Writing Your semi-fictional guide

Managing Humans

Managing Humans CoverUpdate: There’s a new edition of Managing Humans.

Woke up writing this morning, which is a big deal because I’ve hated writing for two months. See, Rands and I wrote a book. And yes, I said Rands and I because after 30+ chapters of writing, rewriting, and editing, it’s absolutely clear to me what part of my head is this clever, witty, bitter Rands-guy. He’s got a voice, a style. He likes alliteration, there are words he favors, and there is subject matter he can write about.

He’s essential to my writing and there is no way I could write a book without him.

The question has always been, “If I ever write a book, what to do about Rands?” Weblog readers are used to strange names adorning the pieces of writing. I said it four years ago and it’s still true: “weblogs are net people“, and through our writing, we create strange versions of ourselves to share with whoever stumbles across our virtual doorsteps. It’s liberating. You can accentuate whatever part of yourself that you want AND YOU CAN FUCKING TYPE IN ALL CAPS PEOPLE.

Rands works here in the weblog, but does Rands work when you pick the book up in your local bookstore?

There’s a mystique to publishing a book. Perhaps the only universal knowledge regarding publishing a book is “it’s hard”. I can now confirm that “yes, it’s hard”. It’s hard not only because the writing is hard; it’s hard because of the sheer volume of the writing; it’s hard because you must stare at your words over and over again. That clever turn of phrase you love in chapter 12? You’ll hate it by the time the copy editing starts.

As I started the writing and rewriting process, I nearly killed Rands. “It’s a book. No one is going to get the all caps on the printed page. And he swears. A lot.” It was time to tame the words, tidy the thoughts, and remove fictional characters from a book about the serious topic of managing people.

Fuck that.

It took one rewrite of one chapter to figure out that removing Rands from the work was removing most of what made the content interesting, memorable, and fun. Rands stayed, so did all the swearing. Apress talked me out of ALL CAPS, but ALL CAPS really does look like crap on the printed page. The rest is all there… and a lot more.

Rands also made for a great preface, part of which reads:

The icing on this semi-fictional cake is Rands. This is the name I began using in the mid-90s for my virtual presence; when I began weblogging about management, the name stuck. Think of Rands as your semi-fictional guide walking you through the fake stories of the fake people that have had incredibly relevant (yet fake) experiences.

Rands has a bit of attitude, but, then again, so do I.

There is more to be said about the book writing process. Based on the questions I’ve gotten so far, it’s clear that what most people consider to be the hard parts are not. It’s a game of endurance where you force feed yourself your own writing for longer than you can stand, and when you’re done, it’s a blessing that it takes someone else a relatively long time to publish the physical book.

When you’re done, you can hold your words in your hands, and yeah, I highly recommend that experience. It will remind you what it’s like to wake up in the morning… writing.

14 Responses

  1. Congratulations, man. Well done.

  2. Sounds interesting and love the website! ๐Ÿ™‚ Will definitely be something I will purchase!

  3. I preordered ‘Managing Humans’ from amazon a few months ago and it arrived last week. I read it immediately and have been passing the book around to my employees and directing them to at least read the portion I think are relevant to what they are currently working on. Most of them have kept reading and expressed great enthusiasm for it.

    This is a great book and I personally regard it as an entertaining and informative must-read for anyone involved in management or software development. Get it as soon as possible and prepare yourself for a pleasant read with some very sharp observations and deep insights.

    -Daniel Pasco, CEO

    Brain Murmurs, Incorporated

  4. @ Daniel Pasco “I read it immediately and have been passing the book around to my employees and directing them to at least read the portion I think are relevant to what they are currently working on. Most of them have kept reading and expressed great enthusiasm for it.”

    Crap. My company buys books too. And has us read them. And then laughs at us or worse when we make suggestions couched in terms found in the book. It’s as if they secretly chortle “Sucker! You *fell* for *that*!!??”.

    I truly hope you’re better at this than we are.

    Rands, I’m sorry, but I won’t be buying the book. It hurts too much to see how some people actually manage vs. react… [sigh]

  5. I’m really glad you didn’t kill Rands in the book. It has been a delight to read and I’m pimping it to anybody who will listen to me (not many).

  6. silvermine 17 years ago

    I used to work as a tech writer. Writing is hard work. And yes, after you’ve read anything 20 times, you hate it, no matter how good it was.

    Then you get to revise it on the next release of the product and you hate it even faster.

  7. Adding ALT text to the images on the Managing Humans website would immediately make it almost totally accessible to users with visual disabilities.

  8. You may want to ask your publisher for the hard stats, but I think that something like 98% of all books published in the US yearly sell less than 100 copies. Managing Humans seems to be doing pretty good in the Amazon books ranking, so congratulations!

  9. ALT text has been added to the promo site. Good catch.

  10. Congratulations! Just ordered mine from Amazon.

  11. Congrats, Rands. The intro to your promo site is great and I hope there’s something similar in tone and simplicity as an introduction to the book. Not being a manager myself, I don’t know if I could actually give your book as a gift to any of the tech managers I know without pissing them off, but I’ll try! Rands has been great fun and informative to read for the past several years, so it’s great that he’s out there in atoms now.

  12. I’m so hyped to read this book – kudos.

  13. I’ve been reading the site for a while so I was stoked when the book came out. I bought it, read it in a couple of days, then passed it off to my boss, who is currently reading and loving it.

  14. This was an excellent read. Very well written, entertaining, and informative. I’ll be passing this one on to my directs as well. Thanks for the effort to put this tome together. Believe me, it was worth the work.