Writing course: preparations



Preparing for a writing workshop is always slightly vexed. This is only the second time I’ve run a course that goes for such a long time – it’s eight days. And this one is different from the first, and I hope I’ve made some useful changes.

As yet, I don’t know the participants. I find out who’s involved in just a couple of hours. I do know that all of them have been working with a colleague at the university to think about abstracts and I know that some of them have written a conference paper. But I actually don’t know what their areas are or what they want to do with their writing.

Thats not quite true. I do know that they are all doing a PhD by publication, so writing a paper during this workshop is important. They want their papers to eventually be published. But they also have supervisors to help them finalise the paper that we begin. And in some cases, the supervisor will be the second author.

It always feels a bit odd to be working with the doctoral researcher on a paper and not the supervisor too. I do worry that what I say won’t be what the supervisor wants or agrees with. And I am generally a bit fearful that what the doctoral researcher eventually produces as a messy first draft won’t be what the supervisor has been expecting. Still, that’s part and parcel of the generic writing workshop, so I just have to live with that. I do often suggest that people try to talk to their supervisor at some point during the eight days though. Just to try and keep us all on the same track…

All of the workshop participants have been asked to come to the workshop having already thought about these questions:

• What is the contribution your paper will make?
• Why is this important?
• What will connect your readers with this topic?
• How will you create the niche for your work?

And because we are going to start the first day working on the introduction, I’ve also asked the participants to think about how they would answer this next question too:

• What do you need to tell the reader about the paper to come?

I’ve also sent them the So What paper that I posted about a few weeks ago, just to get them primed for the hard ‘What’s the point? Who cares?’ conversations that will inevitably happen at some point during the workshop. They also have analyzed data and an idea of what they want to say and I hope, where they want to put it.

I’ve got my first few day’s slides worked out. There are a bunch of papers waiting on the intranet for the times when we ‘read for writing’, and my little tomato timer has survived the terrors of plane travel? So that’s about as prepared as I and they can be.

I’m as ready as I’m going to be. I just have to find my way on the bus to the University of Iceland and not fall over in the snow…