Recent Writing, Part 2: The How

Last week I published my second book, The Viva: Who? What? How? and as part of the process of publishing I want to spend a little time this week thinking over what that has been like. In my day job, we frequently extol the virtues of “Plan -> Do -> Reflect -> Review” – the cycle for experiential learning. And I also really like that call to arms that has done the rounds a fair bit in recent years, “start with Why”. Yesterday I explored the Why of writing a book, so today I’m looking at How: both in terms of my personal process and also the practical things that I’ve used – software and the like. Tomorrow, I’ll explore What – which in this case means reflecting and reviewing to see what I’ve got from it this time around and what this means for my future writing.

The How

Writers must really grow to hate that perennial question “Where do you get your ideas from?” Answering, in my opinion, can make things seem a bit dull and boring – I like that mystique of divine inspiration or talent! Or perhaps that is just something I’m aspiring to… In any case, the answer in the case of the most recent book does seem a little dull: I was recycling earlier ideas I had had. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the book itself or the subject matter being dull – quite the contrary! – I mean the means by which I got to that idea.

I had been thinking about a book of useful questions for postgraduate researchers for some time, but had stalled somewhere in the writing process. And then I knew that I wanted to do something useful to follow up Fail Your Viva, but wasn’t quite sure what. I had begun a book of essays on the viva, but was stuck with that too. And then I started blogging, which freed up some of the thoughts that I had. As I said in yesterday’s post, this started to bring things together and suddenly I realised I had the idea.