writing

A recommendation for would-be book writers

If you’ve read any of my books (like the Scala Cookbook or Functional Programming, Simplified), and thought, “Hey, I can write a book,” I encourage you to do so. One book that has been helpful in my writing career is William Zinsser’s On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. If you’re seriously thinking about writing a book about programming or any other technical topic, it’s a good read.

The Hero’s Journey

If you’ve never heard of The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia states that it’s a “common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.” The concept was originally introduced by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in 1949. This image comes from thewritersjourney.com.

People don’t respect your time as an at-home writer

One thing I learned about being a full-time, at-home writer: people don’t respect your time. It’s like, “You’re a writer? Haha, that’s funny. Why don’t you come over and help me paint my house? I’m counting on you.” That sort of thing.

What writing a book looks like alvin September 18, 2017 - 9:53pm

Every once in a while someone asks what writing a book is like. For me, it usually looks like this. I hate to waste paper (and I recycle almost everything), but I think much better on paper.

You process things a little better when you put pen to paper.

“You process things a little better when you put pen to paper.”

~ Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos QB on something he learned from Peyton Manning (and something a professor told me in college many years ago)

How I came to write the Scala Cookbook alvin June 22, 2017 - 10:24am

The funny thing about writing the Scala Cookbook is that it started as a whim. I was just about to leave for a vacation at the beach, and right before I turned off the computer, a thought flashed in my mind, “I should contact the people at O’Reilly about writing a cookbook for Scala.” I then had a doubt that they would actually do it, but I applied the “What the heck” rule — i.e., “What the heck, what do I have to lose?” — and sent the email.

I dug around the internet for a few minutes, found the correct O’Reilly email address, sent them a message, turned off the computer, and drove to the beach. While I was at the beach the publisher wrote and said, “Love it, send me a full proposal!”

So if you’re thinking about doing something, but are afraid or uncertain about doing it ... apply the “What the heck” rule, and give it a shot. :)

Writing tip: Just say what you mean

Somewhere around the year 2006, my writing style was influenced by the CIO of a company I was working with. When trying to get a new project started, a project manager gave me a very vague description of what he wanted, and as a result, the cost estimate and Statement of Work I wrote (so I would get paid) was vague as well.

The CIO called me to her office, and then told me that I didn’t have to write anything fancy, I just had to “say what I mean.” Since then, that simple approach has been a key to my writing style.

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. alvin May 2, 2017 - 8:29am

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.”

~ Winston Churchill