The Book - is in the can

Earlier this summer I was asked to co-author another book. This time, the exam ref for the Azure Az-300 certification exam. While I have told myself in the past (twice in fact) that I was done writing books, I decided to take another run at writing a book.

This blog post serves as my extended acknowledgements and a bit about the process for me.

There are two questions that stick out to me…

  1. Why did I swear off writing books twice before?
  2. Why did I decide to do it again?

The first question lands on the simple fact that books are a lot of work and, while they do provide some beer money, the likes of riches seen by Stephen King are not going to be sought in technical manuals. Maybe 25 years ago it was possible to write 5 books a year and make a supplimental living or write more books than I have time or energy to write in a year and live off advances and royalties.

I have not seen anywhere close to “live off this” money from my endeavors in authoring books… but somehow they keep pulling me in.

Writing is fun. Writing books is a challenge like no other, and if you do not have a process that works for you to use in writing books it will be even harder.

My method is 1500 words per day, every day. When I hit that count, I finish the sentence or thought I am on and stop. Get up, walk away, and come back tomorrow. If I have extra time or am going to take a day off from my day job for book work, I will stretch my goal to 3000 or 4500 words. That’s it. Nothing fancy, just a number and the drive (hopefully) to hit it everyday.

The second question is not as easy - sure writing is fun, but so are other things. I think the word count method helps too, but the reality is that I get the opportunity, good or bad, to help someone else learn something.

Doing this helps me learn something as well. I agreed to work on the az-300 book because I am working to prepare myself to sit the exam. The AZ CLI and a couple other areas are where I need work, but the book helped me learn how Azure Site Recovery and other technologies work, so that I can both pass the exam and use more of Azure with confidence in my everyday role at work.

I wasn’t sure that I would be a good fit for the chapter I was writing at first. My co-authors (the primaries anyway) are certified in Azure and know their stuff and the other two authors asked to help were in the process of certifying or newly certified and surely know their stuff better than the likes of me. But I have written books before and worked on editorial deadlines and wanted to learn. So what the heck - dive in and do your best and lets put something on the shelf for others to use when they study.

How was this different?

Whew. The deadline was insanely tight, because the book was in flight when I joined and had a deadline to publish, my deadline was crazy tight - even with an extension. After I asked about an extension due to other commitments, I decided that I was going to hit the original deadline - and completed my work in two weeks. That was the most writing I have ever done in that window.

It proved to me that I am really passionate about writing, about technology, and that I could accomplish this if I put some elbow grease behind it. The original page count was somewhere around 87-90 pages when I sent it in. Editorial reviews and changes increased that a bit, but holy crap - 90 pages in two weeks is kinda nuts.

The editorial feedback process was fast - even faster than the first time I worked with MS Press. THis was helpful, even though I put off the homework of getting changes made a couple of times - making it worse for myself, surely. Once the editorial process got going and I stopped worrying about the marks on paper things went very fast.

One of my co-authors @techtrainertim pointed out something to me as I was griping about the red ink. He said that editors are here to help make my work better and if they have suggestions, it is a good idea to take them because they help the author ensure that the reader gets the best experience from the book (in way less words than this, but I write… so I’m wordy). Thanks Tim - that was certainly helpful and I appreciate the guidance.

The experience overall

This book, or chapter that I wrote, was a lot of work, but it went fast and was worth the effort. I enjoy these projects because they provide a way to give back to the community - helping someone try to get to where you are, or exceed you in some way is always the goal. Technology is hard work. It is fun and rewarding, but it is also difficult to do well and if I can participate in things that help others do better at their education, job, passion, then I feel the work and complaining and late nights of coffee and cuss words (because let’s face it - MS Word does not always play nice) is worth it.

Thanks to the other authors on the project, Mike Pfeiffer, Tim Warner, Nicole Stevens, and Gurvinder Singh, who helped get this across the finish line and the editorial staff from MS Press/Pearson who made sure things were right. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with all of you and hope our paths cross again soon.

The website for this book, which launches in fall of 2019 can be found at Microsoft Press

If you are working toward the az-300 I hope this book helps you get across the finish line and provides you the reference needed to pass the test or just learn more about Azure.

Written on July 26, 2019