Case studies

Birds eye view of notes made by case study volunteer

Case study #1

In order to gather more first hand information I decided to conduct a case study of how other people manage their creative writing projects. I found a friend that writes short stories and asked if they would spend an hour or so helping me conduct research. To make sure that I did not influence the activity at all I wrote down what I wanted them to do on a note card and gave it to them, and did not interrupt them upon starting the exercise.

The first note card that I created asked my participant to take roughly 10 minutes and plan/write out a fictional short story. I chose to conduct the exercise for 10 minutes as I did not want the task to seem daunting or take too long for the people that were volunteering to help me. It also asked that they document their process, being sure to focus on any issues they encounter, by taking notes and pictures.

Reading through the instruction card my participant seemed really nervous and hesitant to get started. Eventually they looked and me and asked ‘do a new story? I can’t think of anything…’

Hand written creative writing design probe

At this point I stepped in and said they could always plan a story instead of trying to write one in the time frame. They agreed to this but swiftly looked as though they had regretted offering to help me.

I quickly decided that I was asking too much of my volunteer and put together an updated instructional card that would make it easier for them.

Iterated hand written creative writing design probe

To give my participant something to focus on I included a writing prompt that asked them to re-write the Three Little Pigs from the wolfs perspective to show what really happened. This helped a lot as they were able to get right to planning and writing without having to come up with story ideas on the spot.

Notes made by writing case study volunteer

Analysis and insights

I took the notes/photos and read through the material they had generated. They had used pen and paper to work with when outlining their rough plans. They drew out plot points, motivation for characters, created the sequence of events, as well as using a laptop to remind themselves of the original story. It was interesting that they liked to plan the story in advance as this was very different to my work processes when I completed this exercise.

Case study #2


Unlike my own process they spent a lot of time planning each aspect of the story before setting started. This brings me back to earlier research on discovery writers and outliners. Discovery writers will invent characters and write freely to see where the story takes them, and outliners like to plan their work in advance to improve productivity. This meant I had a good idea of what my project requirements would need to include to benefit both different styles of writing.

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