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The hard thing is not doing one or the other, it’s doing both

Nate asks, “Why is writing a 100,000-word book about 10 times harder than writing 100 1,000-word blog posts?” I don’t know if this is true at all. Writing the book might be less fun than writing the blog posts, but is it really harder? If you really want to write the book, maybe the trick is to make blogging feel like work and book-writing feel like a diversion.

8 Comments

  1. Peter Flom says:

    I think the relative difficulty of the two also depends on personality and on individual abilities.

    Writing something meaningful in (say) 1,000 words requires a different (but somewhat overlapping) set of skills as writing something coherent in 500 pages.

  2. Stuart Buck says:

    Yes, it does seem harder. The book has to be coherent and structured. The blog posts can be any scattered thought that comes to mind.

  3. Bill Mill says:

    Well shoot, you just need to ask a programmer to get the answer. Managing complexity in a 100,000 line program is far more challenging than in 10 10,000 line programs.

    My thesis is that the requirement of internal consistency on a book is much greater than it is on a series of blogs, and this makes it much more difficult to write the book (and puts a natural limit on the length of books)

  4. Sebastian says:

    I think complexity and perfectionism (the whole point of a blog post is that you can just throw things out – which you wouldn't necessarily do with a book) are the main issues.
    On the other hand, as support for your (Andrew) thesis, check out John Quiggin over at crookedtimber, who has essentially written a book by writing a bunch of lengthy blogposts:
    http://crookedtimber.org/2010/04/06/zombies-walki

  5. Ed says:

    Slightly off topic, but why hasn't a blogger produced a book consisting of his better blog posts (with comments!). For example, I don't really have time to keep up with Matt Yglesias' blog, but would buy and read a book of his better posts over the years, particularly if it included the comments.

  6. Jenny says:

    Some bloggers have done so – Jose Saramago has just published a book of his blog posts, and lesser-known but highly worthwhile critic Caleb Crain has done the same. (It takes quite a bit of work to organize and format, though, so I don't see lots of bloggers getting on the bandwagon any time soon.)

    Blogging is play, book-writing is 'work' – I agree that the conceptualization is a big part of it. People would have an easier time writing their books if they drafted 1,000 words a day for 100 days and then took a look at what they had and plunged in again – it's perfectionism, I think, that stops this from being a readily available writing practice for many, which is a pity.

  7. Andrew Gelman says:

    Ed: I have several times turned blog entries into published articles. Although I have no idea how many people see the articles without having seen the material first on the blog. In any case, this has got to be less than 5% of my total blogging output.

    Jenny: Aaah, yes . . . but would it actually be a good thing if more people were to draft 1000 words a day for 100 days? Think of all the horrible books than never got written because people were too lazy to do this!