Re: New writer needing advice

Subject: Re: New writer needing advice
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2000 23:34:22 -0700 (PDT)

"Lori Lake" wrote ...

> Question
> Where do I start? What is the best way to determine whether or not I'll meet
> the deadline (there are two 1,000 page manuals--printed, pdf, and online)?
> Without having access to the interface, should I document what's in the
> external designs and verify later?

Time is of the essence here. That means you need to slice off all the nonsense
and get down to business...

1. Get a copy of the software. You need a fully installable product that is as
close to final reality as the developers can give you.

2. Play with the software for a week. Learn how it works what it does and how
to do everything with it. You need to become an instant expert on this
software. Read the existing manuals from cover to cover.

3. Find a developer who can answer questions. Shoot off emails to him, show up
at his/her cube, ask him/her to explain things to you. Call him/her. Make it
clear to everybody around you that you are determined to get the docs done and
make them great.

4. Once you have a clue what the product does... write like hell.

Do not waste anytime on style guides, process methodologies, fonts, user
requirements analysis, scope, or any other frou-frou stuff. You're in
quick-and-dirty doc mode. Just bang out the instructions as fast as possible.
Make it perfect and pretty in the next revision. Every minute you waste
obsessing over whether the fonts are correct or if you fulfilled the needs of
your internationally recognized process methodology are minutes totally wasted.


Also - don't waste time hiring contractors. You will spend more time
interviewing dolts and futzing around setting up their ergonomically correct
chairs than just doing the work. The type of contractors you need are
ultra-high-end people who can blaze through documents very fast. There are
*very few* writers in the country who can do this and they are very expensive.
Given the fact that your company is cheaping out on writers - they are not
going to pay $75 - $100 an hour (plus expenses) for one of these writers.

This will be very hard and you will be very frustrated. Just be persistent
with the developers, don't whine, and ask questions.

1000 page manuals? What the hell are you documenting? 1000 pages is long even
for military specs.

Whatever you do - do not listen to people here who tell you to run. I envy your
position, you have a pure challenge in front of you. Don't let your bosses or
the developers stand in your way. Push on until you get the job done. Then at
the end, when the docs are done - if the company sucks quit and get a real job.
At least you can walk out of there knowing that you faced the challenge and
got the job done.

And that is what life is all about.

Andrew Plato


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