Hints for a rookie writer?

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fsdenis
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Fri Sep 03, 2004 4:08 am

Gentlemen,<p>Thank you all for your generous and useful comments and suggestions. I will study them carefully and use them to help myself improve my electronics writing experiments over protracted time.<p>I will endeavor to spell "hobbyiest" correctly in future. I will also keep in mind that I should write intelligibly for all English speakers including non-native.<p>My day job is male housewife, a most congenial way
to earn a living. One hopes that all the women out there who have gone out to hassle with the big boys and girls in the real world will stay with it and leave housekeeping to those who appreciate having many hours each week to devote to beloved projects.<p>I do see that the electronics hobbyiest market is quite thin and the notion of somehow earning my living serving this market is more than a little ambitious. But, I can try!<p>My reason for attempting power analog electronics developments was and is to support my structural and mechanical design efforts in alternate energy capture, storage and application. <p>It is conceivable that, this time, our senior magician politicians will not be able to pull another rabbit out of the hat to keep the international price of oil low. As energy prices rise in this country, keyed to oil prices, hobbiest interest in alternate energy might be rekindled. <p>If we have developed power electronics for beginners to beyond 1500 watts and made it easy, cheap, reliable and comprehensible to do; then perhaps we have a chance to see a resurgence of analog electronics in this country. Maybe even industrially for those of us who would like to earn our living doing what we love.<p>Thanks again for your help. It has been well and gratefully received.

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Fri Sep 03, 2004 4:18 am

Oops. Hobbyist. Amazing I blew that again!

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Chris Smith
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Chris Smith » Fri Sep 03, 2004 9:40 am

You know there is a edit button here? Little pencil on paper Icon. No need to post a oops!

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haklesup
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by haklesup » Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:01 pm

A book on alternate energy capture, storage and application might just sell pretty well as there is good general interest by those who would want to install or have installed one of these systems. This has much better market potential (voltage) :) than general purpose electronics projects and advice.<p>This is also a topic where a successful project can bring real continuing cash reward to the experimenter. Certainly worth investing in a book since a wrong descision can mean buying expensive equipment that won't work for the purpose. This is also an industry, destin for great growth in the future.<p>Forget about articles and piece work, go for a full book on how to practically design, purchase components and install any one alternative energy system. If the first book sells well, you can do another on a different technology and before long you are a franchise and can demand high rates for your writing :D <p>Good illustrations, both drawings and photos will make the book far more interesting. In a very well written how to, a smart person can almost do it from the captions and illustrations alone. No one wants a manual that reads like a novel. I like to flip to a picture that looks like what I want then read that page.<p>These days of the internet, you no longer need to get a traditional publisher to buy into your book and print 10,000 copies. You can make a modest investment to get 100 copies printed and sell your own on the web and use advertizing in N&V etc. to find customers. There are even publishers who specialize in small runs.<p>Another proven way to make money with Original (and sometimes not so original) printed material is to make informational pamphlets about 10-15 pages in lenghth and sell them for $2 in high volume. This plan usually requires that you place many low cost classified ads and (dare I say it) SPAM (please don't :confused: ). Many people will take a chance with a few bucks to get information they need even if it is in the library, it becomes a convenience issue if the price is low enough<p>Often this market model is used to sell "get rich quick scams" and indeed many of the pamphlets give detailed instructions on how to sell more of the same pamphlets but the method is proven to work for many years (predating the internet) and with fresh useful information, it is not a scam at all.

fsdenis
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Sat Sep 04, 2004 5:01 am

Chris Smith:<p>I don't seem to be able to see the edit icon you
described. Is "here" the post reply page?

I would find this edit feature useful. I'll keep
looking for it.<p>Thanks.<p>OK. I found the edit icon on far right of each forum entry in the displayed thread pages. This
is an experiment to try it out.<p>[ September 04, 2004: Message edited by: windmiller ]</p>

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Sat Sep 04, 2004 5:38 am

haklesup:<p>There is good stuff here in your comments.<p>Writing a full book is beyond my capabilites as
a writer just now. I need to practice on much smaller projects for a while until:<p>1) I quit getting lost in complexity, losing focus, and being forced to quit.<p>2) I quit "elephantiasis", expanding my topic more and more as I write until I've got an elephant where I should have a mouse.<p>3) I'm giving good explanations of how my circuits or devices work that satisfy beginners as well as pros and ALL english speakers. I tend
to jargon, abbreviations, insider humor. And I tend to think a schematic says it all. Comments by
several of the contributors to this thread are starting to "soak in" to show how I might make this substantial improvement in my writing.<p>I've written a pamphlet in PDF format with illustrations that comes in under 15 pages and sells on EBAY (search: parallel transistors) for
$3.75. (How to Parallel Power Bipolar Transistors and Put Them to Work ...). <p>I get very good feedback from satisfied customers with the comment that the content is much better than advertised.<p>They are right. And writing my advertisement is a
major problem in itself. This is another reason I've asked you and others here for hints. I've not been able so far to improve this ad nor figure out how to approach thinking about it in a way that works.<p>But I will keep trying. And I suspect the hints and comments in this thread just might lead to my being able to see what I'm missing that might push my ad writing "over the top".<p>Many thanks for giving me your thinking on this conceptually difficult problem.

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by wd5gnr » Sat Sep 04, 2004 6:58 am

I'll weigh in. I have made part of my living from time to time as a magazine columnist or editor (editing generally pays better). However, I've never been able to make much money writing electronics articles and have stuck mostly with software development magazines (Dr. Dobb's, Web Techniques, Visual Developer, etc.). Even those have fallen on very bad times lately.<p>Books used to be a slightly better bet, but that market has been sagging lately (I've written a few books for McGraw Hill, Addison Wesley, M&T, R&D, and Coriolis to name a few).<p>On the other hand writing is a great form of expression and is a great way to share what you know with a lot of people. Not all of the benefits are monetary. But the monetary benefits are shrinking in this economy.<p>However, if you are interested I have a little white paper I wrote years ago on this subject. Some of it is dated (for example, everyone submits Word files now days). But you still might find it interesting:
http://awc.al-williams.com/magwrite.htm

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Sun Sep 05, 2004 4:41 am

wd5gnr (Al Williams):<p>I've printed a copy of your piece "So You Want to Write Magazine Articles" for study.<p>Your notions on FOCUS and saying very early what the article is about seem to be grabbing my attention as relevant to my difficulties just now.<p>Thanks.<p>Fred Denis

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haklesup
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by haklesup » Sun Sep 05, 2004 10:14 am

"1) I quit getting lost in complexity, losing focus, and being forced to quit."<p>Outline, Outline Outline and I will say it again, Outline.<p>The outline view in Word is great. You can type in the outline, indented looking like a good set of notes. Then you can rearrange the topics as you need to to smooth the flow of the subject. Finally type in the paragraphs between the headings.<p>I can pump out a 150 page manual in a week when I need to but only if I start with a coherent outline.<p>2) I quit "elephantiasis", <p>Again, the Outline will help you stay on track and better visualize the flow of the subject. Avoid adding topics once the basic structure is decided.<p>How could I forget about eBay. Just as good as a clasified and much faster service. (I love instant gratification)

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Mon Sep 06, 2004 5:14 am

hacklesup:<p>The notion of completing a 150 page manual in a week is IMPRESSIVE. At my present skill level, I would need two years to make a mess of it and would wind up with 1000 pages.<p>Outlining as a strategy for effectiveness and efficieny in writing is a scheme I've seen mentioned before. And I've tried it and failed.<p>However, it seems the big point blew by me. I thought I understood what was said, but didn't.<p>Maybe this is the big but deceptively simple mistake I've been making. I'll start with outlining whatever is my next piece and, this time, respect the problem a little more even If I must "camp out" on the outlining problem for weeks until I seem to be getting a feel for it, appreciating it somehow.<p>There is one other obstacle I've run into as I attempt to write something comprehensible and useful in power electronics: Bipolar transistors are MUCH more than they seem from study of the literature.<p>Benchwork indicates:<p>1) There is a "werewolf effect" in their structure. There is the "Hyde" mode of operation where beta gain is meaningful and the transistor operates as an adustable current limiter. This the familiar mode of operation, but strangely alien to human understanding, even by the old pro's.<p>2) There is a "Jekyll" mode where beta gain is meaningless and the transistor operates as a constant value resistance. Nowhere have I found this mode appear in characterizations of transistors, yet it is enormously useful and easy to understand- if I can present the characterization well. The problem is that both base current and collector current must be simultaneously controlled to achieve this characterization and current controlled circuits seem outside what us humans can think about.<p>There are several other discoveries I've made of bipolar transistors. The point here and the mystery here is why are these discoveries left for me to make 70 years after the invention of bipolar transistors? It can only be the alienness of thinking associated with current controlled current devices. I think.<p>Any notions about tangling with the problem of writing this "alien science fiction" with enjoyment and understanding possible to the reader?

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haklesup
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by haklesup » Thu Sep 09, 2004 11:54 pm

Granted, 150 pages of heavily illustrated S/W manual. Not quite the same as margin to margin 10 point text.<p>If you keep ending up with long works then maybe that is what it takes. Surely there have been voluminous books on the subject of transistors. I have several on my shelf. I doubt I have read <1% of any of these reference books. Try breaking your work up into smaller pieces and selling them separately. Anecdotes about your experiences working with transistors would make it more readable and personal IMHO.<p>I once got a resume from a guy and it started out “everything in electronics was discovered before 1970” A bit pretentious if you ask me. Most books explain how transistors are intended to work. I have heard of some unique uses for transistors that may take in effect the “Hyde” mode of operation but these are usually side notes or from discussions with other engineers.

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Fri Sep 10, 2004 6:22 am

haklesup:<p>My approach to developing analog power electronics seems to be evolving into a system that permits me to design and build something I need, doing something useful immediately, when I have been away from electronics for a long time and am coming up from "cold".<p>Conceptual simplicity (with uncertainty, mystery and the prospect of detailed unwanted problems eliminated) seems central to this system strategy as it evolves.<p>When I am coming up from "cold" I AM a beginner so it seems that writing for myself might be close to writing for others.<p>I notice, as I attempt contributions to threads here, that the questions greatly aid my ability to focus on answers, knowing where to start and where to stop. Might I be right in this observation?<p>I'll try to look into the notion of using anecdotes to help me to come up from cold when I am my customer.<p>I'll try to start breaking my system up into pieces, useful in themselves, as potential publications. Maybe using the guidance of forum questions to help myself know where to start, stop, and how to make the material useful and entertaining.<p>I may even find a way to break into thinking properly with respect to outlining with these additional hints from you.<p>Thanks once again.

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Enzo » Tue Sep 14, 2004 8:38 pm

Outlines are important. Don't try to out-think yourself, an outline is nothing more than a description of what you intend to do.<p>The whole point of writing for publication is to convey something to the reader. Be it technical information or just your sense of humor, you have to get your point across. In that effort you must identify your audience, identify your message, determine the depth, and consider the vehicle.<p>Writing for engineers requires a different approach from writing for basement hobbyeiststs. Writing a piece for a magazine is different from writing a book. Writing for a professional trade magazine is different from wriiting here. And "ten swell tricks for bipolars" is fundamentally different from "the physics of semiconductors."<p>That is what the outline helps you do. If I am writing about how to turn on a light bulb (yes, I know I should really call it a "lamp") with a transistor, I would write at a completely different level in a hobby magazine than I would in an engineering weekly for automotive engineers. The engineers already know how to make a transistor be a switch, but they may need some insights into temperature and humidity issues, lamp selection, candle power, radiation patterns, and who knows what else. But for a kid to make a simple indicator these things are beyond the topic.<p>I am a writer, but do not consider it an income activity. I am working on a book, and have had a monthly column in a couple of technical magazines in years past. In the book I have the room to expand on a topic, and if I need to I can include supporting topics. On the other hand, my column had to fit in a certain space. I was not free to run over a half page. SO in that case I either have to make sure I can clearly present my topic within the space allowed, or I have to alter the topic to fit.<p>If my piece is too long, and I have hung a bunch of extraneous stuff on it, I go back and decide what is central to the theme, and what is tangential stuff that may well be interesting, but doesn't really add to the message. Fitch the extra stuff.<p>I also write letters to my local paper. They have a 150 word limit. I find I have to tighten up my style. SOmetimes I must forego a clever turn of phrase for lack of room. It helps me think in terms of efficiency, and makes me focus on wasteful verbiage.<p>"My friends and I were talking on the way home from class and we all felt that the election campaign was getting nasty." Can just as well be put, "SOme feel that the election campaign was getting nasty." I saved fourteen words there by eliminating the chaff. No one cares where you got the thought unless that fact is important to the story, in this example.<p>I have to disagree with the idea we should spell out capacitor and potentiometer every time. It gets clumsy and repetitive. Cap and pot are accepted abbreviations for these items and I sincerely doubt there will be any confusion between these meaning for those words and the alternative hat and cooking vessel senses.<p>And the above advice to be clear is right on. Why say "there was a circuit path interruption due to a failure in the current limiting component," when "there was a blown fuse" conveys it nicecly? I notice in our culture a tendency to "jargonize" things, and that is something to be avoided.<p>I love handing it to the janitor, that is a great way to check your writing. I believe in writing in what I call an approachable style. Not formal, but conversational, so as not to be intimidating. Remember who your readers are.<p>WHile explaining things, practical examples are always a great addition. Why we do something is just as important as how we do it.<p>I wish you great success, but if you are planning to make a living at it, well, don't quit the day job, so to speak.

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Enzo » Tue Sep 14, 2004 8:42 pm

Here is another small observation.<p>At the top of the thread is the statement, "This topic is comprised of pages 1 and 2." That is wrong. The topic comprises pages 1 and 2. Nothing is "comprised of" anything.<p>This word is misused all the time. If you are unsure, substitute the word "includes." If it makes sense, you have it right. If it sounds wrong, it is. "This topic includes of pages 1 and 2." See what I mean?

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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Wed Sep 15, 2004 3:02 am

Thanks Enzo:<p>Several things leap out from your post:<p>1) "An outline is nothing more than a description of what you intend to do." This seems to be relating focus and outline. I'll let it "soak in".<p>2) "Identify your audience." This, so far a real problem for me. I am a technician, engineer, physicist, hobbyest but seem to think differently from my fellows in ways difficult to identify that cause real trouble in my knowing what to write that will be useful in practice, and well received. I will continue trying. Maybe I'll ultimately see into this.<p>3) "Approachable style." This makes much sense. I usually fail by being either overbearing or timid.
I can continue trying here as well.<p>4) "Keep your day job." Clearly, even if there were riches to be earned in this field, this skill is going to take me a while. I will keep my day job.

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