Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Scribecraft - Part 1: Getting Organised


Welcome to Scribecraft, a series of articles concerning methodology for writers. I'll be posting these on my blog as I produce them and I hope to make it a contributory and interactive * experience, rather than a solo preaching effort. So, I hope you'll read this but more importantly, I hope you'll take part. You don't have to write any articles but all feedback and discussion will be greatly appreciated.

Why am I doing this? Simple really: I'm currently far too disorganised about my writing and, as I gather from your blogs, so are a number of others. I've decided to do something about it and I thought, why not document it as I go along. I hope you'll come along for the ride.

* Interactive as far as is possible with this media.


Let me begin with a story about software development. What's this got to do with writing? I hear you ask. In good time, all will be revealed.

In the days before software development methodology became popular, the art of computer programming could be a very hit-and-miss affair. Code was only written and debugged by experts and it was often a black art rather than a science. Typical problems would be along the lines of:

  • The software quality was varied and often unreliable.
  • Faults were complicated and difficult to remedy. Complete re-designs and re-thinks were not considered unusual.
  • Estimating time to completion for projects was tremendously difficult and often totally inaccurate.
  • Work was disorganised. Some feature were accidentally omitted, some faults were forgotten to be fixed, mistakes were repeated, user-interface style and effectiveness were often inconsistent at best.
  • Motivation would be good to begin with but rapidly nose-dived.
  • Projects were sometimes cancelled altogether, for one or more of the reasons above.

Does any of this sound familiar? Try substituting a few words in the above list. For example, instead of "software" read "my writing"; for "user-interface style" substitute "reader interest". If this is now ringing some bells, then this series may be useful to you. This is exactly the conclusion I came to when I decided to produce it.

These days, software development is much more organised and scientific. In a previous job I worked with some of the methodologies that helped to achieve more consistent and better results. When I started writing, my work was very ad-hoc and disorganised. I therefore decided to apply what I'd learned in the software world, to my writing at home.

I really don't know if this will work. Some things will translate directly and easily but I suspect that some of the writing disciplines won't have an analogy from the software arena. Nevertheless I intend to give it a try and see what happens.


Here is what the rest of the series is probably going to look like...

  1. Overview
  2. Planning & Scheduling
  3. Issues & Testing
  4. Requirements
  5. Specification & Design
  6. Implementation
  7. Building
  8. Deployment
  9. Summary

Be aware though. Plans can change, as we'll see in later articles, so the above list is by no means set into concrete. This can be your show as much as mine.


Fiona said...

I mentioned the Writers Bureau course on the Novel Racers. Although I gave up, it was a good course especially the section on planning. I'll try to bring that folder to the June meeting so you can take it away and see if it helps.

Thanks again for your help with editing my book.

Lane said...

Good idea Kev and thanks. Anything that helps us stop repeating the same mistakes, getting bogged down and ups our efficiency is very welcome:-)

Anonymous said...

Thank You. I found this very helpful and hate to say this but did not know half of it!

Annieye said...

This is going to be really useful. Umm. I think they need you at Terminal 5!

Liane Spicer said...

I so need this stuff... O_O