The Basic Agile Writing Framework (Part 2)

Photo by Eden Constantino on Unsplash

Following on from where I left off in Part I, I want to bring you on a deep dive of the Kanban board that I’m currently using to write my debut fantasy novel, and to show you why it helps me not only to spend more of my free time writing productively but how it motivates me to do so, by breaking down large, seemingly insurmountable plot points into smaller, more solvable and doable problems which, when completed and resolved in small batches, allows you to knit together the overarching narrative at a seemingly brisk pace.

The steps below will list out practical steps you can take to install and run your own writing Kanban board:

Step 1: Install Notion

Homepage for Notion

Don’t worry, this article isn’t a sales pitch for readers to adopt Notion wholesale. I can honestly say that I’m not sponsored to write this, nor am I being paid to say the following: Notion is the best free app that you can get right now, where you can do anything and everything you want under the sun.

It’s hard to describe what it does in one word but, at its core, it’s a ‘super’ app that lets you list, sort or organise any work, tasks or ideas that you want in a variety of different database, chart and graph formats e.g. a to-do list for your shopping, a task tracker and planner for small projects etc.

I recommend the use of Notion in this case just because it’s free, and it’s something that I have been using to plan out my own stories. However, if there is another planner that enables you to use a Kanban board or roadmap feature that you like to use, more than happy for you to select your preferred option.

Step 2: Select ‘Road map’ template

Select ‘Add a page’ on the left hand side tool bar

Once you’ve downloaded Notion, select ‘Add a page’ on the left handside tool bar, which will open up a new Notion page similar to the one below:

Select ‘Roadmap’ under ‘Design’

Here, select ‘Roadmap’ under ‘Design’. This will populate your empty page with a template Kanban board, most importantly it will include the three buckets that you will be using from now on to organise your writing tasks: ‘Not started’, ‘In progress’ and ‘Completed’:

Example of what the ‘Roadmap’ template looks like in Notion

Step 3: Rename Epics to Chapters, with tasks being what needs to be done to complete the chapter

How to organise your writing on a Kanban board via Notion

In the Agile software development process, an ‘Epic’ captures a large body of work in a release. At it’s core, it’s a large user story that is broken down into smaller user stories. This definition is not important for what we are doing but it’s important where we are trying to fit this for our own purposes — namely, writing.

What I’ve done is to repurpose ‘Epics’ into ‘Chapters’ instead — in a way, the chapters of a book are like epics, where it is a large body of work i.e. a huge plot point or important peak of your novel which can be translated into smaller user stories, or ‘Tasks’. When all the tasks are completed, your chapter is completed, and you’re ready to move on to the next chapter and it’s own set of Tasks.

The following framework is important to keep in mind when writing using this method:

  1. Group both Epics and Tasks under the same bucket
    For example, as you can see in the screenshot above, my ‘Chapter 11 — Rewrite’, placed in the ‘In Progress’ bucket is grouped together with the two tasks associated with completing the rewrite.
  2. Use Sprints to timebox your writing tasks
    In Agile software development, a sprint is a short, time-boxed period where a software development team completes a set amount of work. It’s original goal is to break down large development projects into smaller, bite-sized pieces to be completed over a limited amount of time, which helps to make the overall project more manageable.

    For your writing purposes, you can treat sprints as a short, time-boxed period where you need to complete your set task under a chapter. There are plenty of quality, efficiency and effectiveness reasons why this works in helping you produce quality writing in the shortest amount of time possible, reasons which I will cover in Part 3 of this series.

Step 4: Sort tasks and epics between ‘to do’, ‘doing’ and ‘done’

Finally, the following steps should be used as a practical guide as to how you can use this Kanban board for your writing which, through the steps we’ve already covered, should make sense without an accompanying screenshot to guide your thinking:

  1. Create Tasks and Chapters that need to be written under the ‘Not started’ bucket.
  2. Once you’ve created and planned out all the tasks and chapters you would like to write for your novel, move the Tasks and Chapters you would like to tackle first into the ‘In progress’ bucket.
  3. Once you’ve completed the Task and Chapters in the ‘In progress’ bucket, move them to the ‘Completed’ bucket.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Conclusion

By using the above, I hope that it will help you not only stay organised with what you need to write for your novel, but by using sprints under the Kanban board, it will also help you complete your writing in a much shorter time and in a more efficient manner than in the past.

Until next time, write away!

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Writer, lawyer, insomniac. Strictly in that order. www.ajtrevors.com

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Andy James Trevors

Andy James Trevors

Writer, lawyer, insomniac. Strictly in that order. www.ajtrevors.com

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