A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Writer's Resource Center

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1.
#25008

The Basics of Book Profits

Most writers have no idea how much money they can expect when their book is published. The formular, however, is fairly straightforward. To begin with, a writer generally receives an advance. An advance is payment, in advance, based on the expected initial earnings of the book. Royalties (ranging from 4% to 8% in most cases) are generally based on the cover price of the book, but that does not include books that are discounted or remaindered. So, for the sake of argument, say you sold 20,000 full-price copies of a paperback priced at $7 (I know it would more likely be $6.95 but I am going to use round numbers.) If your royalty percentage were a generous 8% you would make a total of $11,200.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing>Publishing>Writing

2.
#25015

Boilerplate

The SMEs had a choice between two sets of tables they could use to input key product data. If their part of the project used items from the A list, they were supposed to use table A. If their part of the product used items from the B list, they were supposed to use table B. In almost every case, the SMEs used the wrong table, leaving gaps where their information did not conform to the columns of the tables.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2005). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>SMEs

3.
#31901

A Career in Technical Writing: Beach Time

Beach time and bench time refer to paid or unpaid time off between consulting contracts. When you are a contractor, it is best to take initiative and find other options no matter how much you trust your recruiter. Never trust a company to have your best interests in mind.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2008). Careers>Unemployment>Freelance>Technical Writing

4.
#31898

A Career in Technical Writing: Life as a Wannabee

I couldn’t picture myself as a big time advertising writer, but technical writer was something that I figured I could do. I had plenty of computer experience. Half of my personal debt was related to computer equipment. I had been on the Internet since before there was a World Wide Web. I had a degree in creative writing and I had been an editor and writer for a few minor publications. Technical writer seemed obtainable.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2008). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing

5.
#31899

A Career in Technical Writing: Two Dates to the Prom

In the world of contracting, the entire hiring process can take place over the phone. Knowing the right tool (even a little) can get you the job.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2008). Careers>Freelance>Technical Writing

6.
#24989

Contracting for Fun and Profit

Because I am working at this job through a contract, rather than as a regular employee, there are some situations unique to my position. In the technical writing industry, many writers work on a contract basis through an agency. This type of employment is called contracting, although you may also hear it called consulting. I prefer the term contracting because I associate consultants with people whose job is to advise a company on one issue or another. That may or may not describe a particular technical writing assignment.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Careers>Writing>Consulting>Technical Writing

7.
#24991

Document Hack (A Technical Writer's Journal): Changing Bosses

Switching bosses within the same company is not an entirely smooth process. On the day of the crossover, I showed up to work and discovered my badge and my email deactivated. It took most of the day to get security to reactivate my accounts.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing

8.
#24987

Document Hack (A Technical Writer's Journal): First Day

Rule number one for a contractor is to never panic about what happens your first day. First days are naturally chaotic, and often companies are not fully prepared for you. Because contractors are usually brought in to solve a particular problem, the people are anxious to get you started, but companies, especially large ones, are not geared for quick action.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Careers>Advice>Writing>Technical Writing

9.
#24986

Document Hack (A Technical Writer's Journal): Interview and Negotiation

My face-to-face interview with the company was similar to my phone interview. So similar, in fact that more than once I found myself answering the same questions I had answered over the phone. They did throw a couple curve balls at me, however. The strangest question I was asked was, 'If we called your references, what would they say about you?' I was unprepared for this one, and I ended up talking more about my references than about what they would say about me.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Careers>Interviewing>Writing>Technical Writing

10.
#24985

Document Hack (A Technical Writer's Journal): Phone Interview

When I originally spoke to the recruiter on the phone, she gave me a brief description of the job and asked for my rate. We negotiated the rate for a few minutes and came up with an acceptable number ($25 an hour) and she sent me an e-mail with the full job description and a short agreement asking me to confirm her representation and my rate. I sent back my confirmation and that was it for a while.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Careers>Interviewing>Writing>Technical Writing

11.
#24988

Document Hack (A Technical Writer's Journal): The Acrobat and the Illustrator

Using Acrobat, you can make minor edits to a PDF file, but Acrobat documents are very sensitive. Typing a single character can throw several lines off, destroy tables and cause all sort of other troubles. Alternately, it can be relatively uneventful and painless. You will not know until you type in that character.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Document Design>Software>Adobe Acrobat

12.
#24992

Freelance Jobs

A weblog of writing and editing jobs.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Careers>Job Listings>Writing

13.
#24990

From Acrobat to FrameMaker

FrameMaker is the industry standard for writing book-length documents. It is a powerful program capable of creating books of well over a thousand pages. The learning curve for the program is significant. FrameMaker is a much different animal than Microsoft Word and other word processors.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Document Design>Software>Adobe FrameMaker

14.
#30643

How to Find Technical Writing Jobs

There are some key differences between looking for publishing jobs and looking for technical writing jobs.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing

15.
#10825

Living Documentation: The Future of Technical Writing

Living documentation is documentation that does not cease to be developed until the product ceases to develop. Living documentation can be produced at any time in multiple formats. The book, web pages and online help would continue to be developed as long as that development either solves inaccuracy or increases product usability and customer satisfaction.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center. Articles>Publishing>Documentation>Online

16.
#25007

Technical Writing FAQ

What are the primary skills of a technical writer? How do I become a technical writer?

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Technical Writing

17.
#28421

Technical Writing Jobs

A collection of up-to-date advertisements for technical writing positions in industry.

Writer's Resource Center. Careers>Job Listings>Writing>Technical Writing

18.
#25598

Technical Writing Part Five: Education

Education and skills development are vital to a technical writing career. While there are no set-in-stone educational requirements for a technical writer, there are very few writers in the field who do not have a college degree.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Education>Writing>Technical Writing

19.
#24981
20.
#24982

Technical Writing: Desktop Publishing Tools

The production of printed documents using a computer is called desktop publishing. At its most basic, desktop publishing requires a computer, a printer, and some sort of text or graphics program. While you can achieve desktop publishing using something as simple as a word processor, the applications used by technical writers are often more sophisticated and expensive than those used for common office applications. Because technical documents are often longer and more graphically complex than general business or personal documents, they require programs that are designed to handle these tasks. When technical writers do use common office applications, they are frequently required to use features that most users never need. For example, Microsoft Word has index and table of contents tools. Those tools aren’t very flexible and can be difficult to use, but if Microsoft Word is the only desktop publishing application at your disposal you may find yourself putting those tools to use.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Technical Writing

21.
#24983

Technical Writing: Education

Education and skills development are vital to a technical writing career. While there are no set-in-stone educational requirements for a technical writer, there are very few writers in the field who do not have a college degree. There are occasional exceptions to this rule (Some companies provide in-house training, generally to employees who have lost their current position due to a restructuring such as the closing of a manufacturing plant), but for those wishing to enter the field, an academic education is essential.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Technical Writing

22.
#24984

Technical Writing: How to Find Technical Writing Jobs

Step One: Be Qualified Step Two: Demonstrate Your Qualifications Step Three: Make a Contact List Step Four: Call the Employers Step Five: Master the Interview Step Six: Follow Up Step Seven: Go Back to the Beginning

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Technical Writing

23.
#10001

Technical Writing: Overview

Technical writing as a field covers many different areas. Many people, when they think of technical writers, think of user manuals for their favorite (or least favorite) software application. That is certainly one job a technical writer might have, but it is far from the only job. Some technical writers spend much more time working of reference materials, which can take the form of long books filled with technical information but very little in the way of instructions. Some technical writers spend their time creating online help files for people with specific problems that occur within an application. Other technical writers rarely work on new information at all; they spend their time updating old manuals or datasheets. Many technical writers work on a large team focused on creating a single document or set of documents. Other technical writers find themselves in charge of every single technical document an organization produces. A technical writer may create a single sheet of information or a thousand page book. The occupation is very diverse.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing

24.
#25010

Twelve Exercises for Improving Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most difficult aspects of writing to master. There are many pitfalls you must try to avoid, such as: Stilted language Dialogue that does not sound like natural speech. Filler Dialogue that does not further the scene and does not deepen your understanding of the characters. Exposition Dialogue that has the character explain the plot or repeat information for the benefit of the audience. Naming Having one character use another character’s name to establish identity. People almost never say other people’s names back to them, and if they do it is a character trait typical of a used car salesman. Overuse of Modifiers Too many dialogue modifiers such as shouted, exclaimed, cried, whispered, stammered, opined, insinuated, hedged and a million others. Modifiers such as this can sometimes be useful, but are often annoying and used as a crutch for poorly designed dialogue.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric>Screenwriting

25.
#24979

What a Technical Writer Writes

he range of writing a technical writer performs varies widely. Much is dependent on the technical specialty of the writer and of the needs of the company. You may find yourself a part of one large project, or overseeing dozens of smaller projects. You might write manuals, articles, proposals, white papers, product descriptions or any of a hundred other types of documents.

Hewitt, John. Writer's Resource Center (2004). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Technical Writing

 
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