Organizing Your Writing Projects with Trello

I admit it: I’m  a bit of a software geek. I can easily spend hours researching and playing with different kinds of project management, tracking, and collaboration software products. I love the way these digital tools help me wrest order from chaos and streamline my workflows and communication.

At the moment, I’ve fallen quite hard for a combination of Asana/Instgantt/Google Drive to help me manage my more complex client projects (the ones with longer lead times, more moving parts, and additional team members). However, I was recently reminded of a simple but powerful software called Trello, and I thought it was worth sharing it as a simple, beautifully visual, and FREE way for writers to track and manage all kinds of information from product status and submissions to lead generation and story ideas.

Here’s a 5-minute video that will give you an overview of how the software works:

The ways a writer can use Trello are almost endless:

To Track Submissions: Move “story” cards through a series of lists that track a story’s progress through the development process:

  • New Idea
  • Pitch in Development
  • Pitch Submitted
  • Ready for Follow Up
  • Accepted
  • Edited
  • Delivered
  • Payment Received

To Track Networking/Lead Generation: Similarly, you might move “contact” cards through a series of lists representing the stages of relationship development with colleagues, editors, and potential clients:

  • Outreach Targets
  • Contact Initiated
  • Ready for Initial Follow-Up
  • First Meeting/Conversation
  • Ready for Second Follow-up
  • Project Initiated/Assignment Secured
  • Back-burnered

To Track Project Status: However you break your projects down, you can use Trello to track progress on each element by moving task cards through workflow step lists:

  • To Be Scheduled
  • Scheduled
  • In Progress
  • First Draft Complete
  • In First Revision
  • In Second Revision
  • In Editing
  • In Proofreading
  • Complete

To Capture Reference Materials: Though I generally prefer Scrivener for this, many people like to use Evernote or even Pinterest to collect and organize story-related reference materials. Trello can be used in a similar way if you create cards for each story element and then organize them into category-based lists:

  • Characters
  • Locations
  • Time Periods/Time Lines
  • Style Guide
  • Artifacts and Props
  • Themes
  • Miscellaneous Details

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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23 thoughts on “Organizing Your Writing Projects with Trello

  1. I am afraid I’m afraid of some software. A flip chart, post it’s, notebooks and fingers crossed that the sticky doesn’t become in… sticky on the postit notes. 😕😯😉

    • I understand. For some people, tactile tools are just more comfortable and less stressful … and that’s totally cool. The point is to find a system that works for you. Otherwise, you won’t use it!

      Have fun with the Post-it notes! 😉

      • Now behave… I’m not that bad but it takes me a while. I have to sidle up, check them over, I have to contemplate my contemplation’s then learn to trust them not to swallow years of work and preperation. A coward! I am a damned coward and should be posted feathers in brown paper hand folded envelopes. *sniff* so be it! Trello… you say.

      • HA!
        Your “Now behave” has Austin Powers’ voice ringing in my ears. 😉

        Yes – technology can do Bad Things. I have heard way too many tragic stories about software eating years of work in a single glitch. Ouch. That’s why I’m a BIG fan of redundancy. Back up, back up, and then back up again.

        Your concern raises a valid point, though. Many of the systems I lean on most heavily are not ones that I can back up myself. Google Calendar, for instance … my whole LIFE is in there. If that damn thing ever went down, I’d be lost. Seriously. It actually WAS down for an hour or so about a month ago, and I had to message my writing friends in a Facebook group for support so I didn’t have a panic attack. For those kinds of SaaS (software as a service) subscription services that live in the cloud, I mostly just have to trust that the company behind the software has all the right servers and such in place. OR, in many cases, there are ways to download CSV or other types of files that at least contain all your data, so that – should some kind of personal apocalypse happen – you have a way to resurrect your files.

        Baby steps. I’m a junkie, so I’m gone, gone, gone. Beyond saving. Addicted to my technology tools. But that doesn’t mean I can’t recommend caution even as I lead someone down the primrose path. 😉

    • You’re very welcome. 🙂
      I know exactly what you mean about liking new toys. I am easily drawn in to software trials and have experimented with more than my share of project and task management solutions. It’s a bit of a diversion for me, but one that ultimately provides a benefit; so I never feel too guilty about noodling around with a new tool.

      Have fun with Trello. Love to hear your thoughts after you “play.”

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    • How did I not know that about you, Sir Andrew?
      Now I’m curious – what kinds of software do you write?

      • Next time your phone or computer says it has an update for you, think of me. I’m the guy who writes that update software and maintains the servers that send you those helpful updates.

      • Ahhh …
        I just updated my OS over the weekend. Adjusting to the new world of whatever it is I’m in now … El Capitain, or some such. Craziness.

        Nice to know you’re out there helping keep us all up to date and functional!
        😉

  3. I use Asana with one of my clients, but Instagannt is new to me! This opens up a big window of possibilities. I am such a stickler for organization and list apps. I use Todoist for all my personal/daily tasks, but I’m going to look into this Instagannt for my freelancing. Thank you for the tips! ❤️

    • You’re so welcome, Jessica.
      I tried Asana a while ago, but now that I’ve discovered Instagantt, I’m sold!
      I hope you love it as much as I do. Speaking as a project manager, it’s a beautiful thing! 😉

  4. Pingback: Organizing Your Writing Projects with Trello — Live to Write – Write to Live | Palavras sobre palavras

    • You’re so welcome, Dwight. I’m such a geek for this stuff, I love sharing. 🙂

      Hope it works for you. Have fun exploring the options!

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  7. Sounds good. I am not a software geek but wd like to know if Trello wd be good for me. I previously kept my documents for a book I was writing in Dropbox so that my publisher cd also access it. Wd Trello be another way of organinsing manuscript files and communicating with a publisher?

    • Hello, Erik.
      Trello is not so much a tool for organizing an actual manuscript, though it could be used to help you construct and manage a story outline. I use Trello more as part of my project management arsenal. It lets you organize tasks and move them through a process by dragging and dropping them from board to board. There are hundreds of applications for a tool like this, but managing manuscript files probably isn’t one of them.

      For organizing your actual manuscript docs, I highly recommend Scrivener. It’s not free, but it won’t break the bank either. It allows for various export options as well, which can help with sharing.

      As for communicating/collaborating with a publisher, I’d suggest sharing files via Dropbox, and possibly – if your documents aren’t too long – via Google Drive, which allows for real-time collaboration. I use Drive all the time with my client projects, but have never used it for a document that’s more than 40 or 50 pages long. I expect it could handle longer docs, but I haven’t had personal experience with that.

      Whichever tools you choose, make sure you back everything up in multiple places! You might find this post helpful on that front: https://nhwn.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/writer-psa-back-up-your-files-now/

      Good luck!

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