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June 15, 2020

Writer’s Tech Toolbox: Trello Organize Your Projects

by Ryan

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”

- Toni Morrison

I use a variety of tools to organize my time and tasks. One of those is Trello, the popular list / Kanban tool. There are many use cases for the popular tool. Writers have used to it organize and plan novels, track the development of projects, organize marketing campaigns, and much more.

I first started using Trello regularly while pursing my master’s degree. This is a short look at how I’m currently using the tool for my writing.

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Scheduling Writing Projects

With multiple book series and a plan to write several books per year, one of my favorite boards is my Novel Writing Plan (pictured above)

It’s a simple board with lists labeled for each year (currently 2020-2024), a list for series, and a final list for ideas.

Recent improvements to cards in Trello makes it possible to create full-color cards that can serve as headers to divide a list into sections. For each of the lists I have three headers defined:

  • Writing - section that lists current WIP
  • Planned - section for planned projects
  • Finished - section for completed projects

Within each section I have cards for the individual novels. These include the title, custom fields for estimated word count and series, and genre labels.

This structure makes it easy to drag cards around to play with the order and number of novels to write each year. My current ambition is to complete six novels per year, averaging two months per book. Generally I plan to write new books in existing series and sometimes introduce books in new series.

This structure allows me to see basically five years of planned books at a glance. If I want to change the order I can easily drag and drop the cards. I don’t have due dates assigned to any of the cards.

Card Links

Each of the novel cards is connected back to the series card in that list. The series card includes information about the series, including a checklist of the planned titles. In some cases I have a lot of titles already mapped out for a series, in others I only have placeholders right now.

Powerups on Trello cards add additional features. I’m using one for the custom fields. This extension makes it possible to have fields for the word count, series, whatever else you might want, and options to show it on the front of the card or not.

Tracking Submissions

Another board I created features lists of short story markets. Each magazine gets its own list. The first card shows the cover art of the magazine and contains information about the guidelines, submission links, and a checklist of stories submitted to the magazine.

The first list in the submission board is an outbox with cards for each short story I’m currently submitting for publication. When submitting a story, I drag the story card to the market and add a comment with the submission details and cover letter text used. Each story card also has its own checklist with the markets where I’ve submitted the story.

Additional Features

Trello now offers templates, automation features, many integrations, and collaboration features. It’s available across platforms, web, and mobile.

I primarily use Trello boards to create visual overviews for my planning with more specialized tools for specific needs, such as Plottr for outlines and the Freewrite and Novlr for writing. You could use Trello for all of that if you wanted. It’s certainly flexible enough, especially with the many extensions available.

Export

Trello offers some features to print or export your boards, including export to JSON. Although great for someone used to working with the data format, you might prefer using an extension like Board Export which exports to Excel, CSV, and PDF formats.

Ryan


Ryan M. Williams lives a double life as a full-time career librarian and a multi-genre writer with over twenty books. He writes across a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror, and romance. He earned a Master of Arts degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine.

Ryan M. Williams

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