03 May 2011

Grade ALL The Things!

(H/T to Hyperbole and a Half.)

That's what I'm doing this week. And after I grade ALL the things, I get to make up exams so I will have MORE things to grade.

So in lieu of substance, I'm going to give you quotations from a piece by Len Deighton in the 23 April issue of the Wall Street Journal (subscriber only, so no link):

When you think you're ready to start writing, write a blurb. Whether the book is to be fiction nonfiction, or even a cookbook, it is essential to have a description of 500 to 1000 words. This blurb should remain in view while you are writing. It will keep you from wandering off into detours.

Next, take 10 sheets of paper and number them. Using your blurb as a guide, write 50 or so words on each sheet describing what will happen in that chapter. A short sentence may be all you need: "Bernard has inevitable row about Werner with Bret" or "Hunt for battleship Bismarck."

You need not be restricted to 10 chapters. Add or remove sheets as needed. These will remind you that books do not have to be written in order, starting with chapter one. A surprising interview or revealing research may lead you to write the fifth chapter first. Take that opportunity while the material is fresh in your mind.

Nice, simple instructions that make a lot of sense, easily adapted to academic writing. You could do the sections of an article this way, too.


undine said...

Dame Eleanor, this post was a two-fer: I laughed when I saw the title, AND the instructions for writing are great. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


I will be joining grading jail next week. This is my one week respite...

But why am I so busy?!

Also, great writing advice.

Narya said...

Best book ever is Howard Becker's, though this advice is great, too. Becker's book is targeted to academics, but I have found many of the thoughts to be helpful in writing of all kinds. It doesn't work well for people who are afraid to edit, though.