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How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2009
Paul Silvia is a prolific academic psychologist, so the advice herein is not to be sniffed at (the examples and graphs that he embeds of his own working strategies and productivity are particularly interesting). As one reviewer notes though, this short book proclaims a simple message that can be condensed in a sentence: "Set regular, dedicated time to write, set specific goals for each writing session, and then write!" This is the secret, and despite his whimsical, entertaining style, Silvia should not and does not flesh over these bones with unnecessary flab. The result is a short and important message, bulked up into (short) book format by some excursions into style and tips for writing books and journal articles. Though the section on writing books is novel, these sections overlap considerably with Sternberg's edited volume 'Guide to Publishing in Psychology Journals', and though useful, are slightly tangential to the book title. If you already own said text, the book's innovative core slims further. The author also discusses the motivational value of recording a writing log and meeting with a writing group to keep you on track through peer pressure. Despite its brevity, the importance of the key message (in terms of long-term career impact) and Silvia's affable prose make this book a worthwhile investment for anyone who finds themself feeling guilty about their unfinished manuscripts.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2011
On page 110 of this book the author writes 'I spent fewer days writing this book's first draft than I spent writing a recent funded grant'. It shows.

This is a very thin book, in all senses of the word. It says one thing: create a writing schedule and stick to it. Yet somehow the author has managed to spread this out over 132 repetitive pages. These are bulked up with vacuous comment, pointless charts, unfunny cartoons clipped from the New Yorker, and self-regarding ramblings. It is nothing more than a cut and paste job, given a veneer of authority by a whole five pages of spurious academic references at the end. Moreover, for a book supposedly aimed at academics, it is impressively banal. For example, the author writes: "People read books when they want to learn about a new area, to gain a broad perspective on a new body of research, and to see what you have to say'. Any academic that gleans new insights from that is, presumably, in the wrong job.

But what is most astonishing is that for a book that purports to explain how to write more and better, it is so badly written. On almost every page there is a reference to one or more of the following: the author's friends, how much coffee he drinks, or the use of the word 'mittens'. A good editor would have knocked this stuff out of the manuscript. A good writer wouldn't have put it in there in the first place. And if you need further evidence of the vacuous ramblings within its pages, here's a sample quote from p125: "Writing books is clean family fun without the fun or the family (or even the cleanliness if you spill your coffee as often as I do)".

Towards the end of the book the author says: "It's ironic to write a short book about how to write a lot, but there isn't much to say". Quite. Save your money and spend your time writing instead.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2009
Really helpful for academics who need or want to change their writing mindset, writing habits, and writing productivity.
Though written by and primarily for academic and broadly experimental psychologists, this is a very helpful book for any academic writer (I am a social scientist working mainly in qualitative methods).
Silvia usefully discusses writing schedules, blocks to writing, and various tools to help get into and maintain good writing habits.
He has a personable, clear and nicely humorous style. I have found some books of this type rather admonishing, but I did not find that here.
I have already recommended this book to both postgrads and to faculty colleagues.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2012
This is a very motivating short read. The message is simple and effective - to write a lot you need to set yourself a schedule and stick to it. But the book has much more to it than just this. It also has some really good tips on how to keep yourself motivated, and some notes on writing well.

The central message is well researched and argued, and written in a way that is straightforward and direct. This is a small but mighty little read, and I would recommend it to friends.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2013
I discovered this book two weeks before the submission of my undergraduate dissertation. My academic life would have been much simpler, had I discovered it two years earlier.
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on 11 August 2014
This book worked for me. I now understand myself as a 'binge writer'; a condition with guilt, anxiety and lost weekends as the symptoms. Now I understand the key to becoming a consistent, productive writer is to consistently produce writing. Simple. This book (in particular Chapter 2) takes a no nonsense approach to writing. It will not ask you analyse your writing fears or release some hidden inner novelist. It simply provides three tools to write: a schedule, goals and monitoring system and some helpful advice and tips on style and types of writing.

Before reading this I was under the false impression that some people were just good at writing or they wrote a lot much because they liked it or were less lazy than myself. Now I understand from a referenced study, quotes from great authors and the author himself that the key to producing writing is to consistently sit down and make yourself write. This book is a short, sweet because the advice and tools work for me and (ish) because chapter 2 will reduce your excuses about not writing to nonsense if you are anything like me.
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on 10 July 2015
Recommended very enthusiastically by an academic friend. Good strong message & interesting ideas to think about the way you organize your own writing. Easy to read -quickly - which I guess helps you get on with the task of writing a lot for yourself !
Could have being interesting to discuss excuses like getting bored and finishing off that "thrilling" manuscript you started so enthusiastically. Sometimes finishing off is the hardest part, once you have worked out what the problem was for yourself. The answer is maintaining the momentum through scheduling - which doesn't always solve the problem of competing writing projects ;)
Overall, thanks worth the read.
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on 14 July 2014
This book states the obvious, yet it does it in such a way that it is certainly an obvious that never occurred to me before. Silvia takes the mystery out of writing and lays it out for what it is, the product of a healthy discipline and clear process. Although I am only beginning to implement the practices outlined here I think before long I may be indebted to the author. If you struggle as I do with a weight of worry about how to get through your mountain of research projects you could do no better than to spend an hour or two of your procrastination time reading this book. It might just flip that switch in your head as it seems to have done in mine.
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on 28 January 2014
I have only discovered this book recently, read it in a day, and change my wrong writing habits. I was one of those saying "I am waiting for an inspiration to write" and never writing anything properly until the last minute. However, this book on very clear and interesting (funny, as well) way explains that writing is a habit and scheduling a time for writing is the most essential part in the writing process. It really change my attitude towards academic writing, from "i hate it but I must do it", to "Not so bad at least, and I can practice it and become better". Extremely helpful for me, 1st year PhD student.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2009
This is a useful book for those totally new to academic writing, yet I am not sure if seasoned writers will take much away from it. It entails no detailed insights into how to generate new ideas or how to organize lots of material. It simply says: don't "find" time to write but "allot" a time for writing in your daily schedule, then stick to it religiously. Useful and true, but why write 135 pages on it?
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