A participant in my workshop this weekend wisely pointed out that these weekly prompts and exercises skew heavily toward the creative. While I hope that writers will bust out of their disciplinary shells as much as possible, she was clearly right.
The reason for this is fairly simple--there is just way more out there for creative writers than for scholarly ones. I imagine this is largely because academic writers have long been considered oblivious to things like writing craft or style. I would like to leap onto a very sturdy soapbox and declare this a gross and misinformed prejudice, but it contains a kernel of truth. And that kernel is why I urge scholarly writers to adopt some tactics from their creative writing brethren.
So once again, my scholarly birds, focus on your writing and start by taking any exercise from our site and making it yours. Tweak it to fit your genre, but also try a few that take you into unfamiliar territory. Stretch and strain your writing muscles, and maybe it will help you find that elusive crossover audience.
But not today--today is all about you:
Go to your over-burdened book shelf, perhaps the one that your spouse asked you to move to your office for fear the children would die beneath a pile of tomes, and pull down the two books you think are the most well written. Why are they your favorite? What about them do you admire? Is it the writers' tone, language, or perhaps the way in which they convey information? What is the primary story being told? Can you identify an overarching narrative arc? Is there anything you'd cut? Add? Be specific, brief, and precise, but remember this is not a précis--focus on the story and the writing.
Are your answers about both books similar? Without focusing on specific content, how would you answer these questions about your own work? Can you glean anything from the style and flow of your favorite books that can help you shape and hone your own work?
--inspired by Susan Bell and her lovely book, The Artful Edit