How to Build a Kanban Board

So you’re intrigued. Applying a process that has proven amazingly successful in developing and delivering software to write a novel sounds like something you might like to try.

In that case, you will need to sign up for a free scrum tool online. I’m using Trello, but if you want to try a different solution, there are many available, such as https://www.seenowdo.com/ (registration required), http://scrumblr.ca/ (no registration required), http://www.taskjunction.com/ (registration required), and http://scrumtool.me/ (registration required). I haven’t explored any of these, but I suspect they are similar to the one I’m using.

The essential ingredient in all these tools is the ability to manage your tasks on a kanban board (read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_board).

What you see after registering on Trello
What you see after registering on Trello

Trello provides an easy-to-use kanban. And no, I’m not taking payola to promote it. It was recommended by a Learning Tree instructor, who personally uses Trello for home improvement projects.

That’s the thing about scrum. It can be applied to anything.

So feel free to use any solution that provides a kanban board. You can even make one using yellow stickies on a whiteboard. Just know my guidance on this blog will be based on how Trello does things.

The first thing you want to do is to archive all the extraneous “lists” that Trello comes with by default. These are “how-tos” and “tips,” but I didn’t read any of them.

I jumped right in by creating a board for my novel-in-progress.

First, create lists (think of them as columns).
First, create lists (think of them as columns).

On a kanban, there are columns representing each “state” in your work process. Each column is meant to hold a list of tasks.

I created “lists” on Trello that represent these states of work: To Do, Writing in Progress, Research, Editing and Done.

All tasks should start out in the “To Do” column. As you get to the point you are actually working on it, drag it over to the “Writing In Progress” column. If it’s a research task, move it from “To Do” to “Research.” When you’re done researching, move it to “Done.”

This is both a way to keep tasks in order, put them into the “To Do” column as they occur to you, designate the current state they’re in, and get gratification for the work you’ve done.

Add your cards to "To Do" and move them to the right as your work progresses.
Add your cards to “To Do” and move them to the right as your work progresses.

As you get research tasks done, and scenes written, you can see you are making progress toward finishing your novel.

Yes, it’s a little bit of administrative overhead. At the same time, it organizes your thoughts and sets your priorities.

When developing software, you want to work on those functions that the customer needs first and feels is the most important.

When writing a novel, even if you write it in a chronological linear order, it is a way to organize additional tasks such as a description of something you need to research and how it applies to your plot, documenting plot points and devices, the development of a character with his or her details, and what is the status of your chapters, such as rewriting.

This is also excellent for those writers who don’t write their book in order. Diana Gabaldon writes scenes out of order, much as a movie is filmed, and then puts them back together into a plotline, if you will, later on.

So now that you’ve got the gist, I’m going to start my novel. My plan is to finish this novel using the scrum method to prioritize and organize my work. Through blog entries, I will inform you how I’m progressing.

Remember, this is all theory on my part. I want to learn if scrum is a useful method of writing a novel, and I’m bringing you along on the journey. Check out “My Daily Standups” to see how my novel is progressing.

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