Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.

In school, I was taught a mechanistic method of writing. You probably learned the same method: Predict all the points you want to cover. Organize those points into a comprehensive, detailed outline. Refine the outline until you’re sure you’ve covered everything. Only then do you write the first draft.

The strategy works well for academic writing. It helped me write the first draft of my Master’s thesis on a Key West road trip. I had a plan and all I had to do was stick to it. …


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

In my previous articles about using Scrum for writing, I’ve described the Scrum cycle of events. Taken as a whole, those events are a great way to monitor your progress and adapt to emergent ideas. But Scrum is more than a series of events. It originated as a way to help teams work together, with three distinct roles. When you’re using Scrum as a solo practitioner, the you’re fulfilling all three of them. I find it helpful to be aware of what each role does so that I can balance all three accountabilities.

Scrum Roles

A Scrum team has three…


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

Using Scrum for writing provides frequent opportunities to adapt your writing plan. That’s why I use a Product Backlog instead of an outline, plan a weekly Sprint, check in with myself every day with a Daily Scrum, and take stock of what I’ve accomplished each Sprint with a Sprint Review. Scrum offers one more opportunity to inspect and adapt: the Sprint Retrospective.

While the sprint review is about evaluating my product, the retrospective is about evaluating myself. How can I improve my processes? Am I using the right tools, and could I improve the way I use them? Could I…


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

I adopted Scrum as a writing tool to manage the complexity of writing fiction. I needed a way to incorporate emergent ideas without wrecking my momentum. Using a product backlog and working in sprints helps me manage the flow of the work. At the end of a sprint, I use the sprint review to evaluate what I’ve discovered about my story and update my product backlog.

Timing

I use one-week sprints, so I set aside an hour for sprint review. Longer sprints call for more time. As with all Scrum events, limiting the amount of time helps you focus and drive…


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

A reader of my Sprint Planning post wanted more details about how all the Scrum pieces fit together, so I thought I’d oblige with more details.

For this example, I’ll use as an example Goldilocks and the Three Cons, a caper novel set in a fairy tale universe. I am not going to write it, but I would love to read if someone wants to run with it!

Layout

First, let’s look at the layout in general:


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

Once you’ve planned your Sprint, what’s next? Start writing! But if you’re anything like me, the moment you begin putting words onto the page, some new idea emerges that wrecks your plan. How do you respond to new ideas without losing momentum? That’s where the Daily Scrum comes in. In the Daily Scrum, you inspect your progress toward the Sprint Goal and adapt your plan. It’s the first fifteen minutes of my writing day.

Review the Sprint Goal

First, I review my Sprint Goal. Reminding myself of what I’ve chosen to focus on keeps me from going astray. I evaluate new ideas against the…


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

If you’ve replaced your outline with a Product Backlog and you have refined some “ready” items, you may be wondering what to do next. How do you balance writing with adapting your Product Backlog? The answer is to use Scrum’s cycle of events, called a Sprint. And the Sprint begins with Sprint Planning.

A Sprint is a short period of time in which you set a short-term goal and focus on completing it. For me, one week is the right cadence. Work obligations and my personal life throw enough curve balls that I can’t accurately assess how much time I’ll…


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

Previously, I’ve written about replacing outlining with a Product Backlog for writing fiction. I start with a Product Goal. Everything I need to do emerges from it to create my product backlog. In this article, I’ll show you how to jump-start that emergence.

Brainstorm

Once you have a strong product goal, the next step is to brainstorm what you need to do to reach that goal. You should ask yourself:

· What do I need to do right now?

· What might I need to do soon?

· What are the big tasks I might need to do eventually?

Items might…


An assortment of open books laid out in a geometric pattern
An assortment of open books laid out in a geometric pattern
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Andrew eyed the soccer goal his father had built for him near the fence. Twelve yards away. Penalty kick distance. He readied himself to take the shot. Imagined a keeper jumping up and down on the goal line and waving his arms. He drew his leg back.

“Hey, Andrew!” his father yelled.

The ball soared over the goal. It splashed down in the neighbor’s pool.

“Damn it!”

“Language, kiddo.” Dad was leaning out the bathroom window.

“Sorry. What is it?” Andrew huffed.

“Come help me fix the crapper.”

“But Dad, tryouts are Monday!” His first bite at the varsity apple.


Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Tile letter spelling out the phrase, “Writing Lab”.
Original work by author

Recently, I wrote about replacing an outline for my fiction with a Product Backlog. The Product Backlog begins with a Product Goal. The Product Goal guides the emergence of the items in the Product Backlog. What is a Product Goal, and how do you develop one?

In her book, The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp writes about finding the “spine” for a new work. It starts as the “initial impulse for the core of a ballet.” She goes on to describe it this way:

The spine is the statement you make to yourself outlining your intentions for the work. You…

Sam Falco

Professional Scrum Trainer and fiction writer. Connect with me on Twitter @stfalco or visit samfalco.com

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