RE: Now lone techwriter, startup

Subject: RE: Now lone techwriter, startup
From: "Sarah Kampman" <skampman -at- acornsys -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 16:31:33 -0600

> I am now a lone techwriter in a fast-paced start-up. We need everything
> - from templates to documents needed to Help to training to document
> numbering system and file naming conventions. Also, we need to keep
> about new technologies.
> I'm not focused right now. I don't know what to tackle first. I know
> day-to-day documents have priority, but what about everything else?

Welcome back. :-)

I'm in your exact position; I've been the lone tech writer at a small
company since this summer. I've been blazing a lot of new trails, and
stamping down existing ones. It can be an awful lot to tackle all at once,
but the good news is that you don't need to. Here's a practical approach...

Templates, processes, etc. are there for only one reason: to make the
process of delivering documentation easier...That's your primary focus. So
focus on that for now. Plan out what docs need to be done first, and what
needs to be done to make that happen.

For example, if your first project is putting together a document, help
system, and training presentation for a new product, you'll need to choose
and acquire tools, create 3 functional (not necessarily perfect) templates,
choose a default style guide, find a blank sheet of paper to use as an
in-progress in-house style guide, and find another blank sheet of paper to
document the process you follow as you create these three deliverables. Now
get down to business--learn the product and write. If you find that you're
getting stuck on a step--like choosing a tool--just start writing in
whatever you have on hand until you decide. Do your best to come up with a
reasonable, repeatable, extensible framework, but really and truly, no one
will care about things like what the files are named. Besides, you can
re-name them later if you absolutely need to.

Everything else can wait 'til later. When the current project is done, a
byproduct of the three docs is the tools, templates, styleguides, and
processes you chose. As new projects and needs come by, just create the
framework as needed...There's no need to have it all done up front.

So take a deep breath and relax... and have fun!


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Now lone techwriter, startup: From: Ellen Vanrenen

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