Blogging: Harder than it looks

When I started blogging, my goal was to create a series of blogs based on my outline of a book, and in the end, have the book. Turns out it's not quite that easy.

In my outline, there are serveral complex topics that I envisioned would take a chapter -- pages and pages -- to explain.

In my blog, I feel that I need to provide a meaningful (and hopefully sometimes entertaining) point in a short article, rarely more than 4 or 5 paragraphs -- a page or so to summarize what others could write tomes about. I've become my own best (and worst) editor. I've drafted blog entries that were more than a dozen paragraphs, and after carefully removing everything that was not essential, boiled it down to what was valueable: a small nugget of insight in a page of text. I understand that in blogging, time is of the essence, and people are not willing to sit by the fire with a good blog entry.

So who would want a book that was so short and to the point? I investigated a few self-publishing houses, and it seems pretty clear that they set the list price for a book based on the number of pages. Clearly there is no incentive to be concise when writing a book; in fact, it's the opposite, to be verbose, if for no other reason than to push up the page count in order to drive up the price, and indirectly, the author's royalty.

Then again, maybe a book that made a point on every page would be valueable, maybe even preferred. I think about all the books I've read, and I rarely take aware more than two or three key points from each one. Perhaps what my book lacks in volume of pages, it will make up in volume of sales.

Comments:

Bob, save those longer explanations. You are right to be boiling the content for your blog, but a book format will allow you to explore topics in more detail and you'll need that content.

Meanwhile, your distillation of essential points for the blog is, I hope, crystallizing topics and identifying issues for you at a level of detail you may not have considered before trying to write this all down.

Posted by Josh Simons on December 30, 2006 at 04:00 AM EST #

Another approach would be to provide the condensed version as the summary and leave the long one as the meat. By providing access to both, you'll let people also see how to self-edit. It is also nice to see how someone thinks as they write. And some people might need to see the additional explanations to fully grasp your points. At times, I've been told I am too terse in my writing - that I make leaps that I think appear intuitive. The problem is that they do not. I may have had an earlier draft of the paper which had the axed steps and that would have been nice for others to examine.

Posted by Tom Haynes on December 30, 2006 at 09:49 AM EST #

Another approach would be to provide the condensed version as the summary and leave the long one as the meat.

By providing access to both, you'll let people also see how to self-edit. It is also nice to see how someone thinks as they write. And some people might need to see the additional explanations to fully grasp your points.

At times, I've been told I am too terse in my writing - that I make leaps that I think appear intuitive. The problem is that they do not. I may have had an earlier draft of the paper which had the axed steps and that would have been nice for others to examine.

<font color="red">Stupid comment editor, stripping out format!</font>

Posted by Tom Haynes on December 30, 2006 at 09:50 AM EST #

Definitely save the longer explanations!

Meanwhile, take advantage of the online format by linking from the concise blog entry to more extensive exposition -- in other words, free from the constraint of linearity imposed by a traditional book.

A colleague from a previous company used the phrase "successive disclosure of complexity". While he used it in a UI context, I don't see why that wouldn't apply here -- allow the user to read the concise information, and click on it to expand (or be taken to) higher levels of detail.

Posted by Robert Krawitz on January 02, 2007 at 03:26 AM EST #

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