Write On: Development

First, you established a strong foundation for your project. Then, you designed your resource by determining your textbook structure and selecting your content structure. Finally, it is time to write. During the development stage of your project you will write a draft for each of your planned chapters, revise your chapters, edit your chapters, and proofread your chapters. While later steps may take place concurrently, you will find your creation experience most productive if you approach them each as distinct and separate. Drafting the chapters takes, well, however long it takes. Plan to allow at least eight weeks to progress through the revise, edit, and proofread steps. Keep your author guide handy to remind yourself of decisions you have already made regarding audience, tone, and style guide.


Decorate image of scissors and letters
Writing on.

Draft Chapters

The first step in the development stage of your project is to create a first draft of your chapter. Remember, you are not starting from scratch. During the textbook structure step of the design phase you thought through and determined how you wanted to present each chapter. You have already considered how you want to open and close each chapter, as well as textbook elements you want to use throughout to present content, create continuity and facilitate meaningful learner engagement. It may be tempting to throw those aside as you write, but honor the care and thought you invested in designing your work by following those choices as closely as you can. It is your project, you can change whatever you want, but your work will be productive as you allow it to build upon decisions you have already made.

As you populated your author guide, you made decisions regarding how many words you wanted each chapter to have. Textbook structure helped you envision how you would frame each chapter. Your content structure established a scope and sequence, and your outline gives you a clear overall view. Stick with it, and get something written. Revision, editing, and proofreading are built into the next steps. Just write something. Same as you tell your students.

Revise Chapters

Once you have completed your chapter draft, take four or five hours to go back and revise your work. Think of this step of the process as content, or subject-matter editing. Make decisions about what you want to include or exclude. Focus on what you want to convey in the specific chapter under revision. If necessary, refer back to the scope portion of your content structure outline to ensure you are addressing everything you wanted to cover in this specific chapter. You may find you have written content which would be more effectively presented elsewhere in the sequence.

You are not polishing your work in this step, merely revising for focus and content. Four or five hours per chapter. More than that and you have slipped into the next step. Whoops.

Edit Chapters

Begin your chapter edit only once you have completed a draft and revised it for focus and content. The chapter edit step includes structural editing, substantive editing, and copy editing. Allow at least five weeks for this step, adding in one week per chapter.

Structural editing provides the opportunity to look at the textbook as a whole and evaluate how well the parts combine to create the desired resource. During the structural edit, look at the overall text to see if it covers all of the content you intended for it to cover.  Consider the individual chapters in relation to one another. Are they weighted equally? Do they transition logically? Are the tone and pace consistent throughout, or does the text bog down in places? As you have throughout earlier steps and stages of the textbook creation process, keep your author guide handy and refer to it as you work through your structural edit. You may find you want to make changes in your scope and sequence, or that the textbook structure you originally selected is less effective than you had hoped. Jot down those possibilities at this point, reflect them in your author guide, and note necessary revisions as you work through the structural edit. An effective structural edit may take as much as one week per chapter. Remember, during structural editing you are noting necessary revisions, but you are not yet implementing them. Be strong, and resist the temptation to blur steps together.

Substantial editing is when you will implement revisions noted as necessary during the structural edit. Take time now to resolve questions, solve problems, and implement improvements in content delivery. Begin by implementing structural revisions at the chapter level, such as issues with unevenly weighted chapters or necessary changes in sequence. Then implement revisions at the paragraph level, followed by line by line writing revisions as necessary. Plan at least three weeks to accomplish substantial editing of the entire text.

Solid structural editing and patient substantial editing will ensure your text is cohesive, logical, has a unified voice, covers the content you want in a way which facilitates a meaningful learning experience for your desired audience. Your resource will then be ready for two to four weeks of thorough copy-editing.

The two to four weeks of thorough copy-editing will address the nuts and bolts of the chapter, noting and completing needed revisions to syntax, layout, and licensing.  A first close read should address issues of sentence structure, syntax, grammar, vocabulary, and edits that will continue to achieve unified tone and style. A second close read should address layout and design details, such as headings, figure numbers, and citation style. A third close read will confirm and revise licensing and permissions on images, media, quotations, and other included references. Copy-edit can also be achieved in one very in-depth close read, but considerations of the work in terms of the categories as described above (syntax, layout, licenses) will help you bound your work and help maintain a sense of productivity.

Proofread Chapters

The final two weeks of the development stage of your resource creation will be spent proofreading your work. At this point, each chapter has been through in-depth review and revision. Proofreading will catch mistakes which may have been introduced in the review and revision process and address typographical errors others may have overlooked. Enlist a fresh set of eyes at this point, if possible, and avoid substantial rewrites. Trust the decisions you made earlier in the process, and take time to celebrate your progress!


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Exploring Open by Kathy Essmiller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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