Tag Archives: publishing

The Hard Way #3: But send stuff out well

So the follow-up to my advice of “write stuff down and send stuff out” is that the “send stuff out” part is neither random or straightforward. So “send stuff out” should really read “send stuff out well” – and this post is aimed at some of the ways that one can do that. There are two main elements of “well” that i want to address – doing a good job packaging something to send it, and choosing the write place to send it. This post will talk about journal articles specifically, and future posts will address the book process.

So, what do I mean by doing a good job packaging something to send out? Assume for a second that we have chosen an outlet to send the article to (discussed below). That outlet has a guideline word count, a proposed submission format (word or PDF, Chicago or Harvard citations, footnotes or endnotes), a submission process (ScholarOne or email), a preference on self-citations (omitting them, replacing name with ‘author,’ doing noting), anonymity, the inclusion of a cover letter or bio. Follow them. Every single one of them. Some journals desk reject things that miss these things, but even the ones that don’t are annoyed by it. It is worth the couple of hours of your time to follow the guidelines. Make sure that you have copyedited what you’re sending, or that a friend or advisor has. Use a working email address (preferably a professional one) to make the submission. You might think that I am being silly about this, but as a journal editor, many submissions violate one or all of these rules, and it matters in their chances for publication success. When you submit something, do tailor it to the place you are submitting it.

Which brings me to … how do I choose an outlet?

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The Hard Way #2: the Challenges of Writing

Part of “writing stuff down and sending stuff out” (see Post #1 here) is developing good writing habits. I by no means think I have this down. Nonetheless, I thought this series offered a good time to share my experiences – most of which I learned the hard way. What follows, then, are the things I learned about how to be a productive writer.

1. Set aside time consistently to write. This sounds like “obvious” advice. Yet when life happens, I often find writing to be one of the first things that I neglect. The reason is clear: ignoring my writing has no immediate repercussions. If I fail to prepare a class, miss a committee meeting, close down office hours, ignore the pile of grading, do not register grades, or postpone responding to my email, there may be various angry constituents banging on my door. The same does not happen when I delay the writing of a paper. At most, another day passes without progress (although the tenure clock keeps ticking).

I probably don’t need to make the case for establishing consistent writing time, but I will nevertheless share two benefits of this strategy to me personally. First, it re-connects me with the topics I love to study. Writing therefore makes me more enthusiastic about my job. And being consistently enthusiastic has positive effects on how I handle my other, various job duties. Second, when I step away from writing for too long, it takes me a significant amount of time to get back “into the groove” when I return to it. At these return moments, I find myself re-reading what I wrote and wondering what I was trying to say; re-visiting “do files” and deciphering code to determine what models I ran and what remains to be done; and (if relevant) re-connecting with co-authors to ensure we’re both headed in the same direction again. This re-familiarization costs me hours of work time that might be used elsewhere. The better, more efficient solution is to do something – no matter how small – on my current project every day. (Note: I regularly fail at this, but I keep trying to do it anyway.)

I suppose the next logical question is: how does one do this? As with all writing advice, it’s personal. But I can share my process. As I get busier, I become more absent minded, so I rely more heavily on my calendar now than ever before. On my calendar, I block off 2-4 hour sections of time for a project on 4-6 days/week. This marks the time as “busy” for me, but it also prepares me psychologically for the writing task at hand. I know that from 1-5pm on Friday, for example, I will be working on Project A. When that time comes, there is no indecision about what to do. I know what to do.

2. Set goals and deadlines. Some writers (e.g., Stephen King) enforce a daily word quota and then work (however long) until meeting that quota. This strategy does not work well for me, as I find that I can either write well or a lot, but not usually both. Nonetheless, there are other ways to set goals. For example:
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The Hard Way #1: Write Stuff Down and Send Stuff Out

This post is the first in a series of professional development posts on RelationsInternational. I will write most of them, but accept guest posts and contributions from other members of RelationsInternational. This series of posts was inspired by some people in a conversation at ISA who suggested that there is utility in formally writing some of the stuff I’ve learned ‘the hard way’ over the course of my career down in case it would be useful to others. I in no way consider myself to be a guru-sort of anything, so take this advice or leave it, it has been useful to me over the years. 

The first time I was asked to be on a panel on how to publish, I’d barely secured my first job. I knew even at the time that I’d been asked because of the fairly voluminous amount of stuff I’d published in a wide variety of (including traditionally high-quality) outlets. I figured that I’d been asked to be on the panel because I had to have learned something from those experiences, and sat down to figure out what I’d learned. The list of lessons has gotten longer over the (many) years since that panel, and the first posts in this professional development series will try to address the list, one at a time. I still think, though, that the first lesson I came up with is one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned (and relearned, and re-relearned) in publishing in the discipline.

Write stuff down. Send stuff out.

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