revising dissertation

Book Revisions: How I Gained Momentum with a Book Vacation

EditI am 2 months into my dissertation-to-book revision and I am finally gaining some momentum. What has changed?

I took a 10-day vacation from my books.



I love research and reading and I tend to overdo both.

I have spent the last 2 months reading about Henry Hudson, Native American peoples of the Hudson Valley, the Dutch East and West India Companies, and the ethnic diversity of New Netherland.

I still might be reading about these topics if I hadn’t been forced to leave my books behind between April 11 and 21, 2014, when I went to Dublin and London.


No-Books10 Days Without Books

Okay, so I didn’t leave all of my books behind. I took Daniel Richter’s [simpleazon-link asin="B00CC66GA8" locale="us"]Trade, Land, Power[/simpleazon-link] and Charles R. Boxer’s [simpleazon-link asin="0090744608" locale="us"]The Dutch Seaborne Empire: 1600-1800[/simpleazon-link] to read on the airplane. (Incidentally, if you have access to the Project Muse database, you can download Richter’s book for free.)

Instead of books, I took my laptop and printouts of all my book and article summaries.

When Tim and I arrived in Dublin, we spent the weekend adjusting our sleep schedule to Irish Standard Time (5 hours ahead of Boston) and touring the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, and Trinity College.

On Monday morning, Tim went to work and I had 8-10 hours of “me time” each day for 4 days.

Each morning I went to a new museum or took a walking tour. I tried to finish my touring by 2:30pm so I could be back in my hotel room or in a cafe by 3pm.

When I arrived at my afternoon destination, I took out my laptop and notes and began to write.


Synthesis, Not Prose

Although I had intended to write sections of Chapter 1, this is not what my fingers typed into my computer.

Each day I wrote for 3-4 hours, but none of what I had written read like chapter prose.

It took me 2 days to realize that instead of writing a rough draft of my chapter, my brain was synthesizing all of my disparate book and article summaries into 1, coherent synopsis, a logical précis that I can use to draft my chapter.


learnLessons Learned

Time away from my books forced me to sit down and figure out exactly what information I had and what information I still needed to gather.

I found that I had so much information about the Munsee, Mahican, and Mohawk peoples that I could write short chapters about each group.

I also found that although I could tell you that the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or Dutch East India Company) had directed Henry Hudson to find a sea route to Asia via a northern route over Scandinavia and Nova Zembla, I could not tell you what had prompted the VOC to hire him.

My book vacation taught me that I need to synthesize the information I gather more often.


SynthesisNew Strategy: Weekly Synthesis

Since my return from Europe, I have dedicated an afternoon each week to synthesizing what I read the previous week.  It has and will continue to save me time and effort.

Summarizing my notes into a logical summary shows me what information I have and what information I still need to collect. This knowledge has helped me focus and speed up my reading: I skim through information I know and read about topics I do not.

Most importantly, my syntheses have enabled me to write prose. They have allowed me to focus on telling the story I want to tell because I know that I have the facts I need in front of me.



My weekly synthesis time has been very helpful over the last 2 weeks. I am going to try to do it more often.

Starting next week, I plan to devote 30-60 minutes each morning to synthesizing my notes from the previous day.

This exercise will prepare me for the reading and writing I need to accomplish each day.


Share Your Story

What strategies are you using to revise or write your book or dissertation? 


Jumping In: Book Revisions

EditHow do you revise a non-fiction book? I have pondered this question over the last several months.

Writing my book proposal helped me figure out what stories and information I want to include in my book AMERICA’S FIRST GATEWAY. However, my book proposal did not lay out a clear plan for how I should revise my manuscript.

I finished my book proposal in late September 2013 and since that time I have worked on freelance articles, blog posts, and an academic journal article.

I finished the journal article 2 weeks ago, which means that I finally have to start revising my book, not just talk about it.

Last week I willed myself to start revising.

I opened my book proposal, read through my Chapter 1 description, and dissected it.

I outlined all of the major topics and subtopics for the chapter. Under my subtopics I listed all of the books and article titles that I need to read/skim to write about that subtopic.

This week, I began reading books and articles that will help me find the information I need to revise Chapter 1.



I do not know how long it will take me to revise my book. I do know I want to work smarter than when I wrote my dissertation.

I am trying 3 new techniques to ensure that I write and make progress every day. (Okay, maybe not every day, but most days).

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailExperiment 1: Early Morning Reading

Each morning I read.

I read an article or part of a book before I sit at my computer.

I love my computer, but it is a major source of distraction.

I used to start my day by checking e-mail, Twitter, and blog feeds. Inevitably, one or more of these items would distract me from the work I needed to do.

Now, I begin with reading, which helps me focus on work before I get distracted.


Experiment 2: Active Note Taking

After I read, I enter my notes into DEVONthink.

The process of typing my notes helps me consider the information I read. After this deliberation, I open Scrivener, click on the book/article card I created, and summarize the reading in my own words.

The act of summarizing ensures that I write every day.

I plan to use my summaries as reference material when I write each subsection.


SuccessExperiment 3: Increased Accountability

Progress requires action. It also commands accountability.

I will make myself accountable to others.

I will make weekly progress reports to my writing coach and update my writing group during our bi-weekly meetings.

I will also blog about my revisions work.



I am not sure if my revisions plan is the best plan, but it is one that will help me make steady progress.


time-to-shareWhat Do You Suggest?

How have you (do you) approach your long-term writing projects?

Do you have a system or technique that allows you to make steady progress?