Category Archives: Time management and goals

The thing about subjective assessments

One of the reasons I like keeping written goals is that it gives me an objective standard to measure my performance. Because subjective standards are frequently wrong.

Managers doing annual reviews, for example, are sometimes waylaid by the recency effect: “Wow, Stella’s been amazing this past week, way above average. Okay, time for her annual review, I guess her performance for the year must be ‘above average.'” Likewise if my Friday writing’s going poorly, it’s very easy to feel my whole week was wasted.

And yeah, it was kind of poor today. TYG was out of town, so I took the dogs on the morning walk. Then I had to spend an hour dealing with some lingering stuff involving Mum’s estate (as my sister handled the executor’s duties, which is no small amount of work, I’m happy to do whatever I can to help her). As frequently happens when my morning goes off-schedule, I felt a little disoriented (things like that knock me off my game more than they should). I didn’t get much done today, so I feel like my whole week was unbalanced and ineffective. Actually I did okay.

Leaf work has started back up, so I got in 10 of those.

I finished the current draft of Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s around 40,000 words and I think I’ve resolved most of the problems from the earlier drafts, such as what goes in which chapter. Next up, a print-out and I’ll see if I can do one more edit. Well, plus an index for the hard-copy version. I’m also debating whether I should add endnotes (or links for the ebook).

I got several thousand words done on Southern Discomfort. I think it’s progressing well.After it’s finished, I will need to make one cursory pass though to make sure I didn’t make any massive screw-ups (pointless blank space, repeated paragraphs) — I went back to an early section this week and found a couple. But that will be pretty minor.

I got some more done on proofing Atoms for Peace. Nowhere near as much as I’d wanted, but it’s coming along.

And I got a couple of IRL tasks done that needed doing.

As TYG’s schedule was inevitably crazy after a week away, I also coped with a little extra dog care. Not as much as I’d anticipated, but I think I did well not stressing out over it.

Today was still a mess, but overall I did well.

For humor, here’s Plushie yearning to check out a dead snake (you can’t tell from the image but it’s dead as a doornail) and probably roll on it. He did not get his wish.

#SFWApro. Cover by zakarianada, all rights to it are mine.

 

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

The merits of taking a break

Okay, not as drastic as proclaiming “Spider-Man … No More!” (art courtesy of the great John Romita), but our vacation last week just reminded me how important not working is. At least for me.

Even though I love what I do, it still takes on a treadmill overtone over time. Get up. Write with dogs sitting next to me. Repeat the next day. And because I spend a lot of evenings and weekends sitting in the living room with the dogs and TYG, sometimes it all blends together — I feel like I’m always just sitting with dogs. And even though I love them, that gets oddly draining.

Doing something different scrubs my mind clean. I’m able to think more clearly, imagine doing things differently, plus of course just being refreshed from the break. These are good things. While the week got slightly crazy for other reasons, I’m way more refreshed and ready to work than if I’d stuck around last week.

Even small breaks make a difference. Working at the paper, it was easy to tell myself “I’m so close to finishing, I’ll just skip lunch break, keep working, get a little ahead for tomorrow.” I ended up with my brain futzed. Doing something different, even if it’s just sitting and reading over lunch, is amazingly refreshing.

It will wear off eventually, but eventually we’ll go somewhere else. And I’m trying to think of ways to do more types of different things on the weekend, so it doesn’t feel all of a piece with the work week.

#SFWApo. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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I didn’t actually work this week

It was our annual trip to the Mensa national gathering, this time in Indianapolis. I’ll be blogging about it next week. However as this marks halfway through the year, I thought I’d look again at how my Plot Your Work Planner helped me accomplish goals (or didn’t). Or if you prefer, how well I did by the metrics I wrote into it.

Much to my surprise, I did pretty well. Which is a fringe benefit of writing down goals — it’s much easier to see how much I actually got done. Taking the April to June goals, one at a time:

Southern Discomfort went well. I’m actually further along in the final draft than I expected. I have a cover letter drafted (I’ll be revising it), though I didn’t finish my synopsis.

•I completed 30,000 words on the Undead Sexist Cliches book.

•I released Atlas Shagged in hard copy (it’s also available in ebook).

•I finished another draft The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I think I’ve figured out how to fix the problems — we’ll see if my reasoning holds up (I want to get at least half of the revised draft done in the next three months)

•I made some final changes to Questionable Minds, submitted it, and got turned down. I’m ready to go ahead and self-publish this one (though not right away). After all, Barbarian Books accepted it before closing their doors, so I have an outside verification it’s worth reading.

What I didn’t get done: Short stories. I wanted to have No One Can Slay Her done back in March and another story (probably Angels Hate This Man) in June. Nope. Neither done, though No One‘s pretty close — a final draft should have it done, but I have to work out the final fixes first.

Given I was also doing Screen Rant and all my Leaf articles, that’s pretty good results, I think. And the planner is definitely helping me keep track of things — I intend to order another one for 2019.

#SFWApro. All rights to journal design remain with current holder. Atlas Shagged cover is mine; painting is Atlas and the Hesperides by Singer-Sargent.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

This week seemed to have such promise

I was really optimistic about this week. Next round of Leaf articles hasn’t started yet, Screen Rant is done, I had time to focus on my personal projects.

But TYG was doing a lot of stuff this week that required concentration. And Plush Dog, for whatever reason, was needy. Actively needy, constantly trying to climb on her computer or barking for attention. So I wound up running interference, plus putting in a lot of extra dog walking. The time added up. Plus I was freaking out over some of the political news. It can’t be helped at times, but it’s not productive. I wound up several hours behind my quota for the week.

So what did I get done?

I finished a second draft of Only the Lonely Can Slay. Relocating the action to my old home town really sharpened the setting, and the dramatic arc improved some. However that’s a long way from saying it has a good arc. It’s trickier because I don’t want my protagonist to know exactly what she’s involved in, even when it’s all over. So we’ll see.

I thought a little about the rewrite of No One Can Slay Her but didn’t actually put any words to paper. I did make more progress on the final draft of Southern Discomfort. I’ve gone over four out of the 12 stories in the draft paperback of Atoms for Peace and edited them, though I haven’t made the corrections in the manuscript on my computer. That matters because some of the notes are just “sentence doesn’t work, fix it” when the correction is more than just a word or something concise.

I did not come anywhere near close my 1,000 words a day goal. Come July with no Screen Rant deadlines to make, it should be doable. And I will make it a priority.

I did draft a query for Space Invaders for McFarland but held off submitting it. There’s a couple of markets I’d like to look at first. Next month, one way or the other, it goes out.

Oh, and as noted this morning, I started making some upgrades to this blog. Hopefully that will prove worthwhile. It may be telling that I think of this as a blog first — but when I visit other author’s websites, I usually go to the blog first. After all, it’s the only part that’s likely to provide anything new.

And I also posted an in-depth review of The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Atomic Junkshop.

Subject to a couple of personal goals I hope to accomplish tomorrow, I got a little over 50 percent of my June goals go (the crazy schedule this week put paid to a couple of routine things I normally accomplish in the morning).

On the food front, we ate the first of the tomatoes TYG has been growing in the back, along with the herbs. Unfortunately the local squirrels pulled about twice that number off the plants — they don’t eat them, they just bite into them and leave them. Pure spite.

And we took the dogs to get groomed Wednesday. Plushie’s tail was so matted they had to shave it completely, leaving what looks like a little pig’s tail. Packs quite a wallop when he beats it on us.

#SFWApro. All rights to images are mine.

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

The light at the end of the tunnel was not an oncoming train

It’s what happens when some of the viscous jelly in your eye gets hard and crusty and breaks off.

I noticed flashes in the corner of my eye last weekend, and soon figured out they weren’t reflections of my glasses. Then I got some big floaters drifting across my vision. A quick check online established this is an unremarkable phenomenon, probably due to age, and not a serious issue. Unless, of course, I had an actual torn retina in which case it was an emergency. It didn’t seem extreme enough (I was referencing an eye doctor website so I was confident it was accurate) so I called my doctor Monday and went in for an eye appt. on Tuesday. Happily I was right, nothing serious, though the floaters are distracting (the flashes have faded away).

That took a chunk out of my week, Screen Rant took a bite more. The one I started on last week proved undoable for various reasons, but I spent about three hours on it before giving up. Tuesday I picked up a new one, 20 Things About Winter Soldier That Make No Sense (Jack Kirby’s cover gives us a look back when he was just Bucky, of course). As yet, it’s not up, though I submitted it this afternoon. It took more time than I wanted — upping the minimum from 15 to 20 adds quite a bit more work, both in searching for entries and writing. It may be more than I have the time to keep doing — it’s fun, but this might have to be my last. I’ll give it some thought.

While Bucky Barnes took up a chunk of time, I did continue work on Southern Discomfort and the Undead Sexist Cliches book. I’ve made my wordage on both for the month, but I’ll put in more time on SD next week. I started work revising No One Can Slay Her, though I didn’t get far. I’ll put in time on that next week, plus (hopefully) rewriting Only the Lonely Can Slay.

Oh, and I got a Createspace copy of Atoms for Peace and began proofing. Cover by zakarianada on Fiverr, rights to it are now mine. Going to take more work than I thought, but that just proves I made a good call getting the copy.

#SFWApro. All rights to Captain America cover remain with current holder.

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Ten years ago, less one month, I met her

And seven years ago last Monday I married her. And I’m so glad I did.

We had dinner last weekend at Sage, a local vegetarian (mostly vegan) restaurant that’s our go-to for special celebrations (Monday would have been rough on our schedules). We also traded gifts as we didn’t want to wait. I got TYG a good ice cream scoop and a charger for her phone; now she no longer has to carry the charger back and forth from bedroom to living room My gift was season tickets for both of us to Playmakers, one of the local theaters. Very good choice! Neither one fit the theme (wool, copper) but we don’t care.

Then Sunday Plushie had his back spasm and we were very stressed. That flowed into the work week. Plus I didn’t make out my schedule Sunday with my usual care, which left me feeling oddly off-balance this week. Though I didn’t let that stop me working. I also wasted a lot of time on a Screen Rant listicle I simply could not find enough items for. Eventually I gave it up, someone else took it and did fine and I found one that worked for me (not out yet) — 20 Weird Facts About Dr. Strange’s Body. For example, it’s actually older than the Earth, due to Earth being destroyed in the Bronze Age, then recreated.

As I’m a Dr. Strange fan, that was a lot of fun, though it took more time than I’d planned. SR Listicles now have more items with shorter text. I think the added time for research undoes the gains of less writing.

I didn’t come anywhere near making my 1,000 words a day of fiction. I did get some more work done on Southern Discomfort so I think I’m revising on schedule. No short story work.

I submitted Atoms for Peace to Draft2Digital, but the cover I commissioned seems to have a technical problem. So do my chapter headings —a lot of headings for scene changes (giving the time or location) are showing up as chapters. If I’m understanding the site’s advice correctly, the latter should be an easy fix. And I probably know enough computer nerds who can figure out the PDF problem.

I also submitted the PDF to CreateSpace. This time I’m going to order a draft copy of the paperback before I release the ebook. I’ll see the mistakes much better that way.

Oh, and Thursday I had coffee with my friend Heather Fredericks, author of the delightful Timber Howligan, Secret Agent.  She’s working on a sequel; I’ve read the rough draft so this was a feedback/critique session. She said it was very helpful. I’m pleased.

Next week, with my SR already picked and no Leaf, I anticipate a lot more fiction writing. Fingers crossed.

#SFWApro. Art by Gene Colan (top) and Steve Ditko. All rights remain with current holders.

 

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Star Trek transported my week away!

More specifically, my new Screen Rant on embarrassing roles of Star Trek actors. Like William Shatner (above) as an alcoholic priest in The Horror at 37,000 Feet.

The embarrassment isn’t necessarily that they did a dreadful job. Although Brent Spiner (above) did not cover himself with glory in Rent Control. To say nothing of his mustache. It’s simply that the production as a whole was dreadful. Roxann Dawson didn’t make a memorable impression in the nursing drama Nightingales but it’s not like that show gave her much to work with (or anyone else).

It was fun to do, but because there are so many actors and so many potential entries, I ran it up to 25 items. That’s a lot of writing, and it took up way more time than usual. So basically my accomplishments this week were that piece, my usual array of Leaf articles, and a couple of thousand words of Southern Discomfort.

But that said, it was fun, and I think I did a great job. So go check it out.

And the Leaf project I’ve been working on apparently wraps up this week (something new may be coming down the pike in July or August) — there’s no more articles in the queue. I knew that was coming, but I figured it would be a couple more weeks. That’s an extra 10 hours a week the rest of the month to do my own writing stuff, whoot! I shall put it to good use.

So not much else to say. On the personal front, a foundation-repair job (nothing critical, just shoring up some potential weaknesses) began this week, though it won’t finish until Monday (weather permitting).

Oh, and despite Verizon confirming in writing that they’d closed a fake account someone took out in my name (and didn’t pay for), I got a call today from a debt collector today. I offered to send them the Verizon email: oh, sorry, they don’t have an email address! And they can’t contact Verizon! Yeah, right. So I hung up. I’ll deal with them if they call back. I’m not entirely surprised — I’ve read plenty of accounts of people who resolved debts, but some data entered online, somewhere, kept it alive. Sometimes even within companies like Verizon. And the penalties for error are few.

A sour note to end the week on, but I’m still looking forward to next week.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder.

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Accomplishments for the week and the month

So I was working on my next Screen Rant, about weird ways movies cover up mistakes, and I ran into a problem: I couldn’t find any. Outside of “keep it in!” when an actor screws up, there’s very little. I emailed my editor for some advice, but she was away, I didn’t ask another editor right away and the end result was I didn’t get it done. So now Rant post this week But on the plus side, more time for everything else! I got another 5,000 words of Southern Discomfort done, including fixing the scene that was giving me problems. And I think I see how to fix the problems with The Impossible Takes a Little Longer — we’ll see how it plays out in the rewrite, but I’m optimistic.

I also tried uploading a PDF of Atoms for Peace to Createspace so I can proofread a copy. Apparently a PDF created from Apple’s Pages program (not a favorite of mine) doesn’t work as well as when I make one with Draft2Digital’s system. So I shall prepare one next week, as I’ll be creating the ebook via D2D anyway.

I read No One Can Slay Her to the writers’ group Tuesday. Got lots of helpful feedback, and lots of enthusiasm for the story.

Plus I finished the usual Leaf articles on topic such as where to find book value of debt on a corporate balance sheet. On the assumption I’d be working on Screen Rant at some point, I squeezed seven of the 10 Leafs I’d scheduled into Monday, to free up time. Very tiring. But it was nice when I finished up Tuesday and had the rest of the week free. It felt awesome being able to put almost two days in on fiction, and actually get somewhere.

For the month I completed 68 percent of my goals, which felt quite satisfactory, especially as most of the ones I didn’t get done were minor or non-urgent. My biggest disappointment is that I just don’t complete short stories as fast as I’d like. Subordinating them to Southern Discomfort and to the immediate-pay gigs (Leaf and Screen Rant) makes sense, but I’d really hoped to have two done by the end of next month. I should have No One Can Slay Her done once I make use of the feedback, but I’d hoped to have Angels Hate This Man done too. Doesn’t look like it. There’s only so much time to go around.

Oh, I did put up two posts on Atomic Junkshop, one on the myth there’s a definitive version of characters (“Spider-Man achieved perfection when I read him as a teen! Clearly if I retcon away all the changes since then, it’ll be perfect again!”) and one on The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, longer than my post here.

 

#SFWApro. All rights to poster image remain with current holder.

 

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Movies, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

I see stormy storms ahead …

So I made it up to 16,000 words of Southern Discomfort this week, which is well ahead of what I planned for this month. However I hit the first place that requires an intensive fix, and that slowed me down some. So I won’t be surprised if it starts going a lot slower from hereon in. Even so, I don’t think I’ve set myself an unreasonable pace, so by the end of September I should be done. Barring, of course, disasters. Sometimes they happen.

My Screen Rant on Deadpool 2‘s Shatterstar is now live, and it was a lot of fun. How can you not enjoy writing about someone who’s a genetically engineered mutant extraterrestrial time traveler? And also his own grandfather. And who got merged with Starfire in a DC/Marvel crossover to become — Shatterstarfire!

For some reason writing it went a lot slower than usual, which was annoying. Writing it on just Monday/Tuesday still works well for freeing the rest of the week up, but I think the work may be expanding to fill the time available. Which is Not Good.

I submitted a column pitch to The Guardian, without success. And I’m up to 20,000 words in the Undead Sexist Cliches book. It’s much better organized than the last draft, but the next couple of chapters are really fragmentary, so next month may be a lot slower.

No short story work, due to the time put in on Southern Discomfort.

A productive week, though not terribly exciting to write about.

#SFWApro. Images by Rob Liefeld and Roger Cruz (top and bottom), all rights remain with current holders.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Embrace the disorder, learn how to bend

(Title adapted from the theme song of Psych).

Sometimes my 1,000 words of fiction a day rule needs adjusting. A week and a half ago, when I accepted the Vampire Diaries romances list from Screen Rant, the due date was this past Tuesday. To get that done and get in my Leaf articles, I had to focus on them Monday and Tuesday and forget about fiction (I’ll do the same next week, with my article on Shatterstar). Under the circumstances that was okay, so long as I made up the extra wordage later in the week, which I did.

Without the demands of doctors and plumbers that bedeviled me last week, this was a productive five days. I got in my Leaf work and the Screen Rant. Plus about 4,000 more words on Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s definitely easier to make my chapters coherent when I have a big block of time to work on it.

On the fiction side, I went over No One Can Slay Her for a final review and it’s done … subject to any feedback from the writer’s group in a couple of weeks. I redrafted Angels Hate This Man; it still needs a lot of work, but I think I’m finally getting somewhere. I finished The Cheap Assassin‘s first draft and started rewriting a story called (for the moment) Neverwas (time travel, bookstores, the apostle Luke — it all makes sense!). I didn’t get any further with Southern Discomfort, but I’ll be back on that horse next week.

I also found a cover for Atoms for Peace. I’ll post it soon.

It took me over my usual 35 hours a week (or is that my theoretical 35 hours a week?) to get it all done, but I didn’t feel stressed. So yay.

#SFWApro. Image is George Frederick Watts’ Chaos via Wikimedia commons .

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing