Be Your WIP’s Project Manager

The more rounds of revision I do, the more I think about my former day-job in software project management. I’ve come to realize that the principles of project management–as un-creative as that sounds–can be a big help to my WIP. Here are the big three I’ve been thinking about along the way:

  • Shoot for success:
    • Set specific measures of success: Think about what you aim to do with your WIP. Gain admission to an MFA program or conference? Read it to your grandkids? Get it published? If your aim is publication, traditionally, or would you be satisfied with self-publishing?
    • Consider the typical dimensions of success: quality, time, and budget. Of these three, the only one that cannot be sacrificed is quality. Take all the time and invest in all the lattes you need to achieve it. As a software PM, I always had to fight for the time my people needed. As a writer, I have the luxury (luxury!) to take as much time as I need to get it right. As long as I can afford my lattes, of course, heh heh.
  • Plan, plan, plan:
    • Even if you’re a pantser instead of a plotter, a very basic plot outline (sometimes worked out after you’ve done a good amount of drafting) can help you stay on track. If you’re a plotter, go ahead and outline, knowing that your outline will probably change. Take a look at my “Outlining Using Agile” approach here: https://kiperoo.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/outlining-using-agile/.
    • Work out a deadline calendar with rewards, knowing that you’ll probably need more time than you think. See above about taking all the time you need. 🙂
    • Strategize how to revise. There are many great resources for revision out there (books, workshops etc.), so use them when you dive back into your manuscript to make it stronger.
  • Approval and Sign-offs:
    • Even the greatest ideas can be better with the right feedback, and most writers are thrilled when they find the right critique partner or group. I personally like to get sign-off from my partners on everything from my initial idea to my “final” full manuscript.
    • Read your manuscript out loud. You might find your one of your own best critics when you hear your own words.
    • Force yourself to wait until you get approval from your peeps before sending. Don’t make the mistake of submitting to early! Not that any of us *cough* have ever done that before.
Hope these are helpful! Any tips from your day job that you can apply to your writing?
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5 responses to “Be Your WIP’s Project Manager

  1. I’m a big fan of project management. 🙂 I need to set goals or I won’t reach them. Any project management software besides a spreadsheet, that you’d recommend? Thanks Kip!

    • As a software PM, I used Microsoft Project every day. I find I don’t need that as a writer because there aren’t all the dependencies you have on a multi-person project: resources, items delivered by others etc.

      Like you, I’ve found that spreadsheets have been working great for me for my writing projects. I make a new tab for new revisions, new versions of the 9-point-plot outline, and to keep track of my chapter details: brief summary, characters, plot points, page length etc.

      Gives me a thought to do a walk-through of my spreadsheet another day …

  2. You are so right, Kip, at least in terms of how I work. The way I look at it, it’s about layers of planning. I guess my layers would be like your bullet points. But I think of them as layers, though, because for me they don’t happen one after the other.

    I start my first edit when I’m only a few chapters into my first draft, for example. And I start market research and drafting my query before the first edit is done. For my current WIP, I even have two levels of readers, alpha and beta, who get the work broken into different-sized chunks and at different stages of editing. But I plan the timing out carefully for all of it.

  3. Great advice, Kip. I especially like to print out a hard copy of my manuscript and read the entire thing out loud with a red pen in my hand (any color will do). I also keep a revision notebook so when I change one thing, I make a note that I’ll have to adjust such-and such. Lots of notes to self. Hope your revisions are going great!

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