Editing is harder than writing

Last week I had my first attempt at writing an ACM conference paper. It’s not really a full academic ‘paper’ — it’s for a doctoral consortium — but it was still an interesting experience: I am submitting my PhD research proposal, and in order to fit it in to their conference format (seen above), I had edit my 5000 word (plus references) proposal down to ~2500 words (including references). One thing about ACM papers is that they proscribe a structure that you must work to (including section headings). This messed with me quite a bit as my original proposal was written as a ‘slow build’ argument: my research questions and arguments were introduced slowly, arguments for research questions scattered through a literature review, or arguments for a research approach scattered through the explanation of a problem. I have a habit of using narrative and repetition as a rhetorical device: I’ll introduce a concept early on with a sentence, later  repeat that sentence with an expansion, later in the piece explain in more detail using the same words. This doesn’t work for this kind of paper. I had to restructure my argument to fit to introduction/context —> literature review —> gap/research question —> project methodology, and the low word count meant I couldn’t play around with repetition at all. The positive: I had to re-think my argument such that it is now a little clearer in my head. The negative: I think this structure is boring way to make an argument. No narrative, boring to read. What I’ve discovered (and I’m sure it’s not an original discovery): editing is harder than writing. I can bang out 500 to 1000 words per day with no problem. Editing those words to a concise structure, that’s a different story.