Before I landed my current job working remotely for Citrix Systems, I was a free-lance technical writer for about ten years, and I had a page designed to draw in business. Yesterday, I finally got around to ripping all the irrelevant stuff out, and what remains are a few articles about my life as a technical writer and technical writing in general. Check it out!
Technical writing is a very strange line of work. It centers around the intersection between product development and publishing, two very different lines of work.
Then there’s the fundamental problem of writing: it’s hard. It’s almost impossible to get started, and it’s easy to stop. Once you’re in the zone, you don’t want to stop until you’re done. It’s “lock yourself in your office and turn off the phone” work. Different writers have different ways of coping with the problem, which, taken as a whole, tend to explain why people think we’re weird.
I like the “total immersion” method of technical writing: learn everything I can about the topic so that when I start writing, I can plow through to the end without stopping. But that’s just one of many approaches.
One thing that surprises people is that there really isn’t any difference between “technical writing” and “nonfiction writing” in terms of how the actual writing step works. Technical writing just means that you’re writing how-to stuff about a product (mostly user’s guides and reference manuals) and you’re probably being paid by the product’s manufacturer. In othe words, a book about bass fishing is technical writing if its title is “Catching Bass with the Gizmo Complete Bass Fishing System,” but it’s not if the title is, “Backwoods Bass-Fishing Secrets.” This means that general nonfiction writing skills all transfer to technical writing and vice versa.
My technical writing site is HighTechWriting.com.