Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Instructions Please

I don't know if any of you write instructions or patterns for anything. I have in the past and am in the process right now. I've been a sewer for more years than I care to tell you. I've written quilting patterns as well as tried to follow many different patterns over the years. Some that I've used have been very good and others have been really, really bad. Since I'm in the middle of writing one now I thought I'd go over a few things about writing instructions. 

  1. Include a list of all, absolutely all, required materials and tools. Please don't so as some recipes do which is to include extra ingredients, such as salt, in the text of the instructions. The goal is to make sure the person can have everything collected when they start.
  2.  Use clear photos and illustrations. Make them large enough so they are easily seen and understood by those who have eyesight issues. Remember, just because you are twenty-something all those who use your pattern won't be.
  3.  Don't use large blocks of text. Break it down into single steps. Put illustrations or photos of the steps next too the text. Many people don't follow written directions well. A picture can be worth 1000 words they won't read.
  4. Include a key. This will help if you use several colors. Labels of A, B, C, 1,2,3 mean nothing if there isn't a key.
  5. Include the total number of each part or unit needed. In quilting the total number of blocks, squares, triangles, etc. with each step. This helps make sure the person doesn't end up with too many or, more importantly, too few when they want to finish the project.
  6. Put all general instructions at the beginning of the instructions. Most people won't read all of the directions first even if it's says to. Having these at the end isn't useful. 
  7. Have contact information included so people can contact you if they have problems. Encourage them to share a photo of the finished item. I'm going to have a page with images of the quilts people make from my pattern on my website. 
  8. Have your pattern made by some others before you release it. They'll find any errors which you can correct. It's beta testing just like editing and proofing.

I plan on giving my pattern away. I'll post it on several craft and quilt sites. It's a form of publicity for my books. It will be a pdf download. If I get the pattern finished before this is posted I'll include a link to it. If not I'll take any beta testers I can get.

Sophie Dawson is an award winning author of Christian Fiction, historical at the moment, with six novels available in print and digital.
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  1. Very nice. It helps in general to test your theories in writing by following instructions like this to avoid loopholes. We had to do this for all the jobs at a place where I used to work in HR.

  2. Such great advice. Thanks. I'll file this away for sure.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Obviously, I didn't get the pattern finished. ;) It will be on my website when I do. Don't know when.

  4. I fall into the category you mention in #6. I dive in first and read the instructions later, when I realize I should've followed them to begin with.