Personal Writing Habits - From Aspiring Author to Published Scholar - Professional Roles and Publishable Writing

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Personal Writing Habits
From Aspiring Author to Published Scholar
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing

Each prospective academic author arrives with a set of strategies for producing a manuscript and coping with negative feelings associated with writing. They bring along some assumptions about “what works” for them—which may or may not be accurate. For instance, a student may have managed, in the past, to procrastinate and use the pressure of deadlines to generate a passable paper; however, manuscripts prepared in haste do not compare favorably with others submitted for publication that were revised and polished. It is no mistake that the word “flow” is used to describe effective writing; it means that the words and the logic proceed smoothly, in the manner of a fluid. Writing that flows moves the reader along without stalling, stopping, going off on a tangent, or leaving unanswered questions in the reader’s mind. It has a definite beginning, a satisfying conclusion, and a clear line of reasoning that connects the two. Use the information in Table 1.1 to assess your composing style.

Table 1.1

Composing styles

Heavy planners—“plan their work and work their plan”; they invest the greatest amount of time in mapping out the manuscript in advance. They often are capable of mentally planning their work while engaged in other activities and invest the bulk of their writing time in the preparation

Heavy revisers—write as if their words were on the surface of a sphere and roll them around to arrive at the “right” way to tackle the manuscript. They devote less time to planning or, may make a plan but not follow it. They revise a manuscript into being by continually cutting, pasting, and experimenting with ways to communicate ideas. They sometimes feel that their writing is never really finished

Sequential composers—devote approximately equal amounts of time to the various phases of writing—planning, drafting, and revising. They derive their confidence from adhering to a linear, well organized approach to writing

Procrastinators—rely on an imminent deadline to force them to get the manuscript written. They believe they do their best work under pressure and enjoy the thrill of averting disaster

Discovery drafters—seek to capitalize on unexpected ideas because they regard these as the source of creativity in their work. They use writing as a tool for discovering original ideas and write to discover what they have to say

Adapted from Richards and Miller (2005)

Which of the approaches best describes your general approach to producing a manuscript? What changes do you anticipate will be necessary to become a published author?

Activity 1.3: A Diagram of Your Writing Habits

Think about the process that you normally use to write a paper. Make a diagram that illustrates that process. Which part of that process is the most time-consuming? Does tackling a new type of writing (e.g., writing a practical article, creating a poster session on a research project, writing a book chapter) change that process and, if so, how?

Of course, the nature of the writing task influences approaches to writing as well. For example, one of my doctoral advisees had studied parent/teacher conferences for her dissertation so I* proposed that we write an article for the National Parent-Teacher Association that could also be produced as a brochure for families on how to make the most of these important meetings (Brown & Jalongo, 1987). We found that the task required a very tight, sequential organization because everything we wanted to say needed to fit on a tri-fold brochure. The fact that I tend to be a “discovery drafter” made this difficult. Situations such as this explain why writing expert Donald Murray (2001) argues that writers first need to “unlearn” many of the rules they have been taught in school. Contrary to common teaching practices, his perspective on the writing process can be summarized as follows:

· Authors do not need to know, in advance, what they want to say before they begin to write; rather, they should begin writing right away to discover what they have to say.

· Writing does not have to begin with an outline; rather, a detailed outline can be produced from the work after it has been written well.

· Correctness is unimportant in the first draft; rather, focus on the content while drafting and address errors during revision and the final edit

· Editing for spelling, grammar, and typos does not count as revision; rather, revision is rethinking/rewriting in substantive ways.

· Academic authors should not imitate the verbose, difficult to read writing they sometimes see in print. They should strive make their writing clear, accessible, and suited for the intended audience.

· There is not one, linear writing process to which all writers ought to conform; rather, there are as many writing processes as there are authors.

*Note: Throughout this book, I refers to the first authors experience.

Online Tool 

Listen as writing expert Thomas Newkirk discusses the concept of “unlearning writing at: What will you need to unlearn?

Given all of the unlearning that you need to do and the challenges associated with publishing your work, where should you begin? The next sections advise you on meeting the challenge and strategies for counteracting common writing problems.