Why'd that take so long?

Subject: Why'd that take so long?
From: "Martin R. Soderstrom" <scribbler1382 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2002 11:23:27 -0400

Hey, all. Looking for some advice. I'm the lone tech writer for a global
satellite television company. It's been agreed that there's enough work for
4 or 5 writers, but due to economics I have trouble even getting a
contractor in for 3 months. On top of that, the existing docs, procedures
(what there were), styles, etc. are a freaking nightmare. (e.g. one of our
smaller 20 page docs has over 256 styles in it, though only 4 are actually
in use...when styles are used, of course).

Anyways, the point is, I'm swamped. But now I've got product managers
asking me why things take so long ("I can write a word document in an hour.
What's taking so long?"). For instance, a few months ago I was working on a
monster project to update an existing Frame document of over 800 pages. It
was done in Frame by someone who didn't really know Frame and formats were
haphazardly applied (if at all) and changed from chapter to chapter. They
wanted some single-sourcing to produce both a printed manual and some online
help. So I spent about 3 weeks fixing the formats, removing all the manual
formats and overrides, working on an updated doc design and editing the most
blatant writing problems (I couldn't even describe the full extent of the
mess I was facing if I wanted to). Anyways, I thought I did a pretty good
job. I got skewered for taking so long. I've since redeemed myself to some
degree, but I'm still having to explain every little thing I do, now.

So my problem is, I don't have time to teach Technical Writing 101, but the
product managers want me to "quickly explain" why technical writing takes
longer than writing a memo or preparing a presentation in PowerPoint. Right
down to what graphics formats are best and why it's better to use styles
than just tweak the fonts, etc.

Are there any resources out there that can help me with this? The resources
should be Word-oriented, as despite my recommendations based on our needs,
they want to stay in Word so SME's and managers can edit/markup the source
files (I know, I know).



-- Martin

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