We made an agile canvas solution for authors this weekend. Taking all the ideas from lean, UML, agile, business canvas, MVP and all that stuff – you know the clever stuff that everyone is talking about – and combining it with my work I’ve been doing as a book coach for loads of interesting entrepreneurs over the last 15 years, we designed a little web service for entrepreneurs who know they need to write a book.

Let me start at the beginning, I help entrepreneurs write their book. I can help you take an idea and turn it into a book. However, it’s not easy. I know I make it look that way (cough, ahem!) but it’s quite challenging. Anyone who has written (or tried to write) a book knows what I’m talking about.

Now back to this web service agile author canvas thingy – I had a bit of a strop on Friday. I’d helped an entrepreneur take a big concept idea, break it down into sensible chunks, break them down into chapters, sub chapters, etc and planned their book with them. Sounds easy, right?  Then we (well I, I don’t think the author has strops) had a strop, because whilst I know we’d made loads of progress – trillions of hours (not literally, obviously) of hard work later and the manuscript still looked like a disaster. Yellow bits, highlighted bits, crossed out and deleted bits, pieces of paper all over my desk. Trello notes, emails in gmail, links in one note, images in googledocs. A disaster – well in my mind…

I’m an engineer. I know how to structure, organise and play Doom. Why wasn’t I using engineering principles to get this manuscript finished? Why was I feeling so disorganised and disappointed in progress?

So, after a tantrum and a glass of homemade cream of limoncello, all the way from Lecce and explaining my outburst to my software engineering, Italian partner, he in his usual Latin way said: “I’ll fix it for you, what do you need, Beddhra?”

A gallon of cafe quarto later and we’d come up with our MVP:

  1. Develop on the book outline created at the start of the project.
  2. Be visual. Us writer-y types are actually quite visual people, yes we use words, but we see patterns, shapes and balance. And who doesn’t like pretty colours and images?
  3. Not make MORE work – but let me see progress, problems, bottlenecks.
  4. Be ready for me to use by errm, Monday?
  5. With these features please:
  • Add pitlanes – as many as I want, with horizontal scroll, so I can have pitlanes for Done, In Progress, In Research, WTF etc.
  • Add cards – as many as I want, with pretty colours, move them easy peasily.
  • Add traffic lights – to pitlanes and cards.

And then like all the best MVPs we added loads more ideas, realised how silly some of the original ideas were and we made: The Agile Author Canvas… …in a weekend!

Screenshot from 2016-05-23 11:03:01

And then I did my happy dance (shout out to my sister-in-law Julipface for teaching it to me!)

It’s not quite ready to unleash onto unsuspecting entrepreneurial authors just yet – we’re still prototyping and fixing bugs (when I say “we”, I mean I am running around excitedly shouting out features, and my partner is working effectively through his list of fixes). But watch this space, coming to a bookshop near you is YOUR book, written using the Agile Author Canvas.

We’ll document our journey if you’re interested, sign up to find out more.

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