Wednesday, December 31, 2008

4 Things to Remember when Writing

Ok, so perhaps you have a big writing project coming up. Maybe you're publishing in a journal for the first time. Or, maybe you're beefing up your Web page or online portfolio. When staring a new project, here are some key tips to remember:

1. Remember your purpose

Above all, you are writing for your readers. What do you want them to learn or gain after they've read your written work? Write down the answer to this question, and put it in a place you can easily refer back to while completing the project.

2. Know your stuff

It is easier to write about a topic when you've done your homework. Conduct thorough research through a wide variety different formats (authoritative websites, scholarly online journals, books, encylopedias, etc), and then be sure to organize your data in a way that is efficient for your writing.

3. Did I say organize?

You should not only organize your research, but also develop an outline to help keep you focused. Consider what you what you want to cover. Again, what is the main point that you want to convey to your readers? What do you want to say first? Last? Keep referring back to your outline as a map to guide you toward a cohesive sequence. Also, remember to break down your work into manageable chunks. Write two pages a day instead of trying to fit 14 pages in one sitting.

4. Don't micromanage your writing

When developing a first draft, focus on your main points and overall organization instead of harping on sentence and word details. Correcting spelling, grammar, and syntax should should be put off until after you've finished your first draft. Once you are ready to revise, reading the work aloud helps determine its readability, clarity, and unity. So, relax.

-The Writer Librarian

Monday, December 8, 2008

Opportunity for New Librarians to Publish


Call for book chapters: Library instruction lesson plans

Fiction Fixer = Useful?

Fiction Fixer is a paid (quite a hefty price too!) online editorial program that will help edit your manuscript for you. It is designed for people who want to be bestsellers. For the curious, here is a sample evaluation. Note: Fiction Fixer works best via Firefox.

The site also offers some free resources, such as a recommended reading list of books. Subcategories within this list include:
Fundamentals (read these first)
Craft (Basic)
Craft (Advanced)
Editing and Revision

So, do any of you think that the Fiction Fixer editing service could be useful for those willing to pay the price? I'm thinking that one could pay a regular, human editor a lesser amount to do a better job.

I am interested to hear what you have to say.

Addendum to my last post:

I admit I got onto a bit of a rant. My main point was not that anyone can publish, but that a lot of material gets published for the purpose of making a profit instead of considering the point-of-view of the reader.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Anyone can Publish

No, really. It's true. In writing two book reviews this month, both books that came across my desk were pure drivel. It's not so much the content or subject matter that irked me, but the lack of writing structure and sequence. Another too common phenomenon I've seen lately (again, these authors are published!) is the overstating of the obvious. Like we don't know. Like we're idiots unless they spell out every single thought in their head.

But their writing ability isn't why they are published (obviously). Rather, they promoted a marketable idea in a way that made sense to someone else. So if you want to get published too, find an idea that is relatable and intriguing, one that will spark people's interest. Just please, pretty please, take note of the books you read, specifically how the words are chosen and the sentences structured. Find what annoys you and avoid it. Don't overcompensate for your reader. People are smart. They will understand where you are coming from.

Hopefully, with this in mind, by the time you publish you can save book reviewers (and readers!) the trouble of sludging through your work with the same motivation that one would have while mopping a floor.

-The Writer Librarian

Friday, November 21, 2008

Knocking Out Writer's Block

Much of writer's block comes from putting on too many restrictions. It is helpful to reduce limiting factors, such as inner critics, bogged-down writing rules, and time constraints. Once you break free, you can customize your writing process in a way that works for you. Below are some handy tips, adapted from Outwitting Writer's Block and Other Problems of the Pen by Jenna Glatzer:

-Learn to silence your inner critic
Don't get stuck on the wheel of self-criticism ("that's cliche," "the work isn't really ready," etc.). Turn your critic into a pragmatist in order to give yourself realistic and constructive feedback.

-Make your own rules
You don't have to start at the beginning. A lot of writers get tripped up on introductory paragraphs due to the pressure of covering the impact of the whole piece before it's even written. Instead, write two or three key ideas on a separate sheet of paper, or start an outline. You can then use the starting thoughts to formulate some of the later paragraphs, and return to the introductory paragraph when you're ready.

-Don't let looming deadlines get the best of you
If a strict deadline is upon you, just keep writing. If you freeze in panic, the work will never get done. Just write something, anything, even if you think it stinks. You can also delegate the workload by having a trusted colleague proof your work. To avoid future looming deadlines, treat the writing process like eating an elephant: do it a little bit at a time. If you need 10 pages by Saturday, write 2 pages each day until Friday. If the writing flows more than 2 pages a day, feel free to do more. Make your own schedule.

-The Writer Librarian

Monday, November 10, 2008

Write for the Tech Static

The Tech Static is an upcoming journal about technology-related collection development. They are currently soliciting for collection development article queries. Current needs are here, guidelines can be found here.

-The Writer Librarian

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Writing Outlines with Concept Maps

Sometimes I have trouble organizing my thoughts before writing. Doing a concept map usually works best for me, and today I happened upon an ILI-L listserv post that linked to a free concept map tool:

Once you log in, you can create interactive mind maps to help organize your thoughts. This can also be a good teaching tool for you IL librarians out there.

-The Writer Librarian

Question of the Week: What organizational tips have helped you as a writer?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Newbie Librarians = Published Writers?

One commenter asked how those who are new to the library profession can get published. I know there are a lot of new librarians out there who share this individual's concerns.

Some common issues include:

1. Lack of professional connections
2. Feeling like one doesn't have enough "authority"
3. Inability to narrow to a write-able topic and do scholarly, reputable research

As a new librarian, I have found that joining ALA's New Member Roundtable (NMRT) can help start breaking down the barriers of #1 and #2. NMRT has an NMRT-L listserv that new librarians can join (but I think you have to be a member of ALA). The NMRT-L usually announces calls for publication in upcoming print and online journals and newsletters relating to librarianship, such as NMRT Footnotes. Calls for conference presentations are also listed, which can sometimes lead to publishing articles in print proceedings. I also recently discovered the NMRT New Writers List (NMRTWriter), which you can find by scrolling to the bottom of this internet page.

If you don't want to pay for an ALA membership (it can be pretty pricey!), then maybe join some of the other library listservs, and ask around, maybe to former professors (the tenured ones are usually published) or seasoned librarians that you work with. If anyone from either of those groups is reading this blog, I'm all ears...perhaps you know of strategies I haven't covered.

As far as being able to narrow your topic (#3), choose a niche that interests you. The nice thing about librarianship is that it has a lot of little niches, where a lot of us "Jack of all Trades, Master of Nothings" can still excel. After choosing a niche, do a review of the literature and see what has already been published about it. This will accomplish the following:
-You won't steal anyone else's idea
-You can find an area in this niche that hasn't yet been explored and do your own
scholarly research (think back to library school when you were assigned those "Action
Research" proposals and how you went about gathering info).

I hope I've sufficiently answered your questions. I wrote all of this very quickly, and there are probably some stones I left unturned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Writer Librarian

I started this blog to help librarians who want to be published. Whether you are an academic librarian looking for tenure, or you surround yourself with poetry and prose in the hopes of writing your own book, you fall into this category. I am sure there are many of us.

This is a place where librarians who want to be published can ask questions, and where librarians who are already published can pass on some wisdom to the rest of us. Writing can be a tricky business, and we should help one another.

One of the best tips I've received is to write as simply as possible. Clear the clutter. I read an article in the November 2008 issue of Communication Briefings that discussed writing to the lowest common denominator. Basically, it is better to be understood by as many people as possible instead of using smart-sounding words that no one knows the meaning of. (Yes, you scholarly types, that means you.)

This goes hand-in-hand with eliminating unecessary words in a sentence. Instead of writing "I feel that it is important for librarians to meet the needs of users," it is clearer and more concise to write, "Librarians should meet the needs of users." Go ahead, give it a try. Look over something you've wrote, and see if you can eliminate words while still retaining the meaning you want to convey.

-The Writer Librarian