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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,910 ratings  ·  438 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
Paperback, 149 pages
Published January 15th 2007 by American Psychological Association (APA)
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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.
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
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
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.
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:
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 ...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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Michael Battistone
Thank you, Kandra!
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 ...more
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
I agree! “We should keep our good science words exclude the bad words that emigrate from business, marketing, politics, and warfare: we don’t need verbs like ‘to incentivize’ or ‘to target’, and only window washers need adjectives like ‘transparant’.”… “Delete ‘very’, ‘quite’, ‘basically’, ‘actually’, ‘virtually’, ‘extremely’, ‘remarkably’, ‘completely’…like weeds, they’ll in fact actually smother your sentences completely.” P64-64
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone pursuing a career in academia
Shelves: academia
Wow, this book was a wake-up call for me. I knew my writing habits were sub par and that I had a backlog of data from summer research building up which needed to be dealt with, but I just didn't know how to go about starting it. I was committing a lot of the specious errors pointed out in the 2nd chapter, and nothing was getting done. This book has changed the way I think about the process of scientific writing and encouraged me to get back on the horse and fix my bad habits before graduate ...more
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.

I very much liked the author's humor. This quote made me chuckle for a very long
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This is a diet book – for dropping the mental weight of pages not written. It follows the same principles that us dietitians advocate for dropping the pounds. Set measurable goals, create a plan/schedule to meet those goals, monitor your progress, reward yourself, and build good habits. Stop being a binge writer, wasting more mental time worrying about the writing not done than it would take to do the actual writing before deadline-induced panic writing is triggered. Lose the excuses for not ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a really fantastic practical guide to producing academic writing. It's short, funny and, I cannot emphasise this enough, practical. For postgrad students who are used to receiving feedback like "try to make sure your voice comes through in your writing" (what does that even mean? How do I do that?), practical advice is like gold. Silvia outlines a simple, practical plan for making your writing time more effective and productive so you will have more time for fun stuff like knitting ...more
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
One of those books often suggested to grad students in the diss writing phase of their program. Certainly geared toward folks in the sciences, this book offers practical tips on getting you writing *now.* Yet what is most disappointing is how the book's commitment to pragmatism and practicality often slips into the prescriptive. The behavioral approach to dismantling specious barriers to writing is an interesting one -- but Silvia becomes increasingly dogmatic about things that seem to him to be ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
THIS WAS SO HELPFUL. Really good introductory book to academic writing. I wish the article chapter was even longer to give more information, but what was there was more than I've read most places. The chapter on writing books was helpful as well; there was a lot of information I didn't know. Some of this book was a good refresher- schedule time to write, write well, (grammar, etc), and write using an outline. There are not a lot of books out there about academic writing in the counseling or ...more
L.E. Fidler
caveat: i already possess the ability to write "a lot" (i'm researching books for a course i'm teaching)

i don't know. this one started off on a bit of a sour note for a "too enthusiastic" (read: aggressive) trainer at a gym, with silvia going through the common excuses and pitfalls that guarantee one will fail in his/her endeavor to "write a lot"...and silvia probably isn't wrong to point them out, but the tone sat funnily with me.

things just went downhill from there.

1 star - for
A well written and simple handbook for academic writing. It is a good start for novice researchers in the world of productive academic publications. It's main withdraw , for me at least, is relating every practice to physiology which mainly is my fault for not reading that in the description.
As a binge writer myself, I've been looking for solutions to the accumulated writing deadlines in my field of work. And the author fulfilled my quest by a simple solution:
"Schedule your writing time, and
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“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

“Revising while you generate text is like drinking decaffeinated coffee in the early morning: noble idea, wrong time.” 5 likes
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