Docs Ready for Tech Review?

Show MarkupPenny Orwick and I completed a series of posts for Steyer Associates on peer reviews for technical documentation.

A point we both made in our example peer reviews was that the original draft content wasn’t ready for review, much less for publication. To wrap up our series, Penny suggested a checklist.

Today’s Ready for Review? A Checklist provides the basics, plus some cautionary notes about what you risk losing if you send poor docs for tech review:

  • Discrediting yourself with your technical experts
  • Discrediting yourself with your peers

Typically I link to my tech-communications blog topic with a parallel for fiction writers. But it seems like there are a lot of models out there. So this time I’ll just link again to my Checklist for Writer/Editor Collaborations.

Other topics in our “peer review tips” collection:

 

“What If They Fire My Boss?”

AbideThis article is for my peers and comrades who are technical-communications professionals that work in vendor contracting agencies, rather than working as full-time employees of a technology company.

Here in Seattle right now, you can’t innocently browse the Web, glance at your Facebook feed, or check scores in the local newspaper without a fearsome speculation jumping out to grab you:

“Layoffs of up to 5,642 Reportedly Expected”
“With Merger, Local Layoffs Are Expected”
“Will Wall Street Still Love this Company When It Lays Off 20% of  Workforce?”

Then your mother or sister or best friend from college calls and asks, innocently, “Will you lose your job with all these layoffs?”

… that haven’t actually happened …

Those of us who choose to work as contract employees are always steeped in uncertainty:

What happens if this contract is cancelled?

Will this contract be renewed when it ends?

Have all contracting jobs dried up?

Let me share some manager’s experience about the issues that can affect contract works when the “permanent” supervisor’s position seems to be in jeopardy. Continue reading

That Was the Week We Wish Wasn’t: Random Edition

When the pitchfork waving crowd corners the fu This past week has been entirely too eventful.

  • A  close friend in ICU, recovering too slowly.
  • Rewriting the same 10K-word chapter 8 days in a row.
  • A robber chased by an angry crowd crashes through the fence 16 feet above my backyard. He’s trapped in my courtyard, so we flee. Which means a whole police crew came to clear my house of a possible invader … just like on TV!

Oh, let’s relax with a peek at my text and phone message feed for the week. Continue reading

You Get What You Measure: Technical Communications Edition

You Get What You MeasureMy Managing Up post for Steyer Associates this month — You Get What You Measure — touches on the difficulty with most metrics for productivity and quality in technical writing. I offer ideas for how to create personal measures to increase your satisfaction as a writer, editor, or other working in the content publishing chain.

Making progress on quality goals, working toward expertise—I believe these are fundamentals for personal ambition.
Sure feels like metrics for corporate tech-comms consistently undermines those personal metrics these days, doesn’t it?

What can we do, oh noble content providers, but go forth and meet our daily word count?
My related post on metrics and productivity in fiction writing is here.

Artemis in the Desert

Artemis in the Desert - A Rain City Comedy of MannersNew motorcycle fiction, now live from your favorite book vendors.
And thanks again to Lisa Tilton for great cover art, and for indulging my whimsy on the back cover of the print book.

In the Notes and Acknowledgments at the back of Artemis in the Desert, I include this disclaimer:

The highways and most towns in Artemis in the Desert are real. Once upon a time, real people on real motorcycles followed this route and endured extraordinary, unseasonal weather and bad coffee. However, those real people were practical and suffered no similar degree of human angst in their travels. The characters and activities in this story are wholly fictional and do not represent real events or real people, living or dead.

A long time ago, I did indeed ride the same highways and experienced the same weather as described in this new Rain City story. When I returned home, I transcribed details about the journey: distances, bad coffee, hail, and highlights from Stephen R. Whitney’s Field Guide to the Grand Canyon. A year later, I revisited the Four Corners during a month’s journey camping in the desert. The experience on that adventure amplified a story that I’d begun to imagine while freezing and pounded by hail while riding a BMW R100RT (the true Spandau ballet).

While on that first interminably wet journey, I read Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the first time. (I was late to Austen and Regency fiction in general.) With fork lightning circling the empty desert highways we rode, I imagined a story of two individuals from opposite worlds who are forced to meet again a decade later. These characters have revisited my imagination repeatedly since that journey.

Artemis in the Desert springs from the weather events of that original journey, and revisits the conceit that Jane Austen introduced: how can two people who were once intimate overcome all the misunderstandings and cultural barriers that once separated them?
… while drowning in unseasonal rains on back-country highways?

Artemis in the Desert

 

You Get What You Measure: Fiction Edition

In grade school, I was the youngest and smallest in the class and always chosen last for any team sports. The boys groaned when the even-odd count resulted in me on their team.
You Get What You Measure, Fiction Writers!On the other hand, for the 7,583 times we were forced to play prison ball in the guise of physical education, I was the last person standing on my team more than fifty percent of the time. I was nimble, so the bell rang before anyone managed to cream me with the ball.

How did I achieve this? The boys’ goal was to win the game by smashing the ball into people as hard as they could. Most often they picked off the girls first, but forgot about me till the end. My goal? Never touch the ball and never let it touch me. I had no other concept of “winning.”

When I worked as a technical writer on product software, we had specific measures for productivity and quality, plus an external schedule, milestones, and job-related incentives for innovation and creativity. It’s a world in which it’s relatively easy to track success as a writer.

Now that I work full-time as a fiction writer and publisher of non-fiction, I need different markers for success in my writing. For me, daily word count is not an adequate measure of productivity.  However, I was also formerly a manager known for creative definition of realistic measures for productivity and success. So I’ve been thinking about how to understand my own productivity as a fiction writer without focusing only on word count and number of publications per quarter. I’m sharing some of those ideas here for other fiction writers, especially those who don’t write fiction full time as their principal income.

Continue reading

Raining Green Ink

Richard BennettWestern Washington beat its old February – April rain record. Hunkering down inside to avoid the deluge, I’ve been providing reviews for other writers or begging beta reviews of my own draft fiction.

During this damp spring spent in fiction and nonfiction reviews and editing tasks, I repeatedly provided writers and reviewers with guidelines for how to review a manuscript. The tasks of a beta review for fiction or a peer reviewer for technical communications are different from an editor’s work.

1.
My April Managing Up column for Steyer Associates is live: Lions and Tigers and Peer Review—Oh No!

Lions and Tigers etc. offers tips for 3 basic kinds of peer reviews in technical communications:

  • Peer review as quality check
  • Skill building through peer critique
  • Mandated reviews as editorial replacement

As you might imagine, Continue reading

That Was the Week That Was #1

You Can Be an Artist!While I gather disparate info for my writing and personal life, the details don’t lead quickly to coherent sets of stories. So I’m going to try collecting and reporting bits in a Weekly Reader format, with Departments.

Reading with the Greatest Impact

Continue reading

Editor/Writer in Tech Comms: No fighting, No biting

I have a new Managing Up post up for Steyer Associates that reflects on editor/writer relations in technical communications: Writer vs. Editor = Spy vs. Spy?

SpyvsSpyThis time, I’m emphasizing what a manager wants to see—and yes, I’m brutal:

  • Tech Writer: Your Job #1 is to please the Subject-Matter Experts who own the technology you’re writing about (or who own the business strategy) by preparing correct, clear content. Job #2 is to follow the style guide. If you’re worried about the editor marring your personal voice and style preferences, you aren’t doing your job.
  • Tech Editor: Your job is to drive the corporate voice, enforce consistency in terminology and presentation, complete the legal edits, and serve as first, best reader to ensure clarity.

Read on for my specific guidelines in relation to the basic rules of collaboration: no fighting, no biting.

…and if you missed it, earlier notes on fiction writer vs. editor relations:
Is that Blood on My Manuscript? Or Are You Just Happy to Ream Me?