I am passionate about sharing knowledge and making Project Management concepts more accessible, particularly to new and aspiring Project Managers (of all ages). Said another way, I like to tell stories to help convey complex concepts in a way that helps the concepts “stick”. Who says learning shouldn’t be fun?
I am thrilled that my blog, podcast and books are being used to support Project Management education, and I hope you gain some useful tips, or at least some food for thought.
Feel free to share your comments and questions in the blog – after all, we learn best by sharing our experiences with others. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, suggestions and questions.
But who am I, anyway? I am a Canadian, living “down under” in New Zealand with my family, and loving every bit of it.
I am also an IT Project Manager who has worked in the Telecom, Student Information Systems and Local Government sectors since graduating from Simon Fraser University (BC, Canada) in 1989. My international experience includes projects in New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the US and Canada.
I enjoy speaking and training, and have presented at several PMI events and conferences.
My books include Gazza’s Guide to Practical Project Management, and the Project Kids Adventures children’s book series, starting with The Ultimate Tree House Project and now The Scariest Haunted House Project – Ever!
I look forward to sharing and learning with you.
What inspires you to write?
I like a good story, and I love to teach and share knowledge. I have also enjoyed writing since I was a teenager, but for a long time during my work career it was mostly work writing. A few years ago, I began once again writing for fun.
One thing I found while working was that I liked teaching and speaking with groups. During classes, I found that adding stories to whatever I was teaching made things a lot more fun, and the concepts stuck a lot better. I started writing in that same style with my blog – a business blog, really, on Project Management concepts, but trying to make the concepts fun and quite practical. That, in turn, drove the development of my first book, where each chapter tells a different lesson, wrapped in a story.
With the kids books, it has been a combination of factors. The love of writing and creating a story out of thin air, but also working on the story and testing it with my own children has been hugely satisfying, and, I’d like to think, a great experience for them too.
Tell us about your writing process.
I start with the overall idea – the general theme, and then start to outline the story. From my work writing, the hardest thing I found was defining the structure of the document, but once I had the basic structure in place the rest of the content seemed to fall out naturally, and I could focus on a section at a time.
With my books, it is not exactly the same – but I define the outline, the draft chapter titles and a sketch of what takes place in that chapter, and then begin expanding it. Usually that goes from start to finish, but sometimes if I get stuck on a chapter, having the outline lets me skip ahead and work on a later chapter without losing the thread. Then I can go back and fix the earlier chapter, add detail, etc.
The children’s books are quite different from my first book, in that they are full-length novels vs a collection of short stories. With the children’s books I have started with then end in mind – kind of how things might finish up, but not in great detail. That comes from the fleshing out of the story.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Well, not out loud, anyway.
I was quite surprised to find the characters “telling me” how the story needed to flow at certain points in The Ultimate Tree House Project. However, it was not talking, exactly – it was more like I would get stuck if I started to write things that would be out of character, almost like I was getting a sideways glance and an impatient foot tap, until I fixed that part and then I could move on.
I also found that I would be “auditioning” which character would be doing a particular action in my head – to find that “no, that is definitely not Tim, but James might do that”, and so on. I knew what had to happen next – it was just sorting out who was best for it was the interesting part as the characters developed.
By the second book, the characters and I were getting familiar enough with each other that most of their behaviors dictated the roles, without having to wrestle with it too much. Tom and Tim are identical twins, but not in behavior – Tom is definitely the risk taker, the brave one. Tim is more like I was as a child, more tentative, and thinking things out before leaping.
What advice would you give other writers?
Write what you know, and write what you love. When I was young, I wrote a lot of poetry and some short stories, but I did not feel, at that time, I had any ideas worth writing as a book. Many, many years later I have now done that – three times, and albeit self-published, I am very glad that I did. I guess I finally found something worth writing about.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and self-publish if you want – but if you do, make sure you do a good job of writing an interesting story, and a very thorough job of editing (or, ideally, have someone else edit it). There is a lot of poorly-written rubbish out there – unfortunately, that comes with the ease of self publishing. But if you love what you do, do your best at it, and get your words out there.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I had not thought seriously about writing a book until a colleague of mine self-published his first book. Of course, I had wanted to write a book since I was a teenager, the problem was that I did not feel that I had anything worth writing about.
By that time, I had a decent collection of blog articles finished, which were getting very good responses. I quizzed my colleague in April 2012 on how he had gone about publishing, and by May 2012 I had started on Gazza’s Guide to Practical Project Management, which includes a good selection of articles from the blog. I did it to test out the process, and to see if I could actually write a book and get it out there. In September 2012 it was available on Amazon, and my first copies were on the way. I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually buy it, but people seemed to like it, and it (and the blog) have since been used to support Project Management courses in New Zealand and the US, which is quite exciting.
For the Project Kids Adventures children’s books – which are, essentially, “Instructional fiction”, I knew that this was a fairly new market niche – Project Management books for late primary/middle school kids – so it could be a tough pitch for a traditional publisher. Then, a colleague insisted I needed to have it ready to launch at the inaugural PMI Australia National Conference in May 2013, so that is what I did – and followed the self-publication route again. I have self-published all three books so far – but that is not to say I won’t look at traditional publishers for future books.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I love print books – there is something truly satisfying about holding a well-crafted hardcover or paperback. I have started out with each of my books being designed for print, with attention to detail on the layout, styles, etc – and then “strip it down” afterward for the eBook versions.
One of the things you can do with paper is have more control over the styling – like having certain fonts, spacing, alignment etc for special situations in the book. You lose that in an eBook. You can have a graphic for special sections of course – but depending on your eReader it may be too small and may break the flow while you pinch to scale up the image.
That said, I am also an avid reader of eBooks. Partly for cost – print books are very expensive in New Zealand – but the other is convenience. I tend to read on my phone when I have a few minutes to wait, and it is very convenient to be able to keep up with the story without adding any extra weight to your pocket.
In the long term, I think that eBooks will probably come to dominate the market. It is inevitable, really – but I would like to see some development in the area of style – trying to capture more of the flavor and styling of a good print book vs a simple stream of words.
We don’t need the gold-embossed margins of the ancient hand-copied-by-monks, leather-bound bibles, but a bit of style would be great to see in the electronic formats as well.
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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