Hints for a rookie writer?

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fsdenis
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Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by fsdenis » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:41 am

Mostly I rely on experiments to learn a new field,
but sometimes it helps to just ask the pro's and
the "customers".<p>I'm attempting to figure out how to earn my living
writing for electronics hobbiests because:<p>1) I need to earn a living somehow.<p>2) I have an extensive background in analog
electronics and have developed some useful stuff
associated with high current linear and level
shifting power supplies and motor controllers.<p>3) Hobbiests actually care about what they are
doing and go about it purposefully. My favorite
kind of people.<p>I'm attempting to experiment with how to write
for hobbiests by occasionally contributing to
this forum.<p>My latest effort is contained in the "current
source" thread introduced by rosborne.<p>Would any interested pro writer or hobbiest
reader consider critique of my attempt?<p>Impressions vs what I've done right, what I've
done wrong, and how to stay out of unnecessary
trouble would be helpful. <p>And any other impressions or comments. The real
problem early in this game is not knowing what
I might be missing.<p>Thanks for any help you can give.

dyarker
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by dyarker » Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:48 am

Using your post as an example, I'd say you write well.<p>Take your "3) Hobbiests actually care about what they are doing and go about it purposefully. My favorite kind of people." On first pass I'd have probably made it one sentence. The way you did it is how I was taught in Effective Writing class.<p>Acronyms, always spell out the first time they're used.<p>Do show the math for how you arrived at component values. But only one equation, a couple lines of explanation, then one more equation, and so on. Beginners need the math. By breaking it up its less intimedating. I thought Popular Electronics left out too much design. Radio Electronics/Electronics Now, about right. Nuts & Volts, in between.<p>C U L -
Dale Y

Lin Farquhar
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Lin Farquhar » Thu Sep 02, 2004 4:32 am

You could learn to spell hobbyists for starters :)

Engineer1138
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Engineer1138 » Thu Sep 02, 2004 8:01 am

Well, I'm not a pro writer, though I did write a single article that was published by this magazine about 7 years ago. <p>More recently, I took a class in Technical Communications and I used a critique of that article as a homework project. The point that was really driven home is that I needed to pay close attention to who my audience was. Writing for a hobbyist magazine, it's easy for an experienced engineer to not notice that he might be writing over the heads of most of the people the work is aimed at.<p>Referring to the current source thread, I'd suggest that you might have posted a short explanation of how the circuit worked. I understood it just fine, but there was a time I'd have been scratching my head and tracing current flow while thinking about op-amp "virtual short" to figure out what was happening.<p>I liked your response (maybe cause it was very similar to mine :-) and I'm always interested in hearing about projects involving power/analog electronics.<p>And watch out for typos like "hobbiest" :p <p>[QUOTE]Originally posted by windmiller:
[QB]
Would any interested pro writer or hobbiest
reader consider critique of my attempt?

bridgen
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by bridgen » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:00 am

Never use jargon or buzz-words.
If you do, and someone doesn't understand, it will be your fault. <p>Use plain English.
If someone doesn't understand that, it will be their fault. <p>The world and its Granny can use slang - they usually do. Join those of us who can write and speak properly too. <p>Make sure you spell correctly. I speak and write English well but I always have a good dictionary near to hand when I am writing. <p>Make sure you learn the proper conventions. A difficult one, I know, because not many people seem to know them any more.
For instance, upper case "V" for voltage, and note the lower case "v" when it's spelt in full. <p>It may not seem important but it is. The point is that there are many incorrect ways to do most things but usually only one correct way. Learn it. <p>I have been toying with the idea of putting a small treatise on this on my web site.

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Chris Smith
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Chris Smith » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:18 am

Practice, practice, practice, and try getting into the N&V forum, that will tell you something you didn’t already know?<p> Did you write the RIGHT answer, and Write it well?

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Dave Dixon
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Dave Dixon » Thu Sep 02, 2004 10:36 am

David,
My Webster's shows that the primary definition of "spelt" is split piece of wood, or
else a type of wheat. The secondary is British
past and past part of SPELL. Spelled is the preferred past of spell!
Sorry, I couldn't resist. All in good fun,
Dave

zotdoc
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by zotdoc » Thu Sep 02, 2004 11:45 am

I'm no expert at writting but I have a few ideas as to what you could write about that I would buy!There are a lot of us hobbyists who aren't engineers and will never be engineers, so when writting for us you have to assume we know nothing. I have bought several circuit encyclopedias only to discover that I did not know enough to modify the circuits for my particular project. Perhaps you could write a book with a few projects explaining how the circuit works and what modifications need to be made for different uses. For example, it is relatively easy to get information to make a sequential led flasher, but if you want to make a really special flashing sign with hundreds of them us beginners get lost. Similarly, there are a lot of kits for a 12-30 volt motor speed controller, but I would like to make a 90 volt dc motor controller for my bandsaw, so how do I scale it up? I don't know if this ramble helps you but good luck with your endeavour.

bridgen
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by bridgen » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:10 pm

I don't, for one moment, Dave, doubt that Webster's shows all sorts of things.
However, Webster's is an American dictionary. I speak English.
With respect,
David

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haklesup
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by haklesup » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:26 pm

While I have only written a few publicly published pieces, I have written piles of Manuals, lectures, and procedures not too mention about 5 pages of email per day for consumption by my present and potential customers.<p>Some will point out spelling errors but spell checkers work pretty well (watch out for homonyms though)and since this forum lacks one, I also rooteenly misspeel words. Rereading your post helps but if you misspell a word with less than 6 letters, expect a remark.<p>Find a style and develop it. Jargon is Okay if the audience expects it but be mindful that some readers may not be native english speakers and idomatic expressions may not mean anything to them. <p>Use the grammer checker (and turn off that stupid passive voice rule, you often need to write in that style for procedures) and look at the readability stats, it can help trim out the difficult passages.<p>When you look for a job, a good place to start is the National Writers Union www.nwu.org Click on the Job Hotline link and see what kind of listings hiring managers are posting. I once hired a tech writer from here for a single project. There are also resources to help you understand the marketplace for freelancers.<p>
Good Luck

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Externet
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Externet » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:40 pm

Wish everything works well in your new activity, I hope to learn from your posts.<p>¿Do you speak other languages?<p>My personal opinion from a non-English native speaker, is to combat the abbreviated words. It is something I really hate, seems lazyness not writing it properly:<p>Amp… Do you mean Ampere or amplifier ?
Cam… Why not camera ?
Cap… Isn’t it capacitor ?
Pot… It’s potentiometer
Lab… for laboratory or labrador?
Mod… Modification is better
Mrs… yes, it is mistress
Mil… choose for military or 1/1000
Med… new for medicine.
Cab… was it once cabriolet ?
Gas… come on, it’s gasoline.
Max… Just say maximum
Coax… coaxial is correct
Sync… is synchronism
Tech.. just say technical, technology, technician!
Spec.
Demo…
Carb… carbohydrates or carburator ?
And a zillion more plaging technical text every day.
Good luck,
Miguel
:)
- Abolish the deciBel ! -

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Dave Dixon
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Dave Dixon » Thu Sep 02, 2004 12:51 pm

David,
I'm embarassed that I didn't look at the "From" in the tag. Of course you are from the U.K. - it was right there for me to see.
My apologies!
I used to write technical procedures for our Quality Control Department. I would literally pass
them off to our janitor, point him to the test equipment, and see if he could do the test. Not
to say that janitors aren't smart people. He was very non-technical though, and it proved that I hadn't made assumptions in my writing!
Dave

bridgen
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by bridgen » Thu Sep 02, 2004 1:25 pm

Dave, trying out procedures in the way you did is a very good way indeed of checking them and I applaud it. <p>As an aside, we have all seen the warnings in the front of a technical manual which read something like "The voltages which can be developed within this equipment may be sufficiently high to endanger human life." <p>I cross them out in red pen and substitute "The voltages inside will kill you." <p>Regards.

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jollyrgr
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by jollyrgr » Thu Sep 02, 2004 2:28 pm

Let me be the wet blanket at the picnic or the storm cloud over the parade. You have to ask yourself a question; Is there a market for writers for electronic magazines? As far as I know Nuts & Volts is the last electronics magazine being published in the United States. They pay at most $450 per full article. I don't know about you but I cannot get by on that much per month. That is assuming you get published every month. (For those that don't like math this works out to a net $5400 per year assuming one article per month.) Thus you already did not make your first goal; the need to earn a living.<p>It might still be possible to have a writing career and still have it in electronics. But you would need to be a technical writer and convert "Engineer Speak" into common English. Such as writing instruction manuals for home electronics or writing databooks for the industry.<p>As much as I like electronics it appears almost a dead hobby. Radio Shack barely sells parts anymore. Most of the kids I see are appliance users. Some may wire up car stereos or lighting effects in their cars. Still others are into computers and might do a case modification or add fancy lights to the front panel.<p>When I was a kid you could actually have fun pulling a TV or stereo out of the trash and fixing it. The old Radio Electronics magazine (RIP) was so interesting as they had a running column on how to diagnose problems with TVs! I loved this type of stuff. Now if something breaks kids simply ask their parents to buy them a new one.<p>Maybe I'm completely wrong and there IS a market I'm not aware of. Maybe there is a way to make a living at being a writer for hobbyists. Dean, are you out there? You still could have a career in writing about electronics, but I would not expect simply writing for hobby magazines (dare I say the ONLY remaining electronics magazine in the USA) is going to be where it is at.<p>[ September 02, 2004: Message edited by: Jolly Roger ]</p>
No trees were harmed in the creation of this message. But billions of electrons, photons, and electromagnetic waves were terribly inconvenienced!

Dean Huster
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Re: Hints for a rookie writer?

Post by Dean Huster » Thu Sep 02, 2004 3:00 pm

Although Jolly Roger's comments sound depressing and defeatist, they are pretty accurate and serve to be a warning to not quit your day job yet!<p>Writing the "Q & A" column for Poptronics (R.I.P.) paid $250 per column (as in, "per month" not per column of typeset material). Obviously, I did the column for fun and not for much of any kind of income. For the time spent, I could have made a lot more per hour at Burger King. The column was something that I thoroughly enjoyed and the little $250 check each month was a nice little gift.<p>Take a look at Nuts and Volts or any of the old, out-of-print magazines and see how many authors, other than the monthly columnists, were regulars that published several times per year. Those were the ones that were making a little money and it probably wasn't from the articles themselves, but from the sales of kits, books, etc. Don Lancaster is an excellent example of an author like this. Forrest Mims is an author who wrote a LOT but didn't profit from any of it other than maybe with royalities through Radio Shack publications. So, if you expect to make money on the hobbyist side, gear up for the manufacturing end of things. But you could lose your shirt there, too.<p>If you like to write, there are other avenues that may be just as fulfilling. I've spent 20 years writing electronics curriculum for DC, AC, solid state, digital and analog electronics. Technical writing is another area to investigate, but companies often want to see a resume full of experience there. Heaven knows that the Asian market sorely needs folks that can write instruction manuals in English (or even American, Dave and David).<p>You are working in a good direction, though. I began writing the "Q & A" column for Poptronics when Larry Steckler reviewed the old Gernsback Forum and saw that I was posting accurate and humorous answers to questions while never flaming anyone and always treating each OP with respect, especially if they were obviously beginners.<p>When you write, accuracy is paramount. But be yourself and try to link to your reader. The jargon comments ring true. Avoid modern slang or your material will date itself quickly.<p>Dean
Dean Huster, Electronics Curmudgeon
Contributing Editor emeritus, "Q & A", of the former "Poptronics" magazine (formerly "Popular Electronics" and "Electronics Now" magazines).

R.I.P.

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