A good documentation plan actually serves two purposes:
- First, you use the documentation plan to sell your book idea to a publisher. It shows the publisher that you know what you’re doing, that you have a good understanding on what you want to write, who you’re writing it for, and how you’re going to do it. The documentation plan gives the publisher enough information about how you perceive the project that they can see how it fits with their plans and schedule.
- Second, the documentation plan is a roadmap for you during the project so you don’t wander off in the wrong direction. I can recall many cases where I would go back to my detailed outline and remind myself that I didn’t have to write something quite yet; that that was something for a later chapter.
In addition, if you’re using the documentation plan as a freelance writer, it can serve as a negotiation tool and as a contractual statement of work. Similarly, if you’re a captive writer working for a company, the documentation plan scopes what you’re doing for a project and identifies your responsibilities.
However you use a documentation plan, it’s a living document that needs to be updated regularly. Changes to the documentation plan, which are usually in the outline, should be logged and the documentation plan re-released to the people you’re working with so they know what’s going on.
The biggest underlying advantage to the documentation plan is that it will make you look like you know what you’re doing. And if you have a complete documentation plan template, you will!