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BookSprints: AnnesTips

Tips for sprint writers

Encouraging writers who don't know they are writers yet

With a Book Sprint, often you will encourage people to write who are very enthusiastic about the project but don't have confidence in their writing skills. The general attitude of a Book Sprint comes from the energy of the writer participants, so it is important to foster a positive attitude that there's a lower barrier to entry and that all contributions are welcome, no matter how small in size or uncertain in skills or experience. The participants will bring various experiences with them to the Sprint. Some participants will be great testers, editors, or plain readers who offer comments and suggestions. Professional writers know certain tips and tricks of the trade, starting with a style guide. 

Make sure you create a link to a style guide, or agreed-upon standards and terminology is helpful for writers to know why edits are taking place. Also, writers who come and go can be confident that their edits and new chapters match others. A style guide also helps remote contributors who can look up a question before they ask it.

Since wikis tend to have one "winning" page - the current one - be sure you have an arbitration policy in mind before you start. Is it benevolent dictator, a single editor, or an editorial board? 

I must emphasize the importance of planning ahead and getting participants or the project principles to determine and agree to an audience. Coming to agreement on this basic question "Who will read this text?" can save you many discussions later. The audience selection helps you determine focus for the writing because different audiences have different tasks to achieve.

If possible, fill out the outline ahead of time and base it on task analysis for the selected audience. This method is called "scaffolding" because it offers a framework within which the writers can construct the book that is the outcome.

Try to train writers on the tools ahead of time, by offering a training course or screencast. Even though this book focuses on FLOSS Manuals tools, other collaborative authoring tools may work well for a book sprint.

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