Gunlord’s Dissertation Saga, Episode 36 (Season 2 Last Episode): What I Learned from my Second Draft

Whew! As promised, my friends, I have a very meaty entry for you today! I’ve done a big writeup on why my 2nd draft of my dissertation took so long, and what I learned from it. Before I get to that, though, here’s what I’ve been doing for fun this week:

I’ve been eating out a lot, and playing Shovel Knight! I said I’d get to it after I finished my dissertation, and it’s such a charming little game. Really fun, or as they say, “comfy.” Despite how much I like it, though…I think I may wait till April to finish it. That’s when the Shovel Knight guide comes out, and I wanna get that for the full nostalgia rush of playing a retro game along with a retro strategy guide ;D

I also watched the Silent Hill movie. I thought it was okay…some scary moments that captured the scary feel of the original game perfectly, but the plot, and especially the end…ugh. Don’t wanna spoil anyone, but I couldn’t tell if I had missed something or if they were trying to go for an M Night Shyamalan TWEEST.

After that, I had quite an experience with Amazon.com…I ordered the Warhammer 40,000 7th ed rulebook (I’ve been hanging out with Robbie MacNiven, a 40k author, on Tumblr and kinda feel drawn back to the setting), but it seems like something went wrong and I didn’t get the book on the day Amazon said it’d be delivered! So I called them, very angry, and they said they’d move it over to be delivered by USPS. I was quite irritated by the delay, and to assuage my anger the Amazon people gave me a 10 dollar credit, which I happily accepted. I bought a lot of Kindle books with the credit, I’ll write about them as I read them 8) That reminds me, I ought to post some of the reviews I’ve written here to Amazon…I’ll do so eventually 😀

Thankfully, my Warhammer 40k book came in yesterday, and I’ve been having fun with it, though I haven’t got into the models. But to further celebrate, I went to a local games store and bought a ton of 40k codexes, along with the War Machine rules. I paid a pretty penny for the stuff, but I wanted to support a local games store, since it’s a nice place. Here are pics:

And, adding to the fun, here’s all the food I’ve been having recently:

Lotta good stuff, eh? The only real complaint I have about this week is that I had a tough time getting in touch with Gorge, the Italian translator for Dragonar, but I managed to catch him yesterday and it seems he’s been working on ep 24, which is good! We should have that out soon, hopefully 😀 And now, to be serious…as promised, an essay about writing my dissertation~!

So Much Delay

If you’ve been following this blog for the past few weeks, you can probably tell this dissertation took a bit longer than I wanted. I thought I could get it in by December 19th—19th!—if I worked very hard, and that obviously fell through. Then I agreed to get it in on the 22nd, which was much later, but well within my original schedule, so no biggie. Then I delayed it to the 29th, and then to February 3rd…which was OK, but I took some time in submitting it cause I wanted to check in with my profs and they got back to me last Thursday. I thought they’d be out for the weekend, so I went over my dissertation a couple more times and sent it in on the 13th.

This isn’t the worst thing in the world—my main prof did tell me I had time, and the very latest I thought I’d get it in with February 22. Still, it’s kinda disheartening. Why did I take so long? First, three general reasons, and then some more specific concerns, chapter by chapter.

1: As mentioned previously, a bit of procrastination. The weather’s kinda gotten bad again, but there’s lots of sun, so I spent more time outside than I should have. I didn’t go eating, but I did go to the library, shopping, etc. That cost me some time I probably should have used better.

2: Less flippantly, politics constituted a huge distraction for me. I don’t discuss it much on this blog, but you can get an impression of it on Twitter; I’m certainly not Trump’s biggest fan. I’ve begun to be quite worried about the state of my government and the health of my nation, which led to me spending much more time than prudent updating CNN, Reuters, and other news sites. Understandable, I hope, but still, not the best thing in the world.

There’s one other reason for my lack of productivity, but I won’t go into that for a little while. I’ll come back to it in a few months, when I’ve had some time to think things over and really do some introspection.

So, a brief chapter by chapter lowdown. I mentioned a lot of this stuff in previous entries, but aside from restating it here, I’ll add on some new notes:

Introduction: This wasn’t too bad.  The main challenges here were twofold: First, I had to do a little more writing. My profs told me I should spend less time on justifying why I chose the six historical figures I did and more time on providing the background they came from: How men in their situation lived in the nineteenth century, what had been changing for them, and so on. That wasn’t actually too hard: I’m not sure I did it right and I can only hope my profs like what I did, but I did offer a few pages on the Market Revolution and how it changed the relationships between fathers and their families (which my subjects would have recognized).

The tough part was removing all the extra stuff. I confess I was somewhat reluctant to excise several thousand words of biography and historiography I spent a lot of time writing, but after dithering for a while, I finally bit the bullet and just chopped them off. I didn’t delete them entirely, of course—I made a whole new word file titled “removed stuff” in which I put all the things I deleted from the main draft. So in case my profs want me to put any of them back, I have it easier than if I’d just deleted them entirely 😀 But yeah, that dithering probably caused some unnecessary delay.

A more excusable delay came with chapter 1.  As I mentioned before, every time I thought I’d gotten a good reorganization down, I ended up moving stuff around to new subheadings ;_; For instance, I thought I’d go with 5 subsections, then that became 6, then 5, then 6 again. The actual writing wasn’t so bad, though I had to do some thinking on how to incorporate Charles Mills’s work into my argument (I think I did alright, though even then, I may have to revise it or remove it entirely depending on what Dr. H thinks). But the amount of time I spent moving sections back and forth…that was painful. X_X

Chapter 2, by comparison, was a little easier. I made three subheadings and more or less kept to those three subheadings…unfortunately, I ran into the same problems as chapter one, where paragraphs I thought would be good in one subheading went to another. I also had to decide whether to move a decently sized chunk of text to Chapter 3 or keep it in 2. The text was a description of both fatherhood manuals and motherhood in the 19th century, I kept the fatherhood manual stuff in 2 and moved the motherhood stuff to 3.

Chapter 3 is the one which I had to revise most heavily (as it was the “roughest” of the chapters in my original first draft), and I’m pretty proud of it, I think I managed to make it a bona-fide, could-stand-on-its-own chapter quite well, and I’m pleased with how much of an improvement it was. But Lord, it was tough working through it.

It started out easy enough: I think I found a nice quote that allowed me to segue from a new introduction (outlining the revised point I wanted to make in the chapter) to an analysis of how motherhood changed in the nineteenth century, which I moved from chapter 2 to this one. The motherhood analysis itself wrote itself pretty smoothly, and I did a good job (IMO) tying in all the information on Martin Delany, Henry Garnet, and Frederick Douglass’s marriages into it. I then shifted over to comparing their relationships with their wives and children to those George Fitzhugh, R.L. Dabney, and James Henry Hammond had, looking at what their successes were and how they shared similar ideas of success. Again, I think I did a decent job there and that didn’t take too long.

The last section, though, that was a toughie. It was about how these guys also shared concerns about how they failed to live up to their ideals of fatherhood, and making the right comparisons were very tough due to their very different life experiences. I managed it eventually, but it took a LOT of time: I wrote, deleted, rewrote, deleted, and rewrote one paragraph like 5 times, and had to spend a lot of time thinking about it, and then even more time revising it so everything sounded OK.

After that was finally finished, I just had to polish up the Epilogue, and that was very easy. My profs said it might need subheadings, it might not, so I just cleaned it up a little, focused it a bit more on my thesis, and added a new conclusion, and that was that. Didn’t take me more than a few hours. It was chapter 3, with chapter 1 as a runner-up, that gave me the most headaches.

So, what did I learn overall? Well, as a well-wisher on Reddit told me, “sometimes it can seem like editing is a punishment for writing!” It’s definitely harder than you might think, and I think I definitely should have pushed myself into “hardcore writing mode” earlier. I didn’t think revisions would be that tough, but I sure found out the hard way it’s no less of a challenge than the original writing! To get down to specifics, here are two things I’ll need to consider when my profs get back to me:

1: I know one of the most basic truisms of dissertation writing is that “a good dissertation is a done dissertation,” but in my case, that wasn’t quite right. I already handed in a full draft of my dissertation previously, after all. Since this was my second draft, I think I had an obligation to polish it up to a decent degree, if not straight-out as much as I could. And as I found out, that can be pretty hard: Like I said above, not only did I have to rewrite Chapter 3’s paragraphs on fatherhood-related anxieties several times, but even when I had the gist of it down, I had to go over the stuff I’d written several times to make sure the wording and line of argumentation was correct as well as the grammar and everything. So that was definitely a lot more exhausting and time consuming than I anticipated!

Related to that, the second thing I also learned was 2: Sometimes it doesn’t matter how long you park yourself in front of the screen or typewriter. Sometimes the inspiration you need just comes and goes of its own accord, and if it seems to have gone, sometimes a good night’s sleep can get it to come again. I was only able to settle on the aforementioned edits to the tough paragraph in chapter 3 after I said to myself “screw it” and headed to bed. When I woke up in the morning, the paragraph I’d spent hours agonizing over seemed to come together perfectly!

Thus, I think it’s a good idea to account for that when you’re budgeting time on a writing project. It may be good to allocate a few extra days in case you run into some “writer’s block” which can only be broken by taking the day off and looking at it tomorrow, after a good rest has restored your vigor.

Well, with that knowledge, hopefully my third draft will be easier…it better be, because I have to get my work submitted and polished off before June! So, wish me luck…but until my profs get back to me, there’s not a whole lot I can do. They’ll hopefully get back to me relatively soon, but until then, Season 2 of the Dissertation Saga has ended, and it’s back to Relaxation Saga/Living the Good Life for me! That’s what we’ll see next week~

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2 comments

  1. cormagravenstaff · · Reply

    I’m proud of ya for coming this far!

    1. Thanks man 😀

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