I used to do the former. I would start a manuscript with paragraph one. I would take an inordinate amount of time agonizing over that paragraph in particular, to get the perfect first sentence, and perfect first paragraph. As I went through, if I wanted to cite something to make a particular point in a sentence, I would pause from writing and track down that reference immediately. If I struggled over an idea or thought, I would stay with that paragraph/idea until I could hash out at least some form of a draft of that paragraph.
I have modified this style slowly over time. Now, if you look at a draft of a paper I’m working on, it will have multiple comments and/or statements in bold. So, instead of getting stuck, I will skip over a sticking point and come back to it later. I often don’t even attempt to tackle the first paragraph until the rest of the introduction is done. And sometimes I outline the introduction, paragraph by paragraph, and write out the hypotheses, but don’t fill in the line by line details of the introduction until I’ve drafted the methods and results.
Now I allow holes in the draft (drafty drafts) in order to keep moving through it, rather than pausing to fix every detail. So, opening up some current in progress manuscripts, they include some of the following comments:
- Do we need more of a transition here? Probably…
- (CITES OF LOW % AT YOUNG AGE)
- Religiosity: FIND ANYTHING ON KISSING? AND THEN IF NOT, GO TO LIFETIME VAGINAL SEX
- MORE HERE ON WHY THIS MATTERS???
- Despite these limitations, this paper provides… WRITE A CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH!!!
- SAY MORE HERE ABOUT WHY THIS IS INTERESTING.
- (AH, FIX THIS SENTENCE!).
- ORAL SEX MATTER? THEY ARE REINFORCIING – SEE TALK FOR THIS, BUT BASICALLY, IF ORAL SEX IS LESS POSITIVELY PERCEIVED, MAY BE MORE LIKELY TO ENGAGE IN VAGINAL IN FUTURE, WHICH CARRIES EVEN MORE RISK
I’ve been collaborating with someone new over the past couple of years, and his style is quite different. He will send a draft around with fairly significant gaps in it. Often he sends it before the discussion is touched, and often there are holes in the manuscript, either where he’s asking for help/advice, or where he wants to return to later, but he wants input from others on other sections first. Sometimes I’ve tried to follow his lead, in terms of allowing my draft to be draftier when I send it to co-authors. In the past, no matter what order I worked on things, I didn’t send the paper to co-authors until I had a full, relatively solid draft. Now, I should pause to note that if you’re a student working on a thesis or a manuscript with your adviser, it’s unlikely you will draft a full manuscript before sharing with your mentor. I usually have my students share their manuscripts (and theses and dissertations) in stages so I can have input before they have written too much (and potentially wasted a lot of time down the wrong path).
By emulating my collaborator and sending drafts around at earlier stages, I find that the back-and-forth pushes me to get moving more quickly, and the early input can help shape sections that I might have had to rewrite more drastically later. Also, some section I’m struggling with may come more easily for a co-author. So if you open up drafts I recently shared with co-authors, they contain some of the following comments:
- You’ll notice reading through that I haven’t really settled on a term to refer to this age period. Once we pick one I promise I’ll use it consistently.
- At this point reading through, ignore APA style for et al as I tried to mostly write things out in case order changes or earlier references get dropped.
- WHAT ELSE CAN WE PUT HERE? DRINKING SODA (KIND OF KIDDING); RISKY DRIVING? TANNING?
- OTHER BETTER IDEAS HERE?
By allowing myself to have drafty drafts, rather than letting perfectionistic-Eva take over and agonize over the placement of every word, I increase my efficiency. And fresh-eyes-Eva often can tackle the problem that tripped up yesterday-Eva.
“The post Drafty drafts first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on January 24, 2016.