Welcome to Our Write Mind. I hope you will explore the various pages. I would love to hear from you and am curious about what you would like to see discussed or what you would find helpful to you as a writer. My goal is to have new material available weekly. My best wishes to you as we explore the writing profession. Dara

Monday, April 23, 2007

Project Management

Successful businesses require hard work. Writing is a business. The successful works writers complete are manuscripts or writing projects. In writing lingo, some call them WIPs - work in progress.

Each writer handles their projects differently. Some only work on one project at a time, others juggle many at a time. I operate with the later school of thought. I have never done one thing at a time. Even when I was in grade school, teachers always had us working on several different projects. Once I became a wife , and now grandma...well enough said there.

I am not being critical of those who only work on one piece at a time, I just can't work that way.
I currently have about 8 projects going, these are all different manuscripts. I also have my freelance articles and photography work I work on.

This scares many writing friends. I do not have ADD, as most have accused me of, I find it allows me more flexibility if I get stuck. What it does require is good project management.

First thing I do is gather my supplies. As soon as the back to school sales start I buy about 200 spiral note books with about 100 pages of paper in each. You can usually get them for between eight to ten cents per notebook at this time of the year. I also stock up on note cards, pencils, etc. at these sales.

When I am ready to start a new project I take a permanent marker (your choice of color) and write "WIP-and the working title" on the cover. I also write "If found please return to with my name, address, and phone #" on the inside cover. First few pages I write a synopsis of sorts... what I think think the story is about. Following that up with an outline. I hate outlines by the way, but I use them as basic chapter division. Each roman numeral is a chapter. Again this just allows me to brainstorm a bit.

My next step is to just day dream about the story. I write down random thoughts about characters, settings, plots. I don't try to be logical; anything goes here. Since I already have the story "outlined" I have a good idea where the story is going. Be prepared, writers are often surprised where the characters lead them when they are in the middle of writing a chapter. Go with it.

After I get all of the crazy possibilities down, I then do a story web, which continues the brainstorming process. My next step is to create characters. I dedicate a few pages to each character, that will be filled at a later dates. Then the characters come alive. I fill in all pertinent info. Name, physical characteristics, birth date, parents names, siblings, home address, work address, everything I need to learn about my new friend here. As the chapters are written I go back and make notes about what happened to the character noting the chapter #. Depending on the length of the book. I usually allow for about 10 pages for major characters and 3-5 pages for secondary characters, and 1 page for minor characters. This process allows me to make certain a character doesn't have blonde hair and blue eyes in Chapter 4 and green eyes and brown hair in Chapter 10 without good reason.

In subsequent pages, I document any research I might need to do. If I am writing about a restaurant in Boston , then I note where I found the info. I also create a file folder with the working title and put any pamphlets, menus in the case of the restaurant, or computer print outs on research I have there.

I also start another notebook where I start writing the manuscript out long hand, which I prefer to typing on a computer. I can work on the story anywhere and then transcribe it when I need to, or hire someone to do it for me here while I am working on something else.

I have one file drawer in my desk with hanging files which I place each WIP and related files in when I am not working on them.

Finally, I repeat this process with each project I am working on. Just a note I don't necessarily sit down and write out everything at one time as mentioned above. Some days, I just work on characters for one story, another day I research an NF at the library, etc. This is the beauty of my system. I can reach in grab one or two folders depending on the size of the project, throw everything into a briefcase to take it to the library, or spread it all out on my desk to work on it. If I get writer's block on a project, I put it aside and work on something else. Usually takes about an hour and I go back to the original project.

None of these projects are at the same stage of writing, due to the diversity of topics and staging differences,I juggle them easily. This system may not be for you. Many have asked me how I organize them, and now are enjoying using this method. A mentor shared it with me, my promise was to do the same for others.

If this doesn't work for you, I feel you need to find what does work, because as a writer you will have to develop a system for project management.