Organisationing

Today I’m going to talk about organising projects. Now, if you’ve ever looked over at my Other Projects page, you’ll see that I’m terrible at sticking to one thing. I get all these shiny ideas and run off plotting them. Meanwhile, I’ve got a bunch of half written, half edited manuscripts laying all over the place! Y’know, figuratively.

In the computer

It was for this reason (and nothing to do with the fact that I have a massive deadline a week from today that I’m avoiding) that I decided to make a spreadsheet. I started by trawling through my writing folding, ditching the half baked ideas that were terrible and I no longer have any interest in, and sticking all the rest into a list.

Next, they have to be organised and prioritised. I decided to come up with three groups: Active, Queued and Not Active. Only a certain number of projects can be Active or Queued, and the only way to move up a priority is dead man’s boots. Or, stage completed man’s boots. That sounds less perilous though. Anyway, once a project has been moved into “Active,” it stays there until the stage it is currently in is completed (or goes up a level, eg first draft –> second draft). I’ve given myself three Active slots, so that I don’t burn myself out on a single work, though one of those slots will ALWAYS be Twyned Earth, until they are done. And as you can see, I only have two at the moment, until after the 28th!

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

I definitely should have been working instead of making this.

The reason I’ve chosen multiple Active slots is because sometimes project hopping is good for you.

Sometimes you just don’t have the inspiration for a certain project. You have the desire to write, but can’t even look at the story you’re supposed to be working on. The advice online quite often tells you to just fight through it, sit down and power on. I’ve done it and sometimes it works. When I’ve got a deadline, or it’s a NaNoWriMo project, I just sit down and force myself on that project. The thing is though, I’ve found that if I’ve hit a block, stepping back and looking at a different story entirely can help lift that. I know I have a problem as a serial project cheat, but instead of letting it be a problem, I’m letting it be a solution. Sometimes the brain needs a reboot, and what better way than focusing on something else for a while? Similar to how other hobbies are good, for people like myself other projects can help kick writer’s block to the kerb.

I’m taking control of my constant hopping, but at the same time giving myself room for flexibility, because without it I don’t know how much joy I would find in writing. And without that, what’s the point? I’m narrowing my hopping down because I’ve gone too long without finishing anything, but I’ll never give up totally. I love all my stories and they will all receive love!

What about you guys? Are you a project hopper? How do you keep it under control?

Progress Report – The End is Nigh!

Not going to lie, I do not have a lot to say to you today. I’ve had a busy week working on the editing, desperately wrestling with the rewrite of the final confrontation. I’ve been dealing with new orders from the doctor (I now have a magic “infection begone!” spray). And I’ve had a busy weekend being all gooey in the grey south with my partner where we celebrated our seven year anniversary. So that was nice.

BUT YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT THIS!

You’re here for writing!

And I’m getting there, honest. The rewrite of the infamous ending scene has been completed, which leaves the remaining tasks before it is ready to be seen:

1.) The last scene and the short epilogue must be edited (total ~6k words)

2.) I need to work through the list of “desperately important minor points that I forgot to add,” currently consisting of about seven things

3.) I need to decide if I want to add/write a short prologue

I’m now fairly confident to say that it will definitely be ready to send out on the 28th. It was looking a little shaky there for a while, but no, I think we’re good. A little scary, sure, but this is the goal. Woooooo! I think. Okay, going to hide in a dark corner now. On the plus side, I have my “beaten my fears and actually taking a positive step” rewards sitting and waiting for me, which arrived today.

The Beautiful Rewards

Beautiful, aren’t they?

So tell me, how are all of your WIPs coming? How are you all progressing? And have you set yourself rewards for milestones?

Games. Art. Books. PARKOUR!

Last week I wrote all about how it’s important to write often. That very same day, fellow writer Madison wrote all about how you shouldn’t feel bad for not writing. Which you should definitely go and read by the way, because it’s a great post. It was a funny coincidence but it did make me feel the need for a little clarification.

I believe you should write often, keep up the skill, don’t let it get away from you. That does NOT mean that it is all you should ever do and, like Madison says, doesn’t mean you are any less serious about being a writer.

Burnout is a writer’s killer. I know, I’ve been there a good few times. You’re desperate to get something finished, you have Everest height goals. You want to write ALL the stories, and you think if you aren’t writing them right at that second that you are a failure. And the end result has always been me having to take a hefty break from writing, sometimes even up to a month or more. Then you end up further in the guilt hole and it is a vicious cycle.

Writing often is important, but writing once a week is often. There isn’t a lot you’re going to forget in a week. I was away from writing for five years. That’s a long time. A week? You can deal with that. A lot of people say that it is essential that you write every single day but I certainly don’t and have still managed a decent volume of output over the last two years. Sometimes there are deadlines and you have to push yourself. Other times you just have the muse. The rest of the time? Well, making yourself sit down and write can be beneficial, but NOT if it is all you ever do. Not only will you end up headbutting your desk, but you’ll end up hating writing, which is the exact opposite reason why most people want to actually write in the first place.  (Unless, of course, all you ever want to do is write. In which case I will hunt you down and steal your inspiration, because that would be awesome.)

If you want to take a break, do it. If you would rather practice something else, go for it. Don’t have a deadline and you’re dying to play that game? Why not?

My mantra is that writing is fun. Fun doesn’t come with guilt. Don’t feel bad for taking a break. Don’t feel bad for having other hobbies. Just look at Madison. Gamer, artist, parkourist (is that a word?) and a hundred other things – all while managing to write a fantastic story about a one armed magician. Watch that space for Half a Man. It’s gonna be good.

Keep up the good writing, guys! And the gaming. And crafting. And exercising and sitting around watching TV.

However, if the muse has struck, maybe you should wander over to Melanie’s writing games! Check this out, it should be fun fun fun!

Reasons To Write Often

You may recall me mentioning NaNoEdiMo, during which I set myself the goal of editing 1k a day. It’s the 1st of February today, and while I didn’t quite manage 1k every single day, I did manage well over the total 31k that I was aiming for. Success! As a result I am currently still on track to have this badboy ready by deadline day – the 28th. Eeep!

This novel has changed one hell of a lot. It was originally a NaNoWriMo project, my first one actually, though technically it was a camp project (camp of August, 2012! Wooo!). I finished it just in the nick of time at a measly 53k, with virtually no characterisation or description. It was all dialogue or action, and in the grand scheme of things there wasn’t even much action. It had characters who became besties at the drop of a hat and the ending of a popular action film that came out three days after I finished writing it. (No really, remember this post?)

Two years later and it has grown into 90k of misadventures and (hopefully) interesting characters who spend half the time fighting with each other. There’s now a tangible villain to distract from the fact that the big bad is off screen until books 2 and 3 (the curse of the first person novel). There’s still that ill fated ending, but I’m now on the last two chapters, so that’ll be gone soon too. A lot has changed, but that’s only made it more like the book it was supposed to be when I first wrote it.

Y’know, when I had been out of practice writing for a good five years. I’ve written approximately 456,000 words of fiction since then (not including the original 56,000 of the Deconstructor that was redone NaNo14). Damn. That feels like a lot for two and a bit years. It works out at approximately 14,250 a month. I’m happy with that. Really happy. But it’s time to slow down and start editing some of this. Currently, it’s 456,000 words that no one in the world is allowed to read. I should probably work on that.

Rereading my old August 2012 stuff, it’s a bit cringe worthy. That’s good though. It reminds myself that writing is about work. Not just “you’ve got to sit down and write this sucker” but “you’ve got to practice your ass off.” I wrote a lot before I went off to university. A lot. And I lost it. All the structure, the voice, the world building. I lost it. Writing is about hard work, and it’s a skill you need to keep up, to practice, to maintain. Some people might be lucky enough to just sit down and puke out perfect prose. I am not one of those people. I’ve gotta work, and I’ve gotta keep at it.

What I think I’m trying to say in my own and slightly verbose way, is that it gets better. I’m not saying that you’ll stop thinking you suck. I’m not sure that’ll ever happen. You might however, rather like myself, realise you’re sucking less. Read something recent you’ve done, then read something old. You’ll see it. Use it as inspiration to keep going. Write, write, write. You’ll never improve if you don’t and you can only get better if you do.

Ups and Downs

A bit of a personal post from me today.

Friday was, shall we say, emotional. I had one of those days at work where, very early on in the day, someone completely and utterly trampled over my self-worth. To top that off, as it was their last day on the job, this issue will never be resolved and I’ll never get to know what went wrong. Nothing like confusion, hurt and self doubt to kick off your day. There was only one thing that I could think of that would make me feel better, and that was immersing myself in the fantasy worlds I’ve created. Unfortunately a had a whole day to stew before I could do that though.

To anyone who isn’t a writer, using fiction to forget your problems might not sound like the healthiest thing in the world. The thing about writing that non-writers have to understand is that to a whole lot of us, it isn’t a job. It’s a hobby, it’s our fun, it’s how we unwind and, very frequently, it’s our therapy.

Some people like to explore their trials and tribulations in their writing. Other’s like to use fiction to forget about them for a while. Whichever works for you, it beats the hell out of sitting there with a tub of Häagen-Dazs and is more productive too. On Friday though, being a writer helped me deal in a new way.

First of all we were nearing the end of the day, all of us in the lab being silent, when suddenly my co-worker turned to me with a humongous grin on her face and said “thirty six days” with more than a modicum of excitement. I peered at her, confused. Thirty six days? I spent a few panicked moments trying to remember what happened in thirty six days. Was her granddaughter visiting? A particularly significant footie match? A holiday? Eventually, I had to ask. My memory had failed me. Her grin only widened. “In thirty six days I get to read your book!” Talk about a confidence boost. Not only was someone excited to read my book, they were literally counting the days until they got to do so. Not even one of the writing community, because we all get excited at getting to beta each others’ books. I couldn’t help but join in her excitement, especially when I checked my emails later that evening.

A few weeks ago, I sent off the first 20k of Through the Black to a friend who needed stuff to critique for experience for a course. On Friday, I got their feedback. While I couldn’t get feedback on the overall plot or character arcs, what I did get was hugely positive. It was so validating and almost completely erased the woes of the morning. I was excited and delighted, grinning at my screen so much it hurt. Then I wanted to cry, overwhelmed by the fact that someone was actually enjoying the novel I had poured so much of my time and soul into. Then I was grinning again. This went back and forth long into the night, and it felt amazing.

Sometimes real life is awesome, and that energy gets channelled into writing.

Sometimes real life completely sucks. That energy goes in as well.

Because writing makes everything better, and I might be starting to think that sharing that writing is awesome too.

Betas And Babies

Right now I’m in full on editing mode and am currently still on track to finish on time (just). The last third of this book needs some major rewriting though, so we’ll see how this goes. I have currently edited twelve out of seventeen chapters of TE Book 1, in case you were wondering. Anyway, today I’m adding another brief note on beta readers and why they are important, if only to convince myself that sending this MS out is 100% necessary.

Beta readers are essential.

Disclaimer: You may get bored of this topic, as the prospect of sending this MS out is pretty much always on my mind right now, eating away at me. The fear is strong with this one. But so is the stubbornness. I’ve said it’s going out, it’s going out.

I am very easy to please. Ridiculously so. Quite often I find it difficult to spot faults. It’s one of the reasons that I find beta reading such a challenge. No really, I genuinely loved that story and don’t know how to criticise it. Like, I actually kinda enjoyed Alien Resurrection!  That’s how bad it is. I see a good film and think it’s amazing. I see an all right film and think it’s great. My brain nearly exploded when I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. How can I see the problems in my own work if I can’t see it in other peoples’? It’s tough, but that’s where beta readers come in.

It feels like such a strange thing to complain about, since most of my time editing consists of me dramatically flopping over my desk, lamenting how this prose is completely unfit for human eyes. There are problems. I know there are problems. What are they? Why are they problems? And how, oh how, do I kick them to the curb?

There are parts of my story that I really like, certain scenes, conversations, settings. Yet the thought of people reading them still makes my blood run cold. Do I, on some subconscious level, know that there are issues in these things that I love and I just don’t want to change them? Very possible. Our books are our babies. Actually, scratch that. I hate babies. I love books, especially  mine (about 40% of the time). The point of beta readers is to challenge this love, to question, to poke holes. So eventually, someday you will have the perfect, remade, new and improved, robo-baby. Uh, I mean book.

And that is why beta readers are essential.

No Going Back.

So this month has been made an unofficial NaNo Edit month by the gorgeous and talented Melanie Francisco, which if you follow me on Twitter will explain all this #NaNoEdiMo malarkey. This is a great opportunity for me to kick myself in the behind. As I stated was my intention in my last post, this poor dusty blog has been getting a renovate in hopes for it to be frequented once again by me. And, while fixing the categories out so that “uncategorised” wasn’t my biggest one (urgh, go Past Me), I came upon a very excited post by me.

In this post, I was talking about how I was going to get through a draft of TE1 and send it out to betas super soon. Rather like one of the resolutions in my recent post. Only this last post was dated December 1st, 2013.

Yeah. Pretty epic fail, right? And it’s not the first, or the last. But this time I mean business, and NaNoEdiMo is giving me the boost I need. On top of that, I made a vow that I would not go backwards. Once a chapter is done, it is done. And once they are all done, it’s going straight in an email and flying off to betas. It’s so difficult to let go, and I’ve been going back and forth over this thing for two years and getting nowhere. I need new eyes.

So now I can’t go back, and I’m currently on Chapter 9 out of 15. That’s a lot of stuff I can’t touch.

It’s gonna be scary and it’s gonna hurt, but my book might finally get better as a result and that right there is the dream. It’s time to let go. And it’s time to edit like hell and get this thing OUTTA HERE!