You might not want to read my latest book…

That seems a strange thing for an author to say – but the book I just finished writing is a bit … Well… it has lines in it like…

10 0 * * * root /exc/dbdump Cdiv –f + | gzip –c >      and so on.

I guess this is where I confess that I am a bit of a geek. Or nerd. Or techie… there are a lot of words for it.

In my day job I do database and workflow design with large computer systems for making TV programmes and films. I’ve just finished writing a training course for system administrators, including some pretty advanced IT ‘stuff’. The book is almost 400 pages long. I think that’s longer than any of my novels.

The cover is definitely not as pretty as my novel covers.

Although it’s a totally different type of writing, as I did it, it occurred to me there are some similarities between writing a technical training course book and writing a novel.

First – good grammar and spelling and sentence structure are essential for both. Punctuation too.

A novel has to show an unfolding story – provide some background and explanation – otherwise what happens next won’t make sense. The same is true of a training manual. The early chapters (well… lessons) prepare the attendees for what’s ahead and give them the knowledge they need to carry on.

There’s no dialogue in a training guide, but it does have to contain explanations of various things – presented in much the same way as the trainer does when speaking.

Part of me wants to open the technical book at random and turn something like this…….

… into this and see if any of the students notice.

You have to maintain the reader,s interest in whatever you write – a novel or a technical manual. It’s probably easier in a novel, because the reader is there for enjoyment. Although, a lot of people enjoy learning new things as well.

And of course, there has to be a climax… That’s easy in a novel – the moment of greatest conflict and resolution.

In a training course – it’s the exam. And the happy ever after comes when you pass and get the certificate. And you may even catch the glimpse of a promotion or pay rise in your future.

In totally honesty, I enjoy writing novels more than writing technical manuals – but both provide their own challenges. That’s what I like to do all the time – challenge myself. And I do believe that whatever you write, if you do your best to write it well, the experience will make you a better writer for all things.

And now – it’s back to the Aussie bush and my next novel.