Friday, November 17, 2006

Book review: Weinberg on Writing

As regular readers will have noticed I Write.  I write this blog, I occasionally contribute to ACCU journals – although I have contributed a lot more in the past – and I’m half way to writing a book. (I expect to sign the contract before Christmas now.)  Recently, I’ve become aware of the need to improve my writing so I thought I’d so in the time honoured way: by reading a book.  When someone recommended Weinberg on Writing I decided this was the book for me.

Gerry Weinberg is a minor legend in the computing field.  He’s probably most famous for one of his early books, The Psychology of Computer Programming (get the Silver Anniversary Edition) - it was in this book that he coined the term “Ego-less Programming”.  Since then he’s gone on to write many more books – if his publisher’s description is to be believed over 40.

(While we’re on the subject of Weinberg’s books, a quick note to my friend who asked me earlier today “How much should I charge for my consultancy services?”  The answer is in Weinberg’s The Secrets of Consulting even if you are not a consultant this book is worth reading.  There is lots of good advice for work and life generally.) 

In Weinberg on Writing he sets out to describe his Fieldstone method of writing.  Basically, this method entails collecting lots and lots of ideas for book section and assembling them into different books.  There is other advice for writers here but this is the subject he comes back to again and again.  As it happened, this technique isn’t a million miles from the way I write.  

Weinberg spends a lot of time on describing how to find and collect the fieldstones needed to write the book.  My problem tends to be the reverse.  I’m forever collecting stones, I see interesting ideas everywhere, its a question of finding the time to put these stones in good homes that I have.  Still, the blog and the current book use up lots.

I liked the book and although I found it covered a lot of territory I had already visited I still found good advice.  I probably would have found more value if I had completed more of the exercises he describes for budding writers.  I didn’t find any significant revelations in the book so in that way I was a little disappointed but again, I think thats because I’ve already addressed some of the issues in my own way.

If you are a budding writer then I highly recommend this book – and I recommend doing his exercises.  And if your not a budding writer then keep your eyes open for Weinberg’s other books, none of the others are about writing, many are about computing but not all, and they are all well written and useful.