[The following post was published originally and in full at 12Most.com on May 27, 2013.]
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing
I cannot disagree with King on this point. I have been reading a lot and writing a lot my entire life. But only recently have I gotten “serious” about being a writer. To be clear, what I mean by “serious” is really “published” — someone whose written words are read a lot by folks who are not otherwise obligated to do so.
A big shift for me occurred when I realized I could apply my years of accumulated project management experience to my writing. I found that if I treated each written thing (whether a poem, a blog post, a technical document, or any other piece of writing) just as I would a project for a client, I’d get more traction on meeting realistic publishing goals.
This post offers a list of 12 questions that, when answered, will provide a workable project management framework for the “serious” (!) writer.
1. Who is the ideal reader (“end user”) of my piece?
If I want my words to be published, the assumption is I want someone else to read them. Communication 101: speak the same language as your audience. Even if you are thinking, “I want to write things that I want to read,” you still want to identify the key elements of what makes you tick so you can know how to find more people like you to read your stuff.
2. Who is my client?
The client is the person, group, or organization that will compensate you for your efforts, whether through money, copies, publicity, recognition, validation, connections, or something else of value to you as a writer. This is also who is going to connect you with your ideal reader. Unless you’re self-published (in which case you have a direct compensation relationship with your reader), this is usually going to be a publisher with a specific agenda, format, or type of writing they promote. It’s important to know what’s important to them. If you have a fantastic collection of sonnets, you probably don’t want to submit your chapbook to a publisher of haiku, right?
3. Who is on my team?
Writing is never just writing. There’s research. There’s first and second drafts. There’s proofreading, copy editing, content editing, and fact checking. There’s formatting, graphic design, and packaging. There’s marketing and distribution. Are you good at all of these things and (here’s the clincher) do you have the time to do them all? Do you seriously think you can edit your own words? (Guess what I think about that…) Figure out who can help you, whether for pay, barter, or goodwill. It will be worth it in the end.
4. What is the purpose of the piece?
Do you want to inspire, connect, challenge, relate, instruct, change behavior, anger, illustrate, or simply tell a darn good story? Or some combination? This is both your roadmap and your test in writing. Your purpose keeps you on track.