2012/06/02

Questions to readers

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As mentioned before, I'm writing a book.
The primary problem isn't the content, but to write a book instead of something much, much shorter.
I tend towards a very concise style (or I think so) and ended up writing a few chapters in 17,800 words (~20 pages) after planning to allocate 60 pages to the content. It's obvious that I need to add some more flesh to it.

Thus questions to my long-time readers: What would you say about my (blog) writing style?

(A) More sources needed

(B) More explanations of thoughts needed

(C) More examples needed

(D) More repetitions of thoughts needed

(E) More historical references needed

(F) More graphics needed

(G) More fun (tongue in cheek, humour between serious remarks) needed

(H) More of a guiding thread needed ("Roter Faden")

(I) Shorter sentences needed

(J) More breaks

(K) More revisiting of what's been written earlier after adding some more info

(L) More explanations of abbreviations

(M) Easier topics in between difficult ones desirable

(N) other


S Ortmann

edit 7th June:
12.1k words count now. The 17.8k word count mentioned before was a typo. I calculate with 420 words per page based on samples from other books, so 12.1k words ~  almost 29 pages already. This is no doubt a considerable drain on my blog writing.
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25 comments:

  1. What I really like about this blog, and I've read it for a few years now, is that it has a different view on things and how to tackle problems mainstream military doesnt't even recognize. To further push that point and make it stick, I believe B and C is what best could flesh out your work.
    While E and F certainly is nice for many readers, and I do think so too, it is not NEEDED since if B and C is done well enough; a opus about theory X was somewhat resembland in Y conflict is redundant, albeit it makes easy reading.

    One more thing; L is nice in your upcoming book as a full page of all abbreviations used in alphabetical order. It's often done so in judicial litterature which also reeks of abbreviations. And it works.

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  2. I've read your blog for awhile, but use to not comment.

    (L). NATO is easy, but others are not that well know. On the blog I can just use the internet to tell me the meaning if I don't know it (most of the time anyway) but that is because I am on the interent already, when I read i tend to be away form the internet, sitting in a nice chair with a glass of sweet tea reading. I've read books that tell you the meaning of a abbreviation once then never again for the rest of the book, a page(s)in the back of the book listing all of the abbreviations helps.

    Oo the others I tend to take most of that in stride, since everyone writes different.

    On a blog (K) is easier to do since you can click a link to the post (and since you may be talking about a post from years ago), but in a book who really wants to keep having to flip back in the book to try and put it integrate what they are reading with what they read?

    In the end readers have styles that they like and if you asked a 100 of them you won't get the exact same replies form all 100. Some like lots of examples, others like very few, some love graphics and others don't, and so on.

    I know long ago (not your post on it, well before that) I kept reading that the leichte division disappointed in the Poland campaign, but everywhere I looked no one would say why it did, they just said that it disappointed.

    Tim

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  3. C. and E., as well as finding ways to deepen your analysis are probably the best ways to flesh out your work. I have the same problem with academic writing, I tend to be much more concise than my peers, but really that's just a sign of a skilled writer and it's a good thing. The problem arises when you're trying to lengthen your work. Really you just need to cover more ground, and additional examples and historical references are a good way of doing this. Then the challenge becomes keeping track of that roten Faden through all the additional work. I think ultimately it's better to tend to include interesting tangents rather than cut them out, because more often than not, if you present them well, the readers are going to take interest in your peripheral arguments even if they're not directly relevant to your central thesis.

    There's a difference between writing in a concise style and writing a concise argument. In a book-length work, a concise argument isn't necessary or appropriate. You should have plenty of room to elaborate on finer points, provide additional examples, and so on. Stating things clearly, and avoiding unwieldy and unnecessarily elaborate language is important, but don't shy away from adding additional information, even if you feel it isn't necessary to make your point.

    In this blog I constantly see you mention things that you feel are outside of the scope of the blog post you're writing. When you're writing your book, you should see these as opportunities to expand and deepen your argument, and find ways of integrating them into the text. Often all this requires is a simple sentence or paragraph describing how your side argument relates to your central thesis, and these don't have to be that frequent.

    Keep asking questions of your work. The answers to those questions will get you from 20 pages to 60.

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  4. Using examples from history to explain your thoughts would be very helpful. (B-C-E)

    A good example of this style can be found in "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" by Edward N. Luttwak which you recommended here http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.nl/2010/09/my-book-recommendations-about-military.html.

    Graphics (F) like diagrams or mind-maps to visualize some concepts and ideas could be useful. The graphics you use in your blog usually support the post and are not superfluous.
    They are not essential but they do help.

    The red lines in your blog are clear without explicitly mentioning them, but some overview or summary at the end would be helpful especially for a book. Some writers also mention the red line constantly throughout the book to support some hypothesis. Whether this would be useful depends on your material(H)

    Success with writing the book

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  5. It depends, if you develop new ideas, then use much more technical data and graphs to make your point than quoting examples.http://www.ausairpower.net/ is an example how you can try to make technology and math simple to digest. No opinion about the content included.

    If you want to highlight historic material, then you must look much deeper into the existing works on this period and work out the contemporary perspective of the participants instead of simple hindsight assessments, often leaving the pure military journals' realm.

    In my opinion, you hardly have noteworthy sections discussing your sources ("Quellenkritik"/"Quellendiskussion"), the history of research("Forschungsgeschichte") and the history of ideas on a field ("Ideengeschchte"). These are sciences you must get familiar with in order to be taken serious by specialists. Provide them in an overview and in detail at least in corresponding footnotes, while keeping a smooth read.

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  6. Shortening sentences is simple. Write a page in your convenient style and afterwards edit it for expressing the same with short sentences.

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  7. One weakness of many books and articles on military topics is the very shallow discussion of alternative points of view in my opinion. Pros and cons of conflicting POV on a topic, including your own as one among others, should be fairly presented. We too easily fall for I'm right, he's wrong.

    Perhaps we readers of your blog can help you even more if you post the topics you write about and we see if we can help you with acquiring interesting quality sources. Searching for sources is one of the never ending issues if you try to create a well-sourced work.

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  8. Hehe, I gave up a few days ago to find a reference to a large Roman convoy getting destroyed by Parthian cavalry while en route to supply the main army. IIRC said convoy was extremely well guarded (more than a legion).

    No matter how much I look at the history of the period, I cannot find the incident mentioned. Maybe it's just my memory having fun with me. ;)

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  9. Which invasion of Parthia or did you confuse it with Sassanid Persia?

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  10. I think it was one of the Roman incursions into Parthia after Crassus' death.

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  11. I would say N. One thing I keep seeing in your blog is that you keep a lot to yourself, let a lot of things for granted, or stop giving examples or developing the idea, mainly because of length, and because is a blog, not a book. Your book may be read by people that is not well used to think outside of the mainstream, so some of your ideas will look very akward for them. You said that you tend to write as short as possible. But in a book, you actually hace all the length and all the time you wish to make your point. Also you may write more about the actual proposal that you suggest in order to solve the problem, because most of the time you just sketch the idea, but perhaps what I'm thinking is miles away from your idea, specially because i'm not so informed in those topics. I also may suggest more coverage of topics outside of NATO, some of your readers are in non-aligned countries with unique situations regarding defense, and with grat challenges regarding freedom. Thanks for your attention, luck with your book and the blog.

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  12. Lots of (B) and (C) with a touch of (G)

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  13. "Light cavalry showed its full potential in the ancient Parthian light cavalry that faced the infantry-centric Roman armies. The Romans were superior in melee battles and sieges, but their problems were quite insurmountable every time they invaded Parthia. The enemy light cavalry (armed with composite bows) simply bypassed the Roman main force and attempted to cut off the supply lines. Supply convoys had to be guarded heavily. The Romans tried to use an economies of scale approach with few very large convoys, but even more than one entire legion plus mercenary troops was at times not enough to prevent the complete destruction of an essential convoy."

    - The history of arms branches in Orient and Occident - redux

    http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2010/01/history-of-arms-branches-in-orient-and.html

    It wasn't this from your blog was it?

    Tim

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  14. Well, the point is I forgot the source.

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  15. It doesn't show up in the quote, but the blog post you did on it in 2010 had a link in the text I quoted, maybe if you clicked the link it would show you.

    The best I could find to a supply attack was the
    Roman–Parthian War of 58–63 had an attack on Roman supply lines, but the Romans had forts to guard them.

    Tim

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  16. I'm big on C and F.
    Examples allow you to show where your thoughts might have applied in actual situations and makes the theoretical more concrete.
    Similarly, F helps in the organization of thoughts when forced to approach them from a different perspective and express them graphically.

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  17. Matthias Wilde4 June 2012 14:46

    Personally, I would enjoy more elaborations on the evolution of the ideas of warfare, about doctrinal and strategic schools tought and how they came to pass.

    Perhaps also a bit more on the general relation between politics, societal trends, culture, and military.

    Your blog is, luckily, on of the few that goes beyond the typical Anglo (?) fascination with gadgets , so I am quite content with your writing as of now ;)

    And, of course, more examples are always welcome.

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  18. I strongly agree with what signal said. Sven, your greatest strength is your recognition of problems that go beyond the pale of what most are willing or able to address. Stick to your guns, because this is what you do best, and advocating the need for a vigorous tactical reform is critical!

    On your book, can you give us a hint about what topics you will be tackling? Feedback on it might help give you that extra depth. As for your reading style, I find it to be outstanding. You are a very effective communicator, and the only possible shortcomings would be in area B (since you can be too subtle sometimes), and possibly K as well (more integration of idea X with idea Y). Areas D and E should only be added if you are anticipating a lightweight audience.

    BTW, in an unrelated tangent, there is some tension going on in belarus. If a colour revolution gets started there, you can have polish NATO troops coming in from the west, and russian troops from the east. That could break out into a shooting war, just like georgia (only with NATO getting involved).

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  19. It s the parthian war of Marcus Antonius 36 BC.
    Antonius marched with 16 Legions (60000 men), 10000 gallic cavalry, 3000 light troups and his armenian allies to the city of Phraata in Media Atropatene.
    The parthians (40000 light and heavy cavalry) destroyed the roman siege train and the 2 guarding legions under Oppius Statianus. This was possible by the defection of the armenian cavalry.

    See Hermann Bengtson, Zum Partherfeldzug des Antonius.
    Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften 1. 1974.

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  20. Thanks, I remembered the "2 legions" thing, but there are lists of all legions ever destroyed in the 'net, and I just couldn't find the incident.
    16 legions with only 13k auxiliaries appears to be a very unusual ratio, it was traditionally more like 1:1 than 5:1.

    @kesler; your post appeared 5 times. Have a bit faith, comments only appear after I accept them because there are too many robot spammers and a couple trolls out there. Well, those and an occasional outright offensive post regarding a country, other commenters or me.


    So far the book draft has a structure with first an intro (usual complaints about arrested development of military art and parallels to pre-1914), then a couple general observations and conclusions with smooth transitions from topic to topic.
    The main part follows and is about my radical operational level concept ("skirmish corridor") in order to inspire new thought. All the general conclusions can be recognised in there.
    Finally a conclusions chapter.

    I've dared to begin with the book in earnest becuase by now it all fits together nicely. 80% of it was already in place three years ago.

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    Replies
    1. http://regimentalrogue.com/papers/tigerbox.htm

      Might give you some input from a similar Canadian blog.

      Delete
  21. B C C C D
    Luttwak is a good example.

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  22. http://www.carrollquigley.net/pdf/Weapons%20Systems%20and%20Political%20Stability.pdf

    I don't know the exact place in this blog where it was suggested that there should be some annotated reading list.
    "Weapon Systems and Political Stability" is an interesting, but dated work by the American historian Caroll Quigley. While his examples about prehistory don't stand up to current conclusions, his highlighting of mechanism in historic times is quite good despite some oversimplifications.4
    The script of this unfinished work about sociology of weapons is available online. I would appreciate if you provided a discussion of this thought provoking work.
    http://www.carrollquigley.net/pdf/Weapons%20Systems%20and%20Political%20Stability.pdf

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  23. Don't expect anything any time soon. I'm basically booked till October.

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