Can Scrum really be used to write novels?

I began this blog as a way to express myself and unashamedly build a platform for my future writing. I understand that even if I write the best books ever made, if no one buys them, then it’ll be like I wrote nothing at all. So I thought I had found a good outlet to discuss the ongoing project of writing a book, as well as the process itself. One of the thoughts I had while writing was about how each of us contend with different forces inside our own heads as we write. I considered how there were some days when I would be thinking all about my world or about how I can improve a scene or a character in some way, and then when I sat down to write it, I couldn’t find the motivation. So even though I wanted to write, I couldn’t because of a little voice in my head telling me not to do it.

Enter the idea for a web comic about that exact thought. And, even better, my blog was already called Thought Backlog, so I thought if I personified these forces inside my own head and put them on a Scrum team together. Neat little idea, I thought.

As I continued to draw and decide upon the format of my web comic and the style of the drawings, and honed that a little bit, I really started considering what it would be like if a team of individuals would be able to write a fantasy novel using the Scrum framework. I’ve come to the conclusion that it absolutely could be used, and one day it would be interesting to see it happen.

So, first things first. Yes, I’m aware of writing rooms. It’s well known that very similarly-structured teams of writers are already used when plotting and writing television shows. It may not be Scrum, exactly, but it’s quite Agile in its approach. But what about a fantasy novel? Could it really be done using a team of writers and idea people? Of course it could!

Full disclosure, I work in software development as a Scrum Master today, so I’m definitely drinking the Kool-Aid.

Scrum teams have three roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team members. Product Owners organize a list of all the ideas, usually in the form of user stories, and convey what the Business Owner or stakeholders would like to see in a product. Scrum Masters are servant leaders in their teams; they keep meetings running in their appropriate time frames, they facilitate discussion and they remove impediments for the development team any way they can. The development team consists of developers and testers, whose whole job is to work on the list of stories that is handed down by the Product Owner. Development Teams determine what they are going to work on and how they are going to work on it, but the work they do is based on the direction of the Product Owner at the behest of the business.

The point of Scrum, and Agile, as a whole, is to keep the overhead low and the development time at a minimum. Typically, most Scrum teams work in time frames called Sprints, which are more often than not only two weeks long. They can be longer, but you typically don’t want to go over a month in terms of length. The point, after all, is to get something out quickly.

So there’s a very basic overview of Scrum, in case you’ve ready my comics and you didn’t know. Now, back to how we could use it to work on a fantasy novel.

First off, the product owner should be the person most responsible for the success of the novel. They’re the ones who will ultimately determine how the story will be handled. So, the Product Owner should be the novelist, the one actually penning the story. Next, the Scrum Master needs to be the most organized of all of them, the biggest “go-getter” on the team. They will be the ones hosting all the meetings, making sure people are staying on task, and getting done what they say they want to get done. Lastly, the development team needs to be a group of creative individuals who are willing to put time and effort into researching and coming up with world building elements, plot points and historical events throughout the world.

Imagine a team of creative individuals coming up with an expansive, rich, full fantasy world. The team could pump out fantasy books like they were donuts at Krispy Kreme, and each of them would be filled to the brim with all sorts of things that entice readers.

I guess what I’m saying is that if I win the lottery, I’m going to hire a Scrum team to work with me to write my books.

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