Sunday, December 20, 2009

scheduling of days

This week, I tried -- well, not to do GTD, certainly. I looked at all I want to do with my time, and I tried to break up the time I have available in my working day to give me two concentrated sections of working on projects, split by dealing with stuff like e-mail, forums I frequent, and reading blogs. Then I roughed out what I thought I could fit into those slots each day.

It didn't work, of course.

The first day went okay, but I quickly realized I could either follow my time divisions *or* get the amount done on my projects that I wanted each day, but not both. The crit I'm working on is detailed enough that it's not 3 minutes a page, and the paying work (updating an index this week) took some time to find the most efficient method of working on it. So none of those blocks of time got used for writing.

By the end of the week, I was a bit cranky.

I still like this idea in principle, but the blogs and social networking and such -- that's going to have to be either early morning (before I'm dealing with getting kids out the door) or evening (while dinner simmers). That will give me larger chunks of time, in which I will be able to get more done. And I might have to discard the blog-reading on some days entirely to use that time for writing. Because as much as I want to know what's going on in publishing and with my friends and the people I find interesting in life, getting the writing actually done is more important.

Thus, there will be adjustments made. This week? Scheduling isn't going to work at all. Monday is going to be Christmas shopping. Tuesday, I've got stuff at my son's school. Wednesday, the next proofreading gig arrives. Oh, and I've agreed to beta read a book for another friend. So maybe next week, I'll give it a stab again.

I may wind up realizing I just can't do all I want to. If so, family, writing, and paying work take precedence.

Monday, December 14, 2009

time periods for a story

I've seen a few things lately denigrating horses-and-castles fantasy, anything set in medieval or pseudo-Dark Ages. Of course, my new idea, Sundered Sword, needs a historical milieu.

The idea started with the line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "[S]trange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government." Which got me thinking about Excalibur and wondering what would happen if two different people both got swords -- or part of the same sword.

I can't write about such a thing in a modern world or even post-Enlightenment. People don't believe in divine right to rule and haven't for centuries. That pretty much limits the sort of fantastical world I can create.

It won't be a strictly medieval world. I've been reading a lovely biography of a woman in early seventeenth-century Italy, and I'll be borrowing Renaissance and Baroque elements, probably including guns and cannon. But the absolutely critical point is at heart, people must believe in the right of kings (or queens) to rule, even if it has been generations since one has.

And that's my rationale for adding yet another horses-and-swords fantasy to the world.

Friday, December 11, 2009

on the setting of goals

Last week, my friend Bonnie wrote a post on impaired executive function, which focused on her knowing what her goals are but needing to figure out how to get herself to focus on them on a day-to-day level. We had a lot of back-and-forth in chat about setting long-term goals and how we translate that to actually working on them. I tossed off a comment about having monthly goals and drawing weekly goals from them, and then I realized that I don't, not usually.

Here's the way this year has gone:
  • I came up with a short list of goals.

  • I created a spreadsheet, with different writing areas as rows and months as columns, and plugged the anticipated work into slots, thus giving myself monthly targets. (I also marked off August as vacation time, though the actual vacation was mid-July to mid-August.) Some things got put on the spreadsheet that were not in my goals, such as "post to Random Walks T/Th."

  • Every week, on the Daily Page & Word Count forum at Forward Motion for Writers, I would post a list of things I planned to work on that week -- including paying work, family events, and writing primarily determined by deadline. (Yes, the "Daily" forum is generally used on a week-by-week basis, with daily posting of progress. It's the way it has evolved.)

  • At the end of each month, I looked at how I was doing compared to my initial annual goals. I also created an updated worksheet in the spreadsheet, showing what was actually accomplished through that month and changes to the plan coming up. Some things (such as the aforementioned blog posts) got carried over, even though I wasn't doing them.

Now, a few years back, I read David Allen's Getting Things Done. I implemented part of it (I'd never heard of a tickler file before, but it's been great for getting bills paid, as long as I'm good at checking it.), tried part of it (the brain dump of projects took too long . . . ), and said, "Are you out of your mind? I don't have time for that!" to other parts (the weekly review).

It dawned on me this week that I already do a weekly review. Every week, I sit down and figure out how I did on my goals for that week and write down what I plan to work on for the next week. I just don't implement it fully. I don't look at my monthly or annual goals to see what I should be working on if I want to get to where I want to go. I also don't look at the "Someday/Maybe" list to see whether there's something I should be adding in because it fits where I am at the moment.

Next Action (Okay, not really, but it's more GTD-speak than "now on my to-do list"): Review the section on weekly reviews in the GTD book and start implementing it more fully in my week.

Of course, this doesn't address Bonnie's original question. I've got a week's worth of things to work on (some from this week include crit for Myrrdin, write on Jim Bob or Sundered Sword or both, work on short stories) and no really good way to get myself to sit down and do any one of them at a given time. (And on weeks like this, broken up by family and personal illness, little inclination to do any of them.)

I do try, of course. Some things are dictated by deadline -- a lot of my paying work, for example. Some things I find go best if I consistently do a bit each day -- such as when I'm doing a crit -- I like to do enough each day to immerse myself in the story, but not so much that I'm not getting my own work done. I find about 30 pages a day is a good target (not that I did that this week).

So, in addition to working on that weekly review, which should help me break long-term goals down into more manageable chunks, I may be experimenting with weekly-to-daily translations during this next year as well. Check back for further updates.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2009 goals update

I took a look at my stated goals for the year, and although I've made progress on them, I'm certainly not going to get all of them met before this December 31.

Edit two novels and get at least one out to agents. I edited one, sent it out for crits, read the crits, and prepared a new edit plan for it. For the other, I've read through it and prepped an edit plan/outline. Nothing has made it as far as an agent.

Submit one novella and one novelette. Novella done, submiited, results as good as could be hoped for. Novelette was supposed to go to Nocturne Bites; I've decided to shelve that project indefinitely (i.e., trunk it), even though I am almost finished with the edits.

Outline NaNo 2007. Done as part of above editing plans.

And a new novel for NaNoWriMo? I certainly participated. I even won. What I did not do was write a complete novel, and Jim Bob is not going to be finished this month, either.

So the final score for 2009 goals? Actually, pretty good. I didn't get as much progress on novels, either writing or editing, as I wanted, but I did make progress.

What does this mean for 2010? I'll roll over the editing and writing, of course, as a minimum. However, I should get more done in the coming year. My youngest is in daycare now, which will give me mire time. Also, not taking as long a family vacation -- thus, expecting to get far more done and will be posting 2010 goals that reflect this.