Behind the Writings 8/9
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Like any good story a project that serves its purpose has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
I don’t often encounter the word “project” when I hear people talk about their upcoming book. Neither did I expect that publishing a story would have so much in common with pitching and launching a start-up with the help of an investor.
In my case, I self-publish. The project is organised according to the processes of a traditional publishing flow, meaning that I’m surrounded by a team of professionals, experts in their domain, to upgrade my work towards a fully publishable book. But I’m a tough investor to persuade, nothing goes through that doesn’t show potential.
The origin of the manuscript of “Naar de haaien” can be brought back to about three sources of inspiration, the main one directly linked to the Belgian lockdown. Luckily we don’t have to wait for a lockdown to get inspired. Anything can be an inspiration if you put your mind to it. Does this mean that inspiration contains a story? No, it doesn’t, a scene maybe, anything that might play a role in a story, at best. It takes many more ingredients to craft a story. What you’ll have in your hands when your book hits the stores, is the result of a well thought through creative and strategically assembled construction that fits like a glove.
It comes down to discipline and a focus on the way forward before looking back and polish. Writing about all this makes it sound so simple. …
It’s tougher to keep it up on a practical level. I surely had some s**ty moments along the way. It’s part of the job!
There is no guarantee that you will finish what you started. I talked about a few tricks that help me keep going in my previous posts “The Ritual” and “The Routine”. I’d like to add another one, one directly related to project management and one that helps you keep track of your work: the Gantt chart.
A Gantt chart can be of great help when planning out your writing and publishing processes. It projects your writing, researching and editing to dos on a timeline, and can instantly show you possible constraints and flaws in your expectations that will keep you from moving forward. When you start, the easiest way to construct your chart is by pinpointing your milestones. Everything else will be mainly guesswork at this stage. The specifics of how long it takes and how much work actually needs to be done is subject to refinement.
A Gantt chart becomes extra useful if you’re working with a team that is interdependent of each other’s work. It doesn’t mean they have to be on-boarded in any collaborative software tool, although knowledge of a start date and deadline can be useful.
Sometimes deadlines get postponed, or work is finished before the due date, it all impacts the project parts in your Gantt chart. It’s good to update it when that happens and keep the team informed, because no tool replaces frequent and clear communication.
I’m not much into spreadsheet software myself, unless it's related to the budget. I tend to draw my project and marketing content timelines by hand, and make sure they're visible at all times: hanging against my office door. It’s what makes it possible for me to work on two bigger projects at the same time. No papers or sticky notes hanging around, I try to keep my workspace organised.
Polish, polish, polish, … make it shine. When is a story ready? There is no timeline that can give you the answer, nor is there an institution you can call or email that will tell you that it is. In my opinion it’s a combination of what and why you want to tell and how self aware you find yourself to be when you look back on your writings. A story serves a purpose, especially if you’re aiming at a broader audience then relatives or friends. This is the point where a writers’ ego gets in the way exchanging opinions with your inner self-critic. If these two clash, you’re in trouble. It’s proof that you’re not focussed on your work. Get out, find something else to do and, believe it or not, talk to someone who’s willing to listen. Maybe a fellow writer? We all go through it, several times per project.
Do not let it stop you from writing a compelling tale.
What about agile project management? You’re the writer, you’re the one getting up every morning to get one step closer to a finished work of art. Stretch if you like, but no daily stand-up here, unless you’re standing in your kitchen looking out of the window with a coffee in your hand, waiting for it to cool off.
Going back and forth is part of the game, you want to get it right. Just make sure it doesn't happen too often during the layout phase or any phase beyond that or it will become a costly endeavour.
I found it useful to start working with a final deadline in mind, the date on which my book would become available to the public. It makes it more tangible.
Up till now I haven’t communicated a date yet, I wanted to see how well all project milestones would get reached. There are still some ahead, but it’s no longer necessary to keep it a secret. Besides, thinking about the release date had awoken the brand marketeer in me, what better day to launch a book than one referring to the name of the publishing house: novemmundi, November 9th 2020.
That being said, we’re doing everything we can to make sure the story ends up being a well-crafted product for an audience to enjoy.
author: Grietje Y. M. François
There are nine episodes in the "Behind the Writing" series, the last one will be published on Thursday the 27th of August. The content of these posts is about my personal experiences as a writer, writing my first young adult novel "Naar de haaien." (Dutch).