Archives For writing

Git for Technical Writers

December 1, 2014

I was fairly slow to adopt Git (having been raised on other version control tools), but, needless to say and like most of us, it’s now a daily component of my work flow. And certainly using Git myself is a much different beast than using Git in a massive organization with hundreds of engineers all working from the same code base. Which is to say: there’s still plenty of room for my Git skills to grow.

Recently, though, I’ve come to appreciate another value of Git, which hadn’t previously crossed my mind or been written about elsewhere (such that I’ve seen):

Git is a valuable tool for technical writers.
One interpretation of that sentence is that you can use Git to manage revisions to a document. Sure. That’s completely logical and not surprising. But I’ve found something more nuanced in my Git usage as a technical writer.

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Over the weekend, I gave my “How to (not) Get Rich Writing Books” presentation at the 2013 Pittsburgh TechFest. I’ve posted my slides at SpeakerDeck, with my presentation notes. My notes are essentially my verbatim script, which I first write out, then memorize, and then try to forget sufficiently to make the actual presentation feel more natural.

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My first book, PHP for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide, came out about 12 years ago now (it covered both PHP 3 and 4!). In the dozen years since then, I’ve written 22 more books (including revisions), with three different publishers. About 2-3 years ago, I first started thinking about self-publishing a book, and as of Fall 2012, am finally doing so with The Yii Book. I occasionally get asked, probably by people that also want to self-publish, about the tools I’m using for writing and self-publishing this book: technically speaking, how am I doing it? The introduction to the book does discuss this, but as not everyone has purchased the book, I thought I’d write up my process.

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When I compose a newsletter, I look at my well of possible materials–questions, links, blog posts, etc., and try to come up with a theme, if at all possible. When looking at these this time around, the ones that seemed most worth sharing immediately all focus on, well, me. For example, there’s the presentation I gave to Boston PHP: you can view the slides and the raw video of it. Or there are some articles that I’ve published online that you might like. And there’s the status on “The Yii Book”.

So this newsletter is far more me-centric than most, but hopefully it’ll be of use to you still. Because, presumably, you subscribed to this newsletter in the first place because you were interested in what I’m doing, thinking, interested in, and so forth.

Also, if you do have something you’d like me to write about, address, or answer in future newsletters, now is a good time to send that in, as my well of topics is getting shallow. I think my next newsletter is going to be on goals, if you have any thoughts or questions along those lines (e.g., technologies to learn, ways to learn, etc.). I’ve also got an upcoming newsletter planned on public speaking.

And, as always, thanks for your interest in what I have to say and do!

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This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series What It Means To Be A Writer

So you’ve finally done it: you’ve written and published a book. Congratulations! That’s excellent news. Of the many things I’ve figured out when it comes to being a writer, none is more true than this: It’s much, much better to have written a book than it is to be writing a book. Writing a book is hard, but having written a book is great.

But your life, and your job, as a writer isn’t over now (whether or not you ever do another book), it’s just beginning a new phase. If you’re unfamiliar with the mechanics of actually writing a book, then what happens next is going to be even more of a surprise.

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