Why Project Management for Writers?

by | Dec 8, 2020 | Writing

Are You a Project Manager?

I think most of us understand what project management is. If you’ve ever been a paid project manager, you know there is a lot built into that title. I’ve always compared project management to conducting an orchestra. Even if you don’t know how to play all the instruments, you can still pull the pieces together for a unified, well-polished performance.

A project is all about the end, not the individual pieces-parts. I was a project manager for both NASA and the US Air Force for over thirty years. I worked with a lot of engineering experts during that time, on everything from complex launch support communications systems to simple facility upgrades. 

When I started writing regularly, I wondered how I might capture all of that expertise and use it to get my writing practice under control—to get organized.

Is it even possible to organize a writing practice like a project? 

You bet it is! If you’re an author, you’ve probably already been doing it. The Project Management Institute defines a project as an activity having a specific beginning and a specific end, which results in a unique product or service.

So, what is a book if not a specific and unique product? The entire idea of project management is to bring all of the necessary systems and people together to successfully create that product—in this case, a book. What is an author if not a project manager? What is a book proposal if not a project plan? What are your editor, designers, et al if not a project team?

Do you see where this is going? If you write books and are constantly feeling disorganized, put on your project manager hat. Find repeatable systems and checklists, then put them to work each time you start a new project—a new book.

“Wait a minute. I’m an indie author. I don’t need a book proposal.”

You don’t? No wonder you’re disorganized. Remember, it’s a project. You need a project plan. Even if you aren’t shopping for an agent or a publisher, you need a plan. You probably do the planning in your head anyway; you may as well write it all down. Write down the premise of the book and why you’re the one qualified to write it. Who are your readers? What other books are on the market similar to yours? How are they alike and how are they different?

It doesn’t have to be pretty in a polished format. Just write it all down. Even if you’re a pantser (like me) and not a plotter, you can do a chapter outline with working chapter titles, then write a brief overview of what the chapter might be about. You may never use the specific chapter briefs from that overview, but it certainly gets you thinking.

Once you’ve got all that written down, jump in, and write a sample chapter. It might be easier to write the first draft of chapter one, but it doesn’t need to be. Then look it all over and brainstorm other ideas for the project. Do you have thoughts on cover design or the back cover blurb? Jot it down.

A Project Plan by Any Other Name . . .

If it’s too intimidating to call it a book proposal, then don’t call it that. Call it brainstorming notes. Call it an idea sheet. In any case, it’s your project plan! You are now a project manager. That’s the hat that sits on top of your author hat. 

You do more than writing. You have to organize a team of experts: an editor, a cover designer, a layout designer, a copywriter—there could be many others on your bench. Once you recognize your inner project manager, you may never feel disorganized again.

Dust off that PM hat and use it to improve your writing practice. Look for those repeatable processes or systems that you know work, and align them for content publishing success.

Ready? Go write that book!

P. S. – Do you have trouble getting your story plan down on paper? Ask me your questions below or reach out to see how I might be able to help. Visit my website at TerryStafford.com.


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Hi, I’m Terry