Re: Why'd that take so long?

Subject: Re: Why'd that take so long?
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Jul 2002 10:07:04 -0700 (PDT)

--- "Martin R. Soderstrom" <scribbler1382 -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
> 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.

Who agreed? The people who are pounding you for documents or some nebulous others?
If the people who are on your back for documents are the same ones who agree that
more people are needed to do the work (particularly if they are also the people who
have no budget to hire anybody else), then I'd tell them that there is a correlation
between time, money, resources, and output.

> 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?").

Got a schedule? Even a simple basic chart that lists documents to be done and how
long each will take. Line them all up in some sort of priority order, and ship one
off to the complaining PM each time. If they want to change your priorities, all the
PMs can get together and do that. But I've found that having a schedule, a load list
if you will, often helps quiet the madding crowd...or get more needed resources.

> 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.

You know, it may be that once you show them all the 'stuff' you do to get a document
out the door, they will say what Keith suggested: "Skip the formatting stuff and get
me the content."

Another possibility is that you will have to let them 'help' get things out the
door, which will mean that the best you can hope for is that they'll make the
documents sort of mostly look like they're supposed to, but they'll never be
formatted properly.

> 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).

This part confuses me, but then I'm easily confused, so don't take it personally.
What do you mean by _resources_? Particularly resources that your managers and SMEs
can edit/markup? If you're trying to tell them what takes so long, why do they need
to mark that up and change it? I am confused about this, I am. :-)

Seriously, back to my original suggestion. Make a prioritized schedule of everything
currently on your place. It doesn't matter that Book A will take 6 weeks and Book B
3 weeks and Book C 6 months. Just show 'em how much you have, what order you're
tackling it in, and when, given the priorities you have now, they can expect

If they want to know what a Tech Writer does (why didn't they learn this before they
hired you?), give 'em "Technical Writing 4 Dummies." (If it doesn't exist, I'm open
to taking the contract. <g>)

Tom Murrell
mailto:tmurrell -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com
Personal Web Page - Last Updated 07/19/02
--The opinions expressed in this email are least I think they're mine...I'm almost positive.--

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