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REVIEW: Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks

cover imageBelcher, Wendy Laura. Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success, Sage Pub, 2009. $49.95. ISBN 978-1-4129-5701-4.
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Over the past several months, we at ProfHacker have offered a number of posts about academic writing, our Writer’s Bootcamp series. These posts deal with (among many other things) writing tools, creative ways to keep writing, and writer’s block.

Today, however, our Writer’s Bootcamp series offers a review of Wendy Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (2009). This review supports the aims of our Bootcamp series, but it also targets a specific subset of our ProfHacker audience.

Here at ProfHacker, we write articles that are helpful to a very wide range of people who work in or around higher education. A significant number of our readers are junior faculty members or graduate students (perhaps even undergraduate students) who may need guidance and support as they begin the work of writing in an academic voice to a sometimes critical academic audience. Even though this particular post is directed to those readers, I’m certain that even seasoned academic writers can find something useful in Belcher’s book.

Purpose of the Book

Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks is a book—I have the need to call it a workbook—that guides novice writers through a process of revising a current manuscript (whether a previously rejected article submission, a dissertation chapter, or even or a seminar paper) into a document that is potentially publishable. By following the author’s 12-week guideline, publishing success is attainable.

But that sound too easy. Follow These 12-Steps to Academic Publishing Success is not the book’s title. Writing is hard work, and Belcher knows this, so it’s important to recognize that her book is not a step-by-step guide to publication heaven. Instead, she offers sound advice, encouragement, and confidence building strategies that help novice writers create/recreate a written text that could be publishable.

Key Points

One of the key points of this book are the dozens of charts, graphs, and tables that a writer can use to chart writing progress. The workbook provides space—within the book—for writing: from space devoted to daily timelines and schedules to small boxes where you can write down potential journal names, you are writing. Belcher understands that this type of writing can lead to other types of (potentially publishable) writing.

The forms in the book can only be used (theoretically) once. But Belcher has thought ahead—to keep you on track with your writing work—as she provides you additional forms on her website.

Another key section in this book is the extensive “Writing Obstacles” section. From Obstacle #1 (“I really am too busy [to write]“) to Obstacle #28 (“I need big blocks of time to write, and my schedule doesn’t allow such blocks”), Belcher describes the most common obstacles to producing written text, and she answers those obstacles with clear and sound advice, suggestions, and admonishments. (ProfHacker has told you to turn off the Internet when you write. Belcher will tell you the same thing!)

In Classes or Writers’ Groups

You may well be a seasoned professional academic writer who does not need a 12-week schedule to get an article published. (Yea for you!) However, you may have junior colleagues or even graduate students who need the type of information found in this book. Belcher’s workbook could be a wonderful addition to a graduate course in professional writing. The 12-week format of the book would work well with the traditional 15-week semesters. While Sage offers the book, you can also purchase the book from Amazon.

Additionally, this workbook could be useful to a writers’ group, as they, too, can work through the steps together as part of a weekly writing session. At ProfHacker, we have encouraged the use of writers’ groups as the accountability they provide can help struggling writers.

Disciplines

Writing a Journal Article in 12 Weeks is designed for writers in many different disciplines. While the requirements for an “appropriate” article can vary from discipline to discipline (and journal to journal), articles in all disciplines typically need some sort of literature review, structure, and evidence. (Belcher covers these issues in weeks 5, 6, and 7, respectively.) Additionally, Belcher offers advice on getting and receiving feedback from peers and mentors (week 9), sending your article out to journals (week 12), and responding to journal editors’ comments (week X….as it’s impossible to anticipate what week that journal reply will arrive…but that’s a ProfHacker article for another day).

Conclusions

Overall, I think this book is a wonderful addition to a graduate course on professional writing, to a writers’ group in need of some structure, or even to the lone writer who needs assistance becoming an academic writer.

How about you? Have you used this book? Have you used it with students? Please leave your feedback about the book and its uses in comments below.

[Image provided through Sage Publishers.]

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