The Writing Battle: A Conversation with a Software Engineer

I had a conversation with a software engineer the other day. You would be surprised at the similarities between writing software and writing a book. Structuring and planning it out beforehand in both endeavors makes all the difference in how smoothly things run in the end.

I was lamenting to him the fact that I was so busy I wasn't getting much time to write and wanted to get my manuscript completely written by September (disclaimer: in very rough form, but at least have it on paper by then). Beginning or end of the month? he asked. I didn't know, I just wanted it done because, for some reason, I felt like September should be the goal. As I described the time I was spending combined with how long I believed my story would be, he said, I can tell you right now that you aren't going to get it done by the beginning of September. In his experience working for a software company, many in the business side of things don't look at things realistically in the beginning, and so engineers run into a lot of trouble when the deadline hits.

In a software writing endeavor, there are three aspects to consider: cost, quality (scope), and time. You can have any combination of two of those, but the third has to give if the other two are given top priority. In a software project, if you want a certain deadline, you either have to give up the quality of the product or pay a lot more to have it well done by the deadline. Similarly in writing a book, if I want a quality book in a certain amount of time, there will be costs. For me, the cost would be less time with my family, cost of a babysitter, lack of sleep, or giving up of other priorities. If I didn't want to pay those costs, I could give up the quality of my writing to get it done by the end of September. Or, the third option would be to delay the deadline, thus making way for the right quality and cost.

So to answer my dilemma, the software engineer said: Could you get it done by September? Yes, but quality would suffer or you would pay the cost to produce it.

Side note: This conundrum also applies to a man looking for a woman...beautiful, smart, available. He can only pick two. :)

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