Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method

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"a delight, a wise and warm book on overcoming the perils of trying to write."—Gabriele Rico, author of Writing the Natural Way
"smart, funny, memorable, wise, engaging...most important, it is all stuff that works"—Howard S. Becker, author of Writing for Social Scientists
"a gift to writers at all levels—Penny Raife Durant, award-winning author

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About Gerald M. Weinberg

Gerald M. Weinberg (Jerry) writes "nerd novels," such as The Aremac Project, Aremac Power, First Stringers, Second Stringers, The Hands of God, Freshman Murders, and Mistress of Molecules—about how brilliant people produce quality work. His novels may be found as eBooks at or on Kindle. Before taking up his science fiction career, he published books on human behavior, including Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, The Psychology of Computer Programming, Perfect Software and Other Fallacies, and an Introduction to General Systems Thinking. He also wrote books on leadership including Becoming a Technical Leader, The Secrets of Consulting (Foreword by Virginia Satir), More Secrets of Consulting, and the four-volume Quality Software Management series. He incorporates his knowledge of science, engineering, and human behavior into all of writing and consulting work (with writers, hi-tech researchers, and software engineers). Early in his career, he was the architect for the Mercury Project's space tracking network and designer of the world's first multiprogrammed operating system. Winner of the Warnier Prize and the Stevens Award for his writing on software quality, he is also a charter member of the Computing Hall of Fame in San Diego and the University of Nebraska Hall of Fame. The book, The Gift of Time (Fiona Charles, ed.) honors his work for his 75th birthday. His website and blogs may be found at http://www.geraldmweinberg.com.

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Reviews

Review by: Vikram Joshi on Dec. 18, 2013 : star star star star star
Just finished reading this book in one long marathon session. Thank you Jerry!

Although already a published author, I was finding some difficulty with my writing and turned to Jerry's book for some re-thinking about the basics.

And I am thankful that I did. This one book has provided me more insight into what I am doing than a shelf full of other books full of detailed verbiage.

I have been helped immensely in laying new foundation 'stones' for a better writing paradigm for myself. Now, if asked to recommend books that should be essential reading for writers, this book would find mention near the very top.

I will continue to return to it to re-read the hologramic insights into our profession revealed by his comparing writing with the laying of fieldstones.

-Vikram Joshi-
(Author of 'The Alchemy of the Soul')
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Ed Tittel on Feb. 09, 2012 : star star star star star
Anyone who knows Weinberg's work knows he concocts a magical melange of insight, intelligence, and humor to deliver memorable and useful bits of wisdom on any number of topics. I'd always wondered how he managed his writing process, and now that I've read this book I feel like I have a much better idea.

For those of us -- including me -- who write for a living, the "Fieldstone Method" he propounds in this book helps to codify a very workable approach to this work. It's not always what works best for me in terms of meeting other people's schedules and deadlines (which Weinberg believes are best ignored, refused, or otherwise gotten around) but it is a very workable method for longer projects where I have time to research and collect information, then polish it, and put it into book form.

What I like best about this book (and about every one of Jerry's books that I've read) is that it makes clever and effective use of anecdotes and stories -- parables, almost -- to make its many and various points. I would recommend this book to anyone who's interested in the process of writing, or who wants to improve his or her personal writing process. I'd love to see it become a staple text in creative and technical writing classes, where the usual teaching materials are often far drier and less engaging.

Two thumbs up! Look for my interview with Jerry Weinberg at www.inputcreatesoutput.com (an HP-sponsored Website for IT professionals).

--Ed Tittel--
www.edtittel.com
Creator of the Exam Cram series of IT cert prep books
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Serhiy Yevtushenko on May 14, 2011 : star star star star star
I have a mixed feeling about the book.

The book is definitely good: it contains a wealth of valuable advice on how to write engaging books.
At the same time, it has taken a fair amount of time to me to come up with review for this book. I have tried to apply the advice from the book, and write only, when I'm in the proper emotional state. It turned out pretty hard for me to find time and place, when I was in the good emotional state.
Nevertheless, finally I managed to do so.

So, what are the most valuable takeaways from the book for me:
- process of writing a book is similar of gathering a lot of small stones, and building a wall from them
- the main challenge is to accumulate enough of the stones
- it's perfectly fine to gather stones for several projects/future use. The main thing is to keep making progress in at least one direction.

Books contains as well good advice, on how to:
- improve productivity in writing
- glue & organize content together
- gather ideas & assimilate ideas of others, without plagiarizing them
- many ways to improve quality of written text
- and many other things

As well, one of the things that comes together with trying to apply this method is that good writing requires good work/life balance. Without it, it's pretty hard to apply fieldstone method – without having work/life balance it would be almost close to impossible to be in a good emotional state.

Concerning different versions of books on smashwords:
- I would not recommend using plain text-based version. Firstly, it misses photos, and secondly, there is one chapter, which is very hard to read in the plain – text version, due to lack of words formatting.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Markus Krebsz on Feb. 26, 2011 : star star star star star
This is my email of gratitude to Jerry Weinberg and also my review of Jerry's book:
___________________________________________________________

Hi Jerry,

Trust you are well.

I just wanted to send you a brief note of 'THANK YOU' for your guidance on writing: I've followed your 'Fieldstone method' and your book 'Weinberg on Writing' to the letter - and, as a result of this am now in the process of reviewing the copy-edited proofs for my forthcoming 1st 'proper' book
"Securitisation and Structured Finance Post Credit Crunch: A Best Practice Deal Lifecycle Guide (The Wiley Finance Series)"

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Securitisation-Structured-Finance-Credit-Crunch/dp/0470713917/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298678385&sr=8-1

It'll be around 450 pages, took more than four years to write and the response from some of the reviewers I had so far has been fantastic.

But I could not have done ANY of it, without YOUR help and that's what I would like to thank you for. It's been a life-changing journey and your method has been my guide through this experience.

Whilst my partner is telling me I must be mad and can't wait for me to finish the 1st book, I've enjoyed it so much and got already plans for the second one....

Let's hope people will enjoy reading it as much as I did writing.

All the best and thank you again for sharing your method with the world.

Best wishes and Kindest regards,
Markus Krebsz
www.structuredfinanceguide.com
----------------------------------------------

I would recommend this to any aspiring writer, technical or non-technical alike. Before writing my own one, I did quite a bit research on how to go about a book project, how to write a book, how to deal with writer's block, what goes on in the author's mind etc. The only guide writing with authority along those lines I found is Jerry Weinberg's book on writing. None of the others get even close to it. So if you want to write - a book, a business requirements document for your firm, a functional spec, dissertation or anything that spans across more than say 25 pages - Jerry's book is a must read for you.

Best wishes and good luck with 'your' book,
Markus Krebsz
Author of "Securitisation and Structured Finance Post Credit Crunch: A Best Practice Deal Lifecycle Guide (The Wiley Finance Series)" - out in April 2011 in the UK/Europe and June 2011 in the US and Asia
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Rob Dawson on Feb. 16, 2011 : star star star star star
I've been enjoying Weinberg's technical and fiction books for years. I say for years like it's a long time, but really it's short compared to the decades he has been writing for. He makes technical topics come across clearly with a good strong message. It has been a great pleasure then to read his book "Weinberg on Writing" which describes how he does it.

I have to admit that I'm not super drawn to pursuing writing too actively at the moment, so I read the book slightly faster than I could have, but I enjoyed the book a whole heap, and have it as a good reference to come back to. I'm sure I will enjoy working through the book again and doing all the exercises.

The fieldstone approach in the book seems to be a good way to work. I've heard of people in other contexts using similar ideas for speaking and teaching, and it definitely is an approach that makes it easy to communicate ideas, and a pleasure to listen/read them.

[I received a free copy of the eBook in return for this review].
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

Review by: Vince A on Feb. 14, 2011 : star star star star star
Weinberg is a prolific author (50+ books?), highly regarded in that section of the computing community who love their craft, and love reading thoughtful reflections about it.

I would classify Weinberg's writing style as a "simple home-cooked meal". There is nothing pretentious about it. No unfamiliar words, no exotic flavouring, and (dare I say) nothing memorable. Yet it is always pleasurable, warm, nourishing, and filling (in this he is the opposite of the thoroughly enjoyable, enviable Stan Kelly-Bootle who
is unable to write a plain sentence; one reads Stan for the pleasure of his words; Jerry for the nourishment)

Weinberg's book on writing introduces his "Fieldstone Method". At its most basic, it's a method that simply says: keep a pen and notebook handy, jot down every thought that comes to mind, sort them out and place them in the books (plural) you are writing. And if you do this, you will never have writer's block.

But he does not just describe the method. Weinberg covers everything: how to collect ideas, where to get ideas, what to do when an idea hits you while you are asleep, or while in meditation, how to organise the ideas you've collected,
how to put them down in your books (again, plural -- he writes several books at the same time, and so will you), how to make sure your writing is clear, how to make sure the collected ideas fit, and how to throw out ideas.

He even shows you how he uses the method himself. There is a section that can be called "One day in the life of Jerry Weinberg using the Fieldstone Method".

Weinberg just covers every question you might have, or obstacle you might face (real or imagined or hoped for). Weinberg is like that insurance salesman who wouldn't let you say no. After reading, I just cannot think of any excuse not to start writing. He has equipped me with everything.

This is no academic book about a new theoretical unproven technique. It is very clear that Weinberg is writing from experience.

At the end of the book there is a section of about 20-30 recommended writing / editing / related books, complete with annotations (I love annotations). The venerable Strunk and White is there, plus one or two I recognise. The rest are unfamiliar to me.

I enjoyed this book on first reading and it has inspired me to start writing. I am very sure I will be reading it many, many times over.

Highly, highly recommended.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

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