Saturday, 3 June 2017

book review: Weinberg on Writing

Gerald M. Weinberg.
Weinberg on Writing: the fieldstone method.
Dorset House. 2006

In this slim book, Weinberg delivers his advice to aspiring technical writers, based on the metaphor of building a dry stone wall from “fieldstones”:

  • Write only on what you are passionate about.
  • Gather relevant pieces (the fieldstones) all the time, piled up ready for later use.
  • When you want to write on a topic, select relevant fieldstones from your collection.
  • Assemble them into the right order to make an essay, a report, or a book.
  • Avoid writer’s block by controlling the number of fieldstones you are considering together.

This is all very sensible advice, and pithily delivered. Possibly the most interesting part of the book is where it goes all meta, as he demonstrates how to assemble the fieldstones into a sensible order by doing just that to assemble the description.

The fieldstone method is a pragmatic process for writing: you are doing it all the time, from gathering small snippets, to writing entire books. It won’t work for those times when you just have to write on a topic that you are not passionate about. Weinberg is privileged enough that this has not been a problem for him: he “cheated” at college to be allowed to write on his own topics, then in industry he was lucky enough that his boss took his first somewhat off topic report seriously, and now as a consultant he can write what pleases him. However, even in a non-voluntary scenario, if you have the stones, you can probably pull off an acceptable piece of work using this approach.

For all my book reviews, see my main website.

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