Know when to slow down (and when to speed up)

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about the importance of controlling pacing in writing

MeInFrontOfAPirateShip_thumb.jpgWe walked across the driveway to the large, black Buick Electra 225, stepped around to the passenger door, put the key in the lock, and opened it. We then slid across the seat, until the driver was behind the steering wheel, and he placed the silver key into the little round ignition and turned the key all the way to the right until the starter engaged. At the same time, under the hood, small jets of gasoline ignited from the spark from the spark plugs, and the 425 cc engine roared to life.

DUDE, DUDE, DUDE … enough already. If this scene is necessary at all, how about, we entered the vehicle from the passenger’s side because the drivers door was jammed. We then headed down the road to …..

Some things, do not need detailed information. Other things do.

For example, it is common when writing for an IT Pro audience, to assume that they are familiar with things like the administrator’s interface. But nowadays, changes come so fast, that everyone cannot keep up with everything. I cannot count the number of times that I yelled at some particularly inane piece of documentation, something like the following: “I know I need to use the XYZ interface, but where do I find the *&^%$#! thing?”

I was recently talking to a person who has been an IT Pro for 20 years, and he was telling me how much he hated Windows 8.1 because it does not seem setup for administration. He could not find the Control Panel. I told him to simply type the word Control on the start screen. He still didn’t understand, “Where on the start screen?” “Anywhere,” I said. The search application will pick up on it, and highlight Control Panel. Once he was there, he was fine. The fact that it took two weeks before someone told him how to find Control Panel was not fine.

Don’t assume that readers already know everything. I find this true, even with so called Advanced or Expert readers. They don’t know everything either. In fact, anyone who assumes that they already know everything about everything, has greater problems, than I can solve in a single book, or a single blog article.

So how do I know what to leave out? I don’t. But what I do like to do, is not repeat myself. I know that people who buy my books do not read them page by page. So I like to include links back to important sections. Things like, “For more information about xyz refer to chapter 12 abc. On blog articles it is even easier, I simply include a hyperlink to the exact item containing the information. Hyperlinks are a pain to maintain, but they really add value to readers – and if I can keep someone from shouting at my books or my blog articles, then it is worth it.

Peace, and have a great day

ed wilson

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