I’m doing this instead of writing a book

Date:October 8, 2003 / year-entry #88
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20031008-00/?p=42243
Comments:    24
Summary:Some commenters mentioned that I should write a book. It turns out that writing a book is hard. A few years ago, MS Press actually approached me about writing a book for them. But I declined because the fashion for technical books is to take maybe fifty pages of information and pad it to a...

Some commenters mentioned that I should write a book. It turns out that writing a book is hard.

A few years ago, MS Press actually approached me about writing a book for them. But I declined because the fashion for technical books is to take maybe fifty pages of information and pad it to a 700-page book, and I can't write that way. None of my topics would ever make it to a 100-page chapter. They're just little page-and-a-half vignettes. And it's not like the world needs yet another book on Win32 programming.

So I'll just continue to babble here. It's easier.

Comments (24)
  1. Rodrigo Strauss says:

    I don’t think Microsoft Press will ask someone to write a Win32 book :-) Or do you really want to write about .NET?
    Keep writing this blog, it is VERY good. I come here every time my RSS reader says there’s a new entry…

  2. Chris Sells says:

    Some of us try very hard to pack all 700 pages with real information and not pad at all.

  3. Alex says:

    A diary instead of a novel.
    A bazaar instead of a cathedral.
    Keep it up. It is wonderful.

  4. Jim Causey says:


    Do try and keep all this stuff archived… I’d love to see a O’Reilly Workbook-style collection of all of this stuff someday, even if it was just a free PDF along the lines of "The Autodesk File".

  5. Todd Brooks says:


    I agree with Jim. It would be very nice to have all your articles compiled into a single resource at some point in the future. I come here every day and am very thankful that someone still flies the Win32 flag ;)

  6. runtime says:

    Actually, I would consider buying a book that just contained one hundred of Raymond’s insightful mini-chapters. Assume 1.5 pages/mini-chapeter * 100 mini-chapters = "just" 150 pages. That sounds a LOT more interesting than another 700 pages of fluff.

  7. Eric Lippert says:

    You can get away with writing a short, dense book — my .NET security handbook is only 250 pages and pretty dense. But I take your point — consider the affordances. A blog does not afford a lengthy exploration of a topic, beginning with an overview and then delving into general uses of a broad set of technologies. Blogs do not afford editing and revision. Blogs are hard to read on the bus. But books do not afford a breezy, short, highly detailed exploration of specific arcana — and that stuff has value. It’s like anything else — you’ve got to use the right tool for the job.

  8. Anonymous says:

    So don’t make it about Win32 programming: make it about Win32 history. I’d love to see "The Secret History of Windows" — Microsoft’s "Soul of a New Machine" or a light-hearted "Showstopper."

  9. John Cavnar-Johnson says:

    One advantage that writing a blog has over traditional technical formats is that you are freed from the tyranny of "space considerations". You can concentrate on telling the story, instead of worrying about the amount of space you fill. A single blog entry can be a few sentences or one of Chris Brumme’s opuses, but the writer and the subject determine the length. In the hands of a good writer, the blog encourages better story-telling.

    I agree that there’s very little room for yet another Win32 book, but there’s a big market for your anecdotes. When you have written "enough" of them, you can collect them into an ebook or something. There’s a fine tradition of collected essays as books.

  10. Raymond Chen says:

    The 700-page bloatbooks I specifically had in mind are the ones who build up a program or an XML file piece by piece, but insist on reprinting the entire program/file-so-far (all ten pages of it) each time they add one line. I just grabbed a 600-page book off my shelf and opened it up to find a half-page table supplemented by one page of text that basically restates what the table says, but in complete sentences. News flash: It’s a book, not a lecture. If somebody doesn’t get it the first time, they can go back and re-read it.

  11. Derek says:

    A collection of your #code and #history tidbits would fit nicely on my shelf. Fascinating stuff.

  12. I would also buy "Microsoft’s "Soul of a New Machine" or a light-hearted "Showstopper."
    By the way, do you have any stories to tell about Cutler?

  13. Eric Gunnerson says:

    I agree. Not only can you pick your topic length in a blog, you can choose not to cover and/or gloss over things that you don’t understand that well. There’s nothing like writing a book to make it clear how much you don’t understand fully.

  14. AlisdairM says:

    Personally I avoid 700 page books like the plague! I often find the value of a book is inversely proportional to it’s length <g>

    Also, ‘vignette’ books are not unknown. Eg. the ‘Effective XXX’ books made popular by Scott Meyers. Certainly the most respected books on my shelf take this format.

    Of course, writing the Blog gives you a chance to test the material and see what works. Just don’t rule out writing that 200 page book one day ;¬ )

  15. Mike Dimmick says:

    MS Press seems to be fairly good at avoiding fluff books. Inside Windows 2000 (Solomon, Russinovich), Debugging Applications for .NET and Windows (Robbins), Jeffrey Richter’s pair Programming Applications and Programming Server-Side Applications for Windows (although that’s only 600-odd pages), Writing Secure Code (2nd Edition). I don’t think there’s any fluff material in any of them.

    Jeff Prosise’s Programming .NET is a little repetitive in places, but it does introduce each area of the FCL reasonably well.

    Having said that, Meyers’ Effective books don’t pretend to be exhaustive. Many of the above books do. Also, the libraries and systems they cover are far more extensive (IMO).

  16. Jim Causey says:

    I’d love a Microsoft "Soul of a New Machine" or lighthearted "Showstopper" as well; I’d love to learn about the development of the 3.1 and 9x platforms as well as NT. While NT is definitely the better OS, I think the engineering that went into 9x to make it meet all of those wacky requirements is incredibly cool.

  17. Kelli Zielinski says:

    I don’t know, you could always try NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Cram out all the stuff in 30 days. Then when people say, you should write a book, you can say, I already did!

  18. Imagine a blog entry where I discuss my current thinking about writing a book and solicit input from my readers.

  19. You can sign things other than books.

  20. The Old New Thing: Practical Development Throughout the Evolution of Windows

  21. Okay, I changed my mind, I wrote a book after all Back in 1993, I wrote that I’m doing this instead of

Comments are closed.

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