So You Wanna Write Tech Books

by Alli Treman

The final panel of Write day moved the discussion from op-eds to technical writing, specifically technical books. The panel consisted of Alexis Goldstein, co-author of HTML5 and CSS3 for the Real World and author of Learning CSS3 Animations and Transitions, and Debra Williams-Cauley, an executive editor in the publishing industry, who attends conferences and other technical events to find new material and writers. Alexis and Debra talked to us about how to get into technical writing, and why you might want to do this kind of writing.

Alexis and Debra highlighted several reasons how you as a developer could benefit from getting into technical writing:

  • Because you can do it better! Alexis said, "I read a lot of tech books and I’m like, I don’t know what are you saying? And I thought I could do it better."
  • Provide your own unique voice and express your opinions.
  • Give back to the community.
  • Make a name for yourself.
  • Because you wont regret it!

Although Alexis is known for the tech books she’s written and Debra finds authors to write technical books, books aren’t the only technical materials you can write. And let’s face reality, books are long! You can also write blog posts, either for your own blog or for technical blogs such as Smashing Magazine, InformIT, and A List Apart.

Blog posts are a great way to get started doing technical writing. Debra recommended starting with blogs if you eventually want to get into writing books. Some topics to blog about include reflections on the learning process, bugs you’ve come across and how you’ve fixed them, tutorials on lesser-known languages and technologies, and updates on your progress on your coding projects. “Every time you spend more than five minutes fixing a bug, you should write about it,” advised our experts.

There are other ways to get into book writing if that’s the direction you’re looking to go into. Debra attends tech conferences to get information on topics for new books and find writers, so volunteering at a regional conference would be a great step. Being part of a community of female developers also helps. Alexis started with her first book because she heard about it on DevChix. Debra recommends tech reviewing manuscripts. Authors often have the opportunity to suggest the people they want to review their code and may ask for code reviewers on communities like DevChix. With so many reasons to write and plenty of ways to get started, there’s no reason not to get into tech writing.