Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Going It Alone

I just finished a major writing project--a book chapter--which is why I've not been blogging lately.

I was given the option of having co-authors, since the topic was fairly broad.  I toyed with the idea of inviting several colleagues to help write sections on topics with which they were more familiar than I.  This approach--working with co-authors--is the more usual one for me.   

In the end, though, I opted to go it alone.  The main reason was that I didn't want to have to deal with asking co-authors to revise (reduce) their sections to fit into the page limit as well as with merging the inevitably different writing styles.  Then there would be the time spent sending drafts back and forth among the authors, dealing with their objections (to having their section cut down), and getting everything done by the deadline.  I weighed these reasons against the option of working alone, which would require me to become (more) familiar with some topics, and possibly taking more time.  I would also lack the feedback that co-authors could provide on the chapter as a whole.

As it turned out, I'm glad I worked alone.  I learned a lot about a number of topics, read a lot of papers I had not seen before, and enjoyed synthesizing the information. The book is aimed at undergraduate/graduate students, so authors were asked to write in a "less technical" manner and to transmit our enthusiasm for the subject.  By being the sole author, I was able to maintain the same "voice" throughout the chapter.  I was also able to organize and present the information in the way I thought best.  Once I got a good draft finished, I then had to polish and cut down the length (I was several pages over the limit).  That stage was relatively painless, since they were my words being cut out or condensed.  I could readily reduce sections that were less important or less interesting without worrying about stepping on toes. 

Although I enjoy working with other people and generally have few problems in doing so, I find that I feel less stressed when working alone and am ultimately more satisfied with the finished product.  That turned out to be the case in this situation.

I submitted the final version to the editors a few days ago and already heard back that the chapter sounded fine and that they would go ahead and send it out for review (meaning that it met their expectations for content and format).  That's a relief.

Now, on to the next writing project....

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