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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 10 months ago

InlsFinalProject - initial notes

InlsFinalProject2 - 14-Jul, 15-Jul - generation

InlsFinalProject3 - 16-Jul - generation

InlsFinalProject4 - 17-Jul - generation

InlsFinalProject5 - 22-Jul - composition

InlsFinalProject6 - 23-Jul - cheat sheet PDF





Joan Didion: Usually I sit at the computer all day, until about 5:30 in the afternoon when I finally get a sentence down. Because I really don't know what I think until I get that sentence down. And I resist it every day.


Eric Clapton: "Given the choice between accomplishing something and just lying around, I'd rather lie around. No contest."


el doctorow: writing a novel is like driving by night.


george plimpton: the first thing i do when i receive an assignment is to play tennis.


add above quotes during transitions during slideshow


the importance of ritual



    • base most of the talk on this
    • paramedic triage for prose
    • may not have time to do this
  • writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day
  • bird by bird



  • les payne's writing clinic
  • creating your first draft with less pain
  • the (almost) painless writing clinic


OUTLINE--no, don't use outlines.


delicious links on presentations: http://del.icio.us/brownstudy/presentations


don't wait for the muse


the artist's way -- writing 3 pages/day in your journal. getting the writing habit. becoming more facile simply at the process of writing.


the anecdote about the pottery students, point of quantity over quality


write first and let the words find you

  • when you talk to yourself, and you're practicing what you're going to say to a friend or lover or roommate or parent, you rehearse the moment over and over, trying to get the words right, trying to get the word order right


divide writing into a discrete sequence of processes:

  • brainstorm


the goal is to squeeze out a first draft that you can then edit

  • shitty first draft, zero draft, vomit draft


mark forster's continuous revision process

  • will i have time to discuss this alongside the formal writing process?


intro: during the course of this course, we've had to write job descriptions, grants, disaster plans, etc. ideally, in the real world, you would have text or a template or boilerplate to base your stuff on. but sometimes you have to create something from whole cloth that doesn't exist. and then you have to sit down and write something that has never before existed in the history of the world.


write yourself little emails every day


write in a wiki that stores your changes


revising vs rewriting

  • two schools of thought
    • revising: who wants to retype all of that? it's much easier to tweak something you've already got, it could take an awfully long time to retype a long thesis or dissertation.
    • retyping -- I adhere to this one, if what you're doing means a lot to you. i do this with my short stories. lew shiner: you have to write it the way the reader reads it, one word at a time. for him, a first draft takes a 12-18 months. he researches, edits, and then retypes from the start: takes another 12 months.
  • what does the THINKING ON PAPER book say?>>they prefer retyping. rewriting is RETHINKING, so the value of retyping is that you're reacquainting yourself with your ideas, you're reading them now as a reader would read them, and you're now asking questions about them, adding marginalia to them, etc.


karen joy fowler--hates writing first drafts, loves editing


my nanowrimo experience -- 1,663 words/day in november. you can't get behind. little and often.


fred pohl would print out his first draft and then delete it from his hard drive to force himself to retype it.


write in complete sentences.


write first the scenes or passages you can visualize strongly or that you're most passionate about. no law that says you have to start from the beginning.


let the beginning emerge.


let the themes emerge. you want the process to be organic.


clip or copy/paste the squibs into paragraphs, group the paragraphs into sections. don't force anything.

  • robertson davies' writing notebook
  • or use a word file, a 2-column table: narrow left column is a sequential number, wide right column is the idea or squib. number the pages.


separate the articulation from the communication, separate the communication from the public performance.


little and often.


see the forster book on working a big project--some good quotes there.

portion control -- filling up a whole sheet of paper can be daunting. try to fill up a post-it or index card.


start small--play a game you can win.


when you're at the expressions stage: ask yourself two questions: so what? and specify. ask those 2 questions of every statement you make and see if that toughens up your arguments and examples.


give your pages a day to cool off.

break the 3-part process into thirds: generating, composing, expressing. break your time into thirds. today is Fri, 14 Jul 2006. i have 9 days until showtime. that means i should spend 3 days (maybe 2 days) just generating the ideas. give it a day to cool off. then the next 2 days, work on organizing and composing the ideas into groups. a day to cool off. on saturday and sunday, spend my time creating the powerpoint show and handout.

how do i want the slides to look?


a blank slide as the blank page


a slide crammed with sentences to show how your mind is locked up with words


a slide showing a neatly ordered set of paragraphs -- this outline, probably.


a slide showing many pots vs one big pot. anecdote about the pots.


i'd like the slides to be mainly words--that's easier to create. but maybe just one idea per slide. 30 pt.


maybe the interlocked arrows showing the successive stages of the writing process


i feel like most of my better examples are drawn from my fiction-writing world. don't how applicable that will be... ahhh, just go with it.


you need to write a lot, be profligate with your energy and your words. editing is easy. it's always easier to take out words than to add words. but you've got to get them all those thoughts out so you can see on paper the crappy and ill-formed thoughts from the stronger, more expressive thoughts.


you want to write more than you think you'll ever need. keep writing until you feel a sense of unhealthy repetition in what you're doing. are you turning the compost heap too much? when you feel like you're wasting your energy on it, that's the internal cue for moving towards expression stage.


in the corporate world, in my own professional writing, i want to spend as little time writing as possible. i try to copy and revise whenever possible. but this is tough to do with a new piece. so the answer is just to go spluh on the page and make sense of it later. the time to make sense of and revise stuff will come later.


hm. i need to stop referring to other books on how to do this kind of thing, like the HOW TO WRITE YOUR DISSERTATION IN 15 MINUTES A DAY. that will just distract me. just stick to this one book and explain quickly what it recommends, throw in my marginalia along the way. if there's time, discuss continuous revision, or just include it in the links on the handout.

put the puppy back on the paper


how many friendly homilies can this presentation stand???

the path of least resistance -- we'll always take the easiest path to pleasure, and with something like writing, the easiest path is procrastination pays it pays immediate dividends. so you need to play a game that you can win. to do that, you need to set up a structure that will deliberately move you toward your goal. the key is to think only as much as you have to (which is not as much as you're afraid you'll have to). so if you keep the writing jags short, if you can get used to turning off the internal censor in your head and just write, then you stand a chance of compiling lots of material. later, during the editing/expressing phase, you'll be better able to clean up your ideas and even generate new ones. so you have a mini feedback loop.



anecdote -- robert bly's morning poems--"i lower my standards"

procrastination busters--lower your standards, small portions, i'll just open the file


have decided to stop generating the ideas and 'researching' on tuesday night, start the composing stage on wednesday-fri. use sat-sun to work on the ppt and handout. (which i think will be the slides with notes pages.) send it to fedex kinko's and hope/pray it'll be there for me to pickup on monday morning.


also thinking that as i formulate this stuff, i really do need to think about my presentation style, how i talk. don't want to just parrot what these guys say. want to throw in some of my own experience, own it, make it mine.

you want to play a game you can win

you want to avoid heroic efforts -- i remember writing an essay for a class, sitting in the library before the class started, and watching the second hand get closer and closer, and i still had x pages to go.

you want to follow the path of least resistance

you want to do it little and often

you want to make it as easy for yourself as possible. writing is hard enough, no sense in making it harder.

analog -- robertson davies' notebook

digital -- a 2-col word table, seq numbers


ok, been putting off doing this, but must do it. salient extracts, portions, quotes from THE BOOK. i will definitely need these to form my thoughts around.


i want to be careful that i don't quote too much stuff. want to pull out just what i need to support what i want to say. i could easily overload the presentation with dry quotes and what someone else is saying, instead of bringing what i can contribute


the show will mainly be about chapter 2



Chapter 1

  • "I know what i want to say, but i just don't know how to say it" or "i just can't find the words to say it"
  • SLIDE - no slide, all white -- this is what the page looks like
  • SLIDE - sentences of various shapes. sizes, colors, layered over each other. jammed together. this is your brain on writer's block.
  • writing is difficult, but so are many other things we learn to do well.
  • books tell us what to do, not how to do it.
  • biggest problem: we tend to dwell on either the final results or the mental origins of writing to the exclusion of the activity of writing, as if a gap separated writing from thinking
  • SLIDE - introduce the book -- cover jpg from amazon? or i can take a pic of it
  • problems that prevent you from starting: you think of results first, you think writing is a talent or gift, believing that good writers find the right words right away without trying
  • goals of the book
    1. get clear in your mind what writing is and what it isn't
    2. free your intelligence and imagination from the opporessive weight of searching for 'just the right words'
  • communication should not be the first goal of writing
  • writing is:
    1. a symbolic activity of meaning-making (snore) -- yes we do think in words, but we think in images too.
      • you're making meaning for yourself and hope to communicate that meaning to others
      • 2 inhibiting preconceptions: writing is aimed solely as communications (ignring articulation) and that such comm' should be perfect and complete. Both engender the self-defeating quest to get it right the first time, PERHAPS THE SINGLE GREATEST BLOCK TO GETTING STARTED
        • when i was a reporter, writing my stories on deadline, never revised.
    1. a staged performance for other people
      • don't think of writing as performance until you're ready. up to that point, writing is a private activity of thinking on paper, a relatively unselfconsicous effort to shape your thoughts withot any intention to share them as such.
      • once you take a step back to consider how the words look or sound or hang together or criticize their gist, you're performing.
      • you're mixing free-flowing articulation with revision. (hence the editor/censor in your head)
      • second thoughts on paper are edited thoughts for others' eyes
      • mixing up creation and revision
      • first thoughts are for yourself, second thoughts are for others
      • discovering, articulating, and formulating ideas is not the same as critizing, testing, and reshaping them. flexing these skills separately eliminates the conflicts among them while enhancing their coordination in the final result
      • there comes a time when you can flip easily back and forth between these two modes and indulge them in conversation. but it's crucial in the early stages of writing to turn off your audience awareness, separate writing for discovery from writing critically for presentation. this is bec discovery and criticism are often mutually disruptive, originating in diff mental attifutdes and having diff objectives.
      • the True Believer and the Doubting Thomas -- discovery is exploration, headlong rushing, following the ideas as quickly as they appear, emotional, passionate, curious, risk-taking. criticism is cool detachment, doubt, skepticism, testing, assessing logic and evidence. above all, criticism is about rejecting . two mighty antagonists not easily appeased at the same time.
      • SLIDE compare/contrast table of these two mindsets --
    1. a tool for understanding as well as communication
      • writing can bridge the gap between first thoughts and final expression on paper
      • 2nd thoughts about 1st thoughts are much easier to formulate when both exist on paper
      • articulation before communication
      • whether in thinking or in writing, we don't send our thoughts in pursuit of words as use words to pursue our thoughts.
  • writing as commn also carries 2 further inhibiting factors: 1-that thinking always precedes writing in 2 stages--of thinking now and finding the "right" words laters; and 2, that "real" writing is the public final expression rather than the personal instrument of thought.
    • these inhibitions aggravate writers block by playing up to the worst of perfectionist tendencies to try to get everything right the first time.
    • sometimes good enough is good enough
    • you believe you have to wait for the muse or your subconscious to act rather yourself prodding, probing, and producing. the muse is supposed to work behind the scenes, manipulating your awareness and suddenly dispensing gifts of gab.
    • in this view, writing is seen as 'incubation' or 'inspiration' in the form of suddne flashes of insight. this does happen, but it's debilitating to rely on them.
    • writing is an activity, something you do, not something that happens to you. waiting for the muse to act for you easily becomes an excuse for not writing and the natural ally of procrastination, which is your blood enemy as a writer.
    • practically, incubation and inspiration are rewards for making an effort. inspiration hits you not when you're writing, but when you're in the shower, when you're in the grocery store, when you're walking across campus.


Chapter 2-From first to last draft: generating, composing, and expressing ideas

  • OK, this is the big chapter. i really need to compress chapter 1 thoughts into maybe 3 or 4 slides, covering 2 or 3 minutes, and spend the rest of my time here
  • or, can i just start here and incorporate the theory as i go? (the lasagna theory of composition)


  • these three processes are continuous.
  • many people find writing difficult bec they try to do all 3 at once in a desperate heroic attempt to get their ideas out and down, logicallyorganized, and nicely presented in a single effort. beginning now, think of writing as falling into roughly 3 successive phases of generating, composing, and expressing ideas.

Generating ideas

  • try to write in whole sentences, or at least phrases, along with diagrams, arrows, drawings, anything else to get your thoughts down.
  • this is the best way to not just preserve but discover and to identify your thoughts. you hardly know what your thoughts are until you see them,
  • forster's point that writing in complete sentences involves the whole brain, whereas keywords don't communicate sense. white, dog, and night mean nothing until they're in the context of a sentence.
  • use a ubiquitous capture tool? notebook (show my little mead book)
  • don't fall prey to the temptation to get everything right from the start. don't assume that your ideas have to gestate in your head fully before you write them down. TOO MUCH GOES ON IN YOUR HEAD TO REMEMBER IT ALL. result: mental paralysis.
  • just put the words on paper and get them out of your head. DON'T try to correctly formulate everything in advance.
  • vomit out all the half-formed ideas, guesses, doubts, feelings -- otherwise, they're a burden on your memory. IF THEY'RE NOT QUICKLY SET DOWN, MUCH THAT IS VALUABLE WILL BE LOST AND JUST AS MUCH NONSENSE WILL GO UNDETECTED.
  • write until you feel a flow of ideas on the page.
  • consume space. write more than you think you need, MUCH MORE. write until you feel that too much material has been accumulated ever to be used.
  • never avoid a conflict. list the pros and cons.
  • use stock beginnings to keep your pen moving: "My thinking on this is..." "My feelings about this are..." Then write the next thought that pops in your head no matter how silly.
  • this is thinking solely about you, not any imagined audience. dont' worry about what others will think. these are private notes for your eyes only.
  • let your mind roam, nail the ideas as they flit by. heap them up.
  • if you're stuck, ask: what do i want the reader to know/feel/do after reading this?
  • what about when you don't know much about the topic?
    • use writing to learn more about the subject and how to approach it. set down everything you know. go away, reserch what you don't know, come back and expand what you've written.
    • this is forster's continuous revision
    • crawford kilian -- write a letter to yourself. take a step back and give yourself advice on how to proceed.
    • poul anderson -- will write a passage and then use [ ] to muse to himself about what to do next, and then pick back up on the other side with something he's more sure about.
  • think QUANTITY and let QUALITY take care of itself
    • SLIDE the pottery and the anecdote
    • the more you write now, the more there is to edit later on
    • karen joy fowler
    • the more false leads, poor ideas and expressions you discard, the more questions and objections you can anticipate.
    • through sheer scribbling, you make room in your mind for more new ideas to grow and take hold. you'll discover new relations, perspectives, phrasings, formulations, and not a few gems that will survivie unscathed to the final draft.
  • keep scribbling till you feel repetition is setting in whree no further returns on investment of time ad energy.
    • repetition has its place (you see it on this page as i say the same things over and over). you just want to make sure nothing new is shooting down the mental sluices before you break off.


Cooling-off period

  • if possible, give yourself a good long break and set the material aside. let it cool off. when you return it, it will be with fresh eyes.


SLIDE need a slide showing the three phases as three arrows leading into each other. use it as a tool to show that you can also schedule your work this way.


SLIDE a calendar showing august, and break the month into thirds. how making a schedule already takes some of the pressure off. by the end of the month, you've been living with this material for a long time, so the final presentation of ideas should benefit by that gestation.


Composing ideas

  • two parts: the topical draft, focusing on subject matter, and the sequential draft, focusing on the connections between topics.
  • this phase

Topical draft-1

  • read over your notes, sort them accd to topic. label paragraphs or pages. put titles on large and small chunks of prose that seem to dwell on a single topic.
    • label can be a single word, a long title, a question that the chunk addresses.
    • you've not got the basis of a primitive but useful informaton retrieval system
      • robertson davies' notebooks, the word table
  • don't worry about sequence of topics yet, unless it's easy or obvious. that'll come later.
  • use the same headings when you come back to a topic.
  • if you want to rewrite or revise or expand something, that's ok, but do it QUICKLY.
  • labeling will take some time
  • new ideas will occur to you as you do it, precisely bec you now have text before you to reflect on, react to, and to amend.
  • be tough-minded and specific as you can be in your labeling and marginalia.
    • ask: what am i saying here? what is my point? what's the problem? what's the solution? what shall i call this chunk of words? GOAL: use the questios to focus on what's on the page while stimulating you to further reflection.
    • use the questions when you feel disoriented, confused, distracted.
    • ask them before your reader does.
    • psychologically, still aiming to satisfy yourself first.
      • i'm dubious about that advice. seems to me like you're starting to write and might get distracted.

Cooling off

  • take another break if time permits.
    • congratulate yourself on what you've accomplished so far and how much text you've generated.
  • muse on your ideas without pressure
  • live with your ideas without the presuure of full concentration


Topical draft-2

  • read over the raw prose again
  • observe that some chunks cluster together under a single heading and perhaps a few subheadings
  • your marginal remarks and queries have added to the bulk and filled out some original ideas and thoughts
  • some pieces will semm out in left field, but set them aside. concentrate on the elemnts that fall naturally into place.
  • NEXT STEP: rewrite the orignal with minimal correcionts except for including your annotations and collecting the separate pieces of raw prose under your headings
  • yes, you should retype it.
    • it's not busy work. it's easier to annotate and label on a printout, where you can put arrows, numbers, marginalia, than it is to scroll back and forth and see only 'this much' of your doc on the screen.
    • you need to see your pages spread out before you for ease of scanning
  • as you retype, cross out the raw prose sections, para by para.
    • you'll be hopping from page to page to collect widely scattered items under their appropriate headings
    • also, the crossing out and consolidation helps you to see your progress as old paragraphs are discarded and new ones emerge
  • continue rewriting until all but the obviously lame material has been topically arranged.
    • think of rewriting at this stage as mainly retyping even though more than that is happening.
    • i'm not revising or rewriting, just retype this page or this paragraph
    • importance of retyping, even if you're just mostly copying: you're re-engaging with your material, converitng the static record of your previous thoughts into active thinking.
    • retyping is more than cut and paste
  • let subtle changes occur, get out of their way, but don't press for them
  • if you're feeling anxious about 'just' organizing, remind yourself that this is just a second-stage cleaning-up operaton, putting things in their proper place.
    • the results will be more than that, but to keep the pressue off and the production rate up, think of this as reshuffling, like sorting a deck of cards by suit.

Cooling off

  • take another break if time permits.
    • you've been WORKING.
    • also realize you'll have to get rid of a lot of it. rejecting the junk will test your wits about what works and what doesn't
    • you have things to say! you've demonstrated to yourself that you hve lots of ideas.
    • you're far from finished, but you've broken the back of your writing task -- you have a first draft


Sequential draft

  • Go back to the topically organized fd, make more marginal notes.
  • try to discover a natural, commonsense sequence, or set of sequences, among the topics.
    • many main points will leap out at you.
    • mark them as "main idea" "conclusion" "intro" "supporting evidence"
  • use numbers, arrows, whatever to group what appear to you to be subordinate passages under the main ones, with an eye toward building a line of reasoning or argument or whatever
  • you're starting to think about the arrangement of ideas that will best communicate to a target audience.
    • the order of your thinking and the order of its most effective presentation to an aud are not necess the same thing.
  • ask: who are my readers? what do they expect? what do i want them to know, feel, do?
    • yeah, it feels better to put these questions at this point.
  • think about connecting phrases: "this suggests..." "moreover..." "but consider the opposite case..." "On the other hand..." to transition between sections, to grease the skids
  • you're now well along in the compositional phase of writing
  • your critical faculties are transofrming the landscape of your document to make it easier to traverse
  • this seq revision is your second draft, even before retyping, where writer-centered concerns start giving way to reader-centered concerns


Cooling off

  • get some distance and perspective on it
  • sleep on the text if poss
  • so that you can see your work as a new reader might
  • give yourself leeway for new points and info to occur to you


Expressing ideas

  • at this point, you ARE concerned with expression and communication
  • format, style, grammar, tone, accessibility, language, etc--polishing
  • for now, think of this as performance time, time to put yourself onstage
  • focus on making the ideas clear, understandable, sharp, persuasive
  • some whole passages may be fine as they are, so cut'n'paste at will
  • but remember that rewriting, however mechanical it feel, is rethinking and this is a crucial stage of rethinking for external consumption
  • imagine your reader asking for clarifications, objecting, objecting wrongly, wanting to know what the point is. live this experience as you rewrite, answering these questions as you go
    • write your mind as before, but now writing to the reader, the aud
    • cheap trick--for every statement, ask "So what?" or "Specify." asking these questions instantly forces you to search for evidence and to back up your statements.
  • when you feel stalled, get up, walk around, and step onto the stage again.
    • "just get out the file?" and other procras tips here?
  • any changes you feel obliged to make should be small ones to avoid being stalled for long, unless the big ones come easily, in which case, make them
  • now entering an advanced stage of revision
  • sleep on the third draft too, maybe for a few days if it's a long or difficult piece
  • then, read the manuscript out loud to hear how it sounds
    • play the reader
    • make further additons, dels, corrections as they occur to you just then
    • you'll be amazed at how many small but important changes will pop out at you
  • at this stage, you can ask others to read it also and critique it



Quick editing tips

  • lapham's paramedic editing rules
  • circle "it" wherever you see it--do you overuse it?


Monitoring your progress

  • writing is a continuous process in which the three phases are repeated andsomtimes combined (like in the last stages of revision)
  • be aware of where you are in the writing process, to avoid blocks and confusion that come from trying to do too much at once or reaching too soon for final results
  • as much as poss, treat generation, compositon, and expression as seq phases of writing
  • least pain for max results


Creating a schedule

  • as described, this can be a somewhat lengthy process.
  • if time presses, divide the time available into thirds:
    • one-third for generation
    • one-third for composition
    • one-third for final editing and style
  • if you're under deadline, even that simple division of effort will save you much grief



  • this has been a three-draft tour of writing strategy designed for those who must write on demand
  • there are lots of other methods, but this one should help you if you're having difficulty getting started and organizing a lot of material
  • some pieces of writing will be easier than others, telecoping some of the steps required
  • longer writing chores will take many more drafts in part or whole
  • three is average for most medium-length documents--letters, essays, articles, papers, etc.
  • but the experience is the same
  • writing is like prospecting. we sometimes make a lucky find of a gold nugget on the gorund, but most of the time it takes a lot of sifting the sand to find the precious metal


the rest of the book talks about constructing essays, deductive and inductive reasoning, a brief guide to grammar and punctuation (why?? ELEMENTS OF STYLE already does that!)


say something about how i created this presentation using these methods: mapped out how many days i had to do this, set 2 days for generating, 2 days for composing, and the weekend for making the powerpoint.


also, this is non-fiction prose, and i'm thinking in terms of a paper or essay. however, i may use fiction examples in talking about these techniques.

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