As the date of my thesis submission draws ever nearer, I am beginning to do more writing. Ironically, not for my thesis (yet)…
During the last few months, I’ve actually been doing a lot more ‘extra-curricular’ writing. In August of last year, I entered and was lucky enough to be chosen as a runner up for a Naturejobs journalism competition, with my final written piece published on their blog. Before it was published however, I got the chance to work with the Naturejobs editor to improve my article, which was a really useful experience.
Earlier last year I was approached by the News and Views Editor of the Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB), asking if I’d like to be a contributor for their Outside JEB section – a monthly round-up of interesting biology research papers published in other journals. The aim is to broadly cover a piece of research in around 500 words, and after a successful writing test I was invited to join the team. I jumped at the chance! Although a bit risky trying to fit it into the final year of my PhD, science writing is something I’m seriously considering going into, and gaining experience alongside the guidance of an experienced editor is something I really wanted to do. So, fast-forward to now, and I’ve written one piece for them already, published earlier this month (see it online here), and have just submitted my second (which is about some pretty cool ant-mimic spiders!).
During the process of writing these pieces, I’ve come to realise something. Though I enjoy the writing process, the thing I enjoy the most is actually editing. I like having a draft to work with. I love taking my initial, somewhat-clunky sentences and jerky storytelling, and moulding it into something smart and smooth. I could spend hours, days doing it, striving for perfection. Often I find that first draft really difficult to finish because I begin editing as I go, rewording sentences and reworking paragraphs to find that ‘flow’, and I have to really force myself to stop and move on, else I’d never get it finished!
In hindsight, I always did enjoy editing, whether it was my work or someone else’s. Reading each other’s work in school to check for errors, I’d love picking up spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, not to be a know-it-all but just because that final piece of writing would flow much better. And recently, reading over my long-suffering boyfriend’s writing for his website: “You’ve spelt that wrong”; “Break this sentence up, it’ll work better”; “Put this bit up here, it makes more sense” … (Sorry, Josh…)
This is a great thing to realise for two reasons. Firstly, that I mustn’t get carried away with editing when I first begin writing my thesis. I have to get that first draft down, no matter how rubbish it is, and then work to improve it. And secondly, that I should also consider editorial positions after my PhD!
I’ve got at least two more Outside JEB articles to write before I submit my thesis, so I’ll continue to get experience writing and editing something for a general audience, which is good. No doubt I will have endless edits to work on for my own thesis soon enough, too! I’m pretty excited about that to be honest. However, if anyone dares remind me of how excited I must be in a few months when I’m tearing my hair out over huge drafts of thesis writing, I won’t be held responsible for my actions…!
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