Session 07: Drafting Your Guide

Session 06: Backing Up to Scope
Session 08: Drafting the Review and Prototype Phases

Hello and welcome to this session of the “How to Make Guides” project where I’m creating a guide for users to make their own instruction manuals. In the previous session, I took a step back and drafted sections for identifying target audiences and scope. In this session, I will continue to draft the production phase, specifically the “Drafting Your Guide” section.

Right off the bat I predict that this will reference the not-yet-created “how to have a session” guide which gives me pause. I’m considering creating that now but per an earlier session about tackling priorities, it seems that I don’t need to finish that before drafting this section. Anyway, let’s move on.

Looking at the Draft Process

So where do I start? I suppose I should just go over how I’m drafting the guide for this project. I literally started from the top of the outline and conducted journaling sessions for each section. Is that it? It’s so strange that the most time consuming part has the least amount of copy. Oh. I suppose I should add the internal review step. That makes sense.

Here’s my first draft of the section…

Phase 3. Drafting Your Guide

With an outline in hand, it’s time to draft your guide. By the end of this phase, you will have a complete first draft of your guide and have internally reviewed it.

Step 1: Conduct journaling sessions for your outline items.

There is only one step involved to draft: Conduct journaling sessions. Using your outline, start from the top and work your way down, conducting journal sessions until you get to the end. Some smaller outline items may be grouped together to be completed in the same session (the title, version, and summary) while some larger items take a full session (the phases, generally), while still the largest items may need to be broken up into multiple sessions (some appendix items).

When drafting your guide, write your copy in the session notes. This may require many iterations before you are satisfied with them. Once you are satisfied, take the final iteration and place that into the draft of your project document.

While writing, you may discover that something isn’t working – for instance, an item might be missing from your outline or the sequence you’ve planned might not make sense after all. Setbacks like this are perfectly normal and to be expected. In this situation, you’ll want to spend a session or two to journal through the problem. Through journaling, explore what the problem is and identify multiple solutions. Once you’ve decided on the best solution, consider what steps are needed to complete that solution and how those steps will change your task list.

Step 2: Conduct an internal review and make edits.

The goal of this step is to iron out large or simple mistakes that you can catch before sending it to reviewers. Reviewers will find easy-to-catch mistakes before tackling more nuanced editing that you more likely need help with. By removing those easy fixes, you will assist reviewers in digging deeper to provide a more effective review. To conduct an internal review, read the first draft in the following ways:

  1. Silently read through the draft to yourself (and edit);
  2. Read the draft aloud (and edit); and,
  3. Look over the project’s objectives and read through the draft again with the objectives in mind.
  4. Once these three readings are complete, you should be ready for the next phase. By all means, keep editing if you think it isn’t ready for others to read.

That’s good for now. I guess I need to add a section about creating a Project Document to the planning phase of the guide. Should I work on that next or move on to the next phase? What is the next phase? Originally it was Review but I think it’s supposed to be Alpha Test now (confirmed: it is Alpha Test).

I think I’ll save the Create Project Document for later as I have to break up that first phase anyway and I’ll tackle that all at the same time. Leaving that for later won’t hinder progress and I may discover other action items that will affect that section as move forward.

Okay. That’s all for now. See you in the next session.


Maybe the Alpha Test should be included in this phase. Let’s explore this possibility for a second. Draft > Review > Test seems to be a natural sequence. Afterwards, there is a the external review and beta test but those seem like two separate things. However, since that alpha test is an internal thing, I think it – just like the internal review – can be absorbed into the “production phase”. As in, this thing ain’t ready for the next phase until it’s been reviewed and tested internally first.

With that, let’s draft the next step for this phase:

Step 3: Performing an Alpha Test

Once you’ve conducted the three readings, it’s time to perform an alpha test. The alpha test is where you pretend you are a user (or group of users) and follow your guide as they would, step-by-step.

For example, if your guide is an instruction manual for a two-player game, you will follow the instructions as two players new to the game until the game is over. Or if your guide is a tutorial for using a tool, you would pretend to be a new user and follow the steps in the tutorial until completion.

As you perform your alpha test, write down errors, problems, typos. Then once you are complete, edit your guide or conduct a journaling session or two to tackle bigger issues. Feel free to conduct multiple alpha tests until you’re convinced that you won’t be able to uncover any more errors on your own.

The purpose of performing the alpha test is to try to see the guide through the eyes of your users. You’ve spent so much time writing the guide from your perspective that it’s a good idea to shift your thinking to consider how others might see it. This is crucial to finding glaring logistical errors before presenting it an external audience.

Okay! Now I think this is ready to finish. I guess the next session will cover the external review and probably the beta test. See you there!

Action Items

  • Add “Create Project Document” section for planning

Session 06: Backing Up to Scope
Session 08: Drafting the Review and Prototype Phases