The Silver Lining | Project Management for Writers!

As writers, we know the basic process for writing a novel. Get idea –> Outline idea –> Dump a bunch of words into a document –> Revise those words until they shine –> Words now form a complete novel. But what you actually just did is complete the five processes of Project Management: Initiation , Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, Project Close.

Process of Writing a Novel

That’s right. Writing a novel is essentially a project. The deliverable at the end is the final draft. Over the next few weeks I’m going to talk about how applying traditional Project Management practices to the process of writing a novel can not only greatly increase your productivity, but also the quality of your output. I know a lot of writers are pantsers, but I am a HUGE planner, not just with outlining but with creating a schedule, identifying risks associated with the project (these can be anything from time constraints on writing to market risks, such as working on a concept in a dead genre), etc.

For today’s post I’ll just give a brief overview of each of the five processes and what you’ll expect to do in them over the course of the next few weeks. Consider this a training course in prep for writing a novel, just in time for NaNoWriMo!


The pre-planning phase. It’s where you define the basic characteristics of the project. For example, this might be where figure out the basic premise and decide it’s worth pursuing. Part of the initiation phase is creating a “Business Case” which might look more like a pitch blurb you send to your critique partners to see if they like the idea.


Planning is where you do all the upfront work for your project. You gather the requirements here (aka research), you define the stakeholders (your beta readers), you outline, you create a schedule breaking up the work into smaller “batches” (aka scenes). You define the milestones (aka you want to send your agent the first 3 chapters by x date, for example). Here you identify the risks associated with your project (this might include similar titles already published or a certain structure that may be difficult to write, etc). We’ll talk about this in more detail later.


Here is where you put your plan to work. Quite simply, here is where you get the stuff out of your head and put it to paper.


In Project Management, this is where you continue to oversee the project as a whole and make sure it’s running smoothly. Here is where you Manage Stakeholder Engagement (aka sending to your CPs) Control Quality Assurance (revising based on feedback). Scope Verification (making sure you don’t go over word count or have plot holes). Etc.


This is where you declare your draft is done and either send it to your agent, editor, or start querying! You would also create a Lessons Learned document so you can learn from your mistakes for the next novel.


So over the course of this blog series, I’ll go through each Phase of Project Management and show you how to apply it to your own novel writing process to increase your success!

*Side note, I am a Project Manager at my day job and I’ve been trained in the Prince2 in the UK as well as the PMI in the US. In other words, I know my stuff!

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