Week Three: Summer 2018 Online Writing Group

It’s the third week of this summer’s online writing group — and I’m already behind! We’re about to get a blog pile-up. (like when you’ve been waiting 17 minutes for the #65 Grand Avenue bus and then three show up all at once? it’s like that.)

And when we start writing, nothing will stop us!


Via Giphy



Week Three goals are a little different. I hope to spend a few minutes each day this week brainstorming very high level plot ideas for a story. I’ve been struggling to get anything written, so perhaps if I change strategies and first try to figure out what to write, that will help.


Alissa (goals coming soon!)


Amy (goals coming soon!)


Anne D.

My goal this week is to work some more on a piece that I started in my bachelor’s program.


Anne H.

As predicted, I didn’t get anything done this week on my course project, though I did go to two intense conferences.

Next week’s goal is a comprehensive list of lessons.



Week Two accomplishments: I wrote TWO blog posts, mailed my letters, and organized some notes for the new letter I’m working on. The garden and chicken run were flooded Monday night. The chickens are fine. Jury is still out on the garden. So I’ve been dealing with the various muddy messes, moping, and worrying about our poor tomatoes.

Week Three goals: continue work on the letter; do another blog post, stop feeling sorry for myself. I will start a gratitude journal!


Connor (goals coming soon!)



Joe Goals: I didn’t do the thing I said I’d do! I’m going to work up to it, instead. I’m having a game night with some friends soon, so I’m going to try and write a decent scenario for them. I’ll also play around with some exercises. (Joe, 97% of the time I don’t do the thing I said I’d do. Welcome to the party.)



I continue to be a terrible group leader, posting our updates late and not getting myself into a pattern or schedule of any kind. I’ve been working ten hour workdays because our campus is closed on Fridays; and since I don’t like to do personal writing at work, and since I’m wiped out after a ten hour workday, I collapse into the couch and stare at the t.v. or a book instead of writing.

This is just an excuse — and not a good one — and I will get my shit together this week to write.



I did not do so well this week. Too much summer happening over here!

My goal for week three is to finish the poem I started this week. (Lisa, I love that you’re working on poetry!)



So my second week goal was going to be finish the middle few pages of the story I was revising. Going into this group, I just made my third switch of narrator in this damn story but realized I picked the right narrator finally, I just had to do a lot of rewrites to get the events I’d already written properly in her perspective. I made slow progress all week — a few hundred words a day — but was starting to doubt the plot. This afternoon, on a long minivan ride down to Oak Brook with my kids, I realized I don’t have one story with two plot threads — I have two totally different stories. I wrote (in my head) the first hundred or so words of a completely new version of one of those two stories and then ignored my kids for ten minutes while I frantically typed the new draft into a note on my phone once we got where we were going.

Goal for week three? Finish a first draft of one of these two new splinter stories.



I hit my (very minimally ambitious) goal to “start writing” my short story. It is kind of a stream-of-consciousness handwritten mess but it’s better than the blank page that was there before!

This week, I plan to work further on this draft and get closer to my target word count.



Report: wrote 3,456 words this week. The goal was 7,000, so I did about half. This next week I‘ll be in Florida for the rocket launch, with my daughter’s experiment (sending bees to the International Space Station!), so I don’t expect to get much written, maybe one or two thousand words. I‘m getting close to finishing the first draft of the novel. Exciting!


Sarah (goals coming soon!)


This week I wanted to focus on academic writing. We have a couple of writers this summer who are doing academic writing projects, and other writers in this group and past groups have done research-based academic writing during earlier sessions. And while the ideas about project management, writing schedules and routines, and sticktoitiveness (not a word) apply across all writing forms and styles, there are myriad differences between creative and academic projects.

For any of you doing or thinking about doing academic writing, I recommend listening to the Research in Action podcast produced by Oregon State University.


The most recent episode (#118) featured an interview with Dr. Nancy Segal, a psychology professor at California State University Fullerton. Segal studies twins and has written extensively, publishing her own books as well as contributing chapters and articles to other publications.

Dr. Katie Linder, the host of the RIA podcast, asked Dr. Segal how she approaches the different audiences she write for: the academic, expert audiences she writes for when contributing to peer reviewed journals, and the general audience she writes for when composing her own books or giving lectures at a non-academic conference. Segal had this to say about how she makes the adjustment:

So what I tend to do is I imagine myself having a conversation with people and I talk about the same findings, the same concepts as I would in a more scientific setting, but I just try to make the concepts more understandable, much clearer, really trying to explain to somebody who is hearing it for the first time—giving examples. (Segal, RIA Episode #118 Transcript)

She also mentions that giving talks to mothers of twins groups helped her figure out the best ways to explain her concepts and findings to non-expert audiences. She gave a number of talks to groups like this, and it allowed her to “polish up” her explanations to make them the clearest and easiest to understand for the general audience.

And that, writers, is your task for this week: find a person or small group of people who are not experts in the field, who don’t know the jargon, and who will not immediately get the context or intent of what you’re writing. Let them read your writing and be open to their feedback. It’s likely they’ll ask you to define or clarify terms, or to include more detail for a step you may have glossed over because you’ve thought about it and done it hundreds (thousands) of times. Listen to what they have to say, and then revise.

Good luck, and write on!


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