Journal: “You must unwrite what you have written”

I’ve always had a difficult time making significant edits to a paper. Perhaps due to a lack of imagination, once I have the general format and most of the sentences, it’s challenging for me to envision a piece any other way. It’s a skill I need to learn, and learn immediately.

The final paper for one of my classes is supposed to be 14-16 pages. I’m almost done writing it and I’m well over 22 pages. Granted, I can tack a couple of those pages up to diagrams, but really I need to trim the paper significantly. And unfortunately, I don’t think I can do so without drastically narrowing the focus. By narrowing the focus, I will need to rewrite, reorder, and remake almost the entire thing. In my Introductions, I need to make sure I don’t mention the sections I’ve cut. In my literature review I need to be on the look out for things like, “as we will see in the succeeding section….” if there is now no such succeeding section.

My professor encouraged me to keep a folder of “throwaway” material. This is material that I may wish to include in future papers, so it wasn’t a total waste. That sounds reasonable.

In the future, I’d prefer to notice the need for significant rewrites early on. If I had caught myself at, say, page 12 rather than page 22, I might have been able to avoid much of the changes I need to go back through. Thankfully the paper isn’t due until December. Chalk one up for getting started on work early.