Crazy months behind my back or how not to write a book chapter…

For the past few months I have been working on a paper for an edited book and now that the final version has been edited and submitted for publication, I feel that I can finally talk about it. Reflecting on past experiences is always nice, it makes my mistakes more visible and is supposed to be a learning experience especially with things I do for the first time.

So my first very own book chapter is based on a piece of research I did a year ago as part of my course. However, I had to go back to my data and reanalyse it to be in the tone of the book so my argument slightly changed as well as the data analysis strategy. As it is starting to become clear, the process of writing was not as easy as I expected and to be honest there was a fair amount of desperation, a feeling of being stuck and some negativity as to why I said I’d do this piece of writing… But hey ho, promises are to be kept and work needs doing especially with deadlines fast approaching. What resulted of my writing in an ‘ups and downs’ fashion was a list of 5 rules. Follow these and I can guarantee your writing will be a mess. And just to clarify, I’m speaking from experience here…

  1. Try not to think about the data in a different way, do the same thing, it worked once so it will work again… I think the biggest challenge I faced was to detach myself from the data and analysis I had previously done in order to begin afresh. This slowed me down and made my writing repetitive and boring. The trick that did the magic was to keep reminding myself of the different focus or argument so I put up some notes on my screen with the title and the main points I was meant to be looking at.  So gradually I shifted to the right frame of mind.
     
  2. Don’t follow the editor’s instructions, you know better! Going back to the initial agreement about the paper structure can be an eye-opener… and time-saviour. Of course, for  me it all flowed from the previous point in the sense that I had a structure in my mind quite in line with the previous write-up and I just thought I’d stick with it because it is familiar and comfortable. It was only when I had most of the writing done that I realised I had to restructure the whole text… If only I had listened before I would have probably saved myself some time and disappointment.
     
  3. Don’t check the drafts before you share them, or do it really quickly and ineffectively… That one is a classic, one of these things that you think happen only to other people and one beautiful day you do it without even realising. Then you make a fool of yourself and wish you’d spent more time and attention on it. My first draft had a repeated direct quote – a note made by the editor. I remember fixing it but I swear the quote haunted me as it reappeared in the final draft. So much for checking your work, just DO IT properly!
     
  4. Don’t take regular breaks, it’s a waste of time! Hours and hours of hard work are an illusion as both motivation and productivity wane down quickly enough… What worked for me? Well, I did a few Pomodoro sessions – writing for 30 minutes followed by a compulsory break and it worked just fine with lots of words on the page.
     
  5. Finally, if none of the above spoiled your work or mood for that matter, my last word of advice would be: Leave everything for the last minute. Pressure will be on and sleepless nights are always productive, aren’t they?
     
    Thoughts?
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