This is a big topic... a persom could write a whole book about writing a book...
Here are a couple of ideas though. First of all, our experience is that writing a computer book is a BIG project. Some people might be faster than we are, but to be safe you first have to ask yourself "do I have an extra 1000 hours of time I can spend on this project?"
Next, I'd advise that you be really passionate about the topic... I think there are some authors who have the attitude that if they can get a $10,000 advance, and they can whip out a book in 350 hours, it's ok money. I think that's a bad approach, and there are lots of poor books out there because of that kind of thinking.
You might try putting together TOC, and a couple of pages describing the book, and posting that on the ranch... you'd probably get a lot of good feedback.
Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
I believe i need an agent before it gets published, correct? But what sort of things do agents look at to accept your book? And if accepted, and a publisher agrees to publish it, how much do you have to pay to get it published?
By the way Bert, your book has changed my life around literaly, i love it and will continue reading your future books (it's really down to earth). Thanks to your book i am now a Certified Programmer.
Best regards, Marzo.
Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Thanks for your kind words!
Actually, you don't need an agent. The choice to get an agent is a complicated one, with lots of factors, but Kathy and I didn't get an agent until very recently.
I will give my 2 cents as a realitivly new author. Published my first book over a year ago and I am finishing up the second one this week. Writing a book with a full time job is very very painful. You realize that sleep is something you can only daydream about. At first you may relax, but as time gets closer you realize how far away you are.
Most major publishers have an area where they have documents to propose a book idea to them. Sample chapters and a complete TOC are two requirements. Then we have to say why this book is better then X,Y, and Z books already out on the market. It is not easy.
Plus can your eyes handle staring at a computer screen all day at work and then at night time! And what are weekends or holidays? I lost track of how many hours I have put into Ajax In Action. All I know is in 5 months I have gained weight from sitting in front of a computer and not doing my normal activities! LOL
Has anybody ever heard of a course in writing computer books? I wonder if somebody here teaches one. I think I know how to write clearly, but I'm not sure that I can write interestingly (if that's a word).
I am amazed at how interesting some authors are. Joel (on software) and Philip Greenspun, for example, write incredibly interesting stuff. The Head First books are really clever ("It really sucks to be an abstract method. You don't have a body")
How can a would-be author learn the skill of "making it interesting," and how important is that?
IBM 286, SCJP, SCWCD, EIEIO
Joined: Nov 08, 2001
What you really do not see is all of the people that are behind a book. I have so many editors helping me it is crazy. They help take your boring and monotone sounding sentence and make it better. I personally say do not try to copy another book's style. Takes too much effort. Write the way you would like to read something. It will make it the process more fun and quicker.
Originally posted by Eric Pascarello: I will give my 2 cents as a realitivly new author.
Just curious. If you dont mind , can you please tell us briefly about the events that finally resulted in Manning's Ajax in Action. How did you go about this and how did manning pick you as the author?
Interesting thread. I have just managed to complete my first book, and wanted to pick up on some of the themes here.
I checked my personal timesheet... 916 hours and 54 minutes. Time will tell whether the book is any good or not - but I concur with Bert's 1000 hours. I could not (or would not) have done it along side a full-time job; the rest of my life (family, health, sanity...) would have suffered too much.
I found the book "On Writing Well" (by William Zinsser) very helpful. He addresses the question that Rick Portugal brings up - how to write clearly and yet remain interesting. He also explains how to write non-fiction without having to losing your own voice in the process. For that reason, I'm a huge admirer of the "Head First" series - because they combine accurate and compelling writing with huge (and sassy) personality. But I don't figure on trying to emulate the "Head First" style, because it wouldn't sound right (not from a straight-laced Brit like me!).
And Marzo - good luck. The will to write the book is the most important thing!
Howdy all, I think I agree with what everyone has said here. Rick, in my opinion, the best approach to have the book be interesting is (not in any order):
* Write it the way you'd explain it to a smart friend. In other words, unless you are *already* a truly talented writer, concentrate far more on how and what you are communicating, rather than on the writing. When tech folks start trying to be Writers (capital "W"), they tend to go into a mode that sucks the life out of the topic. The best tech book writers often sound almost exactly as if they're giving an interesting talk and explanation about it (but stripping out the stupid parts of conversational speech).
There's some evidence (a series of studies) that writing conversationally is more memorable and the knowledge more transferrable than when the same content is written in a more formal tone (of course it depends on your topic, but...)
* Organize the content as a "story". Not a fiction story, but a user-as-hero on a hero's journey kind of story. What is a natural progression for *learning* the topics, rathe than what is an organized "logical" categorization of topics.
* Care about the user/reader/learner more than anything else. The user could care less about *you* -- who you are, how smart you are, etc. (assuming you meet some base threshold of knowledge and ability). They care how smart you can make THEM, and that can dramatically change the way you approach a topic. This is the one thing we tell our authors/co-authors that matters the most. But it must be taken very seriously. If you're worried about how readers will perceive *you*, the book often fails in its goal of helping the reader truly, quickly, and deeply learn. (This doesn't apply in the same way, though, if you are writing a book strictly for reference). You must put the user/learner/reader at the front and center at all times. Always ask, "how will this help the reader kick ass?"
* There are a million different ways to implement a book, and probably thousands that could be truly beneficial to the reader. Our HF way is but one possible way, and not in any way a model of what a book should be. It IS, in our opinion, an *example* or really *proof* that readers care more about what works for them than about anything else. Our books are an example of one possible implementation of brain-friendly techniques. I suggest that anyone writing a learning book or course study some recent brain research and learning theories, but that they follow their own heart and inclinations for how to implement their book.
* Don't do it for the money, but don't do it to help your career either. Do it for one reason only -- to make a difference in a reader's life. When authors get too concerned about writing it to help their career in some way, then there is a conflict of interest. What authors often perceive as being helpful for *them* (getting more professional respect, contracts, etc.) is often the *opposite* of what the reader needs. Tech authors that try to hard to be taken seriously, often (not always) do it at the expense of being understandable for the reader -- most often demonstrated by simply including too many topics, or too much detail that causes too much cognitive overhead.
This is a labor of love that can be dramatically rewarding in many ways!
The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus