5 Exercises That Improved My Technical Writing
It is always possible to edit a bad page, but not a blank page!
I have worked on multiple projects at a time both fiction and non-fiction. I have a way with words and I love to write.
I always believed that everything in life is writable about. It was a gift that I could write about anything without getting ‘writers block’.
But that was until I picked a technical writing project.
This client asked me to write a detailed technical review on ‘Shopify – website builder software’ that allowed users to create websites without any coding experience. Client provided ‘the good and the bad about the software’ and I did the rest of the research.
When it came to writing, all I could do was to stare at the screen like idiots. The project was so beyond frightening that my thoughts had run dry. I had nothing to write.
At first, I thought it’s because I haven’t done enough research and that’s why I am unable to create a copy. Then I spent more time in research unless I had all the information about that software.
Somehow, I managed to create that first draft. But it certainly was not up to the level of my other work. It did not have a good voice or any voice at all. It was filled with lurching, clichéd writing which was far from being appreciated.
The pressure was building up, deadline was close, clock ticking, and I had already wasted so much time trying to get something on the paper. So, to get over with the project, I asked an editor to finish the shopify-review for me.
To my surprise, the editor had not done much to improve my write-up. Just a little bit of tweaking and language revision. The review was accepted and appreciated by the client.
This project taught me my first lesson for a good technical writing, which was:
1. It is always possible to edit a bad page, but not a blank page
If you are new to technical writing, don’t wait for perfection. It will only build up the pressure and you can never write a word. Instead, look around, find some motivation and keep writing. Do not move away from your computer. Think about the project as a college exam where you have limited time and anyhow you have to get the work done.
The client so much liked the review copy that he asked me to write for his blog and landing pages ‘every week’.
I really wanted to take the project, but then I thought I wasn’t meant to write technical stuff. My ideas were bad. I desperately wished somebody could just tell me “here’s what will actually work”. But that would not happen, I knew. So, I spent next few days learning and practicing technical writing.
Very soon, I realized technical writing was not impossible for me. I just needed to practice few more things before committing on the long term technical writing project. So, here’s what I did and I recommend you to try:
2. Be Prepared
Prepare for your project by conducting effective research on all technical details. A comprehensive research lays the foundation for a brilliant piece of writing. This would just make it easier for you to finish the article without much trouble. But, if you start writing without having enough information, it will certainly show in your content.
3. Get more organized
Technical writing is also about intelligently organizing the facts within the write-up. Sharing too much technical information at once may spoil the reader’s interest. So, the first key to creating a good technical copy is to draft a complete outline of the post “paragraph-by-paragraph”. Plan out what you are going to say beforehand. With a proper outline you are less likely to get blocked into the middle of the story.
4.Stop doubting yourself
As Mark Verkhovski, CEO of aawebmasters.com said, “The worst Enemy to creativity is Self-Doubt”. It may sound like a crazy exercise. But try it anyway. Tell yourself that it is achievable, and start every technical writing project with the drive to make it happen.
5. Give it all you have got – Keep at It
A good writer does not really need to do much more than keeping at it. You might not write well every day, but you can at least create or edit a bad page. Not quitting is a key element in the life of every successful writer. The discipline to stay at it, your level of determination defines where you land as a professional writer.
But most important of all, to learn a new writing style you need to get into the habit of writing every day. Stop letting fear hold you back. Go one step at a time, try adding some technical information in all your write-ups, within a few weeks you will be glad to see the transformation.