Tuesday, June 5, 2007

a writing meme

The Paper Chase has this done on her website, altered from a fiction writer’s meme to one for academic writers. I thought it might be interesting to do, as I’m making little-to-no progress on my dissertation revisions at the moment. It has, in fact, made me look at my own process and come up with some strategies for improving it.

1. Do you outline? Some, although it rarely looks like a typical outline—I tend to use bubble charts. I do like to outline once I've got a draft done--it gives me a good snapshot of the project and organization. Even in grade school, I was terrible at outlines. I used to get "A"s on my outlines, because I'd write the paper first, outline it, and then be told I'd done an excellent job following my outline.

2. Do you write straight through a article/project, or do you sometimes tackle the chapters out of order? Out of order—I rarely write the intro until I’m almost done with the rest of it.

3. Do you know how a project is going to end when you start it? Not precisely, although I have a general idea.

4. Where do you write? At the library, at my desk, at my dining room table, at Panera. Actually, I get more grading than writing done at Panera. A library (any library—what I need is the quiet & the sense that someone will see me if I start goofing off, even if it’s not true) is the most productive.

5. What do you do when you get writer's block? Play minesweeper? (Lately, this has been "Play on Ravelry" instead.) I try to move to a different part of the piece—if I’m stuck on the intro, I work on the conclusion, etc.

6. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of wordcount, or as a percentage of the project as a whole)? I never really thought about it in those terms. I tend to spend chunks of time working; this question is making me wonder if I’d be better off to set word goals, instead of spending x amount of time. I can spend a lot of time working on the same sentence or paragraph; in draft stage, particularly, setting a word goal might help me stop obsessing on a micro level.

7. How many different drafts did you write for your last project? I revise recursively as I write. So by the time I send a draft in it’s at a reasonable stage, although I generally write and rewrite that draft multiple times in the process of arriving at the end.

8. Do you let anyone read your project while you're working on it, or do you wait until you've completed a draft before letting someone else see it? I discuss it with my husband, who is also an academic, albeit in a different field. I also talk to one of my close friends from grad school, who’s terrific for bouncing ideas. G sometimes reads things, but he's not in my field, so it's hard for him to be really critical. Plus, he loves me and thinks I'm great. :)

9. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft? Watch bad television. Knit. Have a glass of wine.

10. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once? Generally, one or two.

11. Do your projects grow or shrink in revision? Both. Add some, take some out. Add some, take some out. And then, just for variety, take some out, add some. Grow more than shrink, on the whole.

12. Do you have any writing or critique partners? Critiquing, yes—my friend from grad school. The DH is also willing to read & offer comments, but as our areas are so different, his comments are not always what I need.

13 Do you prefer drafting or revising? Drafting, when the ideas are new and fresh and love is in the air.

14. What are your favorite writing books? Strunk & White. I also like books like Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, which I find highly entertaining.

15. Morning writer, evening writer, or doesn't matter? I am better off if I get started first thing in the morning—if I wait until the afternoon to get started, I tend to keep finding other things to do.

16. How do you handle reviews? Open 'em up and brave 'em, or wait? I open them. The worst thing they can do is reject me. . .

17. How do you handle rejection? And I can handle that. I prefer it when they don’t, or, if they do, if they at least tell me why they’re rejecting it—concrete feedback makes rejection easier to deal with. Wine and chocolate help, too.

18. Do you prefer to work on writing by yourself? Or do you prefer collaborating? I’ve never tried collaborating with anyone, so I can’t really comment. I do like working with students on their writing, though.

19. Able to work on airplanes? No, not really. Hotels are good, though.

20. Have you ever abandoned a book or an article that you had finished? When? Why? Not yet. But it’s still early days.

21. What writing advice do you really believe in? Ernest Hemingway’s “First drafts are sh*t.” Unfortunately, the advice—or at least bon mot—that I seem to follow the most closely is Oscar Wilde’s “I have spent all morning putting in a comma, and all afternoon taking it out.”

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