A novel is a project too and it needs a project plan.

posted in: Writing Process | 0

Writing fiction relies so much on the power of creativity that it’s tempting to think you need to switch off, or at least suppress, the logical, planning and organising functions of your mind. Just let your imagination run wild, pour the words out onto paper, and the rest will take care of itself.

But writing a novel is, by definition, a project. It requires the application of a resource – in this case, me – to a sequence of activities within a defined period of time. So, it makes sense to approach it with all the tools available from the project management toolkit.

It’s the need for a result within a defined period of time that pushes novel writing into the project management sphere. With no time constraint, the pressure would be off and it might be possible to achieve my goal by just sitting in front of a computer and hoping that something good eventually finds its way onto the screen – the personal equivalent of a team of monkeys with typewriters.

But to reach the goal of a completed novel within a short time-frame – especially as a first-time novelist – requires more than a high daily word count. It also needs a carefully prepared plan.

My plan was developed using my own take on the Prince2 project management methodology. This just happens to be the method I have experience with, but another good reason for choosing it is the focus it puts on what you are producing at any stage in your project, and its relationship to your end product.

That matters, because everything I do within my project should be moving me visibly closer to achieving my goal. If it isn’t, then I shouldn’t be doing it.

In a sense there is a parallel here with the development of the structure and plot of a story. Just as every scene, event, and character must play its part in moving the story forward, so too must every step in the process of writing the novel move it towards completion.

In coming posts, I will lay out the project management techniques I used to develop my plan. I’ll also describe in detail the activities and products that I am working on, and how these elements relate to each other.

An important part of any project is understanding what works and what doesn’t, so that, hopefully, they are not repeated next time. Recording my own lessons learned is part of my plan, but if you already have lessons learned of your own that you’d like to share, then please add them as comments.