This is our last posting for the semester break that is now well over. We offer a few key tips to more productive writing, plus a resource list for academic writers. I hope you’ve had a productive (and somewhat relaxing) semester break. I wish you much success on all your writing goals today, tomorrow…and beyond!

How to Think and Act Like a Writer…

Simple. You must write. You can also think, worry, read, fret, take notes, agonize , organize your materials, worry, buy a new desk, fret, sharpen your pencils, agonize, wash your dishes, eat a snack…but this is not writing. You must write.

And you must want to write. Not to finish, or publish, or get a job, or receive approval or affection or recognition…but to write. “I really want to write today and will create all opportunities to do so, rather than avoiding all opportunities to do. I am writing today because I want to write.” So all you have to do is write. You don’t have to finish. You just have to write. It’s freeing. Don’t wait until you’re ready. Don’t wait until everything else is done. Don’t wait until you are well rested. Don’t wait until you’ve read every book or article on the topic. You never will be all these things or do all these things. It won’t happen. If you wait, you’ll never write. Or be a writer. Writers write.

Writing is hard. [Chances are] there is nothing wrong with you if you find writing a challenge. Even the very best writers say it’s hard, very hard.  In an article about Random House editor Robert Loomis, Dinitia Smith described Loomis’s “gentle suggestions” to his writers.” To Jim Lehrer he said, “Eureka! You did it, Jim. It’s a wonderful novel.” Then after a pause, “Almost. That is, except the space between the beginning and the ending.” To Maya Angelou he would respond, “It’s really good – almost.” And to Calvin Trillin he would say, “‘It’s almost there. Everything is great but the beginning and the end.’ Which, of course, leaves the middle to be completely rewritten” (Smith, 2007).

Commit to writing at least 90 minutes every day. (When you have absolutely no time to do so, then write for 15 minutes.)  Bribe yourself. Reward yourself. Hold yourself accountable. But write every day. (Once you have made it a habit, then you can begin to write only five or six days a week.)

Try to get in the flow. The process of writing about your ideas and work differs when you think and when you write. Write until you get in the flow…and then keep writing.

Good writing takes a long time. You must start early. You must not procrastinate. Give yourself time…when not much is on the line.

Prepare yourself.  You will become a better writer the more you write. Drafting, even editing, will occur more quickly. After you begin to think like a writer, and act like a writer, you may begin to think like an editor as you write. But it may never get easier. Sorry about that. But I know you can do this!



The thesis/dissertation

Brause, R. (2000). Writing your doctoral dissertation: Invisible rules for success. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Davis, G., & Parker, C. (1997). Writing the doctoral dissertation: A systematic approach. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.

Foss, S., & Waters, W. (2007). Destination dissertation: A traveler’s guide to a done dissertation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Germano, W. (2005). From dissertation to book. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harmon, E., Montagnes, I., McMenemy, S., & Bucci, C. (Eds.). (2003). The thesis and the book: A guide for first-time academic authors. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. (2006). Helping doctoral students write: Pedagogies for supervision. New York: Routledge.

Lovitts, B., & Wert, E. (2009). Developing quality dissertations in the humanities: A graduate student guide to achieving excellence. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers.

Lovitts, B., & Wert, E. (2009). Developing quality dissertations in the sciences: A graduate student guide to achieving excellence.  Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers.

Lovitts, B., & Wert, E. (2009). Developing quality dissertations in the social sciences: A graduate student guide to achieving excellence.  Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers.

Miller, A. (2009). Finish your dissertation: Once and for all. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Single, P. (2010). Demystifying dissertation writing. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers.

Lovitts, B., & Wert, E. (2009). Developing quality dissertations in the sciences. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers.

Lovitts, B., & Wert, E. (2009). Developing quality dissertations in the social sciences. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishers.

Luey, B. (Ed.). (2008). Revising your dissertation: Advice from leading editors (2nd ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press

Ogden, E. (2007). Complete your dissertation or thesis in two semesters or less. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers.

Swales, J., & Feak, C. (2004). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills (2nd ed.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Dissertation and Writing Support Groups

Lee, S., & Golde, C. (n.d.) Starting an effective dissertation writing group. Retrieved on January 27, 2012, from Stanford's website

Journal Publications

Belcher, W. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.

Day, R., & Gastel, B. (2006). How to write and publish a scientific paper (6th ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Fischer, B., & Zigmond, M. (2004). Twenty steps to writing a research article.


Grammar and Style

Strunk, W., & White, E.B. (2000). The elements of style. New York: Longman.

Sides, C. (1991). How to write and present technical information. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walsh, B. (2000). Lapsing into a comma: A curmudgeon’s guide to the many things that can go wrong in print – and how to avoid them. New York: McGraw-Hill.


Writing Strategies and Advice

Becker, H. (1986). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (2003). The craft of research (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Clark, R. (2006). Writing tools: 50 essential strategies for every writer. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Kendall-Tackett. (2007). How to write for a general audience: A guide for academics who want to share their knowledge with the world and have fun doing it. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Provost, G. (1972). 100 ways to improve your writing. New York: Mentor.

Silva, P. (2007). How to write a lot. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


On Writing

Brande, D. (1934). Becoming a writer. Penguin Putnam.

Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2006). They say, I say: The moves that matter in academic writing. New York: W.W. Norton.

Kellogg, R. (1994). The psychology of writing. New York: Oxford University Press.

King, S. (2000). On writing. New York: Pocket Books.

Lamott, A. (1994). Bird by bird: Some instructions on writing and life. New York: Anchor Books.

Lerner, B. (2000). The forest for the trees: An editor’s advice to writers. New York: Penguin.

Prose, F. (2006). Reading like a writer: A guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them. New York: Harper Collins.

Zinsser, W. (1988). Writing to learn. New York: Harper Collins.

Zinsser, W. (2006). On writing well (7th ed.). New York: Harper Collins.

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Some of the information in the BreakWriting postings is drawn from previously published work, and I have tried to properly attribute the ideas and work of others. If I fail to do so, please tell me so I can clarify and correct (Graduate Mentor).