book blogging – pick it up, start it up

Barbara and I are at it again. Book writing, that is. We finished the first draft of the first three chapters of our new academic writing book back in May. That was at my place in Nottingham. Now here it is November already, and we’re together in Barabara’s house in Melbourne. And we have to pick it up where we left off after months away.

It’s a scary thing picking up and starting over. Will we know what we were thinking last time? Did what we do make sense? Will it all read like complete nonsense? What if we want to begin again – again?

Barbara and I looked at each other over our breakfast boiled egg this morning and agreed we probably wouldn’t write anything much on this first day. We’d look at where we were up to, get a general idea of what and where next, we’d talk and get back into it slowly. We were relaxed, it didn’t matter if we didn’t do a lot today.

Well, that decision lasted all of about ten minutes once we got into the office. Firstly, we decided to look at how many days we actually had together and whether it might be possible to get a full first draft done in the time I’m here in Melbourne. We have thirteen days, and four more chapters to do. Was three days per chapter feasible, we wondered. Yes, it was. It certainly was.

Our reasoning went like this… We’ve been known to write a chapter in two days, so three days per wasn’t a completely impossible ask. What’s more, and probably more importantly, if we didn’t finish a full draft this time we’d need to meet up again, probably somewhere in the middle of the world, equi-distant from both our homes. This would be expensive for both of us. Flights, accommodation, shopping… And really, we both have other things to do with our money and other places to go – we’d rather not shell out for more writing-related travel. We’d rather not spend another week together writing. Another week together yes, but writing no.

Our second, follow-on decision was that in order to avoid the need for another writing-meeting we had to find a way to finish now. And the only way to get a first draft done in the time we have is to produce something pretty rough.

Of course, this is not an entirely out-of-the-blue decision because we already know that we can finish off a text once we get to a first draft. We’ve done that before. We also know that we’re pretty good at email and skype co-writing once we have something to work from. It’s the writing from scratch that only works when we’re together. Being and working apart can work once we get some way along with the writing. It really seems better to have a full text with big holes in it than have something lesser but with more detail. We really don’t want to end up a chapter shy of the complete shebang.

Our strategy for the twelve days is therefore to write fast, and write rough. Write a chapter each three days. Write through and leave place markers where we need to go back and fill in the blanks. Don’t mind the gaps. The text can be imperfect. Just get on with it.

Proof and puddings…. How did we go with this?

Well, here we are at the end of day one and we have about a third of a chapter done, and some bits we can start on tomorrow. Let’s just see how we go, but so far the rough and ready strategy is looking good.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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4 Responses to book blogging – pick it up, start it up

  1. laurammonk says:

    That sounds really impressive and I am inspired! When I start something new, I tend to do a lot of what you assumed your first day would look like – not writing anything much and being okay with that. I tend to look at my progress and gauge how things are going. I like to make plans with targets and goals and steps to reaching those goals. But sometimes, like you say, you just have to get on with it for practical reasons and it’s surprising what can be achieved under pressure. I think I’ll carry on as I am but bear in mind that if push comes to shove, I believe I can do it!
    Good luck with your book.


  2. Emma Friesen says:

    Goodness, I have the urge to cheer you on in the same wayy I cheer my running club team mates! Go team!


  3. Pat, reading about your writing is always so inspiring and encouraging! Thank you yet again for sharing your experience and your endless wisdom.


  4. Pingback: Writing in the company of others; ‘Shut up and write!’, AcWriMo, boot camps, writing retreats and other fun activities. | Doctoral Writing SIG

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