Writing tools

Books on writing that I like

Joan Bolker, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day.
I must have spent fifteen minutes a day browsing through this book when I wrote my dissertation. It is very inspiring and offers great tips for breaking through a writing block.

W. Brad Johnson and Carol Ann Mullen, Write to the Top!: How to Become a Prolific Academic. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

This is a great book to get you writing even in periods of heavy teaching duties. I haven’t gone so far as to request a toilet to be installed in my office so that I don’t get distracted from writing by colleagues on the way to the toilet down the hall, but I have picked up on many other tips in this useful book.

Paul J. Silva, How to write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (APA, 2007)

This useful book can really kickstart a writing day with its demystification of five common barriers to writing a lot, such as “I need more time to write” or “I really need a new computer/desk/etc. to write properly.” It also includes motivational tools and other advice.

Wendy Belcher, Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks
A wonderful book that takes you by the hand and leads you through the process of writing a journal article step by step.


This is a list of sites with useful tips and advice on the process of writing.

The PhD-Doctor
A series of helpful articles by Dr. Herman Lelieveldt, both in English and in Dutch. Lelieveldt has written a very useful book (in Dutch) on writing a PhD thesis. These articles are based on the book, and offer advice on such subjects as planning, what to expect from your supervisor, repetitive strain injury, and, very importantly: ‘the art of finishing up’. I found this paragraph particularly poignant:

You yourself are probably the biggest source of distraction. Look out for the temptation of recreational e-mailing, minesweeping, and surfing the Net. Mild forms of self-paternalism may help: Switch off your e-mail notification and remove tempting links from your desktop. Also look for possibilities to temporarily work somewhere else. First drafts can be written in the library (by hand or on a laptop). Working at home is another option, but do not underestimate new temptations that pop up as a result. Really, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of getting it done, even doing the dishes may be more attractive than working on the manuscript.

Writing and Presenting Your Dissertation
“Usually a guide of this nature focuses on the actual implementation of the research. This is not the focus of this guide” — S. Joseph Levine announces. And indeed, this is a site with pragmatic advice on the several stages of a research project, such as the choice of a topic, preparing a research proposal, the practice of writing. Favourite advice on the site: print each draft of your chapter on a different colour of paper, so that you (or your supervisors) don’t confuse the various versions. Hope your local paper store is well stocked in light-coloured paper.

Writing Matters
A blog “intended to start a conversation about the process and purpose of writing, without getting bogged down in the details,” with a series of videos in which historians from Queen Mary share their writing experiences.

Get it Written
A page full of useful advice on rough drafting, writing and revising, such as:

Monitor Output – Keep track of your efforts. Develop systems to monitor your productivity as a way of maintaining motivation. Recording the number of pages or hours a day you are writing will help you avoid procrastination.

The page is part of a larger site on academic skills owned by Mary McKinney, and there’s a weblog too.

Get into it
A site on writer’s block that helps you analyse whether you suffer from the dreaded block, and offers advice, exercises and the amazing write-o-matic to help you beat it. With a forum, book tips, and links to online resources.

Write that journal article  – in 7 days
A writing and productivity presentation for PhD students from @thesiswhisperer

Writer’s Resources
With tips on getting started, brainstorming, organizing ideas, and much much more.

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue
The OWL at Purdue has too many great things to describe. Information on the writing process, literary analysis, teaching writing, and much, so much more. Thank you, Purdue!

The Pomodoro technique and its very simple kitchen timer app make procrastinating impossible!

If you know a site that should be listed here, please let me know.


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