Having a flexible plan of action is always important when I begin a new writing project. Last week, I started thinking about my writing in plan in terms of tasks and goals. This week, I continued working with Haynes’ book to create a viable plan for writing my manuscript. This is what I achieved this week:
In terms of the book manuscript:
- I decided on my manuscript length (approx. 90,000 words MAX)
- I wrote an abstract I didn’t hate (I don’t particularly like it, but I think it adequately conveys the subject and argument of the book).
- I reviewed my dissertation, looking for salvageable material (not much, just one chapter, but I do have a good bit started with conference papers).
In terms of the article I’ve been working on, I was able to:
- Set a submission deadline (1/31)
- Create a list of journals I might submit this to.
- Began working with a new analytical framework.
In addition, I used two of Haynes’ techniques to work out a preliminary plan for the manuscript. First, I used “word budgeting” (Haynes 67-69) to get a sense of just how long my chapters need to be. Right now, I’m visualizing the book as a six-chapter book (excluding the introduction and conclusion). The maximum number of words I can allot each chapter is 12,000, which is a nice number for me. It will take away a lot of the pressure I usually feel in writing articles to keep things short (my articles usually range between 7-9,000 words). With this number in mind, I have a sense of what an end-goal looks like as I work on an individual chapter.
Writing the book abstract was HARD. Part of the problem is that writing is thinking, and so I haven’t had a chance to think through everything I want to work into the book. When I wrote my dissertation, I didn’t think about the narrative or argument of the work as a whole –the result was a finished dissertation, but ultimately a somewhat disjointed one. This time, I’m writing the book as a single piece of writing, not a collection of essays about a topic (which is what the dissertation ultimately looked like). Forcing myself to write the abstract helped in this regard, and thankfully I was able to draft quite a bit of text that will hopefully be useful down the line. After running into a wall during my first try, I decided chart my ideas using another tool suggested by Haynes (pg. 64-66): a grid.
This took a few tries, but what I ultimately found came up with was a 4 by 4 chart. The top row contains the levels at which I think each theme operates –macro, meso, and micro. The left-hand column considers the type of theme –practical, ideological, or theoretical (in an anthropological sense). This is what it looks like:
|Practical||Health Care Reform/Seguro Popular||Deployment of care
Localized structural obstacles
||Party politics||Competing agendas“La Chingada”|
||Political EconomyMovement & flows||Personhood/subjectivity
There are two things I am keeping at the forefront as I work on my plan: first, everything is very, very likely going to change. As I said before, writing is itself a process of thinking, and so I am expecting to find more needs to be said before this project is done. So, first, this chart is mutable. Second, it’s okay for it to look somewhat haphazard, because it’s only a tool to think through what exactly it is that I have to say. When I thought of something specific I wanted to expand on, I listed it as a bullet point beneath the broader theme.
Okay, so this chart helped me see the themes running through the narrative. But that didn’t help me too much in terms of dividing the whole thing into chapters. So I created another chart outlining what my chapters might look like if I divide the book into three parts:
|Part I — Setting||Part II – Care||Part III – Acts|
|The Mexican Health Care System
||Deployment of care
||Health models and flows
||Agency & resistance?|
|The Culture of bureaucracy and the legacy of “la Chingada”||Negotiation and resistance|
Again, some of it is still somewhat murky, and I’m okay with that. I just want to have a general direction to follow. Now, it really is as simple as choosing any one of these boxes and writing 12,000 words about it. I already have some text written about several of these, so for a couple chapters, this will mean expanding a conference paper or reworking a dissertation chapter. For others, it will involve drafting from scratch.
I used the two charts above to order my thoughts enough to write an abstract. It isn’t an abstract I’m thrilled with, or one I would pitch to a publisher or even make publicly available, but it clearly describes what the book is setting out to do, and that was the point of this.
The most important thing right now is to manage my time wisely. Next week, my goals are:
Week of 1/7-1/11