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32

Close the intro. Promise yourself that you will write it last. Start a blank Scrivener page. Start writing down everything that comes into your head about the topic. Follow your thoughts wherever they lead, but make each thought a new line. Don't organize; just write. When you run out of steam, go back to the top of the list, look at each thought, and ...


22

Am I allowed to beat the drum for Scrivener again? :) Scrivener is a tremendously flexible writing program which allows you to rearrange your items easily, by dragging around icons, by putting up virtual cards on a corkboard, or setting things up in outline format (the Outline view is right in the top bar). Each item of your outline is a document, which ...


17

You can effectively use passive voice when the action is more important than the actor. For example, if you were writing about the effect of pollutants on a river, you might introduce the facts in the passive voice, because in terms of the effects, it doesn't MATTER who did the action: "The pollutants were released into the lake in 1979. Significant ...


16

A non-technical test reader would be a helpful resource. Because of your knowledge you are blind for so many details, which you take for granted and couldn't believe that other do not know them. Listen to a test reader, what he does not understand, is the way to identify these blind spots. The problem with this approach: you need regularly new test readers, ...


12

Knowing who your audience is makes for a good first step. Writing end user documentation isn't the same as documenting an API, and shouldn't be approached the same way. Your audience defines everything that comes after, and how simply you need to present concepts. As Lauren noted, writing simply and plainly is solid advice, no matter who you audience is. ...


12

Don't worry about them stealing your idea. Ideas are cheap. Publishers care less whether your idea is original than whether you can execute well on your idea. Here is an excellent article about the topic. And another from O'Reilly books. So I'd say that you should reveal as much about the book as you need to in order to impress the publisher. You have ...


11

One thing you can try (something I have just started trying), is the "fieldstone" method (cf. Weinberg on Writing). The analogy goes that when you are building a wall, as you walk in the field if you find a good stone, you put it in your pocket. Writing kind of works the same way: as you go about your day, you read things, you find something that interests ...


11

Ingram is the largest book distributor in the business. You can call their automated stock check number at (800) 937-0995. Enter a book's ISBN, and you'll get back its current sales data. You can also get Amazon's historical data by signing up for an account at TitleZ and selecting the books you want to track. Both of the above are free services.


11

I wrote four such books. My first one was 750 pages. The others ranged from 250-400 pages each. My technique was to budget a particular number of pages or a particular amount of time each day to write. For myself, I found that if I wrote more than about 4 pages per day (6 on a good day, it varied), I would quickly get burned out. That's 2000-3000 words. ...


11

Have you considered (re)using Personas? A well defined persona can make it much clearer to talk about features as you remove a "layer of abstraction", making it easier for non-technical readers to understand. Your examples might change (with a little introduced context) from ... "Users will now be able to..." "...opens up the creation of $feature ...


11

Proviso: I am not a lawyer. Here's a good article on Fair Use; it might answer your question. You say you'd like to use many quotes from the same author; if you are writing a critique of the author's work, or a biography of him, or some similar piece about the author which you are backing up using the quotes - then you're on pretty safe ground. If, on ...


10

Short answer: no. Nevertheless, it's a plus. It is good to have a deep knowledge of the field you write about, so your documents have more weight and insight. I'd choose, given the same writing skill level, a person with technical background over one with no technical background, if what I'm looking for is technical documents. Why not have the edge, if ...


10

I'm not sure if there's a good, quick fix for this. I learned how to write English in an intelligent, formal manner from learning German, and reading lots, and lots, of English. Anyhow, avoid "kind of" and "sort of." That used to drive my English teachers crazy. Also avoid the verb "to be" when possible. Sometimes "to be" is the best option, but not as ...


10

Users are usually categorized by their role, so you could write: "Managers will now be able to..." Also, some processes use a hypothetical first person to write about features, such as: "As a manager I should be able to..."


9

Before I give some suggestions, the best advice I can give you is speak to a lawyer directly about your personal situation. Unless there is one on the forum, I really wouldn't take any other advice as gospel, including what I'm going to say below. Also, legal issues will differ from country to country, so what's true in the US may not hold true in the UK ...


8

Emphasize effects over causes By this I mean don't lead your readers through the tall weeds, pointing out every individual weed. Walk them around the edge, showing them the size and shape of the field. Your non technical reader cares about and understands things like "the server crashed and the website was down for six seconds, resulting in a ten million ...


8

-ing. I am a tech writer, and this is typically how we word titles of sections that focus on how to accomplish a task.


8

The only study on bullet points I could find was done by Chris Atherton looking at the usage of bullet points in Power Point slides, and this concluded that they did not work when it came to the audience remembering the information presented. However, in written form, this study would likely not apply since it's a completely different setting. Something ...


8

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and the following is just the result of some Google searching. You're allowed to publish basically anything you want; the concern is not whether you will be able to publish it to begin with, but whether you can be sued (for libel or misrepresentation) later on. Even if you would win such a lawsuit, it would probably be expensive ...


7

I would encourage you not to do something you find unethical. The writing will suffer, and it probably won't be worth the rewards to put out a product you regret. I think this article on the subject of creative non-fiction is a good one. The "cornerstone principles" it describes are: Do not add. This means that writers of nonfiction should not add to a ...


7

In the initial stages I think you have to free yourself from the notion that you are meant to be producing anything that will resemble your finished book. As you are writing a non-fiction volume you will, of necessity, exist in an eco system of non-fiction works which surround the topic of your work. At this stage it is not inappropriate to re-read and ...


7

I think you could combine both approaches (directly after and end of book): Directly under give the shorthand solution (just the bottom line of the answer) and at the end of the book give a more complete solution (the full solution). This way, the studends can make sure they have come to the right solution immediately. If they didn't, they can refer to the ...


7

Congratulations on your book offer! It depends on how quickly the publisher's legal department generates and sends the contract to you and/or your agent. One service your agent should be providing is contract review to remove the onerous clauses that publishers almost invariably attempt to insert into contracts, especially with first-time authors. For ...


7

The answer: yes, there is such a guide. There are many such guides, at the publishers' websites. Now on to the dessert: If the topic is on computers, no doubt you'd like a publisher like O'Reilly. Here they have a step-by-step guide to getting published by them. I'm pretty sure several other computer science/technology related publishers will have guides ...


7

In English "brain" typically refers to the organ itself. The gray and white matter; the neurons. You probably want to say that we train our minds. In English, the mind is what controls our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. The brain is merely the vehicle for our cognitive processes. I don't know if other languages account for the difference between the ...


7

Writing biographies like these for a mass audience will require that the reader understand the subject's work. This can be handled by long expository passages, or, as is more frequently done, concepts can be broken up into small, easily digestible pieces. These can alternate with the story of the subject's life, information provided to the reader only as is ...


7

After about fifteen minutes research, I couldn't find an authoritative answer for this. I suspect there's a good reason for this, however: At counts in the tens of thousands, the answer doesn't make much difference. For example, you have a 50,000 word book (by raw body text count). Let's say the work has 100 headings, averaging 6 words each. Even ...


6

Humour can help. For example: Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything



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