Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shifting gears: writing

The ginormous book chapter that had been stalking me for months is official done. Just shy of 20,000 words, mostly vomited onto pages during the few blocks of time I could carve out to do the work. It wasn't a fun experience, but it's done now and I think it's a decent contribution. Will anyone ever read it? Who knows.

Not 2 hours after sending in the almost final draft of the chapter, I got an email from the coordinator of a workshop I went to over the summer. He wants a 1,500 word (incl refs) piece... by the end of the year. Although I was loath to open a fresh document and have that blank page staring me down, my first thought was that 1,500 words would be like sneezing after finishing up that mammoth book chapter. I figured I might be able to pull it off in an afternoon if I had an uninterrupted one, but it's an entirely different way of writing and my head is in 20,000 word mode.

I have to confess that I write differently than some - I'm kinda like the Colts in that I have strong first drafts. More often than not I labor over the original piece but then don't do a whole lot of editing later. That type of writing is conducive to a giant book chapter, but not so much to a tight piece that has to be written and reworked to fit into a tiny package and still get the message across. So, despite my initial reaction to this short commentary manuscript I'm suddenly finding it exceedingly difficult to completely switch my writing style to fit the new constraints. I wrote what I thought would be a brief introduction and have already used up 350 of my precious words.

It's like having to give a full seminar and a 12 minute conference talk in the same week. The short talk looks like an afterthought until you remember that those are some of the hardest talks to make cohesive and understandable. So much for my "afternoon manuscript".

2 comments:

  1. This is why scientists often loath the process of writing up their work.

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  2. I don't mind writing up my work. Writing book sections of completely different length and content is another matter...

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