dissertate, schmissertate

I think I've been light on content here for a while, and of course, I blame my MA dissertation - that evil beast that keeps swelling and shrinking and refusing to settle obediently at a useful 15,000 words.  It's due in on September 3rd - next Friday - and so this is officially the penultimate week, but my plan is to have to done and dusted by this Friday because I'm moving house next week and combining packing and novelling isn't my idea of Amazing Holiday Fun.  And also, of course, it needs to get formatted, printed and bound.

I'm aware that I haven't written much here about the dissertation or my MA summer.  That's partly because there's been little structure to it, partly because my experience won't reflect other people's, and partly because of the usual writer's fear of jinxing the whole bloody thing if it gets referred to in anything other than very abstract terms.  So how have I approached it?  Haphazardly and in fits and starts is the most honest answer.  I've had great weeks where the words have come tumbling, and terrible weeks where I've got nothing done and it seemed like I never would.  I've had two supervisions with my tutor, the first of which resulted in having to replot a significant section of the novel/dissertation, and though that was difficult (and frustrating) it ultimately gave me a clearer sense of my main character's motivation.  The second focussed more on fiddly editing, word choice, sentence structure, polishing.  The first time, I showed my tutor the first 5,000 words; the second time I planned to bring the next 5,000, but because of the replotting and restructuring, I brought in the first (rewritten) 5,000 again.  So ultimately, only a third of the dissertation will have been vetted, but that's okay; the feedback I got was really helpful and, I think, valid for the whole thing.  In addition to the formal supervisions, I've also had two informal workshop sessions with some of my MA cohorts.  That confirmed some doubts I'd been having about a couple of chapters, so I ended up rejigging them in order to ditch two whole characters.  That was pretty daunting, but I think the result is a tighter, more focussed section, and I'm happier with it.

So what's left? I want to do more fiddling with the final chapter of the four I'll be submitting, and then I'll do a final print-out, paper edit and on-screen edit of the whole lot.  I need to write a summary of the preceding chapters to include as an appendix, and then the great big document will need formatting.  My deadline, again, is Friday.  I think I'll manage it.  I'll print and bind next week.

And after that?  I'll probably take a week or so off.  There's the house move, and I'm hugely behind on my reading/reviewing/packing.  I'll assemble some Ikea furniture.  I love doing that.  And this isn't me being sarcastic - I genuinely do like screwing bits of wood together and ending up with a bed.  And next Friday I'll hand the thing in and go for a Last Supper with my tutors and classmates.  And then I'll probably feel rather unmoored and sad for a bit.

3 comments:

Steph said...

You know, when I started writing essays 2,500 words seemed like attempting a Stephen King's novel (writing it, that is) in one single sitting. Then you do a PhD and you consider 15,000 a small intro you knock out in a week. There will be a day in your not-so-distant future when you will look back on this day and scoff at 15,000 words. You'll probably scoff at anything below 50,000. Not that it helps now mind you, but still... onwards and upwards and all that...

Shaun Hume said...

Sounds heavy. Good luck with it all and I hope it goes well. That goes for the bed building too.

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Thanks, dudes!