This book deals with what a clearly written biomedical research paper looks like when it is done. Getting a paper into clear final form is another matter. To help you move from a blank piece of paper to a finished manuscript based on the principles in this book, here are a few suggestions.
Writing the first draft is difficult. The reason is that you have only a rough idea of what you want to say. It is only as you are writing the first draft that you discover exactly what you want to say. So expect to spend a fair amount of time and energy writing your first draft.
To make writing the first draft as easy as possible,
Reserve a block of time for writing (3–4 hours every day for 4 or 5 days).
Write when your energy is high, not when you are tired.
Surround yourself with everything you need to write efficiently (all the data, drafts of figures and tables, references, computer or paper, coffee, …).
Work in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
Decide what journal you plan to submit your paper to and tailor the paper to that journal and its readers, at least approximately (for example, clinical journal, basic research journal, general journal) (see Huth, Chap. 1).
Starting is the hardest part. To get started, write the easiest section first. For many authors, the easiest section is Methods. For example, you may want to write Methods and Results first, then the Discussion, the Introduction, and the reference list, then figure legends and footnotes for tables, and finally the abstract and the title. However, it does not matter what order you write the paper in. All that matters is what the paper looks like when it is finished, so do what works for you.
You may not know exactly what to say as you begin. The exact words and even the exact sentences are not important at this stage. Say something and then keep moving. As you write, ideas will come to you. You can always cross out the first sentence or two or even the first paragraph or two.
Write as quickly as you can, with no thought of following any of the writing principles in this book or any other rules of writing. The goal of the first draft is to get something on paper or into the computer, to capture your ideas before they flee from your mind, so that you have something to work with. So once you have started, do not stop. To keep speed, use abbreviations, and if you cannot think of a word, leave a blank space; you can always fill it in later, if the sentence is still in the paper later. Do not worry about whether ...