#authortoolboxbloghop – #amrevising with Agile User Stories

As I write this post, I am on the couch in half-dead in my pajamas, still shaking from the Dollar General-brand energy drink I chugged somewhere between midnight and 4 AM. During that time I questioned most of the choices that led me to this point. For company, I had a Google hangout of just-weird-enough people working to make a deadline.

No matter now, the words are out into the world.

Writing? Don’t I wish! I’m talking about a website launch. I’m a software development project manager by day – and sometimes night.

It’s no secret that being a mom in the tech world has been challenging for me, and probably not a path I’d choose again. As difficult as it’s been, there there are pieces I’ve carried from a development methodology (Agile)* that ironically inform my writing.

Since I’m exhaused and #authortoolboxbloghop in theory obligates people to read this, here goes:

Grossly oversimplified, Agile is about taking a business need (story idea) and progressively elaborating on it, adding increments and examining the whole until the product/software (manuscript) becomes done (ready for querying).

Sound familiar?

I’m a recovering pantser/trying to be a plotter, and have found a device called a “user story” to be invaluable in editing.

Official explanation is linked here, but a user story describes what you’re doing, why, and what that’s supposed to enable. Example below:

In theory, you could use a modified version of this to set up scenes in your plot like a row of dominoes. You can also insert/delete/move as need be… I didn’t say this was a perfect analogy.

Concrete example: In my second R&R on my current MS, I have a scene where my almost-thirteen-year-old MC has a glitter-and-candy-soaked, over-the-top, Willy-Wonka-meets-unicorn-and-glitter-everything birthday party thrown her by her childhood imaginary friends.

Originally, it helped Zoe (my MC) realize she had outgrown her childhood fantasy world.

In my revision, there was a slight shift in the main story arc, so I had to make this scene much creepier:

I plan to re-write the scene according to the above “outline” as soon as I get some sleep!

I’d love if you let me know in the comments – what “outside the box” methods do you use to outline/revise?

*Developed by a group of white dudes at a pricey ski resort in Utah back in the early 00s, Agile’s literal cult in the real world is absurdist fiction waiting to happen.


  1. I start with in thrid person present tense and write out the imporant points. I read it through and fill in plot holes, possibly add sub-plots, and resolve dead-ends. It must have excalating tension. Then I break it down into paragraphs that give me a direction for each chapter/scene. The rest is pantsing.

    I must add, I love the anticpation I’m feeling about your story. It looks like a winner to me. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette


  2. This would suit me better than an idea cloud, because it’s kind of the way I think. I’ve tried a lot of different plotting methods, and I’ve landed somewhere between plotter and pantser. I don’t think that anything I’m doing is super innovative, though, so congrats on coming up with something I’ve never heard of before! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Raimey, thanks for stopping by! This isn’t innovative either, it’s just taking software/product development techniques and applying them to rewriting and outlining. 🙂

      One of these days I’ll have a book where there is a cult made up of Agilists because… man, some of those networking events get strange. 🤣

      Maybe I’ll do another Agile in Writing post for next month’s hop!


  3. Useful technique: I struggle with plotting so I think I’ll give it a go as sticky notes on a whiteboard isn’t working any more 🙂
    (Also I love the sound of your character tearing a hole in the fabric of this dimension, sounds intriguing :D)


  4. Another nifty device! I’ll try it out on my next short story. I usually use the Seven Key Elements when quickly plotting something for an anthology.


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