The 10 Steps

Scrum Your Novel in 10 Steps

1. Start with a plot idea. Build this sentence around it to create your elevator pitch: [WHO] has to [WHAT] on [WHERE] during [WHEN] because if they don’t [HOW], [WHY] will happen. This helps you focus on the central idea of the story.

2. With this central idea in mind, brainstorm three scenes and three primary characters you most want to write about. These are the things that stoke your desire for writing this story. Keep it brief. Use the chapter plot and character templates to document these.

3. Consider any initial research you must do, and fill out a research sheet for each topic. But don’t use research as an excuse to put off doing step #2.

4. Get a whiteboard, some sticky notes and a pen for your kanban board. Or create an account on Trello (or another site that offers a free “kanban” board, such as ,, or A kanban board is where you track your progress. I found Trello to be the most straightforward, allowing for a quick start without a lot of fuss.

5. Create a kanban board using your novel’s title, and then build the following “lists” for that board: To Do, Writing In Progress, Edit, Research, and Done. See detailed instructions here.

6. Prioritize each of the cards created in steps #1 through #3 above. Put the most important at the top of the To Do list.

7. Decide what daily rate of writing you will always be able to achieve in a sitting. It can be a couple of sentences, a few paragraphs or a word count, such as 500 words. If the worst happened, and you couldn’t get to a computer, how much would you be able to write in longhand on a legal pad during your lunch break at your day job? It is crucial to get this estimate right. If you continually struggle to meet your daily quota because you’ve estimated too high, or postpone your writing session because you’ve only got 10 minutes, you will fail for a few days, and then give up. Scrum builds discipline to work on your novel, but it has t be done daily.

8. Set a writing goal that can be achieved in a week. Each week is called a “sprint.” Just like when you were in grade school and did the 20-yard dash, work as hard as you can for a short time and concentrate on reaching your goal. Even if it’s just a half hour, block out time for writing every day and focus strictly on one project – no distractions, no knocking off early, no nothing until you reach your daily goal. Every sprint should result in a recognizable chunk of work (for instance, a chapter).

9. Keep a “daily standup” journal in a Word document or free journal site such as Livejournal. After your writing is done for the day, jot down a couple of sentences in your journal about what you worked on, what you plan to work on tomorrow, and if there are any impediments or “blockers.” If there is a blocker, deal with it first thing the next day to prevent it from becoming an excuse not to write.

10. After every sprint concludes, assess your progress toward your goal of finishing a novel, and plan for the next sprint by repeating steps #1 through #3.