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My Approach to Writing for SQLServerCentral


My Approach to Writing for SQLServerCentral

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Dave Poole
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item My Approach to Writing for SQLServerCentral

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Jagadish Kumar Punnapu
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Thanks for the inspiring article David.

I wish that someday I will also contribute at least one article to our great SQL Server Central community.
Phil Parkin
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Nice article. I thought that Edison said this:

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.


Is there a separate quote of his just for "success"?


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If the answer to your question can be found with a brief Google search, please perform the search yourself, rather than expecting one of the SSC members to do it for you.

Please surround any code or links you post with the appropriate IFCode formatting tags. It helps readability a lot.
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Well said, David. I agree with almost all you have written.

I'd like to drop in one or two other bits of general advice, if I may.

The first is that writing is just as much a craft as making a pot, creating furniture or tuning a Chevvy. Nobody is born with the talent, and as with any other skill, you have to put in the hours and the apparently interminable failure before it all comes together. The process is the same too. You get, and read, a decent manual. I always recommend Stephen Leacock's book; 'How to Write'. It is very old, but Stephen Leacock http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Leacock (a great influence on a generation of American comic writers) was very successful, and a master of a number of different forms including academic papers. You then observe, and study, how really successful writers work their craft skills.

Where you can, develop your own unique voice. We tend to accommodate, or copy, other writers styles rather than assimilate them, or to use the good ideas. The great creative people are very aware of this difference. In the late sixties, Jimi Hendrix picked up all sorts of ideas from Jeff Back, Eric Clapton and a host of other young guitarists in the London Blues circuit in the late 1960s. However, he didn't copy them but assimilated these ideas into a new and wildly creative form. If he had copied the licks slavishly, rather than adapt them into his own lyrical style, we'd never have had that unique period of creativity. A lot of budding writers make the mistake of repressing their own unique voice in order to copy a different style. Bad idea. Use all the tricks and techniques you can get hold of, but bend them to your own requirements. Most often, helping a writer involved helping him/her unlearn the awful habits and literary mannerisms that university lecturers misguidedly insist on in academic papers. (Stephen Leacock, who was head of the political economy department at McGill University, gives a very good, amusing, account of the awfulness of academic writing)

I feel compelled to make the point that writing is like a conversation, or rather a monologue, to a real person. If you can hold someone's attention whilst explaining a technical matter, it is likely that it will make a good article. If, on the contrary, you tend to clear the room by launching into your speech, it is time to think again. I like to try out ideas out in conversation, before considering anything written. Because writing is just an extension or substitute for speech, written style should be as close as possible to it. You shouldn't adopt a different, more formal, written style.

The last thing I'd say, in agreement with David, that writing a good article is hard work. the delete key is your greatest friend. Some of my articles have taken days of toil, spread out over months. They've involved a lot of research and double-checking (and still I get things wrong!). They are constantly re-worked until they seem to read smoothly and logically. It is best to realize this from the start, so that when an occasional article just trips off the keyboard as if by magic, it will be an agreeable surprise.


Best wishes,

Phil Factor
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Samuel Vella
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Interesting Factoid for the day

David Eddings co-wrote The Belgariad with his wife, Leigh Eddings.
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David,
Well done!

Thanks to you and all of the other authors who write for SQL Server Central. I think my biggest hurdle is finding time!

Mark
Dave Poole
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Personally my favourite was "The losers"

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Thank you for a very good reminder on how to prepare an article.

May I also suggest that anybody replying to articles which have obviously taken considerable time and effort to compose respect the author by doing the same, and construct an equally considered and spell-checked response! Although forum pages such as these make knee-jerk replies easy to publish, remember that your name and that unstructured stream of consciousness you are about to submit will be immortalised.

Off-line preparation is absolutely essential, (as I keep reminding my teenagers who believe they can construct essays from scratch at the keyboard). But that topic is for another forum.

One other point, without sounding like a miserable git: do one-liners contribute anything to a forum? If you've nothing constructive to add - and the mechanism exists - just rate the article.

(BTW, this reply took me about half an hour to compose)
kevriley
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David,

I always find your articles very interesting, easy to read and entertaining!
You should get them printed and bound!

Kev
Jeff Moden
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Outstanding article, David... as usual. Thanks for the great reminders and suggestions.

I'd like to remind folks of two other things...

1. Use a spelling checker...
2. Not everything on the internet or in books is correct...

The first item above should go without saying. Nothing destroys the credibility of what you're trying to do quicker than a plethora of spelling errors. Everyone will forgive 1 or 2 spelling errors in an article, but not 10 in the first paragraph. Further, if you're writing on a predominately English site and English is a second language that you're not very good at, you may want to have someone review your work before you publish. I know that I wouldn't attempt to write in any foreign language without a severe review by a person who spoke the language as a primary language.

The second item is important, as well. Just because some author, even well published and popular authors, have an article on the internet or in a book, it doesn't guarantee that the methods in the article are correct. The old saying that "One experiment is worth more than one thousand expert opinions" still holds true. If you're going to rely on or cite someone else's work to make your point, then you really need to make sure that you actually test the methods in that other person's work before you include them in your article.

--Jeff Moden

RBAR is pronounced ree-bar and is a Modenism for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
Stop thinking about what you want to do to a row... think, instead, of what you want to do to a column.
If you think its expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. -- Red Adair

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