View Full Version : tech writer / Unix guru

July 22nd, 2006, 12:00 AM
Sydney's question http://www.tapcis.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3106 reminded me of a couple interesting articles by and about W. Richard Stevens


Q: I am interested in writing a book. What should I do?
The technical book market is totally different from the fiction market. Technical publishers are always looking for good books, even from unknown authors. My suggestion is to first write something (a few chapters that are typical of the book) and then contact a publisher. The best way to contact publishers is to go to a technical conference (Usenix, Interop, etc.) and go to their booths and talk to them. They normally do not bite.

Some explicit suggestions:

* Don't spend too much time on an extremely detailed outline. I guarantee 90% of it will change as you write.
* Don't spend lots of time on the introduction chapter (normally Chapter 1) until you've finished writing the book. This chapter is probably the most important of the entire book since it introduces the rest of the book to the reader. But until you've finished writing the entire book, things will change.
* Don't write a book if you cannot take criticism. Here are some of the comments I received on various drafts of the first edition of UNP: "Argh! Doesn't this guy know anything about grammar or style?", "How come I never heard of this guy?", "Take out parenthesized editorializing", "The terminology is often muddled." The second edition of UNP generated the comment: "Sentence beginning ... is incomprehensible gobbledegook."

Also be prepared to rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite. Here is a page (280K GIF image) from UNIX Network Programming, Second Edition, Volume 1 that shows the kind of rewriting that I do. The final version of this text is on pp. 92-93 of the book, if you want to compare. This was before any external reviewers saw it; these are just my changes as I proofed what I had written.




His books are so good that they have come to symbolize intelligence. In "Wayne's World II," Garth's girlfriend carries a copy of "Unix Network Programming." Stevens discovered this when he took his 13-year-old son to see the film. His son grabbed his arm and said, "Dad, that's your book!"

"I couldn't believe it," he told programmer Trent Hein. "My book was used to define the ultimate geek, and suddenly my son thinks I'm really cool."

His son was right.




Judy G. Russell
July 22nd, 2006, 08:23 AM
* Don't spend too much time on an extremely detailed outline. I guarantee 90% of it will change as you write.As someone who writes and edits law books for a living, I can attest to the ultimate truth in this one.