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First Writing Assignment Wrap Up

weather: light snow
outside: -0.4°C
mood: tired
This wraps up my first writing assignment. Actually, I don't consider it done yet until I see it in print for five consecutive business days with no changes. But for all intents and purposes, it's a wrap.


I'm not sure if this will make a lot of sense to anyone else, but I wanted some sort of post mortem to look back on later.

I approach every new thing with a lot of caution. The easier you think something is, the more afraid you should be, especially if you've never done it before. It means that you don't even have enough knowledge, competence or cognitive ability to realize how badly you could flub it.

Caution doesn't mean I don't do it at all. Caution means I approach things with safety gear, training wheels or whatever I need that gives me as safe an environment as possible to screw up as much as I need to, to learn the skills. In this case, it meant getting early, regular and frequent feedback. If I'm messing something up, I want to know about it early so I can fix it or at the very very worst, give up and find someone to take over.

I have an awesome mentor with infinite patience, which really helps. I gave her my timeline with milestones built by counting backwards from the deadline. I've done this and more than once on previous projects, discovered that OMG I needed to START RIGHT NOW CHOP-CHOP GET-A-MOVE-ON NOT-A-MOMENT-TO-LOSE. This time though, it looked like I had ample time. I went full steam ahead right away anyway. An ample head start can evaporate like *snap* THAT.

I sent her stuff within a few days of starting and sent her regular drafts along the way.

It was like planning a wedding. I want to do everything early and get it out of the way, but things change along the way and I end up having to keep up with the changes. Like a plot twist involving a surprise feature change.

Several of them, in fact. They were good changes, we needed them done. One was scheduled for the next release. Somehow, in the branching and merging of the source tree, one feature wound up in the current project. You just don't have the heart to tell the guys to back out the changes. The others were done without going through proper process. They thought it would be a small, low risk change... that was before I went at it.

You would think that if something is fixed or work is done, that it's a good thing. But that's not always true. Because we didn't expect this change in there, QA now has to do full regression through that area because the risk of bugs is now much higher.

But in the end, we'll bust out everything to try to verify because it really needs to be there.

So, there's A LOT of pressure to put off writing until later, both in terms of being busy and not wanting to re-write the same thing multiple times... which drives me BANANAS. That's not the way I want to do things. Being late is, obviously, completely out of the question, but there's the realization that you can't finish early either. You'll be making updates as long as there are changes.

I came in right on time and then coasted on minor tweaks, which is the ideal scenario. =)

I'm still working as QA as well, so I also wonder if I'm not quite the best person to do the writing. There were a lot of things I missed in the document because I was that close to the project. I took features for granted in certain places. I knew I needed to get it out early and send it around for feedback, so at least there's a bit of time to add the stuff I missed.

Content-wise, I'm learning a lot about writing for a non-technical audience. I knew I would be, so it's just down to doing it. This document will be going to the Marketing department as a formal publication.

I have to follow a Manual of Style. It's a very very useful thing. But it's like a dictionary. You don't always know that you need it. The only way to use it effectively is to just keep at it. Proofread someone else's work. Have your work proofread by others. Ask for feedback.

It's more for terminology, not really for formatting. I'm following the exact same format of a previous document and I'm doing things exactly the way my mentor would. A lot of things I know how to do, but I don't use all the printing/publishing lingo.

I tend to be very verbose in writing, so I was worried that I would blabber on and on. Apparently, that wasn't a problem. So... *phew* =)

I'll probably take on a few more of these assignments over the next 6 months to work on weaknesses. My goal is that by June or July, possibly August of this year, my mentor will be letting me fly solo with these assignments, so she'll be able to concentrate fulltime on the other publications in our humongous backlog.

I also have a technical document to manage along with the other one. This one, I'm not quite as worried about. It's not as formal as the other one. How ever I'm comfortable explaining things in this doc, will be fine. And these guys can call me if I've garbled anything =)

This would also mark the very first time that SysAdmin got pre-release builds. They came back with a showstopper; a missing requirement. So, we had some re-work to do. But even considering that, they got a second pre-release build with their missing requirement fixed.

There are still bugs. It's not ready to be shown outside of IT, but it was installable. They can try installing it to get experience with the new components.

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