How to write a technical book?
Writing a book is a dream of many, but most people do not know how to start. Many people believe, that one just need to be good enough, and then poof, he/she is ready and just starts writing. It definitely is not the best strategy. I see writing a book as an iterative process, where on each step not only extends your knowledge in the topic, but also helps you learn, how your book should look like. This is my plan, for writing a technical book:
- Make sure you understand the topic - You do not need to know everything in the topic, but make sure that you know more than what you want your readers to end up with. Make sure you have practical knowledge, and practical examples you can use. Have experience in using what you want to write about, learn about it on courses, experiment with it.
- Teach this topic - Before writing a book, it is best to start with publishing shorter forms: articles, video courses, presentations on meetups and conferences... This is a very good practice before writing, but what is even more important, it gives you feedback. When you stand in front of people, and talk about some topic, you can see what is interesting to them and what is now. During discussions, you learn what was not clear in your presentation, what has been misunderstood, what important cases you've skipped, what are the practical problems and questions of your audience. Those are the most important information for book writers.
- Make a plan - Make a detail plan of chapters and parts of your book. This plan will most likely change in the future, but having a plan is very important.
- Start with writing the best prepared topics - The topic you presented on other articles and presentations will be easiest for you to write about. Those will most likely be your best chapters. Start with them. This should be at least one third of your book. If you do not have enough material, go back to the step 2.
- Write other topics, starting from the end - It might be counterintuitive, but when we write technical books, we introduce more and more concepts, that build one on another. If you start with writing from the beginning, with every next chapter, you will have more and more "I should have explained that earlier". When you start from the end, you can plan what topics do you need to include in earlier parts. During that step, do not write book introduction yet.
- Rewrite your book, starting from the beginning - the second draft is sometimes called book rewriting. We do not need to be so extreme when we write technical books, but do not bother to change whatever you feel should be changed. Better now than later. Start from the beginning, and make your corrections/rewriting, making sure that your book is consistent and pleasurable to read.
- Consider constant style elements - Consider, if you want to end each chapter with a "Summary" or a "Conclusion", and if so, make sure it is consistent for all chapters. Similarly, with chapter introductions, exercises, notes, etc.
- Write introduction - you should start writing introduction to the book, when all the other chapters are ready. This is also when I write introductions to each part.
- Corrections, corrections, corrections - Now you should read your book from cover to cover and introduce your corrections. I like to print it as a paperback, and mark my corrections on paper. Then I introduce my corrections. Then I print new version, and repeat the process again.
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