“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
― Erin Morgenstern,
Storytelling is the vehicle for sharing our messages and connecting with our readers. How we chose to tell our stories is a combination of preference and skill. We know that a good story keeps us engaged and stays with us long after we read it. I am always fascinated by the unique ways writers craft their stories. There is no one way to accomplish this. It seems we each have to find our own way through the process. We all benefit when we share our process. However we decide to get there, the goal is to reach the readers.
Please join me in welcoming novelist Jennifer-Lynn Keniston in her Wow Women on Writing Blog Tour for her new novel, Afta-U. Jennifer explores how being a project manager has helped her become a better storyteller.
How Being a Project Manager Helped Me Become a Better Storyteller
I think Daisaku Ikeda said it best. “Everything begins with dialogue. Dialogue is the initial step in the creation of value. Dialogue is the starting point and unifying force in all human relationships.”
After all, relationship building is what both project management and storytelling is really all about. I’ve learned as a project manager, that success begins with asking the right questions. There is an understanding as to the purpose and background behind every project, and key stakeholders need to be identified and included in project dialogue discussions. As an author, I’ve learned that the success of a book depends on more “show verses tell,” and the best way to accomplish this goal is to write dialogue scenes between characters. Characters need to become real for readers. Of course, in novel writing there can also be some internal character dialogue.
So, it all starts with dialogue. Well, actually there is a step before dialogue. As a project manager, the project usually begins with the assignment of a project with a contract, statement of work (SOW), purchase order (PO), or a project charter, and the scheduling of an internal project kickoff call. There is a pre-sales piece I may not have been involved in.
As a writer, personally for me, my initial starting point is identifying a title. I know this isn’t common for other writers, but it is usually my starting point. And like with project management, there is for me a “pre-phase” I wasn’t privy to. When I’m writing and connected to my higher self, I feel it isn’t just me writing the piece. Credit must be given to God, who already destined my writing task at hand.
I write my stories and poems without an outline upfront, or in some cases not even knowing yet or “meeting” characters and scenes in the story. However, I do trace back to do this vital step of an outline when I am nearing completion of a draft. This is a big difference from when I project manage a project and create, shortly after project assignment, a project timeline in different forms such as a project plan and work breakdown structure (WBS), which I maintain and update throughout the project.
As I’m reviewing a new project or trying to come up with a book title, the internal dialogue inside of me excitedly banters around. And I listen.
Then dialogue takes shape outside of my mind in project calls and discussions and with words on a page in a novel.
Yet, dialogue is meaningless if the receiving party isn’t fully listening. So, to add value to a project or a story, successful listening skills are essential for all stakeholders, characters, readers, the project manager, and an author.
In project management, there is also Risk Management that needs to be addressed for the project. This risk management equates to the conflict(s) in a story. In a project, stakeholders work to identify if a risk can be either avoided, mitigated, or accepted. I smile because that internal banter as I figure out a story and some of the character dialogue scenes, eerily also works feverishly to figure out if a character will avoid, mitigate, or accept the conflict presented to them in the story. And as an author, I almost instantly after the title creation move on to identify potential conflicts in the story
Both a book and a project have to have a definitive beginning and ending. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines that “a project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.” Furthermore, “Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
Therefore, I cannot help but to take all the background and skills I can offer as a project manager and also as a writer to the table, as I begin and move through a project or writing piece to its final conclusion.
For both a project and when publishing a novel, all stakeholders expect that the project and book will be successful and welcomed. Most even hope it will exceed their expectations. Of course, success often equates to financial payoff and is the bottom line for a project. Stakeholders want a project to be completed on-time, in or under budget, and add value to the business once it has been delivered. As an author, success as seen through my eyes, is measured when someone finds worth in the time they have invested in reading my novel. Of course monetary gain in book sales is always welcomed! Personally, I plan to appreciate the value in every penny that I’m blessed with (not just the monetary worth) as my story reaches more readers.
Sometimes decisions made in an instant can echo throughout a lifetime.
In the pages of her new novel, Afta-U, Author Jennifer-Lynn Keniston, takes us into the heart of Jean Cartwright Rhodes, a woman who is struggling to come to grips with the heartbreaking and senseless death of her childhood best friend, Hope. Twenty-nine years after the fact, Jean fights for her very sanity as she confronts the dark web of relationships and intrigue that appear to have been set in motion by a split-second decision she made in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Afta-U is an adult mystery/suspense novel for ages 17 and older. The book is complex and sometimes dark, and filled with Christian messages.
About Jennifer-Lynn Keniston:
Raised in Hanson, Massachusetts, the author earned a Master of Arts degree in English, from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy, from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. Jennifer-Lynn currently works as a project manager for a company that provides cloud software products for call centers at small, medium, and enterprise companies. In April 2014, she started her own business, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, writing resumes and cover letters. She now lives and writes in Concord, New Hampshire, and enjoys teaching Spinning classes in her free time.
Thank you Jennifer for spelling out this well-thought-out, scientific approach to writing your story. So often the skills we learn in other arenas of our lives can be applied to our writing. You show us how you transferred your skills as a project manager into writing an engaging novel. Best wishes on reaching many readers.
How about you? What methods have you used to tell your story? What is your best shot at reaching more readers?
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~
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Martha is the author of Nothing Like Normal: Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia. She will give away a digital copy of her book to a commenter whose name will be selected in a random drawing.