Posts tagged "writing"

Note:

At present, I write here infrequently. You can find my regular, weekly blogging is over at The Deliberate Owl.

book cover for Grad School Life: Surviving and Thriving Beyond Coursework and Research by Jacqueline M. Kory-Westlund. It shows a piles of papers behind the title, with a small potted plant on top of one stack, and the bottom half of the page covered in blue as if underwater

Get ready, because this update is a big one!

First, I have a BOOK COVER! See above!

And a PUBLICATION DATE: February 27, 2024!

The book is now listed online on the Columbia University Press website! Preorders will soon be available there, and with other book retailers! If you order through CUP, you can use the discount code CUP20 at checkout to receive 20% off.

What is the rest of the book production process like?

In my last update, I explained the production process. Since then, the production editor has taken the copyedited pages to format the whole book and create page proofs.

Right now, I'm in the midst of checking the page proofs. It's pretty cool to have a complete PDF of my book in hand! My job is to read through everything as carefully as I can to catch any final typos and factual errors—the little stuff that can be fixed at this stage.

I'm also creating the index. University presses frequently ask authors to create the index (you can hire it out if you want, on your own dime). It's time consuming, but I can squeeze it in more easily than I can spare the cost of a professional indexer. I'm doing the first pass while proofreading—picking keywords, adding some page numbers. Then I'll do a second pass to catch any mentions of words that I missed the first time through.

My proof corrections and index draft are due Dec 1. Then, there's the next round of proofs for the index and front matter. We should have a bound book sometime in January, with the publication—as mentioned—February 27!

What else is left?

Marketing and book promotion. I filled out CUP's marketing questionnaire a few months ago, so I presume at some point I'll hear from their marketing people. But, without waiting for them, I have some social media work to do—posts to plan and queue up. I have updates to my personal/author website to finish, and blog posts to write. And, of course, book promotion doesn't end at publication!

It's so cool to have the final product in sight.

* This post first appeared on The Deliberate Owl.


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the little blue engine that could pulling the train of toys over the mountain

My book has been copyedited!

That means my book is chugging along like the little engine that could: I think I can I think I can, and if we keep chugging, we will slowly, slowly climb over the mountain to publication.

What happens in editing and production?

This stage means that the manuscript is relatively final—I turned it in, it went through peer review, my editor gave comments, I revised, my editor commented, I revised more. Now, most of the work is in the hands of my publisher, Columbia University Press (CUP). I give some input, but they're the ones hard at work right now.

At this stage, we have settled on a title: Grad School Life: Surviving and Thriving Beyond Coursework and Research

The manuscript went to the copyeditor. I got the copyeditor's edits, comments, and questions back last week. I have a couple weeks to read and respond. I also need to supply the final back material soon (e.g., the acknowledgements).

There's no book cover yet, but it's coming. I filled out a design questionnaire to give preliminary input. I'm excited to see what the designer comes up with!

After copyediting, the production editor gets the manuscript ready for composition and typesetting. The goal is to have page proofs by mid-October. Then there's indexing.

After that, it's a marketing game! I've returned CUP's questionnaires about marketing plans and cover copy. We'll talk at some point about the details, I suspect in October or later.

And then… I'm not sure what the schedule is! I expect it'll depend on exactly how quickly we get through it all, and on the timeline of other books in CUP's pipeline.

* This post first appeared on The Deliberate Owl.


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a book with its pages fanned out in the air reting atop three other thick volumes that are also open

The most important update: I'm finished with revisions and we're moving into production!

As part of that, I'm delighted to announce that the working title I've used so far is not the final title! I was positive that my editor and the marketing team at Columbia University Press (CUP) could come up with something better than I could when writing my book proposal—and I was right.

New working title, to be finalized in the next few weeks:

Grad School Life: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving Beyond Coursework and Research.

What was the review and revision process like?

The review process had three stages. First, as an academic press, CUP requires peer review of all books it publishes. My editor handled finding reviewers and sending the manuscript out for peer review. We got two peer reviewers. It took a while, since academics are busy people. My job was to read the reviews, write a letter explaining how I'd address their concerns, and then actually address their concerns in my manuscript.

Both reviews were incredibly positive. One reviewer's primary concern was that the book is long and academics are probably too busy to read an entire book. Okay, yeah, true. Maybe if they read my chapters on time management and productivity first..? I suggested some changes to organization, a more detailed table of contents, etc to help busy students find the information they're looking for.

The other reviewer just wanted some commentary on the generational shift in how current students and their mentors approach salary, the demands of graduate education, and work-life balance … namely: some professors think students are entitled and obnoxious; some students think they're underpaid, overworked, and exploited. It's an interesting (and divisive) issue and deserves some commentary, so I agreed to add some.

With the peer reviewers and my response letter in hand, my editor then met with the faculty board at CUP to get approval for moving the manuscript into production. They approved it, but were worried that the book might be more relevant for STEM students than humanities/social sciences students. Namely: STEM students have more job opportunities and face less precarity. My editor and I agreed that it'd help to reframe portions of the introduction and add explicit commentary on the environment of grad school (which was covered in more detail later in the book).

My editor made a few other suggestions to help make the book cross-disciplinary. Life at the MIT Media Lab is different from life as a humanities Master's student! I found her perspective very useful for improving the book. She suggested anecdotes to add and aspects of life as a humanities student to discuss that I may not have known about otherwise.

(Read: Why write a book? How do you meet deadlines? And other answers)

Revisions and alpha readers

Besides the feedback from CUP, I shared various chapters with colleagues at the Ronin Institute. Several women offered feedback, which I greatly appreciated. I completely restructured the introduction based on their comments and it is far better for it!

(Read: How to Level Up at Anything: Using Science to Approach Mastery)

I spent a couple weeks making all the revisions and going back and forth with my editor. Then we decided it was time for the next step.

Moving into production

Production of a book involves a lot of people and a lot of steps. I have a plateful of tasks—e.g., give my opinion about cover design. CUP asked me to share cover designs I liked, aesthetic preferences, ideas or themes to highlight, related books. I'm glad to have a team working on this with me!

I have a questionnaire to fill out for CUP about marketing, and another to provide summaries and info for the book jacket copy. I need to format the manuscript with Word (I write all my drafts in Google Docs for ease of access on my phone and sharing with others for feedback). I need to finish writing the back material, namely stuff like the acknowledgements. At some point there's an index to create.

While the manuscript is "done", it's not done. But we're getting there, and it feels like we're making progress. Publication is inching closer.

(Read: The Incremental Method to Achieving Long-term Goals and Getting Things Done)

While you're waiting for the book…

Earlier this year, I was on a panel at the Ronin Institute about how to write and publish a book. It was well-attended, fun, and informative. Here's my summary. All of us on the panel also wrote up a general summary of the questions and answers, which you can read here.

* This post first appeared on The Deliberate Owl.


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a fancy pen resting on a lined spiral bound notebook

Yesterday was a special occasion: Turn the first draft of my book manuscript over to my editor day!

Turning in a full draft of the book was the first major deadline. Though actually, in typical me fashion, I emailed my editor with the draft nearly a week ago. (I learned a while back to frontload work and skip crunch time.)

Fifteen chapters, resources and glossary; currently, around ~90,000 words. I'm sure that will change during revisions.

(Read: Why write a book? How do you meet deadlines? And other answers)

What's my writing and revision process?

I wrote the first draft in Google docs, with a separate document for each chapter. The first pass was notes, thoughts, ideas; lots of voice typing with my phone. Reading books; researching. Small chunks of work. Word count goals just to get that raw content in place.

The second pass was revisions at my laptop, during which I turned my notes into coherent paragraphs and did extensive restructuring. My daily goal was time spent editing, rather than word counts. After I had a decent draft of each chapter, I attempted a 10% cut.

I originally heard about the 10% cut from the Writing Excuses podcast, though it's originally from Stephen King's book On Writing. The point is to cut all the words you don't need; condense storylines; tighten the writing. I don't think I managed to hit 10% (I forgot to record the starting word count…), but I did remove many extraneous words.

Yes but … when??

I've had some people ask me how I manage to balance writing with being primary caregiver to three young children. Because, you know, three young children can be a lot.

The key for me is to work incrementally. There's no crunch time right before a deadline because I don't do crunch times. I frontload work; I set manageable, incremental goals so that I'm working far in advance of any deadlines—such as daily word counts or daily time spent editing.

I do most of my writing and editing during our youngest child's naptime or in the evening after everyone's asleep. I don't work as efficiently at night, but an hour of quiet time (even if I yawn) is better than no hour, or an hour of interruptions.

(Read: The Incremental Method to Achieving Long-term Goals and Getting Things Done)

(Read: How I wrote 50k words in 6 months.)

I make my deep work time as productive and efficient as possible—skills learned while writing my dissertation with a baby. I focus on one task in the time available. No social media. I make it easier to slip back into context when returning to work—e.g., I leave comments all over my documents, notes to myself about what to tackle next, why I'm restructuring something, a reference to hunt down later.

(Read: Deep Work for Parents: A Two-Step Strategy for More Effective, Efficient Work)

Next steps for the book

Next is feedback and revisions.

My editor will look over the draft. The draft goes out to peer review, since that's part of the university press publishing process. Several fellow Ronin scholars have volunteered as alpha readers.

As the feedback rolls in, I'll revise. In the meantime, I'm starting to frontload book marketing work, like writing blog posts I'll use later, so that the lead up to book release isn't too hectic. (Remember, I don't do crunch time.)

This post first appeared on The Deliberate Owl.


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a stack of hardback books about graduate school

So that book I'm writing!

Currently, I have over 80,000 draft words and notes (including the sample chapters I submitted with the proposal). This is a milestone because the manuscript goal is 80,000 words.

However, these 80,000 words are first draft words, not submission-ready words. They are only loosely lumped into chapters, not fully organized or structured. They are my reading notes, my thoughts and ideas, paragraphs that don't flow together yet, comments about statistics I need to look up, facts I need to verify, and references I need to track down. In short, it's all the raw content that will be able to be shaped into a book.

For those curious about mechanics, I have logged the majority of these words from my phone (I mostly use voice typing). I sit at the kitchen table taking notes while the kids eat breakfast. I add a few words from the floor in our playroom while the kids build with Legos. A couple hundred words a day adds up fast.

In my research for the book, I've read existing books on getting through graduate school, such as:

  • Jennifer Calarco: A Field Guide to Graduate School
  • Amanda I. Seligman: Is Graduate School Really For You?
  • Peter J Feibelman: A PhD Is Not Enough! A Guide to Survival in Science

I'm reading books about non-academic career paths, including:

  • Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius: So What Are You Going to Do with That? Finding Careers Outside Academia
  • Christopher L. Caterine: Leaving Academia: A Practical Guide

I'm reading books about issues in graduate education, such as:

  • Julie R. Posselt: Inside Graduate Admissions
  • Leonard Cassuto: The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It
  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick: Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University

I've also been reading nonfiction books that aren't specifically about graduate school, but are nonetheless highly relevant to thriving and making the most of your education and your life, such as:

  • Daniel H. Pink: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
  • Bill Burnett and Dave Evans: Designing Your Life: How To Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life (Read my review!)
  • Adam Grant: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

I have more to read and research, of course—there's always more to read and research.

But as another student in graduate school told me once, at some point, you have to stop reading and start creating. You have to turn everything you know into something.

That's the point I'm at now. And honestly? Revision is the fun part.

Revision is where the magic happens. Revision is when I make the words flow. It's when ideas become coherent. It's when I hunt down that quote from that book I read two years ago that would be perfect to mention in this section, add references, rearrange content, and generally improve the coherency and structure of my words.

Revision is not a one-time process. It's not write, revise, done. It's write, rewrite, reword, rearrange, revise, repeat. Revision is what I'll be doing on the book for the next six months.

Unfortunately, revision is harder to do on my phone. I need more office time with a proper keyboard and monitor. So I've switched from having a daily book word count to having a daily book time count. This will be easier and easier to schedule as the weather warms up—I'll send everyone else outside while I get my quiet writing time in!

Making progress. I'll keep you updated!

This post first appeared on The Deliberate Owl.


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