My Outlines Are Chapter Backlogs

I’ve been steadily writing the project portfolio management book this summer, and was describing what I do to Steve Freeman someone today. (I’m at the Agile 2008 conference.) I explained that I had a list of things I thought should be in a chapter, but it wasn’t a real outline the way other people outline. He replied, “You have a backlog for each chapter.”

Of course, that makes sense. I write those pieces. Sometimes they stay in the chapter in which I originally thought they went, sometimes they have to move. Sometimes they go to the chapter that’s called “stuff to put somewhere.” (Which might be nowhere for this book.)

I’m not good about outlining. I am good at seeing a bunch of related ideas and sometimes I’m good at weaving them together. But I don’t always see the organizing theme (which is where Daniel, my editor, is a huge help). Without the organizing theme, I don’t always have the backlog in the right place. But I do like thinking about those bullets at the beginning of the chapter as a backlog.

Having a chapter backlog is a useful metaphor for me, because it helps me keep my eye on the theme (iteration goal), and not try to do more than that for a particular chapter.

Now, if I can just remember who said this to me today 🙂

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