The big secrets to writing a technical book - Top 10 lessons learned

October 18, 2011

Estimated reading time 3 minutes

While writing my ‘Automating ActionScript Projects with Eclipse and Ant’ book, I ran into a lot of problems that I hadn’t run into. Since I hadn’t written a book and was used to blog posts and articles. Writing a blog is completely different; you don’t have a strict deadline, you can write when you want or when you have an good idea. Book writing is different cake.

So here are the lessons I have learned the hard way, I organized them for you per topic:  


  • If you can; try to write all the code that will be in the book first and get this bug free. Then write your book about it. I wrote most of my code while writing, not a good idea. This takes away a lot of extra time. So before you plan on writing a book, get your code done. For me this will be the way to go next time i’ll write a book.
  • If you get stuck with code, don’t keep pounding at it, let go and move on. You can come back to it later.



  • During the writing I still had a full time job to do. Writing during the week after normal working hours is killing and drained my energy levels. Weekends are better in so many ways. You can get a decent rest, don’t sleep in and start early, you can set your own pace while still keeping yourself to your projected amount of pages to write.
  • Once I was over half of the pages, the pace began picking up. Rapidly. I think this is a mental thing. Kind of like running 10k, once you hit the 5k mark, the last 5k are more easy because ‘you are almost there’.


Writing itself:

  • Discipline basically consists of one ingredient; doing what you need to do. And stick to it. Practice makes perfect. Pull the plug from your router and disable your wireless connection if that helps you.
  • Making a sysnopsys / outline per chapter makes you stay focused on what you want to write.
  • If you get stuck with writing, move on to the next section. And insert some sort of code that makes it easy for you to get back to that section and make revisions. I used [[[NEEDS WORK]]]. The three brackets makes it able to find it easily throughout your document.
  • The big secret to writing is…. write. Quite surprisingly 🙂 Just get started. For me this was the hard part because sometimes i had to get the discipline from my toes… Just sit and focus on getting started. Let all your other thoughts and urges pass. Notice how your mind will try to justify the distractions. Don’t give in, those urges are like waves and will disappear. (Thanks for Leo Babuta for the focusing tips)