The Organizational Tool You Need to Use

Experiencing a story emerging from the page as if coming from nowhere is magical. Writing, though, is also chaotic. Ideas swirl through the mind and notes pile up. Creating a book fact sheet is immensely useful in organizing writing efforts. Not the facts in the book, but the facts about the book. The reporter’s five W’s are a great starting point. Read to the bottom to find a linked template and example.

Photo of book planning tool
Planning and organization tools facilitate writing your best work on schedule.

Begin a fact sheet with your working title and mission or vision for the book. The book’s mission is the why of writing. Knowing your purpose, maybe to teach or delight the reader, is the guiding light for the rest of your endeavor. Once you know your purpose, you can (probably) articulate the message, the what of your writing. Often the mission contains both why you are writing and what you will express.

Write down your audience profile. Your book cannot speak to everyone; trying to write a book for everyone will invariably lead to a dull, uninspired piece. (Phone books are written for everyone; don’t write another phone book.) Instead focus on a narrowly defined slice of readers, describing them and their interests. After you describe your audience, describe yourself in relationship to them and the book. Put in writing your credentials, interests, and experiences that position you to communicate your message to your readers. These descriptions of your audience and yourself are the who of your book. 

Use your fact sheet to describe the look and feel of your book. Describe your anticipated word and page count. Whether it will contain illustrations, figures, or tables is important as you will need to describe those in your manuscript. Write down the medium (or media) you will use for distribution. These attributes are the where of your book.

Another logistical issue you must address is the schedule, the when, for writing, editing, and submitting your manuscript. Plan how much and how often you will write, when you will consult an editor, and your target date for submission (to a publisher or to an agent) or for publication (if self-publishing).

If you need, you may finish your fact sheet with a notes section for anything essential that doesn’t fit into the above categories. Resist the temptation to write an essay here, these notes should be restricted to a few critical points.

Once you have completed this exercise, and don’t spend more than an hour on it, you will have a guide to refer back to periodically to keep your writing on track, headed in the right direction, and on schedule. The fact sheet is a great starting point for your proposal and should inform your ‘elevator pitch’. If you submit to M Publishing House, we invite you to include it in your package. Check out the example and use the template.


Write an Amazing Book on your Schedule and Budget

Project management is a fantastic, albeit dull sounding, set of skills you can use to guide the process of taking an idea from inception to submitted manuscript.

Project management was born in the early half of the 20th century, largely to meet the needs of massive engineering projects. It deals with initiation, design, implementation, and close out of major projects. It is not managing day to day, recurring tasks (that’s operations management), but instead activities that have a defined endpoint. For example, writing is an author’s operation, but delivering a particular manuscript is a project.

Projects face the triple constraint: scope, schedule, and cost. Usually setting one impacts either or both of the other factors. You may have a plot in mind, and from that flows the schedule and budget (the wiring time and editing costs being driven by the page length). Project management can help you get the best outcome, schedule, and budget.

Project management has many, many schools of thought and corresponding tools. The specifics of those are not important right now. Instead, focus on the overall concept that changes to scope, schedule, or budget are best accommodated early in the project. At the core, project management for authors is easy. Define the scope (e.g.: plot), determine the time you’ll need, and the costs of completing the manuscript; rinse and repeat as needed until you reach a satisfactory scope, schedule, and budget.

That was painless! In subsequent posts I’ll walk you through some very easy planning tools. Stay tuned.