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Tweaking Our Approach

We're still refining our approach as we plow ahead with the business of writing Building Web 2.0 Reputation Systems. Late last week, we delivered a draft of Chapter 8 to our editors at O'Reilly and we've been taking a bit of a breather ever since.

Well—a break on the writing: on the process and planning fronts, Randy and I have been expending some energy on dissecting our experience up to now, and trying to tweak some parts of the formula to improve things for subsequent chapters.

One thing cost us some extra expended energy for the last chapter: a certain amount of topic-drift. We decided to follow up our first delivered chapter (which was Chapter 1, naturally enough) with an out-of-sequence chapter (we jumped all the way ahead to Chapter 8!)

We had our reasons for doing this, but one outcome was that we had a lot more stuff crammed in there than we'd intended to. (Probably because we skipped all those intervening chapters, and we were feeling their absence keenly.)

To that end, I've proposed a tool to keep us more on-track for our next chapters, regardless of what order we tackle them in. I've uploaded a copy here: a simple planning document that we're going to try before starting each Chapter. (Download the .doc) And, yes, we're not authoring the book in Word, so I intentionally picked that format for this preliminary document: something to explicitly keep us out of 'writing mode' until we have a chance to discuss, plan and even re-draft a crude chapter outline.

Another area that we're interested in improving is feedback on the wiki. We've gotten some wonderful feedback so far, and its effect is intoxicating—we want more! So we've discussed a couple of strategies for making the wiki more accessible. We realize that the long chapters can be daunting, and having the ability to comment only at the bottom of a chapter is probably inhibiting folks' ability (and desire) to comment. So look for some improvements to that whole thing in coming weeks.

We're doing one other thing to increase comment-ability on the wiki, but I think I'll post that next in a separate entry. It's worth its own horn-toot.

We're both first-time authors, still feeling our way around working together. We expect more course-corrections throughout the course of writing (hopefully these will slow and eventually stop as the book really finds it form.) And, as long as it doesn't get boring, we'll continue to share our thoughts on the writing process here. With you.


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