Guest Post: Project Management for Novels: Genese Davis

Scrum_Process_Project_Management

Scrum Process Project Management

Greetings!

I’m excited to share a little bit about how to use breakthrough project management methods to
write novels or complete other artistic projects! Before we begin, here’s a little background about
my upbringing and how I became an author:

I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico where my interest for equestrianism and flying glider planes
blossomed. College whisked me away into fashion, finance, and of course, creative writing! My
favorite college highlights include studying abroad in Costa Rica for university business credit,
performing in plays, and studying playwriting.

There is a quote from the movie Robots that has stayed with me since the film’s release: “See
a Need, Fill a Need.” This little statement explains why I became an author. Almost ten years
ago, I started noticing a gap between my two social circles—gamers and non-gamers. I saw
the need to connect families and friends together on a planetary scale. And just last month that
opportunity became reality when my novel The Holder’s Dominion debuted! Like Kaylie (the
protagonist in The Holder’s Dominion), I was introduced to video games pretty late in life. I
was fascinated by the artwork and in-depth storylines that brought millions of people together to
collaborate in these made-up worlds. As I experienced more serious gaming while playing with
competitive groups in Final Fantasy XI, I gained a passion for the tight-knit communities as well
as a vast admiration for the creation of these vivid realms.

I wanted to write a story that could capture how impactful a Massively Multi-Player Online Role
Playing Game (MMORPG) can be, and to create a basis for family and friends of gamers to
understand them and their world. I imagine we all have relatives who wonder, “Are video games
a waste of time?” “Why does my spouse play video games into the night?” A parent might ask,
“Why does my child want to play a video game instead of go outside and play?” The Holder’s
Dominion reveals online gaming in an easy-to-follow and riveting setting that marries pre-
video-game generations to today’s video game enthusiasts. And it is also a message of hope and
support for anyone going through grief or who have been separated from their family. Publishers
Weekly recognizes the huge amount of heartfelt stories set beyond high school, and featured a
full-length article about The Holder’s Dominion and its new adult classification!

Now, let’s take a look at how my producer, Eric Kieron Davis, invented a breakthrough project
management method for authors.

From the beginning of the manuscript through completion, Eric had one goal in mind: Get the
book written! Here’s an overview about the project management perspective he used within the
creative journey of writing.

Being a creative producer is rewarding and challenging. A producer’s first step should be
to create a schedule, establish structure, and ultimately define what the writer needs from
their project manager. For The Holder’s Dominion, we started out utilizing the Waterfall project
management method targeting six month milestones. This methodology is built around
dependencies (tasks that are dependent upon the previous) creating a waterfall effect. The first
six month goal was to complete all chapters described in the skeleton. We also decided to meet
every few weeks to discuss progress or pitfalls.

This was a great jumping off point because it allowed a high-level overview with very large over
arching goals. However, as the novel progressed Eric realized I was becoming overwhelmed
with the hundreds of fine details that I wanted to weave into the story. Novels have underlining
and overlapping plots and subplots where dozens of characters interact and change, and where
the smallest detail can impact the story in minute and grand defining ways. Eric decided to
change our project management style. That adjustment moved us to Scrum/Agile project
management.

Scrum is a method that utilizes smaller time frames with more specific goals to make for quicker
iteration and more frequent changes during development. We established short-term deliverables
based around users stories the author creates. I was guided through the process of creating
extensive backlogs of tasks to establish deliverables and target completion dates, and we created
detailed sprints with more frequent meet-ups in smaller amounts of time.

Producers should always remember: never try to force an artist to comply with one type of
project management. If goals are not being met, it is the producer’s job to ask penetrating
questions, find out what could be halting production, and what process works best for the artist.
This is where one-on-one (1×1) meetings are invaluable. Meeting weekly to discuss different
aspects of the novel’s progress such as word count, skeleton comparisons, goal and delivery date
review, help in innumerable ways.

The producer makes sure the author is not overly burdened with harsh date expectations.
However, the producer still ensures we stay on track and deliver a complete product in a
reasonable amount of time. Balancing these two important factors are the focuses of a great
creative producer.

Note: No two projects are the same, which demands creativity from the project manager.
Be open to changing your style by flexing to the needs of the artist.

There is no one perfect solution—creative problems demand creative solutions. Working with
artists, writers, or musicians guarantees production will change as much as the creative project
will. And honestly that is okay and should be expected. A producer has to be flexible and
insightful when it comes to making and foreseeing changes. There is a sense of organic freedom
that comes with writing, so finding the right strategy to complete your work is sometimes as
tough as finding an amazing topic to write.

Tools Used:

Google Documents – Spreadsheet: Producers can use this to track all the author’s work-
logs for one on ones (1x1s) and status updates. Track the following details:
§
Date – Work Time (Hours) – Task – Word Count – Comments
o Gantt Chart – During the first phase of the novel utilizing Waterfall methodologies.
o White Board – Many different ideas, discussions, and one-on-one sessions ended up at the
white board to strategize goals and deliverables.
o Pivotal Tracker – This is a website we used to track user stories and house the author’s
entire backlog.

o

Having a creative producer is the number one advice I would offer any writer looking for a
breakthrough approach to writing. Whenever I get stuck or lost in the minutia of writing, I
schedule meetings with my producer and we have production one on ones, or creative one on
ones.

What is a production one on one (1×1)?

This is a meeting between the producer and the writer. It’s where the writer can receive an
overview of the logistics, milestones, deadlines, resources and long-term goals of their project.

What is a creative one on one (1×1)?

The creative 1×1 is a meeting between the creative producer or story supervisor and the writer.
This is where the writer can bounce their ideas off a trusted, creative advisor. Specifically,
writers can talk out story points, character choices, plot movement, or virtually any other
questions, concerns, or problems about the writing project.

From personal experience, I could not have written my first novel in such an organized and
approachable way without my producer. Having weekly production meetings put my novel in
perspective. When I was completely underwater with how much I needed to write my producer
was there to break it down. He’d present small digestible chunks in an organized, exciting
fashion. And after a 1×1, I was jazzed and inspired to write. All the overwhelming details
and ‘to do’ lists that overran my creative ability were given to my producer and he did what he
does best. Somewhere during their break-downs, chart-making, graph comparisons, and budget
outlines, producers make production magical.

Project management doesn’t have to be solely for corporate environments anymore. Use these
methods to develop your artistic projects, too! In fact, I’ll be talking more in depth about how
to use project management tools for writing novels at a number of upcoming conventions this
year. Come join in on the fun! To find a city near you, visit the “News & Appearances” section
at www.GeneseDavis.com.

I hope this quick overview helps jumpstart your creative projects! And please feel free to connect
with me; I’d love to hear from you!

Synopsis, The Holder’s Dominion:

After her father’s death on a mountain rescue mission, Kaylie Ames watched her family shatter. She fled Tacoma for college in faraway Austin, figuring that even the worst campus drama would be a relief. But when her old friend Elliott turns up on his knees in the grocery store aisle, raving about something called a morphis, Kaylie feels compelled to enter Elliott’s unfamiliar world.

Guided by Elliott and his friends, Kaylie signs on to the massively popular online game Edannair. There she discovers a world of beautiful vistas and magical creatures, where people from all over the globe step into the roles of warriors on fantastical quests. But a real-world evil threatens the players: the mysterious Holder, leader of the elite team known as Sarkmarr, is coercing his followers into traumatic offline dares known as “morphis assignments.” To save her friends, Kaylie must infiltrate Sarkmarr and survive the Holder’s tests. 

Will she find the courage there to hold her real-world family together?

About Genese Davis:

Author, host, and columnist Genese Davis is a thought-leader in video game culture and its social development. Through her passion for the art community, Davis demonstrates how team-based video games like MMORPGs affect our lives and the new place video games have in fiction and other forms of media. Davis is the author of the breakthrough novel, The Holder’s Dominion, and she is the owner of The Gamer in You, an online movement offering new meaning to the word ‘gamer.’ She lives in Irvine, California, where she advocates for her other passion, animal rescue. To learn more, connect here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: