Charles Petzold


February 2, 2006
New York City

Novelist Peter De Vries once said "I love being a writer. It's the paperwork I can't stand."

Generally I do all of my writing and editing on screen. I tend to write in a very fragmented and non-linear manner. I think I always have, because when I first encountered word processing (WordStar on an Osborne 1 running CP/M circa 1982) I took to it quickly because it let me write the way I felt most natural.

But once I get a chapter with a beginning that connects to the end, I print it out and edit by hand. I catch a lot more errors on paper, and I get a better sense of the chapter flow and balance.

Actually submitting the chapter to my editor requires more paperwork:

I first work on cleaning up the code. While developing the sample programs, I use a lot of debugging and experimental code, and this must all be expunged. Lines must be limited to ~84 characters.

I like to use a Word template that approximates the printed page. My publisher has their own Word template, and I need to switch from one to the other. This seems simple, but it never goes entirely smoothly.

Particularly with this book, I'm using one big file for multiple chapters. I have to divide the file into separate chapters.

While writing a chapter, I use links to insert the code. Any changes to the code can then be reflected in the chapter files just by updating the links. For submitted chapters, the links must be broken.

At that point, I have separate chapters ready to be submitted (in theory). I print out a copy and make a final on-paper edit pass — still catching errors, fixing clumsy transitions, reworking sentences, etc.

After making those fixes, I'm ready. I zip up the chapters and code and email it to my editor. At that point, my disk files become "frozen" (to use the WPF term). Any changes I need to make I do by hand on my printed copies. Changes to sample code is more problematic. If it's more than simple fixes or something a search-and-replace can handle, I need to mark the printed chapter that the whole file needs to be reinserted when my editor next sends me the edited chapters for my author review.

Last night I sent Chapters 9 through 13 to my editor, and promptly updated the chapter status on my Applications = Code + Markup page.