or article that you like. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with what you are writing, it just has to be something that resonates with you. Look at the first few pages and analyse what the writer has done. For example, if you’re trying to write the start of something, ask yourself ‘how did they begin?’ Did they use a quotation or statistic? If you’re deeper inside a piece of written work, look at how they presented an idea. How many paragraphs did they use, how did they transition between paragraphs. Go back to what you’re working on and see if you can apply some of the same structure of logic.

5. The what’s worse than this. This trick is all about offsetting. Ever noticed how easy it is to fill out a dreaded grant application when your journal article is the worse task of the two? Well now you need to work that in reverse. What’s worse than writing whatever it is you need to write? How about grading students work? Cleaning the bathroom? Find something worse – you might even make a list of things you need to do an prominently include the worse tasks. Now  notice how much more energy you have knowing your not doing any of that!

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #55 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Dip into your networks. Whether or not you are participating in Academic Writing Month, it is a good reminder of the value of networks and communities. Many people cringe at the word “network” because it evokes ideas of being overtly self-promoting to strangers in rather shallow ways…a leftover connotation of the corporate world. AcWriMo is a way to celebrate the vast networks of scholars, researchers, and writers working around the world. Whether you connect through social media or face-to-face, take the opportunity to get encouragement and support from like-minded folk. One of the striking things is that when you offer encouragement to people in your networks, it often comes back to you twofold.

 

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #54 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)tl;dr. You may be familiar with this acronym, which is an abbreviation for “too long; didn’t read.” We’ve been critiqued for being a short attention-span culture, scrolling down the page of an online article and unwilling to commit to a lengthy piece of writing. Consider going for the long read, because most academics are committed to the long write, right? Not only is there much to be gained from deep reading, but you can also see ways to sustain (or lose) your readers’ interest based on your own willingness to keep reading.

 

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #53 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Do some warm ups! Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) begins 1 November, and there is no time like the present to start considering your goals. As our own Charlotte Frost wrote recently, you can set goals for word counts, time committed, or pages completed–whatever works best for you. Trying out different kinds of goals can help you decide what method will be most useful for AcWriMo and help you prepare to set goals for our big thirty-day commitment.

 

Announcing Academic Writing Month 2014

acwrimo1-01It’s back! Academic Writing Month 2014 starts 1st November!

If you’ve taken part before, you know the drill: get your reading done now, stock up on your favourite coffee [insert other productivity enhancement products here] and cancel what you can, because November means ‘write like there’s no December!’

 If you’re new to AcWriMo here’s the deal:

Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo for short) is a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November, it’s inspired by the amazing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but caters to the specific needs of academic writers at all stages of their career (from undergrads to the most distinguished of professors).

It’s hosted by the online resource, PhD2Published, and throughout the month we provide dedicated posts about academic writing and share literally thousands of tips via Twitter.

The idea is that you set yourself a writerly goal and get stuck in with all the information, advice and support you’ll get from others taking part. The month helps us:

  • Think about how we write,
  • Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,
  • Build better habits for the future,
  • And maybe – just maybe – get more done in less time!

And if you can get a lot done in November – a busy time for us academics all over – think how easy it’ll be to get writing done the rest of the year!

So here’s how you get involved….

There are 6 basic rules:

1. Decide on your goal. You might count words, hours put in or projects achieved – it’s up to you. But try and push yourself a bit.

2. Declare it! Sign up on the AcWriMo 2014 Writing Accountability Spreadsheet and fill in the sections on what you’d like to achieve and keep us updated on your progress. Being accountable is key to this working for you. You need to feel a bit of pressure to get the work done.

3. Draft a strategy. Don’t start AcWriMo without doing a bit of planning and preparation. Get some reading done, carve out time slots in your schedule to dedicate to writing, even buy your favourite coffee. Sort out whatever you’ll need to write, and get it done now, there won’t be time when November comes around.

4. Discuss your progress. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is really important! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? Do you need help? Do you want to share a writing triumph? (You’ll find most discussion about AcWriMo on Twitter using the #AcWriMo hashtag, but if Facebook is more your thing, go there. Or use your own blog to keep in touch. You can even write little updates you want to share in the spreadsheet.)

5. Don’t slack off. If you push yourself, you’ll quickly discover the tips and techniques that work best for YOU and that’ll save you even more time in the long-run.

6. Declare your results. It’s great to use the spreadsheet everyday (or as often as you can) to chart how you’re getting on, but even if you can’t do that, you MUST announce your results at the end of the month. Our writing community benefits not only from sharing in your achievements, but knowing what didn’t work and being reminded that, at the end of the day, we’re all human!

We will have a team of AcWriMo Ambassadors supporting you at every. And if you have time, blog posts are a great way to reflect on your writing strategies with your peers (we always gather all the posts created during AcWriMo season here)

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #50 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Read before you write, part II. It can be helpful to revisit your notes from previous reading before you sit down to start writing, especially if you are working on a literature review or applying theory in a particular context. At times, re-reading the same chapter from a beloved theorist doesn’t provide an adequate starting point or inspiration. Struggling to get started? Take ten minutes and read something dramatically different from what you’re writing. A romance novel, some poetry, a graphic novel…all use different kinds of language to different ends, and may open a new path for you to consider.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #49 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Read before you write, Part I. One of my mentors once told his students to read the scholars whose work we most like, and read as much of their work as possible. Read widely and deeply. Read for both theory and style. Determine if your favorite scholars are those whose writing you would want to emulate. If so, figure out why. What are those authors doing well in their writing that draws you to it and draws you back again? At the same time that you are learning what you want to emulate in those writers, you’ll learn their foibles and not let them trip you up in the same way. Next week: a different spin on reading before you write.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #47 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Top Tip: Meet deadlines. Once I was working on a submission in response to a call for chapters for a book. I did not make time adequately and got behind on my writing schedule. I had to finish the last section and conclusion when the deadline came. I wrote to the editor and asked for a few more days. He replied that no one had met the deadline, and he did not want to work with a group of authors who clearly didn’t have a vested interest in the project. The book was abandoned.

Editors are certainly pleased by responsive authors, and your ability to meet a deadline makes the process move not only more efficiently but also on time. You can only enhance your reputation and network by completing your work on time.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #45 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Find friends from other disciplines. Switching from one discipline to another or doing interdisciplinary research can be a challenge, especially as methods change from one discipline to another.  Yet working with a colleague or friends from another discipline can bring a fresh perspective to your research. Some patience may be required to find a common lexicon, but it is likely that there is more common ground that we might expect from one discipline to another. Should a project idea develop that you can work on together, each of you can be first author for the work in your own discipline. More collaboration, less competition.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #44 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Take stock of what works. Much of the conversation about academic writing and publishing focuses on how to improve processes and be more productive. Many scholars are in the midst of transitioning back from summer break, and the demands on your time will change as the daily routine changes. Consider the good writing and research habits you developed over the summer. Are there routines or habits that you can carry forward into the fall? What can you modify to maintain some semblance of writing in your everyday practices?

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #43 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Walk with a light step. Maybe you’ve had a particularly vexing time with revisions. Or a computer error that resulted in a corrupted file. Or you just haven’t been able to meet those perhaps overly ambitious summer writing goals. You don’t need to make excuses for goals that are only in your head. If you’re accountable to a writing group or partner, chances are there won’t be any serious punitive measures. So don’t be unkind to yourself. If you’re gearing up for the Fall semester, think about how you’ll answer the inevitable question: How was your summer? Prepare an answer that demonstrates your satisfaction with something you did accomplish. A former boss used to describe demanding tasks as “good hard work.” What good hard work did you muddle through? And can you walk away from it with a lighter step?

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #42 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. In many ways, a successful academic career bears some similarities to owning your own business. While there are some disadvantages, focus instead of the benefits to your time as a writer and researcher. You can often select your own projects, set your own hours, create your agenda, and organize your plans. If you think of yourself as an entrepreneur, what might you do differently? Would you write out short term and long term “corporate” goals? Would you look at the trends in your field to see what new research is being published? Would you develop the equivalent of an advertising plan to make sure your “business” is getting the recognition it deserves? What incentives might you use to inspire and motivate your best employee…yourself?

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #41 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Consider switching your schedule. If you feel unfocused or worn out when it comes time to sit down and write, it may be an opportunity to rethink your working schedule. As a undergraduate, I did most of my writing in the afternoon. I wrote my dissertation primarily in the evening. When I started teaching full time, I struggled with writing in the evening. I considered dozens of possible reasons that I couldn’t seem to get any work done until I thought that maybe I was just too tired by the end of the day. If your schedule permits, think about blocking time to write at a different point in the day and see if it changes your productivity.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #40 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Get good rest. Discussions about the importance of being well rested are abundant. An adequate amount of sleep means you can think more clearly, process and retain information more effectively, lower your stress level, and, some say, even lose weight. Being well rested here refers not only to having enough sleep but to having your mind at rest. Whether you are anxious about the quality of your work (plagued by perfectionism), or distracted by what is going on around you or going in your head, most of us have had the experience of having our attention and energy drained by the inability to put our minds at peace and concentrate on writing and research. Spend some time observing yourself at work and see what changes you can make in order to establish a well-rested mind.

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #39 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)For the next several posts, Weekly Wisdom will be looking at the physiological state of the writer—both literally and metaphorically. The contradictions are deliberate: some days you need to stay hungry, and other days you need to be well fed.

Stay hungry. In his Stanford commencement speech in 2005, Steve Jobs told a story about Stewart Brand and The Whole Earth Catalog. When the final edition of the catalog was published, the back cover featured a photograph of an open country road with the words “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” These were Jobs’ parting words to the students as well. There is much to be said about the value of staying hungry and staying ambitious, and aspiring to always accomplish more. But the first question: For what do you hunger? You may have a list of tasks to accomplish, like a university’s requirements for earning tenure or promotion. But how well do those tasks sync with your own aspirations? Figuring out how to make them match can be a step toward a more fulfilling professional life.