The ALCTS e-Forum “The Write Stuff: Strategies and Tools for Staying on Track from Start to Finish” was held on September 18–19, 2018. The discussion was moderated by Rebecca Nous (discovery services librarian at University at Albany), Wendy West (head of discovery services at University at Albany), and Stacey Marien (acquisitions librarian at American University). The e-forum’s 40 participants posted more than 90 messages during the two-day event. Participants came to the e-Forum with varying experience in writing, having been involved in a wide variety of writing projects, including zines, articles and books, journal editorial work, course work, and grants.
The first topic of discussion related to making time to write. Participants identified a number of strategies they employ to finding time, such as blocking off time on their calendar, working with programs offered at their institution, and finding a place away from their desk to reduce distractions. Others found it helpful to plan to write during slower times of the year or to work on small pieces or goals as time allows, rather than trying to devote a big block of time to writing, which can be more challenging.
The subject of co-authoring was also discussed. For participants, benefits of co-authoring included accountability for writing and meeting goals, leveraging expertise in different areas, and the support that comes from writing with someone else. Others noted that it can be challenging to coordinate and blend writing styles and that different institutions may value sole authorship more than co-authorship when it comes time for tenure or promotion.
Finding opportunities to publish was discussed at the end of day one and the beginning of day two. Participants recommended book reviews and conference reports as a good way to get started with professional writing. Others recommended checking email lists for calls for articles, browsing A Library Writer’s Blog (an aggregated list of calls for proposals), and trying out Endnote’s Manuscript Matcher (a feature that helps to match an abstract to journals that may be a good fit). Networking at conferences, researching journals in the field, and submitting query letters were also suggested.
Participants then discussed ways to organize and plan their writing. Creating outlines was mentioned several times over the two-day discussion, as was setting target dates for completing different aspects of the writing project, from start to finish. Evernote, Mendeley, and Trello were tools that worked for some of our participants, while others preferred using index cards or collecting and recording references and key information learned from them on separate pieces of paper.
Overcoming and working through writer’s block was the next topic. Suggested strategies included looking for a different way to approach the topic, skipping to a different section of the project, and talking it out with a colleague. Finding a different place to write, leaving the computer and writing notes or ideas by hand, and setting the writing aside for a bit were also mentioned as possible ways to get through writer’s block.
The e-Forum closed with participants sharing resources they recommend to help with writing, which are included below. To view the full e-forum transcript, visit the ALCTS e-Forum Archive.
Blogs & websites
- Patter by Pat Thomson
- A Library Writer’s Blog
- “Becoming a More Productive Writer” by Jan Allen, Graduate Mentor
- Improving Writing Productivity from Stanford University’s Faculty Staff Help Center
- “Top 10 academic productivity tips, or how I submitted 5 pieces in 3 weeks” by Raul Pacheco-Vega
- Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. Fitzgerald. The Craft of Research. Fourth Edition. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2016.
- Crawford, Walt. First Have Something to Say: Writing for the Library Profession. Chicago, Illinois: American Library Association, 2003.
- Williams, Joseph M., and Joseph Bizup. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Twelfth Edition. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson, 2017.