Week 6 recap

It started so well.

On Sunday I got 3k in, and I really felt like I improved on what was there before, even if it’s perhaps the chapter with the least amount of changes. On Monday I wrote 400 words, and 1.2k on Tuesday.

And that was it. Last Wednesday I didn’t get home until half past seven or so. I could have written, I really could. On Mondays I don’t get home before eight anyway, and while 400 words isn’t much, it’s something. Thursdays are not writing days, nor are Fridays, but I tried to get enough translations done on Friday so that I could focus on writing for the rest of the weekend.

Well. That didn’t quite go as planned.

You see, Saturday I had an extra dance class, and with the commute and the stupid Saturday bus schedule plus grocery shopping, I was away for nearly six hours. But of course I wrote when I came back home, right? Nope. I had underestimated the time my translations would take, so that was the only thing I did until Sunday at four. Needless to say, I was too tired to write, at least if I wanted to function at work today. Sooo… the two writing days I had counted on last week went out the window.

As for this week, I am carefully hopeful. I won’t have time to write on Tuesday and Wednesday, due to appointments and translations. But I will keep my calendar as empty as possible next weekend so that I can write. Being optimistic never hurts, right?

Getting things done

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, writing a post with this title. While I can be quite good (at times) at getting things done, and getting them done fast, I am even better at not getting them done. *ehem*Rogue Sorcery’s third draft*cough* I am hopeful that things are about to change, though.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I am a huge fan of Rachel Aaron’s blog, and in a recent entry either she or her husband mentioned managing your time as a writer and/or freelancer. I cannot remember the exact topic or title, because I had an epiphany halfway through and started googling “project management for writers” and similar variations instead. And then I realised I needed a plan for getting through all my translations as well, and continued my search the day after. I plowed through websites and forum posts and software and whatnot, and here I am, with a brand new plan and a brand new strategy. Here are some of the things I realised.

First, you need to treat your writing as a job even if it technically isn’t yet. I’m not thinking about how seriously you take it, or how much time you dedicate to it, but treating it like you would a huge task at work. For example, when we host our two-day AGMs at work, we can’t just figure out what to do as we go along, or we’ll end up with the wrong amount of gifts, too little control over registration and participant lists, and so on. We need to write down every single thing that needs to be done, when it needs to be done (for example, the papers must be sent to the delegates a certain amount of days in advance), which tasks are most important/urgent and who is responsible for doing each. It’s not enough to know what week or days you’ll work on it, but I often feel like that’s what I’m doing with my writing or painting. I focus less on what I’m going to achieve, and more on just getting the quantity down. You can do a whole lot of writing without getting anywhere.

Because of that, you really need a plan. I’m not necessarily talking about outlining or knowing what you need to edit – those should be a given – but making a reasonable estimate of when you will be finished, while making sure you can fit your writing and your goal into your daily life.

For me, that has entailed making similar plans not only for my writing, but for my other projects. I’m not willing to sacrifice everything else to get my novel done, but I’m not willing to wait for years before it’s finished or to burn myself out (again) either. Since I’ve had quite a bit of translation work lately, I’ve needed to factor that in as well.

Point one on my agenda was to find project management software that could work for a freelancer/writer who is only one person. It needed to be free, it needed to be able to group tasks into different projects/groups, and preferrably have subtasks as well, the possibility to set repeating tasks, and a calendar. I ended up with Asana, which does all the above, but there were several good candidates.

I have made each story a separate project, and I also have projects for pretty much every other major thing I do that’s not related to work or just daily life. I have projects for organising my photography, revising the website, for my translation, for my conlangs, and a Project Flexibility for my dancing. Most of these have specific end goals and specific deadlines, and those that don’t, are projects I haven’t quite managed to fit in with the others yet, such as my conlang projects.

The first thing I did was to make a list over every step I needed to do to reach my goal, which was finishing the main project goal. The first goal for the Sorcery Duology project is to finish my third draft, which is broken down into one subtask per chapter. The next task is to give the draft to Cicilie, and so on. I listed every single thing I could think of, but of course there’s always something you haven’t thought of. Perhaps it will need an additional round of revision, and then I need to adjust the project for that. No biggie.

The other thing I did was to make sure that every task/subtask was manageable. It’s impossible to tackle the whole iceberg at once if you only have an icepick. Take off one piece at a time. Make sure that you don’t, when seeing the task in your calendar, dread starting it. Make it small enough that it won’t feel impossible to do; after all you can do tomorrow’s task early if you finish quickly and haven’t run out of steam.

Third, I set due dates for everything, at least for those things I know I’ll focus on now. One of the principles for good project management is apparently to work with a sense of urgency, according to a website I just read. What incentive do you have to write if you might as well do it tomorrow? I think that’s part of the reason why NaNoWriMo works so incredibly well for me. You also reduce the amount of time you spend deciding what you’ll focus on today, because you have already planned it and set due dates for it.

The only functionality I wish existed was to make one task’s due date dependant on the completion of another task. For example, that the “edit chapter 2” task’s deadline would automatically be set to the day after I ticked off “edit chapter 1”. But that’s a minor thing, I think.

Only time will tell whether or not this will work. I am optimistic, though, and I think it will work far better than the “write this much on those days” approach I used to (try to) follow. Perhaps I’ll write a second post when I’ve followed this for a while and know how well it has worked. It has certainly had one benefit: I have finally updated the blog again (yes, that’s also a project).

Wherein plans are changed

Cicilie and I have been reasonable for once – more incredible for me than for her, frankly – and adjusted the original deadlines for our spring projects. Not only does it allow us to have a finished story to post on Wattpad sooner, but it will give us more time to edit our novels (RS in my case) before exchanging manuscripts again. That last point is particularly important since I am a part-time student now, and have to study for exams in the first half of May. I can’t use my regular strategy of bullshitting my way through it either, since it’s business finance and I have to know stuff. Anyway, the new and updated plan (let’s all just pretend that I don’t actually love revising plans just as much as I love making them, which is a lot) is below:

April

  • Write the short Wattpad story, somewhere around 5k. (It’s fully plotted though! Yay!)
  • Edit the short Wattpad story, and actually post it (deadline 30th of April)
  • Enter the new ending for RS into the timeline in Aeon
  • Edit at least 10 chapters of RS

May

  • Edit the rest of RS (deadline 29th of May)
  • Re-read again
  • Finish the plot of the Wattpad novel

June

  • Write the Wattpad novel
  • Revise/edit the Wattpad novel (deadline 30th of June)

In the original plan I had some painting goals as well – they remain the same, so I won’t repeat them here. Except with the caveat that I’m not allowed to, you know, overwork myself, so I’m only going to do two of the six goals. One of them must be the goal of making a map of Wirun, since I need that for RS, but apart from that, as long as I finish one other painting goal, I’m happy.

So there it is!

Deadlines galore

Sorry for the lack of updates here in what seems like forever. I’ve been completely buried in work and have hardly had any time off whatsoever, neither for blogging nor writing. Cicilie and I had two write-ins, I believe, but neither of us was able to write anything at any of them. On the positive side: Extra money.

Lots of work or not, 2016 is the year I’ll do things with my writing. As such Cicilie and I (well, mostly Cicilie, to be honest) have come up with some deadlines to help us reach our goals. I also made some sub-deadlines for myself:

  • Goal: Finish second draft of Rogue Sorcery. This time Cicilie will be able to read a fully finished draft. I hope…
    • Revise the ending. Something feels off, and I don’t know what it is. Finish by 1st of April
    • Write the entire draft from start to finish. Finish by 25th of April
    • Double-check the new scenes and hand the draft to Cicilie. Finish by 30th of April.
  • Goal: Publish a short story on WattPad. I’ve had an account since sometime last year, but I’ve never posted anything. Mostly because I’ve been writing Rogue Sorcery, which I’ll try to get published, and because I haven’t finished much else and suck at writing short fiction. I also suck at actually uploading my writing. Time to do something about all those things!
    • Plot the story. Finish by 15th of May. Wanted it to be on the 10th, but considering I have an exam on the 9th… Not gonna happen. (Look, I can be realistic!)
    • Write the first draft of the story. Finish by 23rd of May.
    • Revise and publish the story on Wattpad. Finish by 29th of May.
  • Write a novel to be published on WattPad. This has quite tight deadline, but the idea is to plot it so carefully that the actual editing process will be relatively short and sweet. In addition I have already started the plotting, so I might just have the first draft done well before June starts. Famous last words, I guess, but at least the actual deadline isn’t overly optimistic… I hope.
    • Plot the novel completely. Finish by 15th of May, but preferably in April.
    • Write the first draft of the novel. Finish by 10th of June.
    • Revise the novel fully. Finish by 30th of June.
  • Aaand what would this blog be without overly ambitious painting/drawing/misc. goals? They’re all related to my stories anyway. I’ll not write individual deadlines for these, but a collective one of 30th of June:
    • Finish the new version of Queen of Sorcery
    • Paint illustration of Shanni’s cottage
    • Make an artsy map of Ayamar
    • Paint Arodhi’s fortress OR Wirun OR Whitebridge OR the village in the forest.
    • Use up my sketchbook (mostly because I want a new one :P)
    • Make a city map of Wirun and/or the village. Doesn’t need to be fancy, but I certainly need to know what’s where.
  • And finally… DON’T accept so much translation work that I don’t have time for any of this, and/or work myself into another breakdown. In other words, the most important goal of them all. 

I know this amount of goals seem overly ambitious and probably are. But most of the things need to be done anyway in order to meet the three actual deadlines (30th of April, 29th of May and 30th of June). I work far better under pressure, and the specific deadlines are the tools I need to ensure that I spread the work over a reasonable period of time instead of just the week before the main deadlines, as well as to make sure that I actually get the work done AND prepare properly. I won’t have time for endless rounds of editing for the Wattpad projects. Besides, I really like detailed lists (who hadn’t guessed by now…?)

To be honest I don’t intend to be too firm on the painting goals. I would like to get everything done, and these deadlines make sure that I actually work for it, but I’m not going to panic if I’m unable to paint/draw everything on the list. I do need the city maps, though.

 

Game plan, part… uh… a lot.

So! The grand manuscript exchange went mostly according to plan – it was handed over on the correct date, but alas not quite as edited as I would have liked. Poor Cicilie who had to juggle two different storylines in her head while reading – I don’t envy her that. On Sunday we met and gave each other feedback on the other’s story, also according to plan, so now I’m kind of afraid of breaking the streak. Our new goal is an edited draft by the 1st of May, which means I have some work to do.

In order to procrastinate and feel like I am doing something useful without actually doing what I’m supposed to, I’ve come up with a plan. Frankly I’m all about planning nowadays, since it has worked wonders for my work and studies, and well, if I want to avoid spending every waking moment editing before the deadline (which I don’t have the time for), I need to do this properly.

So I have created a list of what I need to do on Rogue Sorcery before handing the manuscript over again, or before I consider it to be done(at this stage, of course there are several rounds of editing left):

  1. Write down every scene in the current draft. Things always change from the plot to the actual draft, and I need to make changes to certain things anyway – but the details are kind of fuzzy. Also, note down time of year, characters involved and where they are. Deadline: 14th of February
  2. Make a new timeline from scratch, including the info above. Deadline: 21st of February
  3. Adjust the timeline according to things that came up during the rewrite and feedback. Note and implement the changes from Cicilie’s feedback. Deadline: 28th of February
  4. Note down in which scenes there are plot changes or new scenes, i.e. where the new timeline and old draft diverges. Deadline: 2oth of March
  5. Go through and write down where information or additional worldbuilding is needed. Deadline: 27th of March.
  6. Do a last check of the timeline, characters, plot, tension and so on again. Deadline: 10th of April
  7. Write a proper second draft, filling out all the missing details. Deadline: 1st of May.

No work at all, in other words… And in between this I have another story to work on.

The plan may be overly optimistic (when are my plans not?) but as long as I manage to stop procrastinating I think it’s completely doable. I have a feeling that I have said the exact same thing before, but there’s a time to stop dawdling and just get the thing done, and I believe that time is now.