Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Great American Software Manual

Total page count, including cover page, TOC, copyright page, appendices, index, etc.: 348

Total writers: 2 (me, and my trusty co-writer Eddie)

Total time spent writing: oh, about three months

We're not quite done (one is never done with a writing project), but we are so close. If you'll excuse me and let me lapse into cliches for a moment, I'm about to find my way of this black hole of manual-writing and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. (No jokes about oncoming trains, please. I'm too tired to get them.) (The jokes, not the trains.) There's a reason for cliches, you know. Times like these.

I put in 58 or 59 hours of work this week. Next week won't be so crazy.

I feel good. I'm happy with my index, and I have only a few things to do with my TOC before I'm happy with it, too. The manual is done. Oh, there will be last-minute changes to the software and last-minute realizations that we wrote things like (oh, horrors!) "This feature will be allows you to ..." or "to log in into to the program." But if we had to send this baby out into the world tomorrow, I would be OK with it. I would be more than OK. I am proud of this manual.

It's been a very tough, very focused, very good week at work. I've really enjoyed my job these last few months. I'm ready to move on to something else, and I won't miss this manual once it's published, but I can't deny having enjoyed the journey of writing it.

Funny to think that some folks believe we literature-loving English majors "sell out" by going into technical writing. I would have believed the same thing 20 years ago. What a misconception. Writing is an adventure and an opportunity to learn exciting new things, no matter what the topic, no matter who the audience. And tech writing just takes me into realms I never, ever would have explored if I'd been completely in charge of mapping my own adventure all along.

It doesn't matter to me that most people don't read manuals. Most people don't read, period. If I were to publish a novel, most people wouldn't read it either. I honestly don't care. I just love writing for the sake of writing, and it just tickles me to death that I get paid for it. If this manual helps a handful of people, gives them a better impression of my company's software, maybe results in a few dozen fewer support calls ... then, as far as I'm concerned, I've done my job.

Life is good. (I accidentally wrote "Lice is good" at first. Yes, it's time for me to tear myself away from the computer screen and do something productive, like play some Bach or pet the cats.)

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how that works. That is, just helping a few people. But those few people talk to other people, and just a few of those other people help other people. And so it goes, until suddenly those few first people you helped have resulted in hundreds or thousands of people, all of whom want to buy your company's software, who don't need any help from your company because the technical writers have made finding help so easy that they are forever bonded to the product.

    Which makes your company money, and if it's a good company, which it sounds like it is, will pay your more money, and so it goes. I'm so glad you have a job you truly love! Not to mention a husband and a brand new niece. Tell Grandma Gwen and Grandpa Hugh that I said CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Love you!

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