A writing challenge

A post by Anne JeffersonAre you up for a challenge? A writing challenge? A friendly, mutually-supportive writing challenge?*

I need to write some papers. My tenure portfolio goes out for review in May, and I want to get a couple more papers into review before then. Reviewers willing, I’d love to have another paper in two in press before May. The ticking of the biological clock ain’t got nothing on the ticking of the tenure clock, and journal articles are a major metric by which my academic success will be measured.

I know I’m not the only one sitting on some data that needs to become a paper or a great idea that needs to become a proposal. (If you’re not an academic, I bet you still have some piece of writing you know you should do.) And I know I’m not the only one who would benefit from having a group of friends provide some supportive encouragement, but also accountability. That’s why I’m setting myself a challenge, and I’m inviting you all to join in.

My goal is to get a manuscript into review by the time I arrive at AGU on Sunday the 4th of December. The data are in place and a few sections are written, but I need to do a bunch of writing, get the figures and tables into publication-quality shape, and get my co-author (and former graduate student) to agree it’s ready to go out. That’s a substantial project for the next 5 weeks (especially on top of an otherwise busy schedule), but I think it’s doable. More importantly, I need to do it. And I could use your help.

Here’s the plan. Use the comments below to tell me what you want to accomplish in the next 5 weeks. Each Sunday evening, I’ll stick up a post summarizing what I’ve accomplished during the past week, and what I need to get done in the next week order to reach my goal. You can do the same in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, please!) During the week, we can use whatever means we please, such as reviving Brian Roman’s old #sciwrite tag on Twitter, to keep in touch, provide encoruagement, and brag about our progress. By December 4th, we will have reached our goals and we can go out for a virtual or real celebratory drink. Maybe I’ll even come up with some sort of prize or badge to reward participation.

The point of this challenge is to collectively focus on the important task of writing up our fantastic ideas and data, share them with our fellow scientists and the world, and make ourselves happier and less anxious in the process. So let’s get writing….first in the comments below to share your goal and plan, and then in the languishing word processor document that contains the seeds of your masterpiece.

*Yes, the timing and spirit of this challenge borrows heavily from InaDWrimo and NaNoWriMo. If there will be a broader InaDWriMo group this year, please let me know. Otherwise, all disciplines and non-academics are welcome to participate here.

Categories: academic life, publication

Comments (45)

  1. Matt Kuchta says:

    Count me in – I’ve got two papers I should finish by end of semester.

  2. Callan Bentley says:

    I’m in. My project is revising The Cartoon Guide to Geology for upload to Lulu.

  3. Fiona Murphy says:

    Anne, this is a fantastic idea – perfect balance of (encouragement) carrot and (open-declaration-of intent-so-threat-of-public-humiliaton) stick! Just what I need, in other words, so count me in. My goal is to write up my presentation to the ICSU-WDS meeting (http://wds-kyoto-2011.org/) for a special issue of the Data Science Journal. The deadline is 31st December, so this schedule works for me! The plan would be:
    6 Nov – plan/outline
    13 Nov – 1st draft
    20 Nov – good draft for circulation
    27 Nov – final polish done
    I’ll be at AGU as well, so the real/virtual drink sounds good too.

  4. Scicurious says:

    Brilliant idea. Let’s do this. :)

    I’ve got to get a grant written with a deadline, amusingly, of Dec 4. I’d LIKE to get a paper that’s in draft form submitted, but that depends on collaborators unfortunately.

  5. Claudia says:

    I’m in, I have an book Chapter that is due November 26, and need to finish an article that is almost ready for submission. My Twitter.is @water_n_science so using that hashtag works for me

  6. tsherry says:

    Count me in. I need to get a manuscript based on my undergrad thesis ready before AGU.

  7. Brian Romans says:

    I’m in … by my arrival at AGU in December I want to accomplish two writing-related tasks:

    (1) first draft of a paper related to some data that’s been sitting around long enough; and when I say ‘draft’ I mean all the text sections + figures/tables

    (2) first draft of a big proposal that is due in mid-January — I need to get this draft to collaborators by AGU/holidays for their feedback

    yea, these are only drafts … but I’m not gonna bite off more than I can chew

  8. Lab Lemming says:

    I can’t confirm or deny AGU participation, but I certainly need to get some papers out the door…

  9. mcshanahan says:

    Great idea! I’d love to join in. I have a paper that I’ve been revising forever that I’d like to submit by Dec 4 and another that I’d like drafted and out to friends for “pre-review”. Let’s do it! :)

  10. Dan McShane says:

    Good luck. I have tons of writing this week. Three reports that must go out Monday and Tuesday. Also I need to make substantial progress on a paper I have been asked to coauthor – a very new thing for me.

  11. Chris Rowan says:

    I’m in, with these two goals:

    (i) My share of text and figures for a multi-author paper that we’re planning to submit prior to AGU.

    (ii) Get a complete first draft of another paper to co-author so that we can thrash out modifications at AGU.

  12. Erik K says:

    Alright, I’m in as well to finish revising/adding my part to a big Aucanquilcha Volcanic Complex paper with BJ Walker.

  13. @GIShaun says:

    Nice idea, count me in. I’ve been asked to turn my MSc thesis into publishable form. 4th Dec is as good a deadline as any

  14. Geknitics says:

    I’m in. I have a couple of manuscripts I need to finish and get out to co-authors before starting a new job.

  15. @SnowHydro says:

    Great idea Anne – I’m in!
    I’m co-authoring one paper with a grad student and another with a colleague, and would like to see both submitted by the end of November. Unfortunately neither manuscript is entirely under my control, but it’s nice to have a community to share my end of the process with!

  16. Ron Schott says:

    I’m in. My focus is going to be my Geology Home Companion Blog, which I’ve been neglecting for too long.

  17. MzPhyz says:

    In. SBIR Phase I proposal due date Dec 5. Prob better submit by Dec 2 given first AGU presentation (poster) is Monday morning. I.e., Dec 5, 2nd is Dec 6. Proposal summary & supporting prelim daya promised to various participants by Tuesday am for review.

    Ready, set, GO!

  18. Great idea! Count me in. I’m beginning a first draft of my MS thesis and finishing a few more lab tests. Looking to have at least the first four or five chapters (and all the data) by the deadline.

  19. Maitri says:

    Way in. It’s just the inspiration I need to stop mooing and flailing about not writing and get those two serious posts out there about 1) the inaugural Society of Exploration Geophysicists women’s network meeting and 2) resume writing for geoscience grads wanting to enter the industry.

  20. Tannis says:

    I’m in. I need to be in the final editing stages of my MSc thesis by then!

  21. Ruth Mottram says:

    Great idea! I’m in. I’ve had a huge pile of modelling work to publish since April (actually in some ways since last September) and nothing has happened to it yet. The structure is there, but I’m stuck on the figures now.
    I also have a large multi-author paper in the pipeline with the rest of my research group, which I’m hoping will go faster since there’ll be more people working on it. So to make it specific and measureable. I want my figures made by the end of next week so I can work out what I need to write and have the first draft finished by end November. The 4th December is a good enough deadline for submission so I have some wriggle room to make any other edits required.

    I won’t be at AGU unfortunately, but perhaps we can have a virtual drinks meeting via skype?

  22. I’m in too! Need to finish my dissertation… Three of five chapters could still use some work, so I’ll work on those.

  23. I’m in, too! I need to write a draft of one of my thesis chapters and also finish up the very last of my chemistry for my PhD.

  24. Christoph says:

    Great idea, I’m in! I will try to finish one paper which is almost ready (this week) and write my part of a proposal, aiming at your deadline 4 December. Good luck to everyone!

  25. Nahum says:

    I want to finish a paper we are writing about active tectonics here in Spain related to Lorca earthquake, but I think my colleagues are a bit slower than me… but let’s give it a try!!! I’m in!

  26. Dana Hunter says:

    Non-academic here reporting for duty. Goal is a completed book of short stories leading up to the novel proper by the end of December. There will be some geology in there.

    No going back now, is there? May the Muses be with us all…

  27. Here goes!
    (1) Finish social media in undergraduate research guide by Nov 27
    (2) Create AGU poster (on CSD in a thick mafic body) and turn it into a manuscript

  28. Elli says:

    I’m in! My goal is going to have a rough draft of a paper ready to send my co-authors by AGU. Thanks Anne for organizing.

  29. Hollis says:

    I’m neither an academician nor a trained geologist but I’m joining … this could be really helpful! My current contract obligates me to two publications on Black Hills montane grasslands. My goal is to complete first drafts by December 4. This will require applying steady pressure on a colleague to do data analysis, but even without that I can still write 90% of the papers.

    Nov 4 Complete data entry, quality control. Lit searched for relevant models to follow; solicit same from colleagues. Outlines sent to colleagues for review.
    Nov 11 Complete Backgrounds, start Methods.
    Nov 18 Complete Methods. Compile material for Results.
    Nov 25 Complete Results.
    Dec 2 Complete Discussions
    Dec 4 Work like hell to meet the deadline and qualify for a drink; send drafts to colleagues who will be totally shocked at what I’ve accomplished.

  30. I’ll play. I have 4 papers in various stages of draft–I’ll set Dec 4th as a submission deadline.

  31. @fiainros says:

    I’m in. Working on a paper to give to PI by November 15. And while it doesn’t fall within the 5 weeks, also a second paper by Dec 31st. The 2nd requires a few more data tweaks, hence the extra time.

  32. Ok, I am in–November is the first month on my new job, but I start it without an office computer and without data to model, therefore there is no time like the present to finish up papers from the last job and my PhD research and get them out there.

  33. Julian says:

    I have three things (two paper drafts and my PhD candidacy written exam) that I’m waiting to revise, pending comments from my co-authors/committee. My goal, providing I get the comments this month, is to do all of those revisions. Hopefully this will lead to submitting both papers for review, and to doing my oral exam, before AGU.

    Also, AGU poster and relevant models.

  34. Hypocentre says:

    Since everyone else seems to be here, I’m in as well.
    To do:
    Geoconvervation site reports
    Article on gigapanning for ESTA
    Article for on keeping it real for 101 things.

  35. Katherine says:

    Heck yeah! I’m not an academic, but have a back-burner paper I need to move to the front burner AND I’ll be at AGU…….. Best o’ luck to everyone else who’s signed on.

  36. DJMH says:

    Yes! A book chapter. Have a partial draft and a slow-as-a-toddler collaborator, but should surely be able to add figures, polish, and generally check for accuracy by Dec.

  37. I hope it’s not too late to sign up. In any case, I have a couple of MLIS papers that really need to be finished, tweaked, and submitted for publication. Paper #1 needs a statistical analysis added to it; paper #2 needs a general revision and update of the literature review, at the least. My goal is to have the newest drafts finished by December 4. I would also like to have paper #1 submitted by then, either to the final journal or at least to the instructor who is reviewing it. I’m still figuring out the best place to submit paper #2. Thanks for the challenge and good luck to everybody!

  38. Passerby says:

    I’m in as well.
    Need to prepare a project proposal quickly and continue work on related papers.
    Great idea, Anne. Wish I could be at the Fall AGU.

  39. denise says:

    I am in! Lets start writing Chapter 1 of my thesis!

  40. Jackson says:

    I am in. I have a few blog posts to write and I need to apply for an internship by the end of this semester.

  41. I’m in. I need to finish a draft of a paper on gravity data that my co-author is waiting to see.

  42. Liz Neeley says:

    I have a 6000 word book chapter on risk communication and social networks that needs to go out for peer-review by Dec 30. I want it off my desk by the time I fly east for the holidays on Dec 19, and I love your plan to submit from airport wifi.
    Good luck to all, and look forward to seeing (some of) you at AGU!

  43. Paul West says:

    I’m going the party late but will commit to having a first draft of a paper by December 10. The research quantifies hotspots of excess nitrogen and phosphorous in croplands across the globe and identifies opportunities for reducing fertilizer inputs while maintaining current crop yields. Can’t commit to submission date at this point as it is part 2 of a set of papers and a colleague is leading part 1. I’ll post updates @coolfireconserv

    Thanks to Liz for the tip on this group! Hope to meet some of you at AGU.

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