Silvia How to Write a Lot Introduction
Silvia, Paul. How to Write a Lot. 2007, American Psychological Association, ISBN 978-1591477433.
Chapter 1: Introduction
• Writing is Hard
• The Way We Learn Now
o "Writing is a skill, not an innate gift or a special talent (p. 5)."
• This Book's Approach
o "How to Write a Lot views writing as a set of concrete behaviors... (p. 7)."
o "Scientists (and other academics) communicate through the written word... (p. 8)."
• Looking Ahead
o Most graduate programs do not formally teach students the skill of writing. Instead, they leave this essential component to the advisor, whose habits and skills may be a struggle as well.
• Specious barriers are barriers that seem legitimate to the individual but disintegrate when scrutinized.
• Specious Barrier I
o Not enough time or not enough large chunks of time
o "Instead of finding time to write, allot time to write (p. 12)."
o The words "finding time" are detrimental and taboo. They should be eliminated from your vocabulary.
o Binge writing is procrastinating writing until the very end and then doing it all at once. Binge writing is detrimental. It is laden with guilt, anxiety, and worry.
o Be committed to your schedule. Say no when others try to intrude on that time.
o Windfall writing occurs when you write outside of your scheduled time or when you have extended your scheduled writing time. Don't fall into the windfall trap, which occurs when you think that a scheduled time can be skipped because of the achievement of some earlier windfall writing.
• Specious Barrier II
o Need more information before I can write
o "Writing is more than typing words: Any action that is instrumental in completing a writing project counts as writing (p. 19)."
o Let the good habits of scheduled writing time spill over into scheduled reading time.
• Specious Barrier III
o I need specific equipment to write. (False: You can write using a paper and pencil.)
• Specious Barrier IV
o I need inspiration before I can write. (False: Routine trumps inspiration.)
o "Writing breeds good ideas for writing (p. 24)."
o Make a commitment to writing by blocking it into your schedule. Never break your writing date.
Chapter 3: Motivational Tools
• Binge writers usually struggle once they have changed because they lack the skills, due to their previous habits, to be successful right away.
• Setting Goals
o Writing involves setting goals. It is important to set goals and revisit them about once a month. Spending one of your scheduled writing periods for goal setting is a worthy use of that time.
o Set long term and short term goals. Make sure that you have goals for each day, which are determined on that day. Those daily goals need to be concrete.
• Setting Priorities
o Prioritize your writing projects. Professional writing takes priority. It is your job.
• Monitoring Progress
o Monitoring your progress is essential in achieving your goals.
o Better monitoring leads to "Better goal setting, (which) in turn, leads to more productive writing (p. 40)."
o "Reward yourself when you finish a project or a goal (p. 44)."
o Never reward yourself by not writing or giving yourself a break from one of your scheduled writing times.
• What About Writer's Block?
o Writer's block does not exist for academic writers.
Chapter 4: Starting Your Own Agraphia Group
• Complaining breeds negativity and leads to bad habits.
• The Agraphia Model
o "...agraphia - the pathologic loss of the ability to write... (p. 51)."
o Component 1: Set Concrete, Short-Term Goals and Monitor the Group's Progress
o Component 2: Stick to Writing Goals, Not Other Professional Goals
o Component 3: Big Carrots Can Double As Sticks
o Component 4: Have Different Groups for Faculty and Students
o An agraphia group is a weekly support group for writers, which is usually brief. It involves setting goals, monitoring those goals, and offering support for fellow members.
Chapter 5: A Brief Foray Into Style
• Diagnosing the Problem
o Academics want to feel smart, and that feeling contributes to bad writing.
o Academic writers have usually had poor writing training and, therefore, never learned to write well. Academic writers need to spend more time writing in order to improve it.
• Choose Good Words
o Word choice matters. Stick to good words rather than trendy phrases.
o "Abbreviations and acronyms are bad words (p. 64)."
o Parasite intensifiers include very, quite, basically, virtually, extremely, remarkably, completely, and at all.
• Write Strong Sentences
o Use a mixture of simple, compound, and complex sentences.
o Criterion-variant structure: "They describe what is shared and then describe the variations (p. 66)."
o Parallel sentences do not create redundancy, but rather, they create clarity. A criterion-variant structure can be found in parallel sentences.
o "...a semi-colon implies a sense of balance, of weighing one and the other. Semi-colons are thus ideal for coordinating parallel sentences (p. 67)."
o Semi-colons serve a useful purpose and should be served. They must connect two independent clauses.
o "Good writers are addicted to dashes (p. 68)."
o There are two types of dashes - the em-dash and the en-dash (means between).
o Two uses of dashes:
• Single dash connects the end of the sentence to a clause or a phrase preceding it.
• Two dashes enclose a parenthetical expression (p. 68)
• A dash signifies a restatement of a point whereas a semicolon doesn't presume anything about a relationship.
o Avoid the such-that virus. Don't be afflicted by the such-that virus. If found, take an antibiotic to delete it from your writing.
o Watch out for the wobbly-compound syndrome. It's typically used in a simple sentence that resembles a compound sentence. People place a comma before the coordinating conjunction because there is a pause, but that placement is a mistake.
• Avoid Passive, Limp, and Wordy Phrases
o Write actively, not passively.
o Be wary of "ivving it up (p. 72)."
o To identify passive writing, look for the infinitive to be. Try not to use the word "not" with verbs. Instead find a similar verb that conveys the oppositional meaning. Watch out for "to be + ___ive." Instead, replace those couplings with active verbs.
o Never use "in nature." Adjectives convey that meaning. Watch out for adverbial prepositional phrases. Instead try to use the adverb.
o Remove lumpy phrases like "however," "for instance," and "for example" from the beginning of the sentence. Place them in the first joint of the sentence instead.
• Write First, Revise Later
o "Perfectionism is paralyzing (p. 75)."
o Don't try to be perfect on the first try. Just write. Revision will perfect it later.
Chapter 6: Writing Journal Articles
• Practical Tips for Writing an Empirical Article
o Outlining and Prewriting
• You must engage in outlining and prewriting.
• "Outlining is writing, not a prelude to 'real writing' (p. 79)."
• Journal articles should be short. Make sure that you identify your audience. Identify the journals in which you want to publish in order to identify your audience.
o The Title and Abstract
• "A title must balance generality and specificity: Say what your article is about, but don't be so specific that your article sounds technical and tedious (p. 81)."
• The title and the abstract attract the reader, so make them good. Write these components last.
• "The introduction is most likely to be read instead of skimmed or skipped (pp. 81 - 82)."
• The purpose is the justification of the article.
• Start with an overview.
• What motivated the research? Describe that theory, question, or general problem.
• After the overview, start with a heading that resembles your title to introduce the second section of the introduction. This part is the body of the introduction.
• Include relevant theories and review past studies. Go into more depth about the motivating question for this research.
• "A good method section allows another researcher to replicate the study (pp. 83 - 84)."
• Include sections: Participants or Participants and Design, Apparatus, and Procedure
• The purpose is to describe your analysis.
• Begin by describing "analyses that inform the integrity of the study (p. 86)."
• The analyses should be described in a logical order.
• Figures show patterns of data; tables show raw data.
• Is included if your paper has multiple studies.
• It's narrower than a general discussion.
• It summarizes the findings.
• It includes limitations.
o General Discussion
• More broad than the discussion
• It places your research into the larger body of research. It contextualizes it.
• It should be shorter than the introduction.
• The conclusion should be a one paragraph summary of the entire article.
• "...(it) documents the sources that influenced the ideas in your paper (p. 89)."
• Be selective about what you put in this section.
• Cite your own previous work.
o Submitting Your Manuscript
• Include a cover letter to the editor. It should include :
• Name of manuscript
• Author(s) mailing and electronic addresses
• Assure them that the manuscript is not under review for another journal
• The data was collected using ethical standards as determined by the field
• Make sure that your manuscript is perfect before submitting it.
o Understanding Reviews and Resubmitting Your Manuscript
• Expect rejection.
• Include another cover letter with the resubmission. This letter needs to be specific about how you handled the comments and criticisms. Number each comment and describe what you changed. If you didn't make the change, explain the rationale for your decision.
• When receiving a manuscript back from the editor, find out whether the door for resubmission is open.
• In the letter, thank the editor and reviewers for their comments and for the opportunity for resubmission.
• Use headings for each set of action points. For each point, summarize the comment/criticism, describe the change, discuss how your change satisfies the comment.
• Be professional.
o "But What If They Reject My Paper?"
• Expect rejection. Most papers are rejected.
• If you receive a rejection, revise your paper and submit it elsewhere.
o "But What If They Make Me Change Everything?"
o Coauthoring Journal Articles
• Be cautious about co-authoring.
o Writing Review Articles
• "Review articles must make an original point; they shouldn't merely review what has been done (p. 104)."
• When writing a review, identify the length and the audience.
• Format for a review:
• First few paragraphs, make your point.
• Introduce central ideas.
• Outline the article.
• "To write good articles, master the article formula, submit pristine drafts, and craft excellent resubmission letters (p. 107)."
Chapter 7: Writing Books
• Why Write a Book?
• How To Write Your Book in Two Easy Steps and One Hard Step
o Step 1: Find a Coauthor
o Step 2: Plan Your Book by developing a strong table of contents.
• Each chapter needs to have a purpose. The chapter must also contribute to the book's overall purpose.
o Step 3: Write the Damn Thing
• Organize your resources by chapter. Write Chapter 2 first and then write the rest of the book. Write Chapter 1 and the Preface last. A writing chart helps you stay organized. See Table 7.1 on p. 117.
• How To Find a Publisher
o For a first book, talk with the editors at a conference rather than trying to get a book contract first.
o A book proposal follows if you have caught the attention of an editor.
o A book proposal includes:
• Detailed table of contents
• Sample chapters
• Suggested reviewers (optional)
o Book contracts matter and require careful scrutiny when received.
o "Be sure that you own the rights to the book when it goes out of print (p. 123)."
• Dealing With the Details
Chapter 8: "The Good Things Still To Be Written"
• The Joy of Scheduling
• Less Wanting, More Doing
• Writing Isn't a Race
• Enjoy Life
• The End