Writing Tips from Someone Who Knows, I Guess

I’ve mentioned before that I’m becoming obsessed with figuring out how to write.  There’s a ton of material on “how to write” (oh, the irony of so much to read when you’re trying to write), and I’ve recently come across a series of articles by Peg Boyle Single on Inside Higher Ed.  She’s in the middle of her series, but here’s what I’ve culled so far:

  • If full-time graduate student, regular writing routine 5-6 days/week; if working full-time, 4 days/week.  That means weekend work.
  • At least 45-minutes to keep momentum going and minimize warm-up time for weekend writing sessions.
  • Start with 20-minute sessions, then increase by 20-minute sessions up to no more than 4 hours of focused writing/day.
  • Why it’s important: “something happens when you engage in a regular writing routine — more than linearly building skills and investing time in writing. Along the way, you develop habits that allow you to see patterns in your writing, patterns where you focus on the meaning and the intent rather than on word recall and word order.”
  • Write while doing research–don’t compartmentalize.
  • During revision, focus on “global problems” re: meaning and intent rather than “local problems” re: sentence structure.
  • Stuck on a word?  Just stop.  With pen, answer “What am I trying to say here?” focusing on meaning.  Type answer into document and move on.
  • Turn off your internal critic.
  • Stop and prepare for next session.  Leave notes for yourself on where you’re going.

Outside of that, some of my tactics:

  • Use a full-screen word processor like WriteRoom.  No clocks, widgets, etc.–just you and the text.
  • Don’t stop at the end of a section; stop in the middle of something.  That will get you going the next day.
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