Session 03: Project Phases

Session 02: Tools for Measuring Objectives
Session 04: Deliverables

Oh hey. Here I am and there you are. Welcome to this log about creating “Tales from the Wilds” – a series of short stories set within the Imbue Role Playing Game. What you are reading is Session 03 of the project – and we are starting to form some deliverables. We have identified the goal, some core objectives, some guidelines and some tools. Today we will look at the overall phase structure of the project – something that should have been done first perhaps – but that’s okay. Let’s get back to planning eh?

Here is what we have come up with so far:

Goal: Create scripts for a podcast.

Objective 1: Ensure the stories highlight different the types of adventures one could have within Imbue.
Objective 2: Ensure the stories are not trite or inconsistent.
Objective 3: Ensure the stories are not confusing or boring.
Objective 4: Ensure the stories don’t contain “off switches”.
Objective 5: Ensure the content of the stories are original content which remains the property of Cryptiquest, LLC.

Guideline 1: Stories should be told in first-person.
Guideline 2: Episodes should be episodic.
Guideline 3: Episodes should be about 20 – 30 minutes.
Guideline 4: There should be about 24 episodes.
Guideline 5: Episodes should target “general audience” regarding “maturity” rating.

Tool 1: Create a checklist of the must-have adventure types (determines what to write).
Tool 2: Survey matrix that rates each story on: Uniqueness | Consistency | Flow | Entertainment (determines quality of writing).
Tool 3: Create a checklist of “off switches” (determines what to look for during edit to prevent reader abandonment).

Continuing forward, I would normally try to formulate a list of deliverables – but I want to step back for a second.

So what is all this planning about? Well, I am following some basic project management principles in order to take a large project and rearrange it into smaller chunks. In addition, I’m setting up boundaries and definitions for the project so I can increase my chances for success.

Some (arguably few) creators can just start creating without a plan and improvise a masterpiece. I am not one of those people. I need to plot out these definitions and these boundaries. Why? If I don’t then my mind will start to wander, my project will stray and I’ll end up stalled out halfway through because I don’t know where this thing is supposed to go. That’s what happens to me when there’s no plan – there’s no vision.

So. I’m planning this thing out with the short goal of getting a list of deliverables. From there I’ll come up with timeframes for those deliverables and then, finally, I’ll create a “loose” schedule. Then planning will be 100% complete, right?

No. Not at all. The planning phase of the project will be complete but there’s still planning throughout the whole project. And most likely there will be project restarts – where our original plan fails and I have to analyze what went wrong and tackle it again from a new angle – but again, that’s after the planning phase.

And that sort of takes us to what I wanted to discuss: project phases. Every project is run differently but, in my experience, they still all typically have the same phases:

  1. Ideate
  2. Plan
  3. Design
  4. Produce
  5. Refine
  6. Launch

These phases will have completely different steps depending on the type of project but the phases themselves are pretty standard (in my experience). Sometimes they overlap and sometimes I have to dip into earlier phases during later phases to work on a task for the project. I think the phases are fairly easy to understand though I’ll define them here anyway.

Ideate: The Ideation Phase (or Exploration Phase) is where I sort of brainstorm what’s possible and conduct research to see if it’s even possible. This phase ends by answering the question: is the idea feasible? This is different than coming up with goals and objectives like I did in Session 01. Ideation is what I did to come up with the project to begin with. I’ve been cooking the idea up for about two years now – I put together a pilot episode of a different podcast and have taken some other experimental steps toward writing stories and researching the process. The purpose of the Ideation Phase is to explore feasibility – can I even do this thing? I’ve worked on other projects that got as far as the Ideation Phase and had to quit because I discovered the project was just not feasible for me to accomplish (e.g. one idea was a subscription-based service that would pull members in as investigators into personal and unique horror/supernatural stories – too costly).

Plan: The Planning Phase is what you’ve witnessed me doing so far – working toward planning the project. This starts with defining what the heck I’m trying to do, how it should be done, what tasks need to be accomplished to do it, and how long it takes to accomplish each one. This phase ends with a schedule – or for my workstyle – it ends with the timeframe required for each task. I think this is known as a “work breakdown structure” by project management professionals – but I’m not going to verify it because it’s not important and that would lead me into a whole research time-trap.

Design: The Design Phase is where I will work out the infrastructure required for the project and creating the tools. For some board game projects, this meant pinning down the mechanics or template structures for the playing cards. For publishing books, this meant researching and establishing the document structure. For this project that will mean creating those tools we came up with yesterday and establishing a file structure, including versioning, etc. This phase ends once we are ready to produce the main content.

Produce: The Production Phase is where I produce the main content. For this project, that means producing the stories! This phase will end once the content is created. This is pretty straight forward. The only thing that might be worth mentioning here is that the stories will each seem like their own mini-project and will most likely go through all of these phases themselves. I’ll talk more about that once we get there.

Refine: The Refinement Phase (or Testing Phase or Quality Assurance Phase) is where I edit and (more importantly) test the product against the objectives that I created during the planning phase. This phase ends once the project passes the objectives.  This is why it is important to know what the objectives are early on and to make them measurable and as well defined as possible.

Launch: The Launch Phase (or Market Phase) is where I (begrudgingly) prepare marketing materials, web presences, and social media messaging in order to launch the project. I say “begrudgingly” because this is easily my weakest phase. I hate it. I really do. I’m a creator, not a seller. The very idea of it drains me. Despite all my efforts to counteract my dread when it comes to marketing, I haven’t been able to do so. I’ve tried to “play to my strengths” where I plan the crap out of marketing, breaking it down into small simple steps but every little step still feels like a giant chore (though I don’t mind making the marketing materials). This phase seems like it should end with the launch of the project – but no! IT isn’t supposed to ever end, I think. I’m supposed to market the project forever and ever until I die an early death of marketing fatigue.

Okay, so those are the phases that I’ll try to refer to from here on out. I used the word “try” there because I am constantly interchanging terminology so I might use the wrong word (absent-mindedness: reason #171 I need to plan everything out). This project is still in the Planning Phase and will be for a couple more sessions. In the next session I will try to complete the list of deliverables.

Session 02: Tools for Measuring Objectives
Session 04: Deliverables