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Tool for Research post image

Tool for Research

Here’s a nifty tool if you have to collect a lot of information. It’s called Zotero and it’s free and it’s searchable.

So, basically, you find books, web pages, articles, images, PDFs and other types of research or files and add them into Zotero. You can add them with a click from your browser or download the desktop app.

Zotero helps you to keep it all organized in folders and collections. And if you ever need to cite it (like on a Wikipedia page, an article or a book you may be writing), Zotero will automatically pull in the information to create your required references in Word or even Google Docs.

Perfect for writers, training developers, researchers and other storytellers!

Lessons Learned from Screenwriting to Training post image

Lessons Learned from Screenwriting to Training

I’ve written a screenplay.

I had a movie in my head for a number of years, and I decided to learn the craft of screenwriting and get it on paper. I didn’t just Google “how to write a screenplay” because I knew that would lead me to interesting sites teaching me what to do, but I was sure the writers of a number of the really bad movies I’d seen also looked at those same sites. Instead, I invested in a screenwriting class and got help from a very talented creative director from a major movie studio.

I learned quite a few lessons about how to take the movie in my head and transform it into words for actors and directors to read.  One thing that really stuck with me was to keep in mind that a movie is limited in time (about 90 minutes on average) and everything you need to say must be said in that 90 minutes (about 90-120 pages).  In order to do this, you have to be very efficient in the way you write – meaning dump a lot of unnecessary dialog and explanations and make sure everything moves the story forward.

As I work with others to create training in the form of eLearning modules, videos, games and others,  I see that the techniques needed to tell a story visually for a movie are the same for these media formats.  Because training can be a very visual product, you really need to make sure you build scenes properly – and because of the costs in time, resources and cash, you have to build them efficiently.

Here are 5 tips I’d like to offer when designing training storyboards taken from what I’ve learned about writing for film.  Think of it like you would a movie:

  1. Everything you write must move the story forward. Eliminate anything that doesn’t move the story forward.
  2. Think visually instead of with words. Rely on action to tell the story, not on dialog. Remember that you will have pictures that help to tell the story.
  3. Give the main character a goal and a timeframe to reach it. Put obstacles in his way so that he can’t easily reach his goal.
  4. Get in late, get out early.  Don’t add in too much introduction and don’t add in too much conclusion. In many stories you want to introduce ‘normal life’ and how that normal life is disrupted. Avoid putting in too much ‘normal life’ before getting to the plot of the story.
  5. Keep it simple. Adding more and more characters and sub-plots that don’t move the story forward will make a confusing story.  Does Billy really need to walk down to the river with 8 friends, all of whom have a speaking parts with different opinions in the story?  Or can Billy simply go with his best friend who is his total opposite to the river?

In the tips above, perhaps the “character” is your learner – or maybe it’s a topic or additional information you want to include.  “Normal life” could be the learner’s current situation or knowledge about the topic – how can your training disrupt that current situation?  Perhaps convoluted sub-plots could just meaningless questions you pose to the learner in knowledge checks or quizzes.   Think about how a movie can be an analogy for your training.

There is much to learn about writing interesting training stories. I hope this gives you a little more insight into how complex it can actually be!

Tool for Project Management post image

Tool for Project Management

My most favorite tool for managing all types of projects is Trello. I love Trello because you can create beautiful, yet practical project boards. I’ve noticed the trend of some list-based project management apps attempting to implement boards and cards, but none can match Trello just yet. Trello was built based on boards and cards and I love what you can do with them.

Here’s my project board from NaNoWriMo. I tracked my progress day-by-day for 30 days. I decided which chapters I wanted to work on each day, which sections were being prepped to be worked on and which I completed each day.

I also added in a few motivational mile markers. I swear Trello is so fun to use that I think its what actually motivated me to write every day for 30 days 🙂

The Project Begins: I Wrote a Book in November post image

The Project Begins: I Wrote a Book in November

I took part in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, last November. Well, actually, I took part in spirit. Technically, I joined Nina Amir’s NaNonFiWriMo – her November writing challenge dedicated to non-fiction writers as NaNoWriMo is more for writers who want to complete a fiction novel.  It’s a great opportunity to be able to write in November with 1000s of other writers, while sharing in a community of non-fiction writers.  All this to say… I finished the first draft of my book! In November. Yes, yes! So now begins the fun of editing it.

I have let the first rough draft “simmer” the past few weeks, just letting it rest from all the brain dumping that I did in November. I have given it until mid-January before cracking it open. And now the time has come to dive in and start my revisions!  I’m very excited about this new project and will share as much as possible about it here on the blog.  My project of self-publishing a non-fiction book will unfold here, right before you eyes.

The decision to self-publish was very simple for me to make:  I want full control over what goes into my book and the timing for releasing it.  I will share my lessons learned (both good and bad) in case you might have some good stuff you are thinking about writing as well.

Oh, another thing! I won Nina Amir’s book, The Author Training Manual, which I plan to study while working on revisions (especially Step #6: Decide If Your Book’s Content Matches Your Initial Vision). Pretty exciting to win this book as I’m one of those people who never wins anything!  Thank you Nina!

So there it is! I’ve laid out my project and I’m using my blog to hold myself accountable.  Yikes! What have I done? In my next post I’ll share what I’m using as my project notebook to keep everything organized.

Have you self-published a non-fiction book before? I’d sure like to hear about it. Please share in the comments.

What is a Perfect Project? post image

What is a Perfect Project?

A perfect project is a project that that you have completed on time and without spending more money than you planned to spend. You were able to get the project completed by the time you promised or by the time you dreamed of having it done. You also estimated the exact amount of money that you would need to spend or you spent even less. In a perfect project you are feeling pretty darn awesome at the end.

Here’s the rundown of the three qualities of a perfect project.

3 Qualities of a Perfect Project

 

1. You Finished On Time

When planning your projects you always dream that you’re going to be able to get it done in the amount of time that you have (either due to your own schedule or someone else’s requirements), while maintaining the quality that you desire and without having any issues or problems or other things that can stress you out. In a perfect project, you finished on time or even a little earlier. Your final product or service was A-MA-ZING! There may have been a few hiccups in the process, and they might have slowed down your progress a little, but you planned your time carefully and you were still able to meet your due date!

2. You Finished On Budget (with a Bonus)

You didn’t spend more money than you planned, or better yet – you spent even less! You’re feeling really good about yourself for having stayed within budget or even having saved a few dollars. Typically, when you stay within the budget that you estimated for your project, this means you didn’t add in any extra goodies (e.g., “Hmmm, now that I see how this is looking, I think I’ll add in some gold-plating to make it more fabulous!”) or you didn’t have any “oopsies” that you didn’t account for (e.g. “How could I forget I needed to purchase boxes for shipping?!”). And that’s a big bonus!

3. You Felt Great MUCH of the Time

In a perfect project, much of the time (and I’m not saying all of the time or most of the time, but much of the time), the project runs very smoothly because you feel great about many of the tasks that you have to do. You definitely won’t enjoy all of the tasks, and that’s completely normal. However a perfect project is different for everyone as far as the tasks go.

Some people will enjoy doing certain tasks for the project while other people will dislike those very same tasks. For them, if their task list or their to do list is filled with tasks that they don’t enjoy, the project may not be so perfect. For example, if my project were a fundraising event and I was tasked with asking people for donations, doing those tasks would not make the project so perfect for me because I would be simply miserable. Asking for donations is not something I feel great about. However there are some people who really enjoy a big task of reaching out to others, selling their idea for fundraisers and getting donations and there is a huge sense of accomplishment when doing that task. If their to do list is filled with those type of tasks, then they are feeling great much of the time! Same project, same tasks – perfect for some, not so perfect for others.

If you managed to fill your project task list with work that you felt great about, and you finished on time and on budget – congrats, you had a perfect project!

Best of All: You Feel Awesome at the End

Even though we want to feel great while completing our projects, it’s important to think about the true end game. What is it that you really, really want at the end of the project? It could mean that you want a sense of accomplishment, perhaps you want recognition or perhaps you just want to get paid! In the case of a project that you felt stressed out until the very last day – a sense of accomplishment or recognition or a pay check could make it all worth it! At the end of a perfect project, you’re feeling AWESOME because you got what you wanted!

Of course, not all projects are perfect. And sometimes there are consequences that we have to pay for taking too long or spending too much. Proper project planning does help to ensure your schedule and budget are realistic and that you are doing tasks that you enjoy. We will talk about project planning in future posts.

Can you think of a project that you felt was perfect? Please share in the comments below.

3 Qualities of a Perfect Project

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