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 improve my style? Is there something I need to study? Anything that bears on how I write rather than what I write is fodder for the retrospective.
How it works
I set aside up to an hour. To set the stage, I spend a few minutes reflecting on the events of the week. I consider what happened in my writing sessions. I also think about what happened during the times between that affected my writing.
Next, I evaluate those events. Which ones were positive? Which ones suggest an area for improvement or a problem to be solved? Often, during this stage, I’ll generate additional insights for what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what I might do differently.
Next, I evaluate the ideas and insights that have come to me. I identify the most important thing to improve, or an interesting experiment to try in my next Sprint. Because I use one-week Sprints, I limit myself to one improvement idea per week. More than that impedes rather than improves my progress. Besides, fifty-two chances to improve per year is a lot!
Here are some examples of improvement ideas that come out of my retrospectives:
· I’ve heard good things about Save the Cat. I’m going to read it and apply at least one practice this week. (Process improvement.)
· I’m not getting enough sleep. If I get more sleep, the quality of my writing will improve even if I’m not writing as many words. I’ll start sleeping until 6:00 instead of getting up at 5:00 AM. (Self-care experiment.)
· I don’t understand Scrivener’s compile feature works. I’m going to read the manual and experiment with compiling a manuscript in various formats. (Tool improvement.)
· I’m using too many adverbs. This week, I’m not going to use any adverbs while I’m writing. (Style improvement.)
· I have an idea for a western horror novel. I’m going to get a survey history of the Old West and start reading it. (Learning and research.)
Anything that might improve my writing practice is fair game.
Scrum isn’t a process. It’s a framework that wraps around your process. In the retrospective, I can ask myself whether my process works for me and figure out what to do about improving it.