So I'm still not sure whether Blogosphere has fully accepted my apology, but as a show of good faith, I plan to do a series of posts on writing lessons learned during my bloggy absence.
The first--what I learned about writing in general from my Big Nasty PhD Exams (which I passed, by the way--woohoo! I'm ABD officially!).
Okay, so as I think I explained a few months ago, my exams consisted of 20 hours' worth of written exams in the period of a month on a variety of subjects related to courses I'd taken, followed by a 2-hour defense of what I'd written.
As it turned out, most of my exams were 2-hour in-house exams, which meant that on Mondays and Wednesdays, I studied for a particular question during the day, then from 3-5 p.m., came into the department and wrote on a laptop as fast as I could for 2 hours.
From this, I learned that I could create 7 nearly-coherent pages of prose in 2 hours. A valuable lesson, indeed. I'm pretty sure I can repeat this project in other academic and non-fiction writing circumstances, now that I have this skill. In fact, I'm thinking about using a "write a bunch in two hours several times per week" strategy for drafting the early stages of my dissertation.
The only downside? If you have to add citations, it can be a royal pain to go back in and add them afterward, as I learned when I tried the same strategy for my take-home prelim. So if I do this with my dissertation, I'm planning to have all my references pre-loaded into Zotero and clear in my head, ready to pull in clearly, BEFORE my 2-hour sessions begin.
I do like this idea, though--I think it would work better for me than the also-interesting "write a page a day" strategy mentioned by a colleague. See, with research and editing rhythms, it doesn't always work well to write something every single day. If I plan to do two or three 2-hour sessions per week (more if I'm feeling inspired), it will get a lot of pages out there, leaving me lots of research and editing and simmering time between. I think it just might work, both for the upcoming dissertation and in the future for other potential non-fiction drafting.
Woohoo! The Big Nasty Exams have both been successfully completed, AND have given me another writing skill. This is a beautiful thing.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Writing Lessons: The Big Nasty Exams
I'm a writer, an incurable reader, a narrative theorist, a media researcher, a scholar/author/writer/consultant, a PK, and the Queen of Soup Making. I write a lot, and I've taught a wide range of topics in universities. Along my journey I've picked up a PhD in Communication from Purdue and 2 degrees in English. I've been turning my ideas about communication as author-audience relationships into a communication paradigm that can be applied to a wide range of situations. I'm also writing a historical mystery series. I'm a member of Sisters in Crime, and the co-chair of the Mystery and Detective Fiction Caucus of the Popular Culture Association. My MA thesis focused on connections between T. S. Eliot and Thoreau, who each wondered about how to remain still and still moving. Before I went to grad school, I spent 7 years working for a division of HarperCollins Publishers.