Coauthor Chapter Editing Board
December 12, 2015 by David T. Allen
Before our trip to Japan, I had read most of Echo Chamber Heist on my Nook and took notes. When we returned, I wasn’t sure where we had left off. I knew Leslie and I would be passing chapters back-and-forth and out-of-order at this stage of editing, so I built a board to help manage who currently “owns” a chapter.
As usual, I prefer project management techniques that are in real-space over software, since you can answer important questions at a glance without memorizing URLs and login credentials or dealing with faulty internet and app outages. A physical board is constantly available, which helps motivate me to work when I might otherwise be wasting time.
There’s six columns:
- Column one is for each chapter’s number.
- L for Leslie owns it.
- ↔ for it’s in transition.
- D for Dave owns it.
- Merged for the chapter’s latest changes have been merged into the master manuscript.
- Column six isn’t actually a column, but I left space here in case we want to pin any special notes about that chapter. Most all notes should just be in the chapter’s document, though, so I’m not sure how it will be used yet.
Here’s an example of how it works, as pictured above:
- Row 1 points up at L, which means Leslie acknowledges ownership of Chapter 1. I cannot work on Chapter 1, because Leslie has “locked” it.
- Row 2 points left, which means I edited Chapter 2 and sent it to Leslie. I could still make changes, if I like, but I need to talk to Leslie first because doing so would get confusing. If we agree I can make changes, I would move the arrow back to my column. Generally, it’s best to just not make changes once they’ve been sent to someone else.
- Row 3 points right, which means Leslie edited Chapter 3 and sent it to me.
- Row 4 points up, which means I’m working on Chapter 4.
- Row 5 points down, which means Chapter 5 has been merged into the master manuscript document.
The arrows cannot point in any other direction than what is mentioned in the above examples. We built the board in this way because columns can easily get out of line toward the bottom (there’s a high degree of error when humans just pin things to a board).
At this point, if we insert a chapter in the middle somewhere, we have to be careful to update all documents and the board.
It took about three hours to conceive the idea and make the board. I was careful to line up the yellow boxes, since those should never be moved. I expect the white boxes to get messy, but having some underlying structure should keep the board organized.
I’ve already passed my edits up to Chapter 20 to Leslie. I’ve isolated Chapter 15 and 26 as needing the most work, so it’s likely that by the time Leslie merges Chapter 30, we’ll still be working around those areas. This has already clarified who’s working on what, and should continue to instill sanity in the co-author novel editing process.