Today's #acwri task is to not write. Or more accurately, to get rid of writing, and a fair bit of it. If writing is hard, trying not to write too much, or to reduce what you've already writte, can be even harder. The journal article that had fitted nicely within Journal A's word limit, is now oversized for Journal B by a massive 900 words. 900 words! How on earth do you cut that from 5900?
In getting this paper under Journal B's word limit I've learnt (or probably re-learnt) three things. First, it can be done, even if it's difficult. Second, yesterday's final version (which I did not feel could be improved on) can today be revised and strengthened. And third, it is amazing how many words you can lose when you try, without affecting the core arguments of your paper. There are always challenges, especially if using excerpts from qualitative interviews. But sometimes more is less. Editing helps you to make choices about what's really important in your paper, where the repetition is. And sometimes less words make a stronger argument, because you have to be direct and explicit. As Henry James once said, "In art economy is always beauty."
It’s five months since we started #Acwri, and this week we took some time to think about what it’s achieved and how it could be developed in the future. For those of you who don’t know much about #Acwri you can read about us here. But in a nutshell, the aim is that once a fortnight, we invite academic writers at any stage of their career to discuss a particular aspect of the writing process. The aim is to share problems, ideas and solutions, and provide a supportive peer network. So far we have discussed a range of topics including writing journal articles, writing conference papers and writing research proposals. The summaries from these talks are posted on both PhD2Published and Jeremy’s website.
The group seems (from our perspective) to be meeting the aims we set out with, and we’re proposing to continue running the group every two weeks without any major changes. But we have a few ideas about to make it run slightly better, and would welcome your thoughts and ideas.
One change we’ve already made is to create a dedicated @acwri Twitter account, which we’ll use to publicise our meetings, chair the discussion, and spread awareness of the group. This should hopefully help give #Acwri a clearer, more visible identity.
Our meetings will continue to be on alternate Thursday evenings, but we’re going to change the time from 6pm to 8pm, to make it easier for UK folks to join in, as the current 6pm start clashes with many people’s evening commute and family commitments. Do let us know what you think!
Over the summer we’ll be meeting on 2nd August, 16th August, and then taking a break until Thursday 6th September. The 16th August meeting will be an ‘open house’ – a chance for anyone to share what they’re writing about, problems/challenges they’re facing, and tips on how to keep the motivation and the writing going over the long hot summer.
For all our other meetings we’ll be taking on a particular theme. We need people to suggest the kinds of things they’d like to discuss. From these ideas we’ll create a poll with a choice of topics for each meeting, and the most popular one wins. We’ve used this system for some of our previous chats, but it will now be something we try to do for every #Acwri session.
The two of us (@DrAnnaTarrant and @DrJeremySegrott) will continue to take turns at chairing the sessions and summarising the discussion on our websites (here and here), but we’ll also invite the winner of the topic poll to kick off each session by telling everyone why they chose the subject, and highlighting some of the key points they think are important.
Plans are also afoot to set up a parallel #Acwri group for Australia and Asia, as the current #Acwri group takes place in the early hours of the morning there.
Let us know what you’d like #Acwri to discuss, and any other ideas about how we should develop the group.