Writer versus Project Management

The framework of project management applied to the practice of writing, the use of a professional tool in your creative works

The Key Principles

Project Management in Australia is based
on the PMBoK (TM) and uses the following
framework to achieve an outcome or
goal:
• Scope
• Cost
• Schedule
• Risk
• Procurement
• HR
• Quality
• Stakeholder Management
• Communications

Scope

What is your book about?
Must be pretty cheap to make a book these days, every is doing it.
I reckon I’ve got a book in me…

Why, for what audience, by when and for how much are you producing this book? How do you determine what is client satisfaction – the project complete?

For your plot, how do you summarise what you need to have happen and the step along the way according to the following considerations:
• Plot
• Length of Story – both in words and in story timeline

Cost

The cost of editing, publishing, marketing, illustrating,
writing, printing, selling, appearing, talking,
promoting, and otherwise begging for anyone to buy
your book now it’s complete…
The cost of writing to your life:
• Time
• Sacrifice
• Imposter Syndrome
• Mental Health
• Motivation

The cost in your plotting, why the conflict occurs and
who it affects most, what is the payoff at the end?

Schedule

When do you find time to write?
Must be nice to have all that time to just sit and write.
I’d love to write a book but I would never have the time. Routine is over rated, but kind of helpful in getting the habit of writing practiced and actually finishing a project. Or a novel.

In your pantsing, how can you keep your writing to the point and focussed on the outcome, not getting sideline by subplots, other ideas that look shiny, new book concepts, marketing, social media, people…

Risk

What could possibly go wrong? Consider things like keeping two copies of your work and saving regularly and backing up your work. Have a agreements in writing with people who are “supporting” you – editors, publishers, book-sellers, cover artist… Try to make sure that when you publish your book, it remains YOUR book. Read the fine print.

When you are plotting and pantsing, this is all of the reasons we write, we love what we do and the bit that makes it worth while to write, when we ask of our characters… What could go wrong?

Procurement

All of the other things you have to write for…
• Website
• Social media
• Hashtag everything
• Speeches, press releases, and readings OH MY!
Plus writers photos and inspo backgrounds and time. Do we know anyone who has stock in time? In order to save money, or spend money, or both. The experts you need to assist in the polish of your writing aren’t taking exposure bucks for payment either. While still writing, what else does your MC need to achieve the scope? What risks will they take to obtain it and how will that affect the timeline of the story?

HR

What team do you need around you and what skills are they offering? What are your weaknesses and can you find someone with a complimentary set to help you meet your scope and schedule and just keep writing? Did you even know the other skills you are supposed to have when you decided to be a writer? Surprise!

Does your MC have the skills to pay the bills? How has their life contributed to the skills set they suddenly need in order to achieve the scope, is that the point of the story or is that subordinate to the plot? Is it the character development they need and who will assist them? How will they procure this help, pay for it, and what will it do to the schedule?

Quality

What you wanted to create versus what you actually created. Where did you go in your journey as a writer and will you use it next time to make you a better writer (continuous improvement) ? How much did you invest (time, money, etc) versus the reward, personally or financially, or both, that you and others received from this experience? Are your readers responding to this?

Are your characters and your plot, your outcomes and your delivery what the scope was originally? How did it change the story and did it make it better? How far from the plan did you go?

Stakeholder Management

Juggling family, career, study, learning, work, expectations, appointments, life, writing, marketing, begging for sales… Rinse, repeat… The writer is also a stakeholder in this mix and sometimes, you just get to pick one or maybe two of the framework categories to focus on today. And let tomorrow take care of itself. At least you have a plan to come back to. Or sort of. Maybe. Lets check the schedule…

As you MC finishes their journey through the maze, the plot twists and the resolves all the risks, who else is changed by this adventure? How will this benefit those around the MC? And will they make it through the editing process?

Communications

The sales pitch. How do we sell ourselves, our products, our wares, our words, when we have spent so much time nurturing them and protecting them from risk. What do we say when asked “what is that book you’re writing about again?”
The very word needed and the bloody thesaurus just won’t work properly enough for you to find it and you’ve just lost 2 hours to time and space vortex or alphabet soup. And did you get that social medial blog post website update new blurb written yet?

When all is over and the arc is resolved, did the MC and cast carry out the vision, the mission and achieve the scope. Did they gain the rewards and complete the project in full? And most of all, did they satisfy the client requirements? Are you happy with what you wrote, and are your readers?

And They All Lived Happily Ever After

Breaks the process of creating a book into manageable portions and separate from the process of writing the book. Help build categories of knowledge for use and re-use as you produce more work. Gives you a different angle to examine writer’s block and other associated writers’ problems. You can discard any category if not relevant to the outcomes at any time, or re-instate it.

Gives you an overall pathway to finalising aspects of your novel and a new way of looking a your writing once complete to see if you have left any key details out of your world building. And your world domination plans.

Provides a reference point to where you wanted your journey to take you, even if you didn’t follow it, you can still see how far you made it.

Mentoring Writing

Film Crew versus Construction Team

It’s a weird one right?  Who would think that working on a film set would have anything to do with construction.  The tie in is via my Project Manager qualification and the cross over into this world from a position of observation. 

I was safety girl for the film set, a local company that was organising and producing a short film for entry in Cannes Film Festival, and through the power of networking, one of my contacts called upon me to support.  It wasn’t a thrilling suggestion, offer my skills for free in return for … what exactly?  If that sounds selfish, you might recall I am a highly paid and qualified construction project manager, coach, mentor, and published award winning author.  I don’t come cheap and I have worked my ass off all my life to earn that high price.
(see journey to cover girl blog)

However, I also enjoy experiencing new ideas and being able to see alternative ways of doing, how other careers work, and I like to learn new things. When I found out there were children involved, I was sold on the idea. To be a safety manager is an important job, one I take seriously. The entire premise is to make sure people are safe and stay safe, and once you add children, and a new learning experience, it was a pretty easy choice. 
Except they forgot to mention the early starts!  The long hours. The disarray that comes from working with a new team should have been something I had thought of based on my own experiences building skilled teams, but nope. Foolish mortal!

I realised early that it really was so similar to project management in the construction industry, that I spent some time thinking about how the various roles matched my experience. It was good fun, and kept me focused on those 14 hour days when I saw both sunrise and sunset. So here goes, a breakdown of the film crew through the eyes of a construction guru…
First you have the Producer. They are the client in my world, the ones who put up the money.  Our producer was also intimately involved in the film behind the scenes organising, dealing with problems and making sure everyone got fed. I can say not most clients in my work would do that, but it was awesome to have a chance to connect with the person who was responsible for making such a project happen. 

Then there is the Director. It is his vision, his script, his concepts the rest of us were tasked to bring to life. So he is similar to the Design Manager on a project. Creating the vision, the layout, the goals, the ideas from scratch and expecting the construction team to bring it to life. Make it so!  
The Assistant Film Director and the Production Coordinator are the next two people who come to mind. They are the project management team, the project leads in my world. Keeping the Director focused, on time and ensuring the here-and-now outcomes, acting the liaison between the rest of the team and the vision, they are integral to the success of leading the team through the creation process. 

The cinematographer is the Construction Manager.  Using a camera instead of a white board, but nonetheless responsible for interpreting the Director’s vision, he uses his lens, carefully selecting the correct one, at the right height, angle and aperture, in order to capture the creation.  In much the same way that the Construction Manager will ensure the right people and activities occur according to the schedule, he alters the concept from idea to reality. 

Then you have the gripping crew. I struggled at first to place them, but they are the highly skilled operators. Working in close conjunction and consultation with the cinematographer, they use their experience,  judgement and precision plant and equipment to create the very effect that the cinematographer needs, the Director desires, in order to make the vision accurate and highlight the beauty of the creation unfolding. Machine operators are not often viewed as being specialists by those in senior management, nor seen as creators. Without them nothing can happen, nothing works quite as it should, and very little can get accomplished. In both worlds. 

The film cast are the project team. It might seem weird that they are seemingly not important to the overall scheme but they are critical. They are the doers, the people who get the job done while the vision unfolds around them. Following the instructions from a multitude of management, they are the people who act out the collective creation from all that have been mentioned before. 

There was an amazing crew of interns who I would call middle management. The support, the help, the organisers and the runners of the film world, just as they are in the construction industry. Our interns were from a local highschool and they have such bright futures ahead of them from the dedication I saw.  Their teacher was also an incredibly helpful support to them and the film crew on the day. You could call him one of the project sponsors. 

And then there is the art department. Procurement in my world, they obtain the things necessary to assist the vision. The art, the backgrounds, the props, the costumes, they are the procurement specialist, without them, you run the risk of getting the wrong pipe. Or the wrong prop to complete the analogy.   They can make old sheds looks like a mystery world, garages looks like a cavern of treasures and planets look like they were plucked from the sky. 

I almost forgot about the sound department!  Which is understandable, because we mostly take the effect of background – bird calls, machinery hum, wind – for granted… Until it is not there. They are the unseen support crew, something like the surveyors in a project team. They are just there, doing the work, checking the measures, and without them something just doesn’t feel right. It was ironic, or perhaps simply poetic, that the sound crew were some of the quietest members of the set. But so important to the overall finish and polish of the creation. Just like the surveyors of the construction world, without the sound team, you risk the final product not being quite right. 

And if anyone is wondering if I struggled with not being in charge, the answer is yes, I did.  After managing multi-million (think $500 Million average) projects and being the overseer, it was a real problem for me to keep out of the way.  But I did.  After all safety works best when noone realises they are doing their job, but everyone gets to go home. 
And that’s a wrap. 

Mentoring resilience Uncategorized