Why Choose Technical Writing?

When I was 12 years old, I discovered Writers Digest magazine. It was the most fascinating thing I’d ever read and I was a voracious reader. I wondered why school wasn’t nearly as interesting as publishing and I devoured every issue from that point forward.

By the time I started working at InfoWorld, a microcomputer magazine in Silicon Valley, I knew everything there was to know about writing and publishing fiction, how the book publishing industry worked, and how much money fiction writers could earn.

Yet, in spite of studying the publishing industry for more than 10 years, nothing I had studied could have prepared me for the differences between fiction publishing and technical writing and magazine publishing. They were the same, yet they were worlds apart.

One of the main differences was that InfoWorld was a weekly magazine. That meant that we had weekly deadlines. So we didn’t have time to do multiple rewrites, over the course of a year or more, as book writers sometimes did. I’m saying “did” because today some books are written in a matter of days and published online almost immediately. Things certainly have changed.

I found working on a weekly publication very rewarding because we saw the results of our efforts in only seven days. Every week we had a brand new issue of the magazine in our hands. Whereas, in book publishing, it sometimes took a year or more to see your finished work. By that time, you’d forgotten the heartache, hard work, and effort it had taken to complete the book because you were working on several other books.

But I digress. Back to why to choose technical writing:

Speed is at the top of the list. If you’re an instant-gratification-type-of-writer, many technical magazines are published weekly or monthly. If you write computer user guides, many companies update their products every 12 months and they often want these guides written within 3 to 6 months. Marketing collateral has even shorter lead times.

Boredom is not much of a factor with technical writing (unless technology bores you) because turnaround times are generally fast.

Income is generally higher, much higher, in technical publishing than in other publishing arenas because of the demand and more specialized knowledge required.

Cutting Edge technology is kind of addictive. If you like knowing what’s going on behind the scenes, high-tech is the place to be, although you have to be good at keeping secrets because you only get to know about the new products after you sign a non-disclosure agreement.

These are a few reasons technical writers and editors enjoy working in high tech. What are some of your reasons?

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