Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flailing About

Damn, it's been how long since I looked at my pile of book-publishing advice and assorted crap? It took me most of today just to read through it all and figure out where I last got stuck.

I'm not done with the postdocs and other thingies to apply to, but the next deadline on my list is for a short-term research grant and after reading through what they wanted, I thought it might resemble a book proposal. So I went back to the pile, and then suddenly the day was over. (there might have been a spontaneous nap there somewhere in the middle of the afternoon. I'm not sayin'.)

I'm still stumped on what comes next in the dissertation-to-book revisions. Well, I guess I'm not. Next is to reprint out the whole fucker and reread it while making a running commentary of what needs to be changed. I know part of the flailing is me procrastinating, trying to avoid confronting my own writing. Maybe if I do absolutely everything else that needs to be done first, I wish to myself, when I open up the dissertation at last I will discover it is perfect and needs no revisions at all!

That's ridiculous, I say back to myself sternly. Then my id promptly knocks me unconscious in the middle of the afternoon. I'm beginning to think that even when I am alone in the room I'm outnumbered.

So anyway, this is all a mush for me right now --- picture me waving my arms wildly above my head as if trying to swat hundreds of invisible gnats and that's a pretty accurate image of my thoughts. On the other hand, before you offer worried sympathy and advice, by now it should be clear that flailing about kinda is my methodology, that and talking myself through it and taking every single wrong turn to make sure it is wrong before doing the right one.

But I'm stumped by how to map out a timeline for manuscript revisions and the whole publishing process and then also have it match a grant that will be available for disbursal next spring, not this one. Hell, I'm totally confused as how to just map out a timeline for everything for revisions and proposals and stuff without then matching it to a separate award cycle.

I made a list of all the things I need to do ... but can't really make a list without rereading the dissertation and finding out how much work needs to be done. But didn't then take the next logical step of actually, you know, doing that.

And I'm still confused even after I went back through the Germano books, Dissertation to Book and the Serious Guide to Serious Books one. Do I send out letters of inquiry or full-scale proposals? Do I revise everything before I even send out any proposals or inquiries or what? Do I send out emails to some presses to meet with them at MLA? And would those emails be letters of inquiry or propsals? And do I even need to meet people at MLA or what? What is the purpose of those meetings even? What would I need to do now, pre-MLA, and what could I save for later?

I have the feeling that I've already dithered back and forth about this on the blog and people gave me lovely answers and helpful advice, but I hadn't posted in a while (I've been too tired to write, only to read and comment on other peoples' posts, when I get back in the evenings), so I just went ahead and started kvetching.

Of course, there are other things besides book revisions to add to my November and December to-do lists, including about ... 8 or so postdocs and maybe 1 or 2 more job apps. They have later deadlines, so I'm (surprise!) on the fence, dithering back and forth, about whether to knock them all out this week and then turn to only book-pondering, or to wait until closer to the deadlines. I guess by pulling out my piles and getting the mental hamster wheels spinning again I have made a decision, huh?

At some point I want to review a movie I saw last week but that will involve pulling pictures and actually having an idea, which is beyond my capabilities these evenings lately.

In other news, based on some job-letter advice that was given me, I have been practicing writing smaller paragraphs rather than the synapse-shorting monsters I usually produce for the blog and my own research. Have you noticed? Is it more readable? I have to say, this is killing me! I have no idea why breaking up and simplifying paragraphs is so hard for me, but it's like torture. Even though I can see why they are so much easier to read through, particularly on the computer screen. If I had my druthers, or perhaps if my id had its druthers, I'd produce everything in one ginormous monster brick of a paragraph, 300 yards long, possibly lacking any sort of punctuation as well.

What am I saying? If my id had its way I would do nothing but nap and eat chocolate all day.

You know, I had been toying with the idea of naming my id and making it a full-fledged character on the blog. But I think that might weird people out. And be kinda complicated to explain. All I gotta say though is even if I became a monk or a hermit my life story would not lack a full cast of characters.


Anonymous said...

when you're writing for bored people who are only marginally interested in what you have to say--either because they are distracted or because they really are only marginally interested--short paragraphs are the way to go. for sure.

also, I have this:

"That's ridiculous, I say back to myself sternly. Then my id promptly knocks me unconscious in the middle of the afternoon. I'm beginning to think that even when I am alone in the room I'm outnumbered."

Dr. Crazy said...

re: the shopping the book stuff, what I sent around to publishers (per advice of my mentor) was a short letter (1 page), a longer book proposal (I think it was like 5 single-spaced pages?) and a sample chapter (need not be the first one - should be the one you think is most polished and most interesting). My sense is that if you talk to a publisher at MLA it's less formal (and unless you really have a specific publisher in mind, you don't need to contact them ahead of time). You can give him/her a full-out proposal, I guess, but my sense is that it's much more likely that you would just talk about the project and see if there's interest at that point.

Shane in SLC said...

It's not a bad idea to contact editors and ask if they'll meet you at the MLA. Initially you need only send them the 150-word abstract, incorporated into your initial email. If they want to see a proposal now, well then you'll have motivation to write/revise/formalize yours. Otherwise, just bring a short stack of them with you to the MLA. (I'm happy to look over the proposal, btw.)

If the size of the manuscript is a psychological obstacle to picking it up again, can you break it into smaller chunks? (Like your paragraphs...) Put each chapter in a separate manila folder, so it feels like a separate and much smaller task?

And stop calling it your dissertation. It's a book manuscript now. Embrace it.

Anonymous said...

I realize this is totally peripheral to the core of your angst, but I know your pain on the short paragraph thing. Because I, too, write in germanic/Victorian-style units. Of course, this summer, the court where I worked required everything to be written in Courier New (ewww!) so my paragraphs tended to take up 2 pages. So I learned to cut them, but it was painful. (and obviously not a skill I am exhibiting in this comment...)

P said...

Have you read this?


Also, re: concise writing. Very good idea. Especially as you adapt diss to book. Different audience (i.e. not three or four people who need to know you've read a lot of books) will prefer incisive, jargon-free prose (not that you use a lot of jargon). But, well, it's just a good idea all around.

And damn it if it ain't totally difficult!

Sisyphus said...

Anastasia, you have *kids* --- totally justified. That's sleep deprivation, not insanity.

Kids are also a nice alibi for talking out loud constantly --- you get weird looks when you're having a running commentary with yourself everywhere you go.