Monday, 29 April 2013

Detailed Instruction Are Hard to Write...

Essential: they have to be written better than flat-pack instructions...

Now I've been having a busy few days in a writing related way- must add to my word count.

Nottingham Writers' Club have a one-day workshop taking place on the 11th May, (plug, plug :-) ) but with all the road closures and tram track construction going on, it's been necessary to update our direction information.

Issue one: You can no longer use the walkway from inside the station to get to the tram platform. You need to leave the station and get to the tram from outside- down the road in this case...

Issue two: The station building is undergoing a massive update, so entrance and exits are different.

So I needed to write out detailed instructions for anyone arriving by train and needing to know how to get to the workshop via the tram.

It was tough.

You have to start with putting yourself in the role of the person needing to access the tram- not something I need to do as I use the bus.
Getting left or right correct.
Instructions to get to the access point for the tram via stairs/ lift depends on whether you come out the front of the building- through a hardboard walk-through tunnel, or via the side exit- nearer to where you have to go...

Once you get off the tram it's a brief walk. But it only takes being vague about where you cross over the road and the hapless writer could end up in the cinema or the shopping centre, so it does become a little bit like dot to dot with a few landmark buildings thrown in to help.

Almost there.
Crossing the road without getting run down by the traffic coming round the corner, it takes you a little out of the way you need to go, so remember to say, go right then immediately left.

I had to mentally imagine what would be seen, and produce the right description to ensure the walker looked in the correct direction; one minute you're following the road and then you suddenly have to ignore it - as it turns away from where you're going.

The last fifty yards was rewritten three times!

And then I began editing- well it was a bit long, and people might give up reading it.

Changing one word for a much better descriptive word, then realising that no, the first one was the best, and yes I could make that sentence shorter...

Finally I was finished. I tell you, writing fiction is much easier and less headache inducing.

Now I just hope the powers-that-be don't make any more changes between now and the 11th May...


  1. Phew! That's a relief. I clicked on here 5 minutes ago and couldn't get anything! As for detailed instructions - I have to write them out long and then cut - just like my other writing!

  2. Blimey! Sounds like Nottingham is being redesigned. Don't envy you having to write those directions out at all...

  3. When I worked at Marconi I had to write test instructions for fibre-optic networks. I had to make them clear, concise and unambiguous. It's not as easy as a lot of people imagine and I can understand how tough you found it. I think the need to pay attention to detail has stood me in good stead for my fiction writing.

  4. I don't know which is worse, Carol - trying to write them out, or trying to follow them! Creative writing should be a doddle now.

  5. Lizy, glad it was only a temporary hitch. And you're right about long then cut.

    Maria, it is a bit that way at the moment. There are three major projects all taking place at the same time...

    Keith, you're right, I've found it has assisted the fiction writing. :)

    You're right, Rosemary. Fiction writing does seem to be easy now. :)


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