January is academic deadline month. (By the way: Does anyone know why?) There are still (I believe) 6 deadlines for talks/papers that I would like to meet, so I accidentally developed a new writing procedure that turned out to be kind of cool for talks/papers/dissertation chapters.
Because all those conferences ask for different submission formats – from a 100 words-max-abstract up to about 3500 words-mini-paper, and because everything I am going to submit will draw on the same basic idea, I lined all those formats up according to their word count requirements. After starting with a little bit of preliminary work on the presentation (just a rough outline, some trying out of formulations, really just getting a feeling for the material) I moved on to working on submissions only.
I started with the 100 words version, and that was hard! You can’t say much in 100 words, so you must find some angle that makes it all sound exciting (to a nerdy academic). However, it’s necessarily so vague that writing it is not too threatening. Then, with that in place, I moved on to the next-bigger required submission on my list: the 500 word abstract. That already allows for some hints regarding the structure of the talk, and one or two hand-waving notes on the argument I am planning to make.
Next on my list ist filliing in the gaps in that abstract to provide a 1000 words-abstract. Then, if everything goes as planned, I will again fill in some gaps, add some explanation, and thereby get the 200o words-mini paper that is also on my list. Next after that is, you can probably guess, filling in the gaps to write a 3000 word- version, and then 3500 after that.
I wouldn’t have thought so, but when you start with a tiny, well-rounded piece of text that already puts some constraints in place, and then enlarge it a little bit again and again – it’s actually a nice way to write a paper!