My final “Managing Up” post for Steyer Associates offers an abbreviated look at earlier trends in technical communications. Here’s a longer meditation on being in the trenches over some of the most life-changing technical advances in the past quarter century.
A decade out of college, I first asserted in a job interview that I was a writer. Previously, my job roles had included editing—for solar energy designers, conservation policy advocates, and a couple of dyslexic physicists. During that “editorial” apprenticeship, I typically tossed 90 percent of what I received and rewrote it. That made me a writer, correct?
I faked my way through that interview and went to work for a local power utility, where I learned the basics of tech writing, before the profession had degree programs or professional associations.
The tech writing basics? Forget what your English teacher said: There is no practical use for creative, complex sentence structures in tech writing: Continue reading
My blog post, 5 Pet Tricks with Spreadsheets, suggests some tricks for project tracking for tech-comms professionals. For balance, here are some pet tricks for fiction writers:
“Author as Publisher” Task Lists
Author as Publisher: Planning Tasks [MS Word]
Author as Publisher: Market Planning Tasks [MS Word]
Book Scheme in a Spreadsheet
Whether part of an initial plan or in the middle of an attempt to untangle spaghetti 2/3s through the draft, you can use a spreadsheet to map the plot points, action, character development, time scale, and so on.
Here’s an example of how I analyzed plot and pacing problems during an early draft of Artemis in the Desert (if you haven’t read the book, this example doesn’t contain spoilers). The top row maps chapters against traditional beat sheet goals for plot and pacing. Continue reading
My blog post for Steyer Associates — Stage Fright Part II: Your Writing Sample — examines how a tech-comms manager reviews writing samples when hiring a tech-communications professional. I discuss solutions for common problems, like when your current work sample is still under non-disclosure agreement.
I like to describe a parallel effort here on my blog for fiction writers, but the cases differ significantly:
- Your writing sample online is the first 10% of your ebook on Amazon.
Tip: Did you move the front matter to the back of your fiction ebook, so that a significant portion of that 10% is not copyright, dedication, and table of contents?Your “sample” should start as close to “a name=start” as possible.
- Your description / back cover text is what lures your reader.
Did you write a Fourth Grade book report or a marketing enticement that will help you “close” a sale with browsing readers?Most writers I’m met hate writing the back-cover text. It calls for an entirely different view of the story than what you just spend hundreds of hours writing. I’ve struggled with this 250 words more than any other text I’ve drafted, and don’t feel anything like a journeyman, must less an expert. Yet it’s not something that DIY writers can readily outsource.Here’s the most succinct guidance I’ve found, for staying on track in back-cover descriptions:
I’m a believer in task lists, and in breaking tasks lists into ever smaller parts—which is likely why my career as a technical writer took a turn into management. I’m working on a series of Managing Up posts for Steyer Associates about program management tasks for tech-comms professionals.
While that series develops, I’ll create some parallel entries here for fiction writing and publishing tasks for independent authors who publish their own work.
Here’s a modified task list for producing a book on the Opera En Español series that Jugum Press publishes. These are Spanish-language translations of opera librettos created by Dr. Eduardo Enrique Prado Alacalá. I keep this list to guide the tasks that must be complete when I’m publishing several librettos simultaneously.
First, for a long list of tasks, you need categories. Continue reading
This month’s Managing Up article for Steyer Associates—Mistakes Were Made: Yours, Mine, Theirs—focuses on what to do when you make the kind of mistake that keeps fastidious professionals awake at night. I turned in my draft file and congratulated myself for beating the submission deadline.
Then—holy cow—my next task appears:
You’ve got mail! You made a big effing mistake.
As managing editor at Jugum Press, I’m working to publish translations by Enrique Prado of major opera librettos in Spanish.
My editorial and production tasks closely resemble my twenty years’ work on technical tomes for Windows driver developers. This content, however, is farm more emotionally charged. And proofreading Windows pseudo code never prompted as many laughs as proofreading Don Pasquale.
However, it may be that some of those old Windows programmer publication projects prompted as many tears as Tosca, though less blood on the floor.
Project background: Continue reading
As the owner, managing editor, art director, and acquisition editor of Jugum Press: I’m a grown woman and I can do what I want.
And thanks to POD technology, I can finally answer to the siren call of freedom I first heard from the bearded, bushy-browed former CPUSA activist in the Southern Oregon College copy shop:
“Freedom of the press belongs to those who own the press.”*
That’s Italian for ‘so easy, even I can make it’—as my kids will tell you, I daydream too much in the kitchen. However, it’s December, so I’m required to produce this favorite, using a recipe from a former manager, who learned it at a famous Italian cooking school.
You can do it!
4 ½ C flour – reserve ¼ C
2 ¼ C sugar
4 large eggs
grated lemon peel — the one time a year I use this
Don McQuinn says that he’s finding new music by typing chapter titles from Nine Volt Heart into Pandora.
Me? I listen to KEXP because I’m hungry to hear what new songwriters are doing. I first heard many of the songwriters mentioned in Nine Volt Heart on KEXP, or back when it was KCMU, or KBCS.
It’s important to support musicians, who inspire and add value to everyday life, by paying for their music. The list of song titles from Nine Volt Heart is here, to help you find songwriters who have influenced contemporary music.
“Nine Volt Heart” lyrics by Dave Alvin and Rod Hodges, © 2004, Blue Horn Toad Music, BMI; Blowout Music, ASCAP.
“A Fool Such As I,” lyrics by William Trader
“A World Out of Time,” lyrics by Henry Kaiser and David Lindley Continue reading
I have a post up on the Accidental Heretics site, discussing the existential problems I’m working on in Book 3 of the Accidental Heretics series from Jugum Press (where I write as “E.A. Stewart”).
The painful part of fiction writing (versus technical writing) is that if there’s a problem, one is required as the author to dig deep into personal experience to describe why people do what they day and how they feel while they are doing it — and then as the author to turn around and make these characters suffer for the choices that I, as the author, force on them.
I’m off to spend the rest of the day torturing a character that I love. He must be made to suffer as I once did (minus the sword, the armor, the horse, and the other historical baggage he has to carry).