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Have fun storming the castle

November 16, 2010

I am pleased to report both that I managed fairly nicely without my computer and also that I am very glad to have it back again. I much prefer using all ten of my fingers for typing (Well, nine anyway. I’m looking at you, left thumb. Slacker.)

I do think that I will continue to work offline for a couple of hours a day, at least for a while. Editing on paper is different and maybe more efficient then editing online, at least at this stage of the game. I have hammered out a system where I work with three notebooks: my dissertation binder and two legal pads. The first legal pad is for a running list of edits that need to be made. I make minor edits directly into the dissertation binder, but for things that require looking something up, moving things around or rewriting, I write it in the notepad. I’ll go back later and make the changes directly in the computerized version of the document, along with the smaller edits I’ve made in the diss notebook. Notebook number three is for outlining. I haven’t done this for every chapter, but for those about which I have some structural concerns, I’ve written one sentence for each paragraph. This is helping me see the good, the bad, and the ugly about my organizational choices and will, I hope, make it easier to fix the problems. I think all this will make the actual editing process faster and will also give me the satisfaction of crossing many things off my list rapidly. At this stage of the game, anything that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something is VERY important.

But more than efficiency, I’ve just felt more engaged with the work for the last few days. And now I’ve got the added incentive of a promised meeting with my adviser on Thursday — still no time yet, but I will feel fully justified, if I don’t hear from him, in camping out in front of his office door until he shows up. His office is conveniently located near a coffee shop AND a bathroom, so I could stay indefinitely. A good siege mentality never hurts.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2010 8:36 pm

    Good luck to you with the edits and campout. I think that the three notebook system sounds brilliant, but outlining? Brutal.

  2. November 17, 2010 9:07 am

    SENTENCE OUTLINE! I always urge people to try this, and you’re the first I’ve heard of in a while to see how very useful it can be. And siege away. It sounds like the only thing to do.

  3. freshhell permalink
    November 17, 2010 9:39 am

    I do something similar but I don’t always do a very good job of outlining. I do, however, HAVE to edit from a paper version of the mss. I need to be able to spread out the pages, flip easily back and forth, in a way I can’t do on the computer. Glad you’ve got a system that is working for you.

  4. November 17, 2010 9:41 am

    Sentence outlining is a brutal way to look at your own prose, but it’s absolutely dead useful, especially when a) you’ve been working on a project for a long time and have lost some perspective, b) you’ve moved a lot of things around and are concerned about duplications and transitions, c) your project is really long, or d) all of the above. One of the big challenges of my project is that I’m layering two ways of slicing the subject matter: one divides it by era, the other by geography. This results in some organizational complications. The sentence outline is helping me keep things coherent. But outlining your own work is a lot like listening to recordings of your own voice: a little disorienting and not nearly as pretty as you thought it was.

  5. November 17, 2010 9:42 am

    Freshhell, I always used to use a combination of paper and computer. I’m not sure when I got away from it, but I think it had to do with the price of ink and paper and the sheer quantity of it required for this project, which is currently clocking in at 500 pages, not counting the bibliography.

  6. freshhell permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:52 pm

    I usually print mine out in small chunks, like 50 pp at a time. That way it doesn’t seem like I’m killing a tree so much as a couple of small, weedy bushes. But I really need to see the draft on paper at some point.

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