Agile Writing – Can you write a book using an agile approach? 

Read more in my article on using agile to write and publish my book Being Agile in Business

Watch the video about using agile to write a book

Agile Writing Session

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Applying Agile

Agile Writing – Video Transcript

hi everyone, so this is a story session and it’s telling the story of using agile to write my book. So to write being agile in business I very much took an agile approach to it!

While it’s it is quite a fixed and obviously printed product i felt that the best way to go about writing my book was actually to take an agile approach

Now i was very lucky i was approached by pearson and my editor Eloise who is fantastic and when she explained the traditional publishing approach to me i was a little bit concerned.

It was a little bit of a traditional linear project management process it was all about planning the book up front, having a proposal and an outline of exactly what was going to go into the book, and to then go away write my 50 000 words and deliver that back to them within about nine months, and then go into the publishing process which took another few months and to do the proofing and the page setting and and the printing and the cover etc

So and that was a very traditional process and the bit i didn’t really like was a bit in the middle um where i disappeared into a broom cupboard and wrote 50 000 words in isolation and and then delivered them to her a month before the the key deadline and knowing that probably there was going to be an awful lot of rework to be done in that month between you know initial sorts mission and and rework to be to go forward into the publishing process and so i asked her could we take an agile approach would she be open to taking out all approach within the writing process so we couldn’t really have much impact on and the planning element we had to we had to get approval through a committee a green light process and we did take an iterative approach that as well. So that we could get through that bit as quickly as possible with the iterative process, using that again within the writing process and then when it came to publishing we were really kind of back into that linear process we we didn’t have control of that at all it was it was much more of a kind of one one hit kind of thing.

So what we did was and we very much taken our agile approach so we break things down so with the initial proposal i put forward a draft um proposal and I have a photograph of that draft, which is here. As you can see it has these sections actually of the proposal document that we had to put
together. So these are the sections of the proposal document the post it notes represent ideas so these all things that i kind of got out of my head
initially in terms of what i thought you know the title might be what the short pitch the long pitch for the book a bit about me and who my reader is and my objectives as an author. How we might market the book what competition is out there how we can deliver the book, and any extra
details down there in the bottom.

And then you can see in the middle there
i’ve got a bigger box which is content say these are all the ideas of contents that go into into it so for the proposal and what we needed to
do was to basically fill out all these bits into a document and an
outline which would then go to committee and get a traffic light, we were told that nobody ever gets the go first time, so there was a manage my expectations talk in terms of no proposal gets approved first time it goes to committee, there were always revisions and so what we did was actually we did a couple of drafts of the proposal and then we shared those as well we
shared those and got some initial feedback as well so we then adjusted the proposal before it went to committee and it did actually get a green light which was absolutely brilliant but it was because we’ve done
the groundwork and we had actually talked to the committee and they had
sight of it which meant that they could give their feed in early so actually the proposal that was submitted had already taken into account some of their thoughts, and their ideas and considerations which were really great to include.

And so that was the first proposal that actually i sent to Eloise which was really great because it was a really great conversation starter, it really helped get my thoughts out and talk about them and really make some decisions on what was going to be included and what wasn’t going to be included, what were good ideas, what were tangents, what were shiny things that i shouldn’t be looking at, what shiny things i should be looking at!

And so that was really great and then as we went into the book writing process again i wanted to take the sprint approach so rather than seeing this 50 000 words there’s one big long marathon with a document at the end
is what i asked was that i could break it down into sprint so every few weeks i would send eloise my work in progress she would then look at that feedback with comments and then i would be able to adjust and respond to that and amend those parts i’d written and then write a little bit more and send that to her in response. so we had a kind of really simple key that was like black text was done, purple text was have a look at this give me your feedback and then red text was don’t worry about this this is just kind of bullet points and ideas i haven’t actually turned into paragraphs and and and sections yet but they’re just me capturing my thoughts and that process works really really well and i i often joke that she decornished me and saved some of my language i very much write as i speak, and give me some brilliant tips like that would work really great in bullet points and so i write lots of long sentences and i actually learned that putting things into bullet points was a really great way of kind of really helping to present that better and to improve the quality of my writing and of course because we did that really early on in the process in the first few weeks of me writing it meant that i could take that forward for the other you know 40 000 words i had to write i wasn’t getting that feedback when i’d already written the 50 000 words and then i would have had to rewrite all those things into paragraphs and bullet points and things like that so actually it really reduced the amount of rework i needed to do because i got that feedback early.

and we got the manuscript in on time and it actually only took 16 weeks which was i think a bit of a record as well and i just found that process and certainly from a creative process point of view when i sent that manuscript to eloise it kind of unlocked that cycle so it’s kind of i went into reviewing and reflection mode because i’d sent it and then that almost always gave me this little injection of writing that i would would almost come out immediately once i’d sent it and so sometimes i would sneak another version in and if you haven’t already opened the last one use this one because literally thousands of words would drop out so i think that’s there’s definitely something in the creative process that helps to unlock that and stop us from getting things like that writer’s block
and and things like that.

I did suffer with writer’s block really late on so at forty thousand words i’m really kind of how to finish and that was really interested in really kind of taking a step back and revisiting the backlog as well. so what i did realize was that i had like a hundred thousand words still in my backlog and which was probably why i was causing a block so that was really great for me because it meant that i could just pick 10,000 of that backlog and say right now if i do that then that’s my 50 000 words and i’m done you know and eloise said you can always write a second book you know you can always add to it and also create some youtube videos so it it’s yeah really interesting and and that really helped me i mean as a personality type i’m not particularly a completer finisher i like things when they’re new
and shiny and so actually that really helped get me able to finish my and
and into the publishing process.

so as part of that it was really great you know in the late sprints as well when we did actually get into that publishing process what was really brilliant was the guys that were contracted to do the promotion for the book and the engagement for the book were a brilliant team and i’d and had a few conversations with them and they’d have a look at the book and this mirror on the right hand side here is actually their mirror so they’ve taken on board the agile stuff and started visualizing the projects and the books that they were working on and we similarly you know took on board some of the processes started using them with other writers and so and i’ve i’ve done quite a lot of work with pearson since which is absolutely brilliant because it really shows i think how easy it is to pick up and use and
and take an agile approach to things and use that to build that trust build that support and that reassurance and that things are getting done and actually create better results for it so you know i feel like elements of the book you know are really great because of that iteration because that feedback that i had throughout the process not just right at the end

so i hope you found that story interesting it’s always a strange one to tell because it did work really really well and it’s nice when that happens and it’s nice to have a story which is slightly different so if you’re writing a book i hope this you know you find this useful as a process as an approach that you can you can take on board but also you know if you’re using agile in lots of other ways it’s a really nice metaphor type analogy story i think and that might really help you if you’re you know maybe you’re creating an annual report or you’re creating something that you have to put together and that actually you could take this approach to that as well so or if you’re student writing an assignment or whatever it might be and so yes so i hope you’ve enjoyed that and if you have please do give the video a like and do subscribe and if you’d like to chat more about writing a book or or got any questions then please you know put them in the comments or get in touch and i hope you’ve enjoyed it thanks very much, oh and do please buy the book!

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