Four Tips for Pair Writing

I am shepherding an experience report for XP 2016. A shepherd is sort-of like a technical editor. I help the writer(s) tell their story in the best possible way. I enjoy it and I learn from working with the authors to tell their stories. The writers for this experience report want to pair-write. They have four co-authors. I offered them suggestions you might find useful: Tip 1: Use question-driven writing When you think about the questions you want to answer, you have several approaches to whatever you write. An experience report has this structure: what the initial state was and the pain there; what you did (the story of your work, the experience); and the end state, where you are now. You can play with that a little, but the whole point of an experience report is to document your experience. It is a story. If you are not writing an experience report, organize your writing into the beginning, middle, end. If it’s a tips piece, each tip has a beginning, middle, end. It depends on how long the piece is. When you use question-driven writing, you ask yourself, “What do people need to know in this section?” If you have a section about the software interacting with the hardware, you can ask the “What do people need to know” and “How can I show the interactions with bogging down in too much detail” questions. You might have other questions. I find those two questions useful. Tip 2: Pair-write I do this in several ways with my coauthors. We often discuss for a few minutes what we want to...

Four Tips to Writing Better and Faster

A colleague asked me for some tips about writing. With hundreds of articles, blog posts, and 10 books, I know what works for me. I suspect some of these ideas will work for you, too. Tip 1:  Write every day. Write for 15 minutes every day. This practice exercises your writing muscles. For me, it’s a little different than all the email I write Tip 2: Think about the stories you want to tell in an article. Start with an interesting situation (before), in the form of a story. Show/tell about the transformation/change. Wrap up with a pointer back to the story. Consider some number of tips. Here are some examples from my blog: Three Tips for Product Owners, 4 Tips for Preparing for a Project or Program Manager Interview, Six Tips for Answering Project and Program Manager Interview Questions. If you can illustrate the tips with stories, that’s even better. I find I need to keep the number of tips to less than 9 (7 or fewer is even better) for people to read it. Contrast stories of two teams: one team did this. One team did that. Here’s why they both succeeded/failed/whatever. People love stories. If you include a story, they will identify with it and love your work. That’s because they can identify with the situation, regardless if they agree with you. You might not like my story approach. Think about what you like to read. What pulls you in? Write like that (not the same words, the same approach). Tip 3: Writing is not editing. For me, writing is about 3 parts: Gather the ideas. If you want to...

Want to Write Non-Fiction Better?

If you write as part of your job, I have a new online workshop starting in March. It’s Writing Workshop 1: Write Non-Fiction to Enhance Your Business and Reputation. Here’s the problem I see. You’re a consultant or other entrepreneur. You know you need to write to enhance or build your reputation. You see a blank page (paper or screen), and you have no idea what to write. Maybe you can start, but you get 23 words in and get stuck. Maybe you get 5,000 words in, and you know there’s good work in there, but you can’t see it. If you would like to address these challenges (and more), and deliver non-fiction articles, blog posts or newsletters to your readers, this workshop is for you. You’ll learn: How to make writing a habit. How to structure an article that people want to read. Write articles or blog posts or whatever that engage your ideal reader and build your reputation. What writing is. What editing is. How they are different. How to decide when to place your writing where. You will write during this workshop. We will focus on short non-fiction, such as blog posts and articles. I am the only person who will read your writing. I have published over 500 articles and well over 1500 blog posts. I write two columns each month and two quarterly columns each year. (If you have ever been part of a critique group, you know sometimes they savage you with feedback. I won’t do that.) I am a professional technical editor, as well as a writer. I am focusing this workshop for people...

Do Teams Gel or Jell?

In my role as technical editor for agileconnection.com, I have the opportunity to read many terrific articles. I also have the opportunity to review and comment on those articles. One such comment is what do teams do? Do they “gel” or do they “jell”? Gel is what you put in hair. When you “gel” things, you create a thick goo, like concrete. Teams are not a thick goo. Teams are flexible and responsive. Jell is what you want teams to do. You want them firm, but not set in concrete. When teams jell, they might even jiggle a little. They wave. They adapt. They might even do a little dance, zigging here, zapping there. You want to keep the people in the teams as much as possible, so you flow work through the teams. But you want the people in the teams to reconsider what they do on a regular basis. That’s called retrospecting. People who have their feet in concrete don’t retrospect. They are stuck. People who are flexible and responsive do. So, think about whether you have a gelled or a jelled team. Maybe I’m being a nitpicker. I probably am. Our words mean something. If you have an article you’d like to publish, send it to me. You and I will craft it into something great. Whether or not your team jells....

Agileconnection Wants You!

If you follow the Agile Journal, you know that it was hacked beyond repair last fall. I was quiet about wanting more articles. But now, the site is up and ready for business. Go look at agileconnection.com. I wrote a column about how things have changed in From Agile Journal to Agile Connection: A Look Back at 2012. And, I, the agileconnection.com technical editor, want You! Yes, I would like you to write an article for us to post on the site. We prefer articles that run between 1000-1200 words. We can take them shorter. If they are longer, we will run your article in parts or work with you to make your article shorter. Our readers love articles that tell a compelling story. Tell us a story of success or failure. Tell us how you used agile in a surprising way. Sure, change the names to protect the innocent/guilty. If you’re not sure how to do that, I will work with you to help. Tell us how things were terrible at the beginning. Tell us what happened when you used agile or lean approaches. If you have data or metrics, even better. The more specific you are, the more our readers will be enthralled, and the happier we will all be. You send in a story and it comes to me. I work with you to make sure you are saying what you want to say. I help you craft your story into something you can be proud of. Once we’re done, the story goes to copyediting. Our copyeditors make sure your prose follows the site conventions. They...

Leanpub Podcast Up

A few weeks ago, Peter Armstrong interviewed me for Leanpub, to ask me why I enjoyed writing on Leanpub. That podcast is up now on the Leanpub Buzz page. What’s very funny is that the interview is a few weeks old. I had no idea he was going to post it right after I wrote Dear Author. About 11 minutes in, I talk about the boring trap, the passive voice trap in my own writing. I think this is pretty...