This is about fiction writing by one of our co-founders Neil Dabb. We hope you find it useful.
You have a report to write for work, an essay for school, or the perfect novel that will make you rich and famous. You know your audience, you know your topic, you have done your research. You think this is going to be the easiest thing I have ever written. You sit down at your desk, fire up the computer, and open your preferred program for writing. There it is the blank page.
You stare at it, five minutes go by. You begin to type, shake your head, and delete the thought that had just formed. You reread your notes or browse through your research. You look at your computer but the blank page is still there. Another five minutes go by. You decide to get a drink, go for walk, do some more research but the blank page is still there when you get back.
How do you fight the blank page effect? Do you really want the secrets? Do you really want to know? Here are my three tips:
First, just type or write something that is relevant to your topic. Don’t delete it just keep going until you find your inner muse that will guide you through the document. Believe me once you start the words will flow.
Second, have a co-worker, friend, or professor look it over once it is finished to get some advice. There is a rhythm to words that if done correctly brings excitement and curiosity to the dullest of topics. However, if the sentence structure or punctuation is in correct, the reader is jolted out of the topic and quickly loses interest. Having someone read your document and just have them mark the places that jolt their eyes will help you correct your document and make you a better writer.
Third, be your self. If you are a class clown don’t try to come across as an academic. If you are an academic don’t try to come across as a class clown. Each of us has our own life experiences, therefore, each of us have our own voices when we write. This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you, however, it is one of most difficult to achieve. Writing is a very personal experience, it lets people see a side of you that normally does not show. For me, its like, I forgot to put a bra on before going to work. I am still covered but I feel like everyone is staring and judging me. However, if you can find and use your inner voice, you will be one hell of a good writer.
By Melinda Anderson
Online Mentoring. A great article with some advice for individuals considering the technical writing field.
A Technical Writer has to stay up to date on the latest publishing software and trends within our field. We also have to be able to explain those software or trends to our employers or clients. I started to read about DITA about three years ago and I did not pay much attention. I was hired by YESCO Electronics as a technical writer. Their software choice was Adobe InDesign with their publishing choice being PDF. I was okay with this until I started documenting several different types of documentation that consisently required updating.
I started to read more about DITA and how efficient it could be. I tried to find a way to pitch DITA to the company. However, I could not find an article that really delved into the why should I care as a technical writer or why my employer should care; until now. “Why Should I Care About Dita? by Jacquie Samuals, published by TechWhirl, explains why technical writers should care about DITA. It also has some pointers to bring to management that would make any team look into DITA such as consistency and quality.
If you are a technical writer or a student in this field, I highly recommend that you read this article.
There are several different word processors out there, each has advantages and disadvantages. They each use different file tags and will access some of the universal tags differently. This is another area that Technical
Writers should be familiar with in order to survive.
A company will likely send a draft of what they want converted/translated/polished in a format using their preferred word processor. Yes, Word is popular, but there are still diehard Open Office, Wordperfect, and other word processor users out there and the extension (the three letters behind the dot that follows the file name) will be different for each.
Many word processors will convert files from other word processors to their format but the results may or may not be acceptable. PDF is another extension that is universal but typically information is lost and it is difficult to edit a PDF file.
There are two solutions to this dilemma. First, make sure that you have a working copy of every word processor used by any customer. This is the best solution but obviously this is impractical for most writers. The next best solution is to request that customers send files with a .rtf extension. Most word processors have a save as function and will allow users to send files with an RTF extension. The advantage is that RTF files can be opened by most other word processors. They can also be easily edited and saved into the same format without losing graphics and other information.
By Neil Dabb
Bill Hades made notes on his clipboard. Unlike most clipboards, this one had a digital display in the upper right corner and its electronic clock was ticking off decimal hours. The crew he watched was bolting precision machined segmented handling rings onto the skirt of a Space Shuttle Booster Motor.
My father wrote this sketch when he was working at a rocket factory in the industrial engineering department. Recently my partner described a similar scene while documenting a process for her current assignment. Process documentation is not new, but the names used to describe it obviously have changed. As technical writers, process documentation is one of many facets of the field that successful writers should be familiar with.
Process documentation is more than just timing each step of the process. It includes describing each step as well as determining differences between how individual operators, also know as Subject Matter Experts (SME), perform the process. It also includes determining the most efficient way to perform the process and how to explain that process to others. In some cases, this can lead to standardizing a process to control quality of a product.
When we first started this business, we printed up fliers to hand out to potential customers and clients. We created something quick and did not revisit it until almost six months later. Here is the original, keep in mind it is two fliers on one page, DragonTechone page flier
It has all the pertinent information such as business name, services, blog address, names, contact information, etc. However, it is a jumbled mess. There is no organization for a reader’s eyes to follow. There was no thought what so ever put into this flier; other then to get our name out quickly. This is a mistake that most businesses make, including ours.
Anything that has your businesses name, logo, or information needs to be carefully planned, discussed, and executed to make sure that it reflects your business and the audience you are targeting. It could be as simple as a flier or as complex as a website. The point is you have about 3 seconds to catch your audience’s attention before they move on to the next business.
This flier is part of our marketing campaign to introduce us to professionals and businesses that may need our services and it does not show who we are or the services that we offer. We quickly came up with a layout and design that reflected what we could do for other professionals and businesses. Here is the new flier, still two fliers on one page, DragonTech Writing, Flier. Can you spot the differences?
This flier has the exact same information as the first with some tweaks. It catches the eye and is organized for our audience to scan it quickly. Our business name and logo are now separated from the information by stylistic elements. Okay, it is just a line but it still allows a reader to zoom in on the business name. The second line lets the audience know that they are done reading. It also tells us where to cut the flier so we don’t accidentally cut out information.
This is the flier we should have started with to market our company. This is what we can do for you or your company, point out the flaws in your documentation then create a design and templates that represent your business accurately.
Here’s a definition of technical writing that I am going to use as part of a conference presentation:
A broad definition of technical writing: Any non-fiction writing of a technical or business nature. Sub-groups may include: Computer software and hardware documentation, process documentation, training materials, presentation materials, marketing materials, HR manuals, business plans, resumes and cover letters, engineering documents etc. A technical writer also translates technical jargon into English the rest of us can understand.
Alternate titles for a technical writer may include, copy writer, report specialist, documentation specialist.
I am currently formatting my poetry book and believe me it hasn’t been easy. I tried to do everything on computer but it just wasn’t working. Finally, I put the poems that I want to publish in one .pdf and printed it. I took all 50 some odd pages with me when my husband and I left to cook dinner at our local Elks Lodge. Okay, he cooked and I was supposed to be the waitress.
However, not very many people showed up to eat dinner so I was able to arrange my poetry book. There were a few people who asked if they could read some of poems and I gladly let them. Everyone who read them seemed to enjoy them. I did get one comment about the i that I use stylistically versus the I that is proper grammar. I know that the I is proper grammar, I use it every day, in everything I write including text messages; much to my kids annoyance.
My poetry is not proper grammar never has been and never will because it is poetry not grammar. Poetry produces an image or a feeling in the mind of the reader and does not have a specific set of rules, grammar or other wise, governing it. For instance, take this poem that I wrote years ago:
sighing soft caress
gently whispered words
tender holding arms
soul burning passion
gazing long looks
sweet loving surrender
moonlit perfumed walks
I have been told that this poem is depressing and I can not figure out why. To me, the author, it is about love and how you feel when you are in love. I have reread it over and over again and I still do not understand how anyone could view this as depressing. It is a matter of perspective just like the i versus I in poetry is a matter of style.
My point is this, I know that if I sent a manuscript in to a publishing company with an i, I would get turned down. The little i, in my poetry, is my way of rebelling against the good grammar I use in my professional and personal life. It is part of my style and I am not going to change it just to get published. This is why I have chosen to self publish my poetry book and avoid the issue altogether.
By Melinda Anderson
reprinted from http://me1an.wordpress.com/