Writing

I’ve been writing. I’m pretty much writing all day and as much at night as I can. I’ve been writing seven days a week.

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I found myself hiding to write earlier this week and thought how hard all this writing might be for someone who doesn’t like to write. But it occurs to me that all testers need to write at least some of the time. And test managers even more so.

So this blog entry, I’m sharing some of my writing tips.

It depends on the environment you work in whether formal documentation with test cases, test protocols, final reports, etc. are required but even in less formal environments, there are test cases that need to be written. Test plans, test protocols, validation reports, defects reports, etc. All tasks that require writing.

Once in a casual environment that I worked in, I wrote high-level test cases in html and posted the test cases on the intranet to share what I was testing and to encourage ideas to be exchanged. Everywhere I work, I leave behind reusable test cases in some format. So there is always writing.

Suggestions:

o Write an outline.
An outline can help you think through what you need to include. Outlines can help you determine major and minor elements. An outline is a good start. Once you have an outline you can work in small chunks and that helps. It’s less intimidating to work on one part than trying to write a “whole” document at once.

o Work in bursts of time
Use your outline. Focus on one section at a time. Set small deadlines. In one hour can you write this one section? (Writing sessions are often like testing sessions, you can work in bursts.)

o Create a conducive environment
Find whether you need quiet or need some noise. Does music help or hinder? Do what you can to make the environment conducive whatever that means for you.

o Think wide then narrow
Write the larger elements first. Look at help files, you’ll typically find great examples of one page pieces written on many topics. I often look at the help file of a product to guide me with my outline. Once you’ve drafted the larger topics, go back through and flush out the details.

o Focus on the content
Never (a word I use sparingly) focus on the length. Word count is for 8th graders who have compositions to complete. Ask yourself if you hand over your writing to someone and if they would understand everything you needed them to. Pretend that you couldn’t talk to the person to explain anything – does the piece you have written say everything you would need it too? That’s what counts.

o Ignore grammar
Acknowledge the value of grammar but don’t let grammar stilt your writing. It’s more valuable to communicate clearly than to have perfectly constructed prose. More people would write and would enjoy writing if they didn’t obsess about writing it “properly.” Get it down. Worry later or ask someone else to edit.

o Don’t confuse writing with editing
Avoid rewriting each time you read through your draft, you’ll never get to the end if you feel you have to “fix” everything as you work. Get it out. Get it down. Nearly everyone likes to edit so you will always get opinions once you have a draft.

For anyone who doesn’t want to hear personal stuff, this is the end of my entry. Good luck with your writing.

For anyone who’s wondering, what is she writing? Read on.

I’ve had nine test protocols I’ve been writing in the past nine working days. I can’t say more than that since I honor confidentiality.

For the month of December, I’ve also had a goal of completing 12 “chunks” of writing (or about 15,000 words if you can’t get over counting) for a writing project I’m working on.

I’ve also been forming and drafting ideas around two different papers I want to write in 2007. I’m starting with the abstracts. I have two ideas lodged in my head – and two different conferences/workshops for which I plan to submit my ideas.

It’s a helluva a lot of writing and time is tight. I have one big advantage; I enjoy writing. Another advantage is that I worked as a technical writer – for seven years, which is a decent block of time. And I was a newspaper reporter for two years and oh yeah; I also majored in journalism with a minor in English (not C.S.) So for me, hiding from people to write is a joy.

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