Author Ray Bradbury used Scrum… no, really!

Besides being a legend and perhaps the most influential writer of the 20th century, author Ray Bradbury is known for his incredible output of short stories, novels and screenplays.

His novels The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man started out as short stories.  That’s because he was using Scrum before it had even been invented. But he didn’t realize it COULD be applied to writing novels, too.

Here are some excerpts from an evening with Ray Bradbury, speaking at Point Loma Nazarene University in 2001.

(The italics are mine)

The problem with novels is, you can spend a whole year writing one and it might not turn out well because you haven’t learned to write yet. But the best hygiene for beginning writers or intermediate writers, is to write a hell of a lot of short stories. If you could write one short story a week, doesn’t matter what the quality is to start, but at least at the end of a year, you have 52 short stories. And I defy you to write 52 bad ones. At the end of thirty weeks or forty weeks, or the end of a year, all of a sudden, a story will come that’s just wonderful.

The psychological thing here, is that every week you’ll be happy. At the end of a week, you will have done something.

Don’t live on your computer. Don’t let them flim flam into owning all these devices. They can be very valuable, very good for certain kinds of things. You don’t need anything but a pad and a pencil. I was out in the desert about a year ago, and I got an idea for a cantata. I wrote the whole 18 pages with a pad and pencil. I had no typewriter with me. I used what I had. Whatever works.

Listen to his talk in its entirety here:

Best Practices to “Scrum Your Novel”

Best Practice #1: If you like, decide on a time box in which to frame your goal. For instance, set your goal as finishing a chapter a week. If you write 3 to 5 scenes a week, this can make up a chapter. The rest of the days of your week might be used for backlog items of plot, character profiles and research.

Best Practice #2:  If your backlog item is not writing a scene, then you may want to refer to one of these templates, which I use when narrowing down my research area, or building a character profile. There is also a template to help with plotting. Each one of these can be used to fulfill the completion of a backlog item.

Best Practice #3: After your work is done everyday, write a sentence or two about what you worked on and the state it’s in, what you’re going to work on tomorrow, and if there are any blockers.

Best Practice #4: If there are any blockers, be sure to focus on them immediately, so that you can move them out of the way and get down to the real work of writing a novel.

Best Practice #5: Be vigilant. Try to get your 500 words done daily, even if it’s crap. As you watch your backlog items move from “To Do” to “Done,” you build momentum. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to see this gratifying progress toward your goal. There’s something mystical about the power of the kanban board.