Archive | November, 2011

What are you writing for AcBoWriMo?

9 Nov

I am writing a complete draft of my PhD thesis (due February 2012). My thesis title is: Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption: Modelling behaviour change using the theory of planned behaviour.

It is in health psychology at the University of Sydney and is looking at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in university students using the theory of planned behaviour (one of the major theories of behaviour currently used in health psychology).


What are you writing?

What I write about…

6 Nov

Word save fail

6 Nov
I want to tell you a story about why you should save your thesis more often…

So to set the scene… On Thursday afternoon I wrote about 500 words for my thesis on my work computer. These words were in a file Thesis_20111103 in my AcBoWriMo folder. Because I am a good little nerd that file is kept in my Dropbox folder and backed up regularly to the cloud (and to my home computer) (see: my blog post on Dropbox:

On Friday morning I woke up nice and early read to get back into my AcBoWriMo writing. I opened up Thesis_20111103 from my dropbox account and realised that the 500 words weren’t there! After a few seconds of confusion I realised that I must not have actually SAVED the words I’d written in the Thesis_20111103 document on my work computer, meaning that the new words weren’t backed up to Dropbox and therefore weren’t on my home computer.

No worries I thought, I’ve got TeamViewer (see my blog here:  for this exact reason. All I had to do was remotely log into my work computer and save the version of Thesis_20111103 that was sitting open on my work computer (changing its name to Thesis_20111104). BUT, when I logged on to my work computer I was greeted by a blank desktop, none of the files that I’d left open on Thursday night were still there. Obviously my computer had crashed and restarted some time between 5pm on Thursday and 6am on Friday (DISASTER!). I opened Word with my fingers tightly crossed that Word autorecovery would save me – but alas the only version of Thesis_20111103 that autorecovery could find was from 9am on Thursday. The precious words were gone…


So now I want to tell you guys what you can do to stop this happening to you.

1. SAVE your documents regularly, use the keyboard shortcut (Crtl+S) or the little picture of the floppy disk, it doesn’t matter just SAVE.

2. Check your autorecovery options and make sure that Word is saving an autorecovery file regularly. BEWARE, even though these options are listed under ‘save’ autorecovery is not the same as autosaving. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is. It should be something that you never want to use and one day saves your life, NOT something that you rely on.

3. Save regularly, save, save, save and save again.

4. Think about moving to a word processor that does handle autosaving. I’m told Scrivener does a good job. I’m too far into writing my thesis to feel like I can change now but some people might be willing to change.

Hitting the wall in #AcBoWriMo

4 Nov

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I lost a document this morning. I am in the process of trying everything I can with document auto-recovery and trying to find some better ways to save documents in Word. Once I get everything sorted I am going to write a post on not trusting Word and how to improve your document handling if you’re like me and not willing to move to another word processing system.

For now though, my auto-recovery is chugging along in the background and I still have my fingers crossed so I thought now might be a good time to reflect on the idea of ‘hitting a wall’ in your writing which is something which happened to me on Tuesday.

AcBoWriMo is all about spending concentrated amounts of time on academic writing, for me the main reason why I find AcBoWriMo appealing is that I respond well to having targets, deadlines, and a metric against which to measure my progress. The problem is how I handle myself when I don’t make the progress I am hoping/expecting.

As I wrote below, my first day of AcBoWriMo was very productive I found it relatively easy to write my 1200 words quickly and without too much angst. Day Two was a completely different story. I had a full day teaching workshop, meaning that I didn’t get a chance to sit down at my desk and try and write until about 6:30pm. The first couple of hundred words were easy, and then BAM! I hit a wall and came to an abrupt stop. I was working on the 2nd chapter in my thesis and I felt like it was finished, there was nothing more to say and I didn’t know what to do.

I think I had a couple of problems.

1. I was so devoted to achieving the word count I wasn’t able to say “horay! I finished a chapter in my thesis! That is amazing! I should celebrate”. Maybe I should have just given up on the word count for the day and realised that finishing a chapter IS an achievement.

2. I’d put a lot of planning into Chapter 2 but none into what I was going to do once I finished Chapter 2 (and the answer isn’t Chapter 3). That meant that I actually didn’t have a plan about what to do next in any concrete way.

3. I’m a morning person and so by this stage I was getting close to my bedtime.


This experience means I’ll be changing how I do AcBoWriMo a little bit.

1. I want to get to my word count each day but the real goal is getting a complete draft of my thesis. Any day that I complete a chapter (or the write up of a study even if it’s only part of a chapter) I am going to take that as a major achievement and reward myself by taking the rest of the day off. I’m only aiming for 9 chapters so this obviously isn’t going to happen so often that it becomes a big problem for my overall word count.

2. I’m going to spend more time  planning what I am going to write AFTER I finish my next task. It doesn’t have to be detailed but it does have to exist.

3. I’m going to accept that I’m a nanna that goes to bed at 9pm and make sure that I focus on writing in the morning. 7am to 10am is particularly productive for me.


What have you learnt about your writing in AcBoWriMo?

Adding a progress bar for AcBoWriMo

1 Nov

@Hist_Geographer asked me on twitter how I added the progress bar to my blog. The answer is a little too long for twitter so I thought I’d put it here:

Basically all you need to do is go to your appearance tab on wordpress, add a ‘text’ widget and edit the widget so that it includes the following text:

<div style=”width:175px;height:15px;background:#33FFFF;border:1px solid #000000;”>
<div style=”width:3.4%;height:15px;background:#00CCCC;font-size:8px;line-height:8px;”>
</div></div> 12,38/36,000 words. 3.4% done!

When ever you want to update the progress bar you just need to adjust the width of the second div (where it currently says width:3.4%) and then change the text you want to display under the progress bar (where is says 12,38/36,000 words. 3.4% done!)

You can do this with any blogging software that lets you add a widget that allows html

AcBoWriMo First Impressions

1 Nov

My last post was at 7:17am – just 5 1/2 hours ago. Since then I’ve written 1238 words, which means I’ve met my AcBoWriMo goal for the first day!

Of course I’m going to keep on writing today to bank up some words for tomorrow and Wednesday when I’ve got all day workshops which will slow me down.

Still I wanted to take a little bit of time to reflect on the things I found helpful today (and the things I still need to work on).

1. I used timers on my phone to set pomodoros. I’m not really disciplined enough to do the Pomodoro technique properly (I can never stop myself from checking my email or looking at twitter when I have to move between Word and a paper I’m reading online), but having a timer still helps. For added nerd points I was using Siri on my new iPhone 4S to set the alarms. Since I only got my phone yesterday the novelty factor alone probably pushed me through a few extra pomodoros.

2. I am working on Chapter 2 on my thesis and as of today I have an almost complete draft. Once I’d done my first major draft I printed off what I had and went through to edit and to work out what sections needed to be fleshed out or moved around. I know proofreading doesn’t really add words to the page, but in the process of reading that draft I noticed some sections that really needed to be expanded which gave me some things to work on for the next couple of hours. I went from not really knowing where to go next to having a great idea of what was missing.

3. It might feel a little bit like cheating, but don’t forget to incorporate work you’ve done before on other (similar) papers. I am working on my thesis, but I’ve put together some of my studies for publications already. I’d already gone through an added most of the things from papers to my thesis draft that I thought would fit, but in the process of writing today I found some sections where I needed to say something that I realised I’d said in an article but not yet put in my thesis. Sometimes it is just a sentence and I ended up fleshing it out a lot more – but don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel!

4. One thing I found frustrating this morning was that I had to spend quite a bit of time putting together complex tables and adding references. Neither of these really added to my word count, but they are still important! I think the difference between NaNoWriMo and AcBoWriMo is that unlike many NaNoWriMo writers who don’t expect to have a readable novel at the end of November I have to have something I can give to my thesis supervisor pretty early in December. It might slow down the word count but adding references now will save much more time later in the month (or in December) since adding references when I’ve got the paper in front of me is much easier than having to go back and do forensic work to find out what study I was referring to when I wrote something a month ago. I just know I am going to find the table/word count issue much more annoying when I get to work on some of my very data heavy results sections.

5. On the topic of references, if you’re not using one already I really recommend using a referencing system like Endnote or Mendeley, I promise it will make referencing much easier.

6. Last but not least, the AcBoWriMo people on twitter are amazingly motivational – save #AcBoWriMo as a search and check back on it as you go. People updating their progress today made me want to work even harder.

Now, time to go put on some loud music and do a celebratory dance before getting back into writing!

Writing starts now!

1 Nov

7:17am on the 1st of November – I want to write 36,000 words (or a complete first draft of my thesis) between now and the beginning of December.

That means I’ll be hoping to write at least 1200 words a day (including weekends).

I am swearing off television, trying not to read any fiction, and holding myself accountable here, on twitter, and to my boyfriend who is demanding an updated word count every evening.

If you’re interested in participating in AcBoWriMo you can read the ‘rules’ here.