Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG)

Subject: Deadlines - Extend or Deal? (LONG)
From: "Mandy" <amanda -dot- barrientos -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2006 07:57:27 -0400

I've been lurking on this list for about two months or so, but this is the
first time I've posted. I have to say first that the archives have been
unbelievably helpful - thank you, thank you, thank you!

A bit of background about myself and the situation:

My husband runs the IT Dept for a relatively new, but rapidly expanding
multi-million dollar company (it's basically a bunch of "good ol' boys who
fell into something that makes money). We relocated for the job and he's
been there approx 3-4 months. When they (the company) mentioned that they
needed documentation on a newly developed and soon-to-be-released product,
my husband mentioned my name and I was called in. I was quickly told that
the only reason the product hadn't gone out was that an operator's manual
was a must and the job was mine if could do it quickly for a reasonable
price. I told them up front about my qualifications (or lack thereof, but I
didn't put it that way) and they were fine with my "needs experience"
status. (Basically, I got halfway thru a tech writing program at the
University I was attending, and I've written a couple of manuals/guides for
a couple of places I worked. I fell into Tech Writing when my boss was in a
Master's program for Tech Writing and she liked the work I did - most of
what I do know, I've learned from working with her. )

Anyway, I got the job because I was willing to work for a fraction of what
the job had been priced out for at the local tech writing firms.

The situation is this:

At the outset of the project a six-week timeline was set up. When I started
the engineers were working on the exploded diagrams for the manual and I was
told that I would get them as soon as they were done. The status of those
diagrams and my need for them were brought up at every meeting and/or status
report. Then, a week before the rough draft was due, my 'contact' goes out
of town for the week - a planned trip no one thought to tell me about,
assuring me that he would have the diagrams and some other, relatively small
materials "as soon as he got back".

I was in contact with him via email sporadically and was told to turn in
the rough draft, as complete as possible on the scheduled date. Basically, I
was to leave the draft on his desk on Friday and he would be there the
following Monday to do the content edit. Unfortunately, the week he got
back, he had a family emergency and has been gone until the day before
yesterday. When I found out what happened and contacted the VP (who I
interviewed with initially) I was told not to worry about the deadline, that
they understood the situation. Ok fine.

Now, in the meantime, I found out about a seminar that was scheduled for
yesterday, to be given by the company to prospective clients. I asked if I
could attend, since they were going to be doing a demo on the product I was
writing about. Honestly, I went because I was hoping that I could do the
training materials next and I wanted to see what they were doing currently.
I was NOT expecting to find out that there were several important pieces of
information about the product (that I had never heard before) which should
really be added to the manual. I spoke briefly to the SME that I had been
interviewing (who was giving the demo) and his was response was a sheepish
grin and an "I didn't know you needed to know that." ?!?!

So I leave the seminar thinking "ok, I've got to get home, revise the rough
draft to include this info and turn *that* one in.."

I get back to my computer to find an email from my contact who is back in
the office and says that the manual is his 'top priority' and he will be
done editing it today, so he'd like to continue on schedule. Oh, but the
diagrams will be in next Tuesday (with the official deadline being that

So, my question (sorry about the long intro):

Do I ask for an official extension to the deadline? Or do I power thru this
and bust my tail to make the original deadline? Obviously, this is the
first and only project I've done for them and I'd like more, so I'm not
quite sure how to handle it. Is the fact that I need to add material due to
my inexperience? If so, does that affect how I handle this as far as "it's
my mistake so I'll deal with cleaning it up"? Or do I talk to the contact
and ask for an extension, citing new material and lack of diagrams? And, if
I do ask for an extension, how do I go about it w/out looking completely

Oh, and just FYI, I was asked at the seminar by one of the owner/VP's to get
them a "list of documents that they need to create" so they can discuss it
and decide what they are doing next. ???? No idea what those are yet, but
one thing at a time right? So, conceivably, if I don't screw this assignment
up I've got work to look forward to..

Any advice, comments, etc. would be greatly appreciated at this point as I
don't know what to do.

Thanks so much for reading my extremely long post. I apologize for the
rambling. ;) Stress does that to me, lol.



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