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Writing Group Check-In

8 July, 2011

Hi all —

Well, I am still being somewhat Overtaken By Events, some of which are academic, and some of which are down to a lot of odd things happening in my personal life that I will not go into here. One of the academic event is something I will come back to as soon as the paper is actually finished. I am heading off to the BL as soon as I post this.

But here is one of the things I’ve realized: when all the time you have for research is the summer, it’s possibly not the best idea to use all of that time for a paper you might have been able to get done at home with Interlibrary loan… Also, in my case, I have to remember that reading for a paper is not the same as reading to actually read and learn. I can’t read everything I want in its entirety. I wish I could. I should. But there is only so much time, and I always forget that serious reading takes practice — and I’m out of practice most summers, because I spend most of the academic year reading for classes that are out of my strongest areas of expertise, or completely new (pirates. not doing that again…)

So expect me to write something I hope will be useful about not making the same summer (or for some people, research leave) mistakes over and over. In the meantime, maybe you could also share some ideas on that?

Thanks, and here are your last week’s goals, compiled by Notorious, whose super-organized Type A personality is a godsend at the moment!

Writing group week 6 goals:

ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: Pull sections from diss chapter to help fill out the article; work at least an hour each day.
ADM [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]: finish Leeds paper…or else!
Audie [working on transitioning a dissertation chapter to an article]: reread all secondary sources and current chapter draft; map out/outline article
Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: No specific goal posted.
Digger [drafts of two book chapters]: continue working on book chapter; flesh out conference paper outline and start getting image permissions for book
Dr. Koshary [work on book MS]: finish a rough draft of chapter 4
Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: finish previous goal of 4K words on theory/quantitative data
Erika [Review-ready draft of an article MS]: 500 new words a day, plus clean up one old page per day
Firstmute [chapter draft; send out article]: Finish article draft & send to advisor.
Frog Princess [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: Finsh introduction & compile everything
Gillian [an article that needs writing]: Detour for final revision of Leeds paper
Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]: Write 500 words/day
J. Otto Pohl [Complete draft of 2/3-finished book MS]: completely finish the deportation section
Jen [Revising conference paper into article MS]: finish the current section, writing 400 words each morning.
Kit: [Write the first draft of a dissertation chapter]: write 500 words a day
Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]: small parts of three separate tasks, with deadlines for each in mind
Mel [Finish dissertation!]: Finish discussion section of chapter 4
NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: Finish section 1 of article & draft section 2
Sapience [diss chapter (done! ahead of schedule!) Prepare presentation of full dissertation for department]: start outlining presentation
Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]: start last passes through complete book to make sure argument is complete; begin drafting cover letter to editor
Scholastic Mama [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: complete week 5 of WJA book
Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: On vacation for two weeks
Tigs [Completed diss draft]: finish the legal section of ch. 2, do a first round of edit on the culture section, and break down what else needs to be done to finish off the chapter
Travelia [Write two conference papers]: give a talk on topic at one conference; looking ahead to the following week to prepare book MS for review [NPhD: Travelia, do you want to add this MS to your overall goals?]
What Now [Polished book proposal]: trying to figure out what to do when a project is scooped
Zabeel [Draft first two sections of new article]: read three books and one article; continue daily writing goals of 3 hrs/day
Zcat abroad [write an article]: Plan out structure of article, and re-read base text for notes

Awaiting report:

Bardiac [Review-ready article MS]*
Caleb Woodbridge [MA thesis]**
Cly [revise article for publication & draft chapter for book]**
Jason [First draft of a dissertation chapter]**
Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]*
Ms McD: Revising a conference paper into an article MS***
My Museology: redraft three dissertation chapters***
Ro [MS revision (NPhD: article?)]*

31 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 July, 2011 8:10 am

    OK, not much progress (too much vacating this week) but I did do some work, and during a lovely dinner with a friend got clear on where I might want to go next, which has been nagging at me.I think I'm still on course to meet my goal for the summer, which really, is all I care about! Today I leave for my real vacation, and so I won't do a thing.

  2. 8 July, 2011 12:12 pm

    I've been starting my day by writing 500 words, just getting ideas down and not worrying about whether it will eventually go in the chapter or not. And thank you both for recommending this – it really really helps! I'm definitely going to keep doing this. I found I almost always wrote more, so now I have over 3500 words where otherwise I would have had some vague thoughts. I also set myself a time limit of 45 minutes to do this in each day, so that I didn't spend ages looking up specific details/quotations. I think this is something else I'm going to stick to – instead of saying 'I'm going to do 6 hours work today', I'm actually going to try and minimise the time it takes me to do writing tasks. This will hopefully stop my word count spinning out of control, and also stop me thinking I've worked hard when I've spent half the time procrastinating.A final thought on writing before I feel ready. Usually, I would make sure I'd read all the relevant secondary literature before I started. But this way, writing on the sources themselves and only then looking fully at what other people have said about them, actually makes me feel a lot more confident. I think that it removes the question 'so what can I add to this?' and opens up the possibilities of what the sources can speak about.Thank you for doing this, I'm finding it very helpful! Thinking about trying to start something similar up in my department.

  3. 8 July, 2011 12:22 pm

    Godiva, I'm glad it helps. I'm sure that one of the reasons I am having so much trouble on my paper is that is is all about secondary sources. There seems no real end to them, and so it's hard to write. Never again!

  4. 8 July, 2011 2:00 pm

    Well, I made some minimal progress at the beginning of the week. I started by laying out the bits of my presentation that I want to cover on Prezi (which I'm finding a fabulous visual organization tool; it works like outlining for me). That was very useful and a great beginning. I also took a look at some old seminar papers and found one to send out for publication, and did some editing and updating on the scholarship. It's almost ready to go out. But, I was soon distracted by a frantic call from a friend who is defending her dissertation later this month, and she offered to pay me if I could help her clean up her drafts with some proofreading, editing, and citation checking. And the dissertation had to go to the committee today. It's been an intense week, but we finished it up last night, she did one last run through this morning, and the dissertation is now sent off. (I've learned that I never want to try and write a book with Zotero. Never ever.)But I think it's time to go back to working on the presentation because I dreamed last night that I had to give the presentation to a room full of 200 people who couldn't hear me even when I shouted, and the presentation wasn't ready and I kept stopping in the middle to edit what was on the paper… That was certainly my first presentation anxiety dream… My goal for this next week is finish revisions on the article, and get at least four pages of the presentation drafted.

  5. 8 July, 2011 2:13 pm

    I think that this will be my last official check-in for this writing group, because I did decide to walk away from the scooped project. I'm actually feeling fine about this — somewhat relieved, really. And earlier this week, thinking about something else altogether, a little ghost of an idea for another project appeared. But I'm not rushing into that; instead, I'm doing some reading to learn (love those categories, ADM!), and seeing what bubbles up.Good luck to everyone on meeting summer goals!

  6. 8 July, 2011 2:16 pm

    I had a lot of OBE this week. But, I did manage to get 2000 words written. I still have not completed the section on the deportations. It appears I have a lot more material than I thought. At any rate even though progress is slow it is moving. The ms is up to 65,000 words now. I am hoping to be able to work on it some this next month when I am visiting my wife and kids. Again if anybody wants to read over a draft of the ms to offer some constructive criticism send me an e-mail.j.ottopohl [the at sign] gmail [the dot] com

  7. 8 July, 2011 4:14 pm

    Dear all,I have done week 6 section of WYJA. I am happy about it, though, I am starting to worry. Even if I finish the book, will my own paper be done? I have revised my argument again, and I am not satisfied with it yet. The feeling 'this still needs this and that' hanunts me. Anyway, I will seriously follow WYJA and continue to revise my paper.What I have done this week is the task 2. I have written fairly a good part of it. Of course, it needs to be polished a lot, but only a tiny part is left untouched.I have not started the task 3 yet. Literally nothing…For next week: work through week 7 of WYJA; revising argument of task 1 (this WG project); complete task 2; start reading materials of task 3.

  8. 8 July, 2011 4:24 pm

    I’m terribly embarrassed! I didn’t mean to vanish. I spent (another) week without a computer while I was waiting for HP and BT to co-ordinate things, and managed to throw myself completely off track.My progress has been negligible. I’m still re-drafting my Leeds paper (it is neither original nor coherent) and fighting with the chapter that I wanted to have drafted two weeks ago. The Leeds thing will (obviously) have to be finished this weekend. The chapter, well, who knows? I would say that it is my goal for next week, but in reality, Leeds will probably be my priority. I also received comments back on an article. As always, I disagree with some of them, but suspect that if my disagreement hadn’t been anticipated, I can’t have stated my argument very convincingly. I will clarify this and incorporate the other changes (which are relatively minor). If this means that the journal won’t publish, so be it. I don’t want to disagree with myself just to add another line to my CV…

  9. 8 July, 2011 6:15 pm

    I haven't finished this section and I did not manage to write each morning (I see a connection here!). I did make some decent headway with organization, firming up my main points and filling in some secondary sources. I've had some success this week working in the way Godiva described. I switched from being bogged down in secondary sources to writing about my main sources (images in my case). It really helped! Now, I'm moving back to the secondary sources from the images (my primary sources). The whole paper feels more anchored. It also feels like I am controlling the secondary sources rather than the other way around. I'm still having some trouble managing to work on the article and my dissertation chapter simultaneously. I've been working on the article at home in the morning and the diss. chapter in the afternoons at school. I may need to switch this up a bit. On the other hand, if I actually write each morning as promised, this should cease to be an issue!This week I am going to reinstate morning writing (500 words per morning). Also, I hope to finish this section and move on.

  10. 8 July, 2011 6:42 pm

    I did some real work this week and I'm so happy! Not a lot, mind you, but work is work, right? I read through my secondary sources and hunted down a few new sources based on the first batch. I also finished rereading my primary source material. Today I'm going to outline my chapter and see how it looks, find the holes, and figure out if I'm restructuring my argument.For next week? PEN TO PAPER. I want to edit, rework, and write. Hopefully, by the end of next week, I'll have the first section of the paper reworked.

  11. 8 July, 2011 7:36 pm

    It's easy for me to check in this week: my goal was to give a paper and I gave it yesterday, on the final day of a somewhat disorganized but ultimately productive conference.I'm reporting in from Brussels where I am starting my week of vacation, so no work goal for next week. I want to get away from work completely this week. (and yes the MS will be the goal for the rest of the summer).The discussion question for this week is an interesting and difficult one. I may have made the same mistake as ADM–one of the conference papers I wrote this summer will ultimately contribute to the MS, so it makes sense that I wrote it during the summer. The other will not, and was, perhaps, something that should have been done during the school year because it didn't require intense research. Both of these "mistakes" have to do with scheduling work so that it fits external deadlines, one's own priorities, and the varying levels of time and energy available at different times of the year. I think this will always be a difficult problem, because it requires looking at one's schedule with a perspective of one year or more.

  12. 8 July, 2011 7:50 pm

    Not much progress for me. :(Still working on that discussion for chapter 4. And while analyzing the numbers I realized I was missing some data so off to the lab I went. Spent the last 2 days there and will have to go back today. I really hope I can finish this chapter buy the end the weekend. I still have the feeling that I am not getting as much done as I should. Time to seriously crank up productivity!

  13. 8 July, 2011 8:34 pm

    OBE is the official acronym of my summer 2011. Forecast for the rest of the summer is much the same, although the reasons for OBE are likely to shift from family to work soon. (And even that will be a blessing!)That said, I made some real progress on chapter 4 this week, although I couldn't quite write enough to consider it a complete rough draft. Honestly, part of this may be that I write very plainly and directly when I write rough. I don't add all the little filigrees that we like to read until later in the process. The chapter still lacks a bit more than filigrees, of course, but the general structure is mostly there. I'm undecided about how much more stuff to cram into the chapter draft before I can say that the rough chapter draft exists, and I can move on to other stuff. Not too much, really. I'm glad I made the progress I did. And, let us note, I probably wouldn't have written diddly-squat if not for this writing group! It's a joy to have a bunch of colleagues with whom I must check in about this stuff. After the last few weeks of confusion, it feels good to report in to say that I came close to doubling the size of the chapter draft, and that I like the shape it's taking on.On a side note, I tried out Scrivener, and I am baffled that anyone uses it. I can't even figure out how to use it, since the tutorial video online totally froze Firefox, and I had to restart my computer. Tell me again why everyone raves about this stupid application?

  14. 8 July, 2011 8:36 pm

    Aargh, and I forgot to mention next week's goals. Considering the family-related OBE on the horizon, they are modest, but I would like to round out chapter 4, and then set about drafting chapter 3, which is still embryonic. Yes, I draft chapters out of order. No, I am not ashamed of this.

  15. 8 July, 2011 10:54 pm

    I have a full draft of section 1, but I am still working on section 2. I was OBE by the "scooped" discussion, but in a productive way. In addition to working on the paper revisions, I have been working on revising the dissertation into a book. But I keep stalling on the book revisions in part because I'm dealing with being scooped. About midway through my dissertation, I learned that two senior historians were working on projects that overlapped mine in limited ways. (I cover a broader geographical and chronological period.) While I was able to work through that with the dissertation, I could not get past that overlap once I turned my attention to revising for publication. Anyway, Notorious's discussion about getting scooped motivated me to take another look at the other books and at my own work. I realized that there is definitely room and reason to revise the dissertation — the "Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom" scenario. With that in mind, I went back to my latest draft of the introduction and rewrote the introduction with that new focus. So while I did not finish the second section of the conference paper revisions as I had hoped, I did write an entirely new introduction for the book manuscript.Thank you so much, Notorious, ADM, WhatNow, and all who contributed to the "scooped" discussion. I feel much more confident about the direction I need to take with the book revisions.

  16. 8 July, 2011 10:59 pm

    Oops, I forgot to set next week's goal. I will finish writing section 2 of the paper.

  17. 8 July, 2011 11:16 pm

    Thanks for the congratulatory remarks for submitting the dissertation last week! I've been good about jumping back into writing this week despite the holiday. I wrote and got through a lot of sources on top of getting an outline together that pulls the different parts of my dissertation that I'm trying to make into one cohesive article.I also heard this week that I have another article due in November now. So I will begin trying to work on two articles soon (I will be looking at suggestions from people from a few weeks back about handling multiple projects.).My goal for next week is to begin revising in earnest. I've got the ideas, outline, and most of the sources. No excuses for not looking at the writing more closely now and incorporating the 2,500+ words of source writing and ideas into the larger article.

  18. 9 July, 2011 2:45 am

    Mash chapter:- not as much as I wanted, but still giving myself to end of next week to be done (or done enough) with this and move on to the Beast Of A Chapter That I've Been Hiding From. In the bits I did get done this week, I found some holes that I filled, and got some good notes to put in the intro, and wrote parts of the methodology.Flesh out conference paper: Some, still not as much as I'd hoped (it never is). Research took longer than I planned, and visiting out-of-country this week also = distractions. But, comfortable with this. Will have draft done by 6 weeks, but it's off my plate right now.Image permissions: wrangled, excpet for Local Firm, who isn't responding. Will try another avenue!My biggest problem: overestimating what I can get done / underestimating how long it takes. I figured an hour for research this week, and 4 hours later got out of there.

  19. 9 July, 2011 3:30 am

    My writing went pretty well this week despite being still a little OBE (some old, some new). I met my 4k theory words goal, but I'm still rolling on that, so I may keep going with it for as long as it lasts. Like Godiva mentioned, I've found that getting to writing before getting bogged down in the secondary literature has been very productive for me, but I've also found that it allows me to wander (maybe a little too much?) I don't outline in very much detail–I usually have more of a roadmap of points to hit–so I'm starting to find that I don't have a clear idea of how I'll get from where I'm at to where I thought I would end. So I guess that's a long way of saying that part of my poor planning for this project was not having a clearer idea of how all the ideas connect up. I find myself pausing every fifteen pages or so (of my own writing) to re-read some of the secondary literature and straighten out my own ideas.(My other planning mistake, not directly related to this project, but to my diss over all, was not doing research travel earlier. My car break down has wasted almost three weeks of potential travel time; why didn't I travel earlier when I had a working car? I've gotten a lot of writing done, but summers are basically my only time to travel, and I feel I've wasted so much of this one.)Goals for next week: figure out a path from where I am to where I want to finish; integrate quantitative data set #2 along the way; decide whether to include or jettison planned section on religion; maintain 500 words/day.

  20. 9 July, 2011 12:32 pm

    Eileen, I don't usually have a solid outline when I start writing, either. A rough outline of points to hit, in roughly the order in which to hit them. But I find that for me, writing = thinking, so my arguments come together and I think of new connections while fleshing it out. Sometimes, these are new thoughts that make more sense than what I thought I thought…it's why I have such a shit of a time putting together meaningful conference abstracts!

  21. 9 July, 2011 12:44 pm

    Well, I managed to do some reading and thinking. I am slightly closer to having a solid (ish) argument on the primary texts. My current problem (other than limited internet time) is that there are relatively few secondary sources for my texts. While this leaves the field wide open, it does mean I have to check what other people are doing on similar texts, which means having to figure out what are similar texts… I don't want to go reinventing the wheel, unless it can come in purple flavours.Goals for next week – not collapse in terror before presenting and chairing at Leeds, enjoy the rest of Leeds, and try out this '500 words a day, first thing'.

  22. 9 July, 2011 8:39 pm

    Oh dear, I set such tangible and attainable goals this week, and then poof! This week was a stinker for getting words on the page. I read some good criticism, and learned (anew) that my idea is well and truly mine, and makes an original contribution. But between a lovely long weekend with friends and the fact that I am chipping away at too many projects (three), progress is sooo slow. Next week's goal is the same as this one's: 500 words / day, plus 1 page of revisions. I did get fabulous news that my paper was accepted to the most prestigious conference in my field, and in a topic area where the acceptance rate is lower than in most journals. Oddly, that good news slowed me down! I'm going to commit to the morning writing bootcamp approach this week, and save all reading for the afternoon. I hope this group keeps me honest!

  23. 10 July, 2011 3:15 pm

    Sorry for late check-in: I tried to comment yesterday but it disappeared. Just echoing Eileen and Digger's points, I find I only work out what I'm writing about when I actually come to writing as well. The project I'm working on at the moment is unusual in that way since it was pretty narrowly conceived from the start. Yet still I find I can only think through what I'm doing as I write.This week started well, but I certainly lost motivation towards the end. I did a lot of reading and a bit of revising but very little new writing. Dedicating a certain amount of time each day to this project really works for me, so I'm going to stick at that. In terms of other goals: I will read 2 more books (and then, enough!) and then work on section 2. I'd like to have a first draft of that section done by this time next week.

  24. 11 July, 2011 4:06 am

    So I'm shamefully late in checking in, but for good reason. An hour ago, I finished my introduction, compiled the other chapters, and printed off the first complete draft of my dissertation, minus a conclusion, which was the plan. Tomorrow, I send it off to my advisor in the hopes that ze will read it in full, although I'm not holding my breath. Two of the chapters have not been edited since ze's last read them, but what I'm hoping for is that ze will read the whole thing in context, skimming through the sections that haven't yet changed. The way the project is structured, this is crucial. It's a series of case studies that don't necessarily build on each other; each one could stand alone. So the whole project needs to be read in full. Whether that will happen is anyone's guess.I'd love to take a week or two off; I'm completely wiped out. But I don't have the luxury; I can only take a few days. There are chapters to be revised, and some serious course prep to undertake. But there is no real goal for this week. Maybe I'll read the thing through, maybe I won't, who knows. But I'll check in on time on Friday with my update.

  25. 11 July, 2011 1:55 pm

    I, too, am late this week. I'm back at home (no Leeds for me), waking up early thanks to jet lag, so there's a good chance of getting some things done in the early morning this week.My goal is to finish all the mini-outlines for the article-in-progress, and start expanding them. In two weeks, I want a complete rough draft (because then there will be five days off to visit friends, & then just 3 weeks till classes start). I'm finding it hard to focus on outlining. I started to work on that this morning, & it turned into writing prose. Writing prose is easy; I have lots of thoughts. What is difficult for me is the shaping and organizing, and that's why I'm trying to stick to outlining until I'm sure I have a workable organization. Then I can allow the prose to flow.

  26. 11 July, 2011 5:37 pm

    Apologies for the disappearing act. Travel, forgetfulness.But I'm done with the workshop, and back into Serious Writing Mode. I got a lot of work done this week, and just sent off a draft of chapter N to my advisor. This means I am now going to take a break from that piece of the project, because it is making me crazy.The plan for this week is to go back to chapter 2, which is in a more stable place but still needs to some serious reworking. I'm hoping to have a version I'm comfortable sending to my whole committee for feedback if not by Friday, then soon thereafter. I might also get a start on a short introduction to the whole dissertation. And if I really can't bear to write any more at some point, I'll get everything formatted for the university guidelines.

  27. 12 July, 2011 4:56 pm

    FrogPrinces, FoW!!(That's "Full of Win", the kids tell me)

  28. 12 July, 2011 5:09 pm

    Dame Eleanor, there's nothing wrong with writing prose when that's what seems to be coming out. You're doing what we call "writing your way in":'s forward motion, and it will resolve into something more satisfying soon.

  29. 14 July, 2011 6:27 am

    The things you have discussed in this post are supposed to be very helpful to me for dissertation write. Because of these wonderful information in this post the blog can be viewed again and again.

  30. 14 July, 2011 2:48 pm

    Apologies for the absence – I'm back from one trip but am leaving on another tonight. While on the road, I received news that the project for which I was planning to compose an article this summer is on hold for the time being. (More news likely to come early fall.) So I'm also going to sign off from regular reports to the writing group this summer. I'll definitely be following post and cheering from the stands, though!

  31. 22 July, 2011 10:50 pm

    [I can't access my dashboard, and my blog's not really working, hence my absence. Apologies. The dashboard and blog are still acting up, but maybe this comment will come through…]So, my progress is ongoing. My goals continue to be the same, and I'm happy for the movement forward, but — as I'm sure many of you can sympathize with — with every step forward the movement gets a little slower. Ideas become more refined, and language needs to be subtler. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 have been polished to a second draft and they're being worked into the third (and final one) at the moment.

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