I’ve spent an incredible amount of time over the past two weeks getting Windows Everywhere ready for publication, and I have made such great progress that my target for what constitutes the original version of the book has shifted repeatedly. But now I’ve hit a wall. And I think I’m going to scale it all back dramatically. Which is also going to take some time.
I’ve wanted to turn my epic Programming Windows series into a book since, well, I started writing it. And this year, I made my second attempt at the complex and time-consuming process of making that conversion. It hasn’t been easy: Programming Windows was written over a years-long time frame, was written out of order, and includes lots of coding exercises that may or may not make sense in the context of the history. But this second attempt has, at least, stuck: I have fully converted the series into the format I need it to be in for publication. And as I noted in Windows 11 Field Guide Progress Report: More Chapters and a New Book, which was published the day before we flew to Mexico City, it’s a big book in even plain text form with no image, clocking in it 678 pages in PDF format (including the coding chapters).
That date is significant because I knew I’d have time here during our three-week stay to make significant progress on the book. And sure enough, the pace picked up as soon as we were here and I had fewer distractions. As I quickly rifled through each chapter, editing and adding images, I started reevaluating what that first version could be.
One approach, of course, and I now wish I had done this, would be to simply publish the text-only version of the book and then edit and add images, updating as I went.
But as I started editing and adding images, I envisioned other possibilities. Perhaps I could get the first half of the book “done”—the “first half” being the chapters dealing with the pre-.NET era, or roughly 1985 to 2000, publish that, and then add new content one section at a time until it was done. Actually, I kind of wish I had done that, too.
But then I got greedy. I was making such incredible progress with the editing and image additions, that a foolish desire—to actually finish the book and then publish it—consumed me. And for whatever it’s worth, I absolutely could have done it. In fact, I would have done this, and before today, were it not for one major problem.
Look, I love Leanpub. But this publishing system teeters under the weight of books as big as mine. And as I experienced previously with the Windows 10 Field Guide and the even bigger Windows 11 Field Guide, this system just can’t handle big books with this many images. As my books grew and grew, each preview and publish instance took longer and longer. And worse, they got buggy, coughing back non-sensical and often unfixable errors that prevented the process from finishing.
Oddly, I first ran into these issues with the coding chapters in Windows Everywhere. After experimenting with various formats, I eventually decided to put all the coding chapters at the back of the book so that I could reference them from the relevant “normal” chapter so that anyone who care could go check them out. (And those who didn’t could ignore them.) The back of the book consists of a single Section, Reference, with three “chapters,” Further Reading, Terminology, and Microsoft Codenames (though only the first is ready-ish now), so I figured I’d put the Coding section before that. But the Leanpub preview process always failed. When I removed the Coding section, it was fine. And when I put the Coding section after Reference, it was fine. Huh. So I just left it there so I could keep working.
After making all that progress over the first week or so here in Mexico, I started getting more and more errors. I removed the Coding section temporarily, based on my previous experience, and that helped. But as I kept going, kept adding more images, the book preview process would just keep crapping out. And finally, this past Monday, I gave up. I couldn’t get it to successfully make a preview of the book.
A book, by the way, that had ballooned to almost 1000 pages, thanks to all the images. I’ve actually tried to be judicious about which images are in the book—the latter half of the series contains way too many of them—but no matter. There are still too many.
And so I face this problem where this thing, that is almost complete—I’ve edited all the way through the Windows 8 section, so it’s like 95 percent done—is now nowhere near complete. And now I have to really think about how I can move forward.
And what I’ve decided is that they only way I can move forward is to move backward. I’m going to remove all of the images in the book—an effort that will almost certainly take days—and get it back to a point where it can publish successfully in full. In this form, the book will be much like any business book you’d buy at retail, as these things don’t typically have a lot in the way of imagery, if any. And then I’m going to look at putting images back. Maybe starting with a single image at the top of each chapter.
The only problem with this plan—aside from the time it will take—is that some chapters need those images. Many of the coding chapters, for example, rely on images. So I will need to change those or just deal with them as I go. Or remove them for the time being. And go back to a staged publication plan.
All this is a long way of writing that I flew too close to the sun, the sun in this case being Leanpub’s publishing system, which is unreliable for projects this big. So I will scale back, and as I edit the book yet again, I will reconsider how and when it goes public.
Perhaps publishing that first half of the book as the first version is the right way forward after all. I’ll see soon enough.
Sorry for the delays. But if there’s any good news here, I feel that this thing stands up a work to be proud of, and a book that I think people will find interesting. I just need to get it out there first.