Charles Petzold

Progress and Pages

December 1, 2005

My contract for the book Programming the Windows Client Platform (an early term for the API platform now known as the Windows Presentation Foundation) dates from April 2003. The contract indicates that the book will be about 1,000 pages in length, and it cleverly sets the final manuscript deadline as "3 months prior to RTM."

I don't know if any RTM for WPF is AOK or DOA, but the latest I've heard is that my publisher would like me to finish the book by May 5, 2006. I was working on Programming Microsoft Windows Forms through September, and spent much of October exploring and experimenting with WPF. Actual page production didn't begin until November. If you do the math, you'll discover that I need to turn out an average of 5 book pages every calendar day, or about 150 pages a month (with the remainder made up by a process I mysteriously refer to as "faith-based writing").

My total page count at the end of November is 127 — somewhat short of the 150 page quota for the month. I could blame DevConnections, but I'd rather blame Thanksgiving. In my recent discourse on stuff you shouldn't do when writing a book, I should have included "Celebrating Holidays." In theory, Thanksgiving is only a dinner where we atone for the sins of domestic imperialism by sacrificing the most adorable of birds and attempting to consume their inedible flesh. But Thanksgiving really occupies 5 days, and that's 25 pages of book that didn't get written. My sister prepared the actual dinner at her house in New Jersey. We stayed that night at my mother's, and then drove to Utica for two nights at Deirdre's mother house, and then back to the city on Sunday. The day before Thanksgiving I spent in preparation: baking some gingerbread — I used the recipe from the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking, page 934, and didn't skimp on the crystallized ginger or chop it too finely — and burning audio disks from an MP3 disk of the unabridged Wuthering Heights to listen to during the trip on our non-MP3 car CD player.

When talking about "pages" there's always a confusion about "book pages" and "manuscript pages." My publisher has a Word template they require us authors to use. It's not bad. The latest version even includes a macro that determines if any lines of code are too wide for the page. But the text is all double spaced and it looks nothing like the book. Fortunately, somebody's figured out a handy conversion factor for this template that seems to work:

But at least in the early stages of writing a book, I like to use my own Word template that makes the pages look very similar to their final form. I can get a better sense of pacing that way, and only need to glance at the Word status bar to see the progress I'm making without any annoying and distracting arithmetic. The styles in my template have the same names as the styles in my publisher's template, so I can slip in their template before submitting the file without anyone being the wiser.

Today we're driving up to Deirdre's house in Roscoe, where we'll be mostly staying for the month of December. I fully intend to get so much work done that I'll make up for the Thanksgiving slump and easily meet my December page quota (assuming, of course, that there's not some other holiday coming up that I've conveniently forgotten about).