The past couple of weeks I have been incredibly busy, but not with any exciting lab experiments unfortunately. Instead I have been busy working on some writing.
In my previous post, I mentioned that one of my 2019 goals was to become a published author for the first time. And that was because I had been asked to write a review article for an upcoming special edition of a journal.
I am super excited about this but also quite anxious. I’ve written so many articles/essays/reports throughout university but now all of a sudden I’m doubting my ability to write – my work has only ever been read by 2 or 3 scientists maximum – usually the ones who are marking it. But not now… this article could potentially be read by loads of scientists and so I am really feeling a lot of pressure to get this right.
To try and take a bit of pressure off, I decided to ask my lovely followers on Twitter if they had any advice for me and they came up with some great writing tips that have helped me massively! With their help I have compiled my top 5 ‘unusual’ tips for writing…
No.1 ~ Set yourself small and achievable goals
In the early stages of writing, it is not uncommon to write very little because most of your time is spent doing the reading and research. But this can leave you feeling very unproductive if days pass by and there are few words on the paper. I really recommend before tackling any big piece of writing that you take a few minutes to set daily goals to keep you on track.
When you first start writing your goals should be quite small to allow you time for researching and thinking about your content. As you get further into things you will find that you are able to write more as the thoughts and ideas start to flow. And then as you are editing and finalising your article towards the end, smaller goals are more realistic as the finishing touches go on.
No. 2 ~ Ask yourself questions
Instead of stressing when I couldn’t think of things to write, I wrote down questions that I thought readers might have after each section. Not all of the questions you write will be relevant but it’s an easy way to figure out what important points might be missing without using too much brain power. It is also a good starting point to come back to when you’ve taken a little break from writing.
No. 3 ~ Take decent breaks
We all know that taking regular rest breaks are good for your mind and motivation, but I’m not talking about the regular breaks you’d take throughout the day. My advice is to take a longer break. When you find that you’re struggling with what to write then it’s a good sign you could do with a rest – a decent one! I took a night off from my writing and I cannot stress enough how refreshed I felt getting back to work the next day. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall, then listen to your body and relax – it will help tons!
No. 4 ~ Don’t aim for a perfect first draft
Dr Ewen Sommerville, a science writer and one of my lovely Twitter friends, reassured me that your first draft doesn’t have to be complete, and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect. He advises to take advantage of the comments/track changes feature in your word processor when sharing early drafts for feedback. It really helps to see where could do with more work and saves your writing getting clogged up with notes in-text.
No. 5 ~ Change the format of your writing
This final tip was suggested to me by another one of my followers on Twitter, Fabian Berg. Fabian suggested that before you submit a piece of work, save your document in another program/format, e.g. change your Word document to pdf or edit in LaTex. When you do this, you’re viewing your document a little differently, and it can really help to spot any mistakes or areas that might not read properly.
And there we have it – my 5 top tips for writing (that hopefully are not your usual pieces of advice). A massive thanks again to my followers on Twitter for all of their words of wisdom, and Ewen and Fabian in particular for their fab tips. Do check out their Twitter profiles to see what they’ve been getting up to (names above are linked) and also check out Ewen’s website here for lots of interesting science posts!
What do you think to my top 5 writing tips? Is there any other ‘unusual’ writing advice you can offer? Let me know in the comments below!