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How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing
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How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing

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4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,360 ratings  ·  485 reviews
All students and professors need to write, and many struggle to finish their stalled dissertations, journal articles, book chapters, or grant proposals. Writing is hard work and can be difficult to wedge into a frenetic academic schedule.

In this practical, light-hearted, and encouraging book, Paul Silvia explains that writing productively does not require innate skills or
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Paperback, 149 pages
Published January 15th 2007 by American Psychological Association (APA)
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Tabea
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Let's put it like this: I read the first chapter and the next day wrote 800 words. Then 450, then 815. not good words, but I am writing. that alone is worth 10 stars to me.

Edit 09/2017: I have successfully defended my PhD thesis and submitted the final version after 3 years (first version for examiners 2.5 years). It wasn't this book alone, but it definitely made a big difference and helped kick off the development of better habits.
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Jerzy
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just set a writing schedule and stick to it. It's obvious advice, but if you don't do it yet, it's worth reading the author's cheery tone for a motivational kick in the pants to get you started.

The concepts of 'binge writing' (Kellogg, 1994, The Psychology of Writing) and 'dispositional attribution' (Jellison, 1993, Overcoming Resistance: A Practical Guide to Producing Change in the Workplace) seem particularly useful. It's good to have terms for habits that I vaguely knew I had but didn't have
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Katie
Sep 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Caveat: I was pretty grumpy when I read this, and I have had to read more writing self-help books in the last three weeks than I have ever wanted to read. So I may be a bit unfair.

But still, I found this to be a distinctively unhelpful book. Silvia pretty much tells you in the first 20 pages that the key to writing a lot is (wait for it) to make a schedule and write a lot. Fair enough. But this then gets hammered home for an extra 100+ pages, without adding much of substance and without address
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Andy
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this years ago and it helped. I loaned it to someone and didn't get it back. I find myself now with a lot to write, so I bought a new copy and read it over. The refresher was worthwhile and has already helped me to get back on track. I appreciate the author's humor--including the New Yorker cartoons--as well as his brevity. ...more
Hilary
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eink-kindle
What a fantastic book. Top-notch advice for academic (or even non-academic) writers. Very motivating. I wish I had found this earlier in grad school!

Favorite Quotes:

"The only thing that a writer’s room needs, according to Stephen King (2000), is “a door which you are willing to shut” (p. 155)."

"Writing usurps time that should be spent on important leisure activities like spending time with friends and family, making lentil soup, or knitting the dog a Santa hat."

"I call these specious barriers: A
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Ivan
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-craft, thm
The basic premise behind Paul Silvia’s How to Write a Lot is that the only way to getting writing done is by writing. Silvia demystifies the craft of writing and reminds us that there is no magic solution: writers simply sit their behinds down (or stand, for the conscientious who prefer standing desks) and puts words to paper—or screen. “Instead of finding time to write, allot time to write,” Silvia says. “Prolific writers make a schedule and stick to it. It’s that simple” (12). The key is regul ...more
Wendi Lau
Dr. Silvia is fun! With section headings like "Frequently Grumbled Grumblings About Writing Schedules" and oddly worded statements, like this quote, you know he enjoyed the topic and appreciates struggling writers.
“The goal of text generation is to throw confused, wide-eyed words on a page; the goal of text revision is to scrub the words clean so that they sound nice and can go out in public.” -Silvia, 2019
Silvia’s goal is to get you, reader/writer, to Write a Lot. How? By acknowledging and gent
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Katrina
Jul 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
I wish I'd read this when I was in graduate school. I plan to give copies to my advisees. I like the simplicity of Silvia's advice, and the practical examples he gives from his own work (e.g. sample spreadsheets for tracking projects). Includes good advice on scheduling, making big and small goals, prioritizing, starting a writing group, writing journal articles, and writing books. I skipped the chapter on style because that's not what I was looking for. ...more
Shawn
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
For a book that tells you the "secret" to writing a lot in the second chapter, it actually has a lot more to offer. I especially found the chapters on writing articles and the chapter on writing books to be especially helpful. In the end, I found myself quite motivated to sit down and start writing. This is useful as I prepare for my doctoral exams. ...more
Alyssa Chrisman
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Concise, motivating read with useful advice. I am a PhD student in my second semester and am planning on implementing Silvia's strategies. I was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of writing projects I am working on, but I now I feel like I have a system for attacking them that will still allow me to enjoy my free time. ...more
Mehwish Zuberi
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in search for inspiration (read: material for procrastination) as I write my master thesis. The author has a snarky tone, which I enjoyed thoroughly and it spoke directly to me. Though the book is more oriented towards journals and books, there is something in it for anyone who is - or attempting to - write academically in any capacity. Some lessons to share (and to remind myself):
- There is no such thing as 'writer's block' in academic writing.
- Only a fool rewards bouts of pro
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Anthony Friscia
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education, writing
I want to get some writing done this summer, so I did the exact thing I shouldn't do, which is read about writing, instead of actually writing... Nevertheless, this is a helpful little book because it reminded me of the various strategies to get more writing done. There was nothing new here for me, having hit this sort of block before, but if you want a quick introduction to writing strategies, this is a good entry. ...more
Michael Battistone
Thank you, Kandra!
Lucie
Probably more like 3,5*.

The main idea of the book was good: Make a writing schedule and then freaking stick to it. That way you'll write a lot.

The idea is super simple, but I think absolutely worth saying and repeating over and over again. Generally, I liked the book, only towards the end it didn't hold my interest quite as much. Though it's fairly short for a book, I think it could have done with much less pages.

PS:
I very much liked the author's humor. This quote made me chuckle for a very long
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Huyen
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, academia
As the name suggests, this book is a guide to “productive academic writing” – more about the quantity of written works including journal articles, theses and non-fiction books. It is quite helpful for academic writers, especially for grad students. I see it as a small jaunt to how to schedule a writing plan, build a stick-to-it attitude, how to overcome the agraphia, which style should be in my writing and so on. Most importantly, it showed how to begin to write, polish, submit, revise an articl ...more
Izham
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is great! I learn a lot just by reading it. I finish reading it only in just one day. Silvia writing and how he puts some quotes of research about writing and psychology related really amaze me. Although my field is more in agriculture, I still find that this book is a practical for any academician to motivate themselves to write anything. I mean anything by articles, journals and thesis papers. To sum it up, it is a great book for academicians to read it.
Ashley
May 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
It doesn't have any new insight and constantly tells you that writing is not fun. ...more
Aliyu
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Informative, blunt and funny at once, it's been an awesome read for me as I attempt to start writing. Highly recommend it for any type of writing upstart! ...more
Parker
i read this to procrastinate doing productive academic writing
Sara Dahabović
Nov 24, 2020 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This book sees productive writing as a skill people learn. To write more, you needn’t adopt a new writing identity, cultivate an authentic scholarly voice, or interrogate your intellectual values. You’re welcome to, if that’s your scene, but focusing on specific behaviors that you can do today is faster and more practical.

The only thing that a writer’s room needs, according to Stephen King (2000), is “a door which you are willing to shut” (p. 155).

Writing productively is about actions that you
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Ellis J Alia


In a 1990 study which tested the effectiveness of writing strategies, Robert Boice found out that waiting for inspiration is not a viable strategy. To test his hypothesis, Boice collected a small sample of university professors who had difficulty writing and he assigned them different writing strategies. The strategies assigned were (a) the abstinence condition, (b) the spontaneous condition and (c) the contingency management condition. People assigned (a) were asked not to write anything that w
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Vanessa Fuller
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
A colleague / friend with whom I've been working the last year recently mentioned this little gem of a book to me as we discussed some rather disappointing peer reviews she'd received.

Academic writing is hard work, often leaving writers / authors rather dispirited and unmotivated. Finding motivation to write at all remains a constant battle for many of us. And, time and again, I find myself saying to students, colleagues and myself, 'just schedule time to write and only write if you want to acc
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Amar Ojha
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two colleagues recommended this book to me. It's short (readable within a few sittings/standings) and straightforward. The best advice I can give with this book is to take it seriously. There is nothing in here you haven't heard before. But that doesn't mean it's something we want to hear. We know what it takes but we often just don't want to do it. It tells you how to write a lot (i.e., be a productive writer without sacrificing your "free time"), what different writing projects expect from you ...more
Kae
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brutally to the point - most of those individuals who do not schedule their writing do not write efficiently or well. I'm guessing something like this was the motivation of NaNoWriMo and writing "camps". Even though the author is in a different field (author is a PhD in psychology, my MS is occupational and environmental health) what he says applies to most scientific fields. Decent prose, definitely engaging, will definitely recommend. ...more
Amity
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Though Silva writes for an audience outside of my discipline, I think his advice is much needed if not always easy to hear and put into practice. I have often blamed my lack of finished product on an intense and persistent case of writer's block while failing to schedule writing time. I see the folly of my ways. ...more
Anna Nesterovich
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It's short and to the point. And right now I'm writing a very short review on a book about writing a lot :) Without further ado, I'm proceeding to actually writing a lot. My first scheduled session is in 10 minutes. Maybe I'll come back here in a year or so and add something on how much it actually helped. ...more
Polina Beloborodova
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-in-2020
This book should be a mandatory reading in all PhD programs. It was a great companion to my Academic Writing course. The author's humor makes the tedious process of writing and publishing look like an exciting adventure, and I now feel oddly compelled to tattoo a writing schedule in my calendar and start a writing group with fellow struggling doctoral students. ...more
Tara Brabazon
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short book. A good book. The advice is coherent and clear. The turn of phrase is evocative and provocative.

As always, this writing 'guide' is - probably - predicable. But most importantly, this book offers strategies that are convincing.

A pleasure to read.
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Kristen Herlosky
I am feeling extremely productive just from reading this over the last few days. Also, I created my writing blocks in my weekly schedule. Hopefully the motivation carries on. I already completed a book chapter’s edits. Woohoo!
Kat
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a really great book for grad students who need to stop procrastinating and write their dang thesis (like me).
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  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
48 likes · 11 comments
“You don't need special traits, special genes, or special motivation to write a lot. You don't need to want to write--people rarely feel like doing unpleasant tasks that lack deadlines--so don't wait until you feel like it. Productive writing comes from harnessing the power of habit, and habits come from repetition

p.129”
8 likes
“Revising while you generate text is like drinking decaffeinated coffee in the early morning: noble idea, wrong time.” 6 likes
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