When you manage a project, you are expected to tailor your approach and select the processes and best practices to ensure you reach your objectives. Writing a book is a project. I think you know what I will say next. But I will say it anyway. If it is a project, why not use project management?
This past year, I have been focused on writing a book. It is NOT about project management. It is a book about a part of my journey in life. A book about making friends with death. There comes a time in life, when we start to lose some of the people around us. And you can be prepared. While the book, currently titled, Car Pooling with Death: How living with death will make you stronger, wiser and fearless, is with the editor, I thought I would share with you how project management helped me tackle this challenge.
- Conduct Feasibility Analysis
One of the best pieces of advice I received was to investigate other books available on my topic. Amazon is the perfect place to conduct this type of research. Using several different keywords and search terms, I was quickly able to see the depth and breadth of what was available. I even purchased some of the books, to become familiar with how others were addressing the topic of learning to deal with death.
Before the feasibility analysis, I had started writing some sections of the book. Completing the feasibility analysis helped me to see where my writing could fit in and encouraged me to continue with my book project
Many books discuss death and dying, and grief. Books that bring Buddhism into the conversation are a smaller subset. Within this subset, books, where the author uses his or her personal experiences to mentor others through the process, are not plentiful.
- Work with a Subject Matter Expert
Everyone has a book inside of them – but it doesn’t do any good until you pry it out. – Jodi Picoult
For three years I walked around with the idea for, Car Pooling with Death: How living with death will make you stronger, wiser and fearless. I had an idea of what this book could be, but I had no experience with writing a book. I did not know how to tackle this project, and even after my feasibility study, I had doubts. I realized that if I did not get some help, I would never complete the book. I found someone who has expertise in writing your book and getting it published. My coach and subject matter expert had a process to guide me through my work. In his way, he broke the project of writing a book into smaller more manageable steps.
- Use Mind Mapping
One of the first things that my subject matter expert (SME) had me do was to create a mind map around the idea of my book. His approach was completely low-tech. A big sheet of white paper and colored pens were all I needed. And to trust him, because while I had watched others engaged in mind mapping sessions, I was skeptical. I was uncomfortable doing any drawing – but somehow my stick figures and squiggles helped me to become clear about my message.
- Define YOUR Scope
Like MOST stakeholders, there were times when I wanted to make changes or additions. But, by using mind mapping, to help capture the major themes of the book, I was able to discern whether or not something really belonged in the book. Having a solid idea of what the book was supposed to convey, and then how best to deliver that message helped to keep me on scope. Having a good editor was helpful to this process too.
- Use Sprints
My SME is a firm believer that once you create your mind map, and spend time with your topics, it’s time to write. He leads you to write the initial rough draft of your book during a sprint of about one month in duration. Based on the type of book you are writing, he assigns you a word count for the completed draft. You have a burndown chart, that shows how many words you need to write each day to complete the sprint. Each day you type in how many words you have written, and you can see whether or not you are going to make your goal.
- Use a Communication Plan
When I first embarked on this journey, I was hesitant to share it with others. Quietly within my mastermind groups, I began to discuss this idea about helping others make friends with death. I was afraid that people would shoot this idea down, and some did. But MOST felt that this was something that I should bring forward. I began to talk about it to more people. Now, I am sharing it with you.
If I want to do more than write a book, if I want people to READ that book, then I have to tell them about it. And this calls for a communication plan. It means identifying my stakeholders, and mapping out what to say to them and when.
- Gather Lessons Learned
Writing seven days a week does not work for me. The burn-down chart that I used assumed that every day for one month, I would write. I quickly learned that that does not fit my style. I need at least a one day break in order to recharge.
As with any project, it is essential to keep good notes on lessons learned as I traverse the project. Perhaps, because I am doing something new, I am more aware of the value of capturing my lessons learned as they appear, and not waiting until the end of my book project. This is a project I plan to repeat. This is my first book, not my last book.
PS. If you would like to receive updates regarding the launch of Car Pooling with Death: How living with death will make you stronger, wiser and fearless.
Please send me a note at Margaret@margaretmeloni.com