How to be a better writer

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Background- I wrote this as an accident while trolling on Quora. I was not confident of what I wrote- in fact I wrote it anonymous except people kept asking me why! It was pure serendipity- I wrote it less than 4 minutes and submitted without thinking. Then edited once based on feedback.

Some one clearly more smarter than me made my tips for writing into a picture http://amandaonwriting.tumblr.com/post/54265230509

and it went popular on Tumblr just like it did on Quora!

Apparently if some guy like Wil Wheaton likes your words, it can go viral!  It has 41799 notes ( reblogs+hearts) on Tumblr as of now.

http://wilwheaton.tumblr.com/post/54699823961/torteen-great-advice-to-writers

Words . Reposted by a member of STAR TREK:NG. I can now die a happy Geek! The Internet is a funny thing!

Thank you everyone! Now if only Google learnt to include OCR for Images as part of text search!

  1. Write 50 words . That’s  a paragraph.
  2. Write 400 words . That’s a page.
  3. Write 300 pages. That’s a manuscript.
  4. Write everyday. That’s a habit.
  5. Edit and Rewrite. That’s how you get better.
  6. Spread your writing for people to comment. That’s called feedback.
  7. Dont worry about rejection or publication. That’s a writer.
  8. When not writing, read. Read from writers better than you. Read and Perceive.

But overall, just write more to get better.

1887+ votes on Quora!! :) Probably my most viewed content ever- !

61036 people  have viewed this answer!

https://www.quora.com/Writing/How-can-we-improve-our-writing-skill/answers/2048810?__snids__=94784810&__nsrc__=1

Also it got a mention here-

http://bookmarketingbestsellers.com/ajay-ohri-the-8-rules-of-writing/

Now I think I should take some of my own advice and get back to writing

The dichotomy in being a writer on open source with a non-open access publisher

  • The publisher adds credibility to your work

versus

  • A self fulfilling prophecy where researchers want to publish in exclusive journals and closed -access books, for the sole reason that others did so as well before them and thereby donate their knowledge and money to the publisher

aaronswartz-v2

The dichotomy in being a writer on open source with a non-open access publisher?

  • I write on open source R , 
  • and I have been published (one book )
  • and am on contract to write two more ( R for Cloud Computing) and (R for Web and Social Media Analytics)
  • My publisher does have open access journals.
  • But the book is at $50. Most of India lives at less than 2$ per day. Thats 800 million people in my country alone.

But the publisher is the most reputed in this field. So what are my choices? How do I get more people to have choices to read books.

Take open knowledge , curate it, and turn it behind a $50 paywall. I am sorry, Aaron. People like me are the reason ……

 

Writing a technical book

This is a fairly concise collection on how to write a technical book. It may seem arrogant for a 1- book author like me to do so, but I get a lot of queries on this and it seems there is a fair amount of information asymmetry on this process.  I have experience with getting rejected and accepted in both creative and technology domains, but I will make this post fairly tech specific.

Books I have Written-(click on images to go to the book site)

Cred-

Poetry (Self Published)

In Case I Don't See You Again
Corporate Poetry
Poets & Hackers (e-book)
Technology (Published )
R for Business Analytics
(Currently Writing)
R for Cloud Computing ( Springer) – Due 2013
R for Web Analytics and Social Media Analytics (Springer) – Due 2014
Top 5 Myths on Writing and Getting Published
  • Publishers dont like unsolicited manuscripts.

Well they don’t like unsolicited manuscripts from total unknowns. This is also very domain specific. If you are writing a novel, or a poetry book, or a technical book, approval rates will depend on current interest in that domain.

Advice- If you are first time author to be, choose your niche domain as one which you are passionate about and which has been generating some buzz lately. It could be Python, D3, R etc.

  • Publishers get all the money

No, they don’t make that much money compared to a Hollywood studio. Yes, books are expensive, but they basically are funding a whole supply chain that may or may not be efficient. Your book is subsidizing all the books that didn’t sell. Proof reading, and editing are not very glamorous jobs, but they take a long time, and are expensive. I have much more respect for editors now than say 3 years ago. The ultimate in supply chain efficiency would be if each and every hard copy was printed on demand, and each and every soft copy was priced efficiently given pricing elasticity. Pricing analytics on dynamic book pricing (like on Amazon)— hmm

  • Writers get all the money

You would be lucky to get more than 14% from a gross selling price of a hard copy or more than 40% of an electronic book. You want to make money, dont write technical books, write white papers and make webinars.

  • Writers get no money

You don’t make money by writing a technical book, but your branding does go up significantly, and you can now charge for training, webinars, talks, conferences, white papers, articles. These alternatives can help you survive.

  • I got a great idea- but I keep getting rejected. That guy had a lousy idea, but he keeps writing.

THAT guy wrote a great proposal, spent time building his brand, and wrote interesting stuff. Publishers like to sell books, not ideas.Writer jealousy and insecurity are part of the game – you have a limited amount of energy in a day- spend that writing or spend that reading. Ideally do both.

Book Publication

The book publication process has three parts-

1) Proposal

2) Manuscript

3) Editing

1) Proposal- Write an awesome proposal. Take tips from the publisher website. Choose which publisher is more interested in publishing the topic (hint- go to all the websites) . Those publisher websites confusing you yet- jump to the FAQ.

Some publishers I think relevant to technical books-

http://www.springer.com/authors/book+authors/faq+for+book+authors?SGWID=0-1725014-0-0-0

http://support.sas.com/community/authors/index.html

http://oreilly.com/oreilly/author/intro.csp

2) Manuscript- Write daily . 300 words. 300 times. Thats a manuscript. It is tough for people like us. Hemingway had  it easy. I used a Latex GUI called Lyx for writing http://www.lyx.org/. You may choose your own tool, style, time of day /night, cafe , room to spur your creative juices.

3) Editing- you will edit, chop, re edit and rewrite a book many times. It is ok. Make it readable is my advice. Try and think of a non technical person and try and explain your book to clear your ideas.

Once your proposal is accepted, you sign a contract for royalty and copyright.

Once the contract is signed you write the manuscript.This also involves a fair amount of research, citations, folder management , to keep your book figures, your citations ready. I generally write the citation then and there within the book, and then organize them later chapter by chapter. Un-cited work leads to charges of plagiarism which is the buzz kill for any author. Write, Cite, Rewrite.

You will also need to create index (can be done by software) so people can navigate the book better , and appendix for hiding all the stuff you couldn’t leave behind.

Once you submit the manuscript ,you choose the cover, discuss the rewrites with editor, edit the changes suggested, and resend the manuscript files, count till six months for publication. Send copies to people you like who can help spread the word on your book. Wait for reviews, engage with positivity with everyone, then wait for sales figures. Congrats- you are a writer now!