Tutorial Writing Tips
This article has been written both for %projecteducate's Community Week and for the second #FeedbackFrenzy contest.
There are many tutorials right here on deviantART, most of which are provided by other deviants for free. All of us can take a look at these tutorials, and hopefully learn something new. While it's wonderful people spend their spare time helping others learn for free, the truth is some tutorials are much better than others. In this article, I am aiming to share my tutorial-writing knowledge to help others make their tutorials better! After all, if you're going to spend some of your spare time writing a tutorial, you might as well make it the best it can be!
What are you good at?First of all, think about what you're good at! If you haven't already decided what you want to write your tutorial on, you'll need to have a think about the sorts of things you're good at, which you could teach others. You don't have to be a master, you just need something which you think you could help others learn to do better!
Think about who your audience isBefore you start writing your tutorial, think about who your general audience will be. This will affect the way you write the tutorial; because you'll need to consider what sorts of things to cover and teach about, and how in-depth you need to explain certain points. For example, if you're writing for beginners, you'll only want to cover topics which are easy for them to grasp. You'll also need to make sure you explain the simple things with more depth, to make sure they understand what they mean. However, if you're writing for more advanced skill levels, you can move onto more difficult topics. Of course, in these cases you won't need to explain the easier topics as much as you would for beginners. In fact, you might not need to even explain them at all, which will save a lot of time. Although obviously, you will still want to explain the key aspects of your topic with depth.
Do some quick planning!After you've thought about your audience, make sure you do a little thinking about your tutorial! Ask yourself a few questions. How are you going to present the tutorial? As a Journal? As a deviation? As a video? In another way? Will you need to find anything out before writing your tutorial? Do you need to do some quick experimentation? Think about what you'll need to collect or gather before you start making the tutorial - for example, if you're writing a tutorial to do with physical art (traditional, sculpture, artisan crafts, etc); you might want to make a rough idea of the tutorial and follow it in your head and take photos of your progress, so that you can include these when you write the tutorial. However, if your tutorial is to do with digital art; you might want to keep that open in another window and work on it while you write the tutorial (taking screenshots as you go). This way, you can describe an exact process without missing anything, and provide screenshots for it. Alternatively, you could follow your own tutorial once it's finished; taking photos and screenshots as you go, and inserting these later.
Keep the audience's point of view in mindIt's very important to make sure you consider the audience's skill level, comprehension ability, and general point of view while you're writing your tutorial! Just because you know something, it does not mean they will. You'll need to consider this especially if you're writing for beginners. For example, if you're writing a digital art tutorial and tell the reader to use a certain feature in the software, tell them where to find that feature. A screenshot is even better. If you don't, they may not be able to find the tool. Likewise, if you're writing a photography tutorial; don't tell the reader to do something with their camera if they may not know how to do it. Instead, explain in depth how they can find said tool or setting on their camera. Maybe even find another camera and take photos . Once again, it's very important to consider who your actual audience is when you think about this. If you're writing for more advanced users, there is no need to explain things they will probably already know. A good way to know how much detail you'll need to include is to think about what you did and didn't know when you were at the skill level of your target audience.
Answer why!This is possibly the most important aspect of tutorial writing. It's crucial that you explain why or how a certain thing is. People will learn far more from your tutorial if you explain these things. What I find usually ruins a tutorial is lack of explanation of why or how. Just think about it: if you were following a digital art tutorial, for example; and you we're told to use a particular tool, but you weren't told why this tool was being used. Obviously since you won't know why you used the tool, you might not realise what it does. As a result, you're not likely to use the tool for your work in the future, or even remember it - meaning you haven't learnt from the tutorial something you could've. In your own tutorials, explaining why you're going through a certain process is important because your audience will know why they're doing it, why it's important, and how they can use it in their future work.
Encourage differenceIf your tutorial is the everyday step by step, do this, do that type tutorial, you are just doing all the work for the audience instead of showing them how. They aren't learning anything. I've tried to follow tutorials which told me, step by step, exactly what to do. I didn't learn a single thing from those tutorials. Since it was an editing tutorial, I might as well have just downloaded presets and used those. Instead of doing this, encourage experimentation. Tell your audience to muck around with a feature a little and see if they can find something they like better. Tell them to spend a little extra time on a certain step, trying to do something different to what they had at first. And tell them not to worry if they got a result different to yours (as long as they are happy with it of course )!
Try the tutorial yourselfLast of all, before you go ahead and publish your tutorial; try following it yourself. I know it may be boring, but it will help you perfect what you already have. You'll be able to make sure your steps are clear and without ambiguous meaning, and that the tutorial flows. And of course, you'll be able to check that your spelling and grammar are in perfect condition!
And this is the end of my article! I really hope it's helped you to improve the quality of your own tutorials. Please let me know if you have any questions. Also let me know if you have any suggestions or disagreements. Happy tutoring!