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Subject:Re: How did you get started in tech writing? From:"Chris Morton" <salt -dot- morton -at- gmail -dot- com> To:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com Date:Sat, 16 Aug 2008 07:30:11 -0700
As a young model builder I learned what comprises good instructions from the
likes of AMT, Monogram, Revell, and IMC. That has stuck with me, for the
same comparison holds true for cook books.
Prior to the mid-80s I had spent several years in the traditional publishing
world (ad sales and poroduction). I bought an IBM-XT to run Excell (not a
typo), an application not unlike ACT! prior to the debut of the latter. I
was hooked when I opened the XT to install a modem to empower the sales
software and the system functioned!
At the community college I took a couple of courses, Introduction To
Computers and Database Concepts. After lots of self-study and with DTP just
emerging, an Inacomp technician suggested I merge my knowledge of publishing
and PCs. My hobby ran wild when I started my own value-added reseller (VAR)
outfit to focus on AutoCAD and DTP sales, service, and consulting. I
consider the money I lost over the next few years to be my self-funded
"college education," in that that experience cannot be taught in any
Looking for additional ways to gain a competitive edge, I started writing
freebies about business PC usage for a chamber of commerce publication. I
then answered a *Cadence* (an AutoCAD monthly) ad and, after my first
assignment was pitching original article ideas. Being *very *early Windows
adopters (version 1.03), it was also natural to solicit the quarterly *Windows
Shoppers Guide.* I was soon writing reviews for them, as well as providing
gratis technical editing to Microsoft for their MS-DOS and Windows manuals.
(Payment came when I purchased stock just prior to the wide-scale
penetration of Windows 3.1, then reaped the benefit of stock split after
stock split. Oh, if only I had bet the farm!)
One day a poorly-written Windows newsletter, *The Graunke Report*, came in
the mail. I wrote some suggestions to the Scottsdale-based publisher, who
also was running a mass-marketed, one-day Windows seminar series. Moving the
family to Arizona, for the next four years I wrote and produced the
newsletter in between touring the seminar circuit from Anaheim to Albany and
Orlando to Seattle, then back again. I left to become a Learning Tree
International instructor, picking up freelance assignments here and there
(The Cobb Group, Que, Ziff-Davis' *Windows Sources*). Through more
providence, mixed with a great deal of serendipity, my technical writing and
IT training experiences continue, although I thought I'd retire from the
company when I joyously became a HP employee.
The resume is now long in the tooth, as am I soon to be (or am?), and it's
an ongoing struggle to land any gig that seeks a seasoned pro and is willing
to pay accordingly.
On Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 4:00 PM, Nancy Allison <maker -at- verizon -dot- net> wrote:
> In the Fallback or Sellout thread (or whatever it was called) Karen
> > I was actually wondering if I was going to read other's responses as
> > to how they started in this profession.
> What a great question. I wonder if we can get a thread going on it.
> Karen's answer was in her post.
> My answer, briefly, is this: I got a Master's degree in Teaching English
> as a Second Language, only to find that it was impossible to make a
> living at it, at least in Boston. I wound up doing more temporary office
> work than teaching. And I HATED secretarial work.
> And, when I did teach, I discovered that I liked writing my teaching
> materials more than I liked being at the head of the room. When someone
> said, "You might try technical writing," I gave it a shot.
> What's your story?
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authors, developers, and policy writers. Download a FREE trial. http://www.componentone.com/DocToHelp/
True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
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