I have been amazed at how my writing career has slowly blossomed. I am not going to pretend that I am some super huge celebrity or even a great writer, but I have gone further than I ever imagined possible when it was suggested that I write for TechRepublic.

In the past few months, I have branched out and written for Spiceworks and MSDN Magazine. I would love to write more magazine articles because it presents different challenges than writing for the Web. The articles are much longer (my MSDN Magazine article is over 7,000 words), and you can’t just link to another Web page that contains explanations — you need to fully explain concepts. Writing for magazines takes me back to my college years when I would write thesis papers, which I always enjoyed.

Considering taking my writing to the next level

For about a year, I have been thinking about trying to write a programming book (or two). Programming has been my favorite part of the IT world since I was a kid, and I really enjoy writing about it.

Fear and various distractions keep holding me back. I’m fearful of investing hundreds of hours into writing a book, taking time away from my family, and selling three copies to people not related to me. I also worry about getting an advance that sales doesn’t cover and then spending the advance (I know people who were in bands that did that with their first record contract). The scariest part is the prospect of having to write about the same topic for a few hundred pages.

Picking a book topic (or two)

After months of contemplation, I think I’ve finally decided on my topic (which stems from my writing in the Programming and Development blog): how to become a programmer. Since I’m already familiar with this topic, I wouldn’t need to spend a huge amount of time collecting research; this means that I could write the book in my free time.

I am envisioning a book that can take someone with basic computer skills and teach them to become a programmer. Not just the fundamentals of programming, but how to actually become a programmer. This means the book would cover the basics of the computing model, lay a good foundation for programming, and so on. I would also detail the aspects of project management that are useful for effective programmers (especially those on smaller teams), as well as topics such as how to write a developer resume, how to interview for a position, and how to read between the lines in the help wanted ads. I probably wouldn’t go into super detail for most of these topics. In fact, I am considering writing two books: how to get started in programming and a programmer’s guide to being a programmer.

Granted, I generally stay away from the computer books section in bookstores because there are endless rows of boring Java, C#, and VB.NET “how to” books. But I don’t remember ever seeing resources for programmers (or IT staff in general) explaining the ins-and-outs of being successful in the business. There are also far too few good books that show how to think and work like a programmer, as opposed to teaching how to program in a particular language.

What do you think I should do?

Should I pursue writing at least one programming book? Would you read books about these topics? If so, should I write two books or try to consolidate the topics into one book? Or is there a really good reason why books like this aren’t already on the market? If you’ve written a book, did you find it to be a worthwhile endeavor? Let me know by posting to the discussion forum.


Disclosure of Justin’s industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.


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