Category Archives: Time management and goals

As expected, a slight drop in productivity

As I’ve mentioned frequently in this week-in-review posts, if I’m performing way above average or way below average the odds are that by random chance I’ll do less well the following week. When I’m at my very best it’s just easier to drop to a lower level than stay at the top. That’s the nature of averages.

So unsurprisingly, this wasn’t as good a week as the previous two. For one thing I gave myself Wednesday off: I had to take the car in for annual inspection and checkup and decided I’d just bring a book rather than my computer. Then I kept reading that afternoon. It felt good, so no regrets. We also had the housekeepers in Thursday. I thought we’d be dealing with the new dishwasher Tuesday but that fell through — there’s a part that was out (supply chain issues) so we’re rescheduled for a couple of weeks.

My dizziness continues but at a much reduced level so my daily exercises are apparently fixing things or buying time for them to fix themselves. I could drive safely to the car place and back so that’s good enough. I’m sticking with exercises that do not involve heavy head-jerking for now, though.

This week’s big breakthrough was figuring out the problem with the ending of Oh the Places You’ll Go! My new ending, with everyone in the future world of 2015, works much better though it does need some fixing and editing. I also figured out that the problem with Adventure of the Red Leech is the third quarter: there’s a lot of necessary exposition but no tension, nothing to up the stakes. I don’t quite know how to fix it yet, though.

Other than that, it was mostly Leafs, plus a new client asking for similar business articles. Better paying per article but not as many articles available.

And I had to resolve a problem with a couple of missing photos from the set I sent in as illustrations for The Aliens Are Here. All taken care of now.

All in all, not bad for the last week of the month. Month-in-review post will come next week.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals

I defied the dizziness!

Despite the unpleasant vertigo I endured this week, it was, once again, enjoyably productive. I finished the rewrite of Questionable Minds — it turns out I did a really thorough job last go round. Now it’s a matter of a)spellcheck, b)getting a cover and c)setting a release date so I can do some promotion. I really liked the cover artist I was working with but I think she may be overloaded with work and stress. We shall see.

I did a rewrite of Oh the Places You’ll Go! and it’s 95 percent solid. The 5 percent is that the ending still feels like it needs something and I’m not sure what. I rewrote it so it pays off what I set up the beginning but it still feels like it needs more. Only I’m not sure what. I may recruit an extra beta reader to give it a look-see. I also submitted a couple more short stories and wrote a few Leaf articles.

I rewrote the first chapter of Southern Discomfort to put it in Maria’s first-tense. It does add to her personal tension and maybe makes her a little more likable. I don’t think it ramps up the tension as much as my first feedback suggested, but we’ll see how I feel after a couple more chapters.

Snowdrop is now routinely exploring the house when he comes in, as in this shot where he’s descending from snooping around the second floor.TYG successfully put a collar with a bell on him early this week. He protested a lot and tried to bite it off, but it’s still on him several days later. It’s a little harder to hear him than Wisp as his floof mutes it some. Below, he and Wisp debate control of the couch. Never mind where I get to sit.Next week will probably not be so smooth. I have our car’s annual inspection (assuming I’m not too vertiginous to drive), the housekeepers come in for their monthly gig and we’re getting a new dishwasher installed (can’t wait!). But I’ve accomplished so much this month already, I won’t feel too bad if things slow down to a crawl.

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I keep thinking there’s a deathtrap here somewhere …

No, everything went great this week — in fact, that’s the point. I keep feeling there has to be a catch, and I’ll suddenly find myself in peril mortal, like Batman in this Carmine Infantino cover.

Of course that’s not true. Practically speaking a really great week is just another variation of returning to the mean — sheer random luck means I’m bound to have a terrific week eventually. Yet it also feels more than that. For the past couple of  years — maybe three or four — it’s felt like my fiction was floundering. I couldn’t seem to finish anything. I seriously wondered if I’d just lost some kind of mojo.

Apparently not because this week the fiction went great. I completed the current very rough rewrite draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I did another draft of Adventure of the Red Leech and it looks surprisingly good. Plus a draft of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and that looks good too — though I’m still not sure the ending is what I want it to be.

Perhaps it’s simply that I’m much more focused at the moment. Even before nonfiction ate up all last year, I was putting in a lot of time on Undead Sexist Cliches and dividing the rest of my time between multiple different projects. This month my fiction goals are Impossible and the two short stories (I’m also proofing Questionable Minds but the writing is done). Perhaps that makes a difference.

So I’m feeling quite pleased with myself. Of course things could still go cattywampus when I start the next drafts of any of them, but maybe they won’t. For the moment my biggest problem is figuring out how to adjust my schedule for all the time I didn’t use on the novel. Should I give myself time off? Start a new short story (I can’t see myself starting the next draft yet)? Put more time into reviewing Southern Discomfort? This week I used the leftover hours for a couple more submissions, to do a little research and simply to check out various web pages I’d bookmarked as interesting. Next week, who knows?

And of course productive writing time doesn’t equate to sales. I sent out two stories this week but I also got my third rejection of the month back. I haven’t sold anything so far this year, though perhaps as the number of finished stories grows, that will change.

Either way, this week felt great.

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Perhaps this time, the impossible takes a little shorter.

As I’ve said before, my list of 2022 goals doesn’t include a lot of specifics. One of the specific goals is that I want to finish rewriting Impossible Takes a Little Longer and send it off to someone (or alternatively, have it ready to self-publish).

I’ve never managed to write anything that quickly but I think it’s doable. With Aliens Are Here and Undead Sexist Cliches done, I have no other major project (lots of little ones). And this is book that I’ve rewritten several times already so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch.

I’ve been approaching the current draft like a NaNoNaNo project. Figure out where I’m going next and then just charge ahead writing the sucker. If I see possible problems, keep going. I know from experience that can waste a shit-ton of time — I get to the end, realize the draft is completely wrong — but it’s coming along well. A number of chunks are still usable, I just had to shift them around to meet my new plot structure. It’s tighter, tenser (I think) and less rambling.

It’s also created a raft of new problems. In my previous, more rambling plot, the Big Bad doesn’t become aware of KC until halfway through the book (she assumes he’s behind all her problems but it’s coincidence). Now he needs to be working against her much sooner, which will require some changes. I’m not sure what, though. And his biggest moments with her take place in scenes that got cut a couple of drafts ago. Writing now, I definitely need to build up his presence more.

Matt, KC’s close buddy, barely appears in the new manuscript. That’s bad because later events have no emotional punch if I don’t build up their friendship. I’m not sure where I fit him in. Or should I drop him and give his role to Rachel? She’s another friend of KC but much of her original subplot has been cut or handed off to KC’s best friend Sarah. This would give her something to do — perhaps there’s no longer enough material for two characters. Carla Jeffries, the mayor of New York, played a much larger role in the previous draft. It’s much diminished now, which is a shame. She’s a good character and I’d like to expand it when I rewrite this draft, if I can.

There’s also the problem of when KC learns things. A lot of the reveals got moved up much earlier, which has a ripple effect on how she reacts in later scenes and what the conversations cover. Twists I’d have preferred to hold off on until later now happen earlier. But I’m stuck with that unless I can think of a plausible reason for someone not to tell her.

Another problem could be that it’s only running into 60,000-plus words now. However that’s less of an issue than it used to be — there are publishers who’ll take a book that short — and it’ll probably expand in the next revision.

Still, I think the problems are fixable and that this rewrite is much stronger than what went before. We’ll see if I still think so when it’s done and I look it over.

Below, a paining by Giorgio De Chirico, one of my favorite surrealists, simply because I like his work.

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This week was pleasantly easy

Leaf articles are on a lull so I could work on my own projects. And most of those went smoothly.

I completed the 25,000 words I wanted to add to Impossible Takes a Little Longer this month, in large part because I was at a point where I could reuse a lot of older material, just in a different place in the book (I’ll be discussing this next week in more detail). I’m not entirely sure the last 5,000 words will stay in the final manuscript but I so love the telepathic dog I hated to cut him. I’m a softie on dogs, y’know? I intend to keep working on the book this month, though some of the allotted time may go to other projects.

I began work rewriting my first published story, The Adventure of the Red Leech (I discussed the reasons why here). I have one major problem, I have no idea how Holmes defeats the supernatural at the climax without telegraphing the ending in advance (e.g., if Holmes put silver bullets into a revolver, you’d know the werewolf was going to buy it). On the other hand, the mystery plot is starting to make sense, so I have hope it will all fall into place.

I got 3,500 words into the final (or almost) draft of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and I can see improvement already. If I can finish it this month I will be very happy.

As an experiment, I swapped Chapter Two and Chapter One of Southern Discomfort around. This has the advantage of introducing Maria up front, which makes it clear she’s the central character (albeit it’s still an ensemble cast, not a star vehicle). There’s more tension than in Chapter One, which is a lot lower key. On the downside, there’s no real hint of what’s going on and little evidence of a supernatural presence. I will give it another look next week after my thoughts have had time to jell.

I posted two articles to Atomic Junkshop. One is about the Marvel retcon known as the Siancong War. The other is about Reed Richards and Ben Grimm serving in WW II and why that seems so unusual today (no, not just because it would make them more than 80 if it was still canon).Less satisfyingly, I sent out three stories to various markets and got two of them back. One came with a compliment that my submission was close to several things they’d already accepted so clearly I was on the right track. Unfortunately I have nothing else that fits this particular market (sigh). And a couple of magazines I approached in hopes of getting PR for Undead Sexist Cliches didn’t respond.

Not that I don’t enjoy the creative process, but it would be really nice to have something accepted by someone. Of course Aliens Are Here is under contract, but a fiction sale would be nice. A new story rather than a reprint would be even better. Though as I barely submitted anything last year, it’s understandable I haven’t gotten any results in a while. Hopefully this year will see some improvement.

#SFWApro. Comics panels by Jack Kirby, all rights to images remain with current holder.

 

 

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January 2022: How’d it go?

Pretty good, I think.

As I mentioned at the end of last year, I’m keeping my year goals fairly simple this year, mostly inspirational. Then going into specifics for monthly goals and adjusting them as I go along. Plus rewarding myself if I do well. The big reward for January was buying myself a $100 book if got 150 points (different tasks got scored differently). I came out with 138 so I rewarded myself with a $40 purchase. I should add that dangling rewards was more motivating than I expected, inspiring me to get several little tasks on the goal list finished this weekend.

The big writing one was to finish and launch Undead Sexist Cliches. I did it. I still can’t believe that I succeeded, but I did. I’m pleased. It feels really good to have a long-running project done. And to have a book out.

Secondary goals were to finish 40 Leaf articles, 25,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and the same on Oh the Places You’ll Go (as it’s a short story, this involved multiple drafts). I didn’t achieve any of them. I hit 20,000 words on the novel and the short story which is good, though. I came close to 40 Leafs but ran out of steam.

Outside of writing, I did manage to average one book or one movie a day (another goal), which has trimmed my TBR and To Be Viewed piles slightly.

I kept up my exercise regimen and bicycled at least one hour on the stationary bicycle once.

I got a bunch of little goals done: baking more bread, emptying out my safe deposit box (branch is closing so I had to move everything to a new bolt-hole), making plans for Valentine’s Day (nothing spectacular).

What didn’t I get done? Well due to the snowfall and the freezing, biting cold, most of my goals that involved taking a walk, sitting in the back yard, bicycling outside did not get done. And with Omicron still flourishing, I didn’t go anywhere or hang out with anyone.

My efforts to contribute to fighting the Anti-American Party, formerly known as Republicans, went well. Donated money to charity and to political candidates. Began writing postcards to Democratic voters encouraging them to get out and vote. We’re the majority, we can do this. However I want to find ways to contribute more.

Other than snow (you can see from the tracks that the cats really use that tarp-covered shelter on the right. I’m so happy to know it’s protecting them), the big challenge remains the added demands from all the pets. I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if we’d been able to take the dogs for our normal long morning walk. With a little more time I might have made my fiction goals. I would definitely have gotten a few more small goals met, but they simply get squeezed out. Admittedly pushing myself to read more makes a difference there too.

For February, therefore, I’m really going to push to manage my time better. It should be doable, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. I have X amount of time assigned to various projects and I don’t have anything as demanding as Undead Sexist Cliches. That should make it easier to not go over time on any one project. I’m doing considerably more fiction, which is nice: finishing Places, another 25,000 word goal for Impossible, starting rewrites on my first published story, The Adventures of the Red Leech. I’m also going to think about possible revisions to Southern Discomfort.

My time still feels overly squished, but we shall see how it goes.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Nothing as exciting to blog about as this morning, sorry!

This morning, after all, I celebrated Undead Sexist Cliches launching in paperback as well as ebook. Outside of that, this week was all Leaf articles, all the time.

I got around 20 done, which is not as many as I’d planned on. Even working late Monday I still had to deal with a dermatology checkup Tuesday (a few things frozen off but apparently my skin is mostly fine). Thursday the housekeepers made their  monthly visit, which distracted the dogs even worse than usual, which of course distracted me. Today I had to drive to Sprouts for what would normally be weekend shopping. If the projections are right we’ll wake up tomorrow snowed in for the third Saturday in a row. Snow I’m okay with, but just on the weekends? What is this shit?

So the end result was too many distractions, and after each one it takes time to get my focus back, so there you are. Still, coupled with the few I did earlier this month, I’m in good shape for February I think.

And alas, both Fiddler’s Black and Impossible Things Before Breakfast came back today (my record is three rejections in a day, in case you were wondering). I’m not entirely surprised with the second rejection as I figured it didn’t quite fit their theme. Didn’t want to self-reject, however.

I’m not sure what I’ll work on Monday to wrap up the month. Leafs are done for the month so probably some work on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and a couple of new submissions.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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This is more like what I wanted from January

Admittedly the week wasn’t perfect. With snow arriving today, I went out and did my grocery shopping yesterday morning along with a couple of other errands. Between that and a miserable lack of sleep Wednesday night, I got very little writing accomplished. Despite that, it was an excellent week.

First off, Undead Sexist Cliches is now live in the ebook version. You can buy it on Amazon, or from Draft2Digital and from multiple other ebook retailers. I got a proof copy from Amazon and everything looks good, I just didn’t have time to complete the approval process today. However it will be available in paperback before the end of next week.

This is a little draw-dropping. I’ve been working on this thing for several years (I’m not a fast writer) and like wrapping up Aliens Are Here last year, it’s startling to realize I’m done. Finished. Ready to move on to other things. And you know, I think it’s a terrific book.

Good news the second, I’ve been accepted as a Congregate 2022 guest. It’s a Winston-Salem convention which means it’s only 90 minutes away, though I imagine I’ll stay over. Fingers crossed that covid is tame enough by then I can make it.

I rewrote Oh the Places You’ll Go again and read the first part for the writer’s group Tuesday. They were enthusiastic though some of the feedback pointed out things I really need to address. But now I feel it’s also on the bring of finishing — it needs some rewriting but I think the story is solid enough it won’t need more.

I put in some time on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and it went well. I got past one plot stumbling block, though it may come back to bite me later. I also made some major changes to KC’s trip to Dallas and the Stardians that I think greatly improve that section of the book.

I pitched article ideas based on Aliens Are Here to both Tor.com and the SFWA blog. I also posted two more articles to Atomic Junk Shop. One marks the Black Knight’s appearance in Eternals by looking at his Silver Age appearances (including the scene above) the other looks back at the god-awful 1967 Casino Royale. Though it does boast a wild poster.As the Leaf articles just started up for January, I don’t know if I’ll get any more fiction written. A solid week of Leafs, plus the ones I did this week, should take care of my bills for February, which is good. But either way here’s to next week being just as productive.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, comics illustration by George Tuska, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Second week of 2022: Progress and chaos

I came about four hours short of a full work week which is annoying. The trouble is, there are just too many unpredictable elements.

For instance Thursday I had to pick up prescription dog food after lunch, then find a gas station with diesel to fill up our almost empty car (under the assumption the winter storm this weekend might mess up supply). That took longer than planned because the diesel pump at the station we usually use was down, so I had to drive further.

Today, we took the dogs on a big lunch walk which used up some unplanned extra time, then Wisp came in, then I was chatting with TYG for a bit … and so lunch increased by an unexpected 45 minutes. As I’ve said before, there’s really no good place in my schedule to put the time back in and it adds up, day by day.

That said, the work I did get done was good and productive. I decided that Draft2Digital’s payment rate for hard-copy books was less than I liked (their ebook rates, by contrast, are excellent) so I tried KDP, Amazon’s publishing arm. This works out much less well than I remember from earlier books but it pays me more than Draft2Digital on a lower price.

Draft2Digital’s process, however, does provide an Amazon ready PDF but getting the system to handle my friend Kemp Ward’s cover proved remarkably difficult. I finally worked it out, though, and I’ve got a proof coming next week. Assuming no problems, both paperback and ebook will be available this month.

I finished another draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go. It’s very clunky but it does include all the elements I want and has (I think) a workable plot. Next week we’ll see what the writer’s group makes of it. I suspect the best solution to making it less clunky would be expanding it. I don’t want to go novel but maybe 15,000 words or so, about double the price? I think that would slow down the rate at which I share information and it will help explore the character relationships I think are the heart of the story. And it’ll give me time to work with the ending too — it’s kind of rushed right now.

Last week I found myself stymied by the next section of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This week I saw how to get past that. There are things I don’t like — it takes Sarah off the board for longer than I wanted — but I think the revised plot holds together.

That was pretty much it. Oh, plus I’ve been posting at Atomic Junkshop: The past two weeks I’ve covered out-of-date satire, abandoning movie theaters, Batman’s con-man villains, and that bad Dunwich Horror cover I posted here Tuesday. Much less effective than the poster for the bad 1970 film.#SFWApro. Book cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Not exactly the finish to 2021 I expected …

I’m still dealing with so much non-writing stuff during the morning that it’s very difficult to get into a creative headspace. So nothing on fiction this week.

On the plus side, I gave Undead Sexist Cliches it’s final proof (via a PDF downloaded from Draft 2 Digital). I spotted a few mistakes and several places where I need to clarify what I meant, but it’s done. The Ebook will go out next month; the hard copy too if I can index it fast enough. So woot! I admit I haven’t followed best policy and hyperlinked the footnotes to the text, but that’s more work than I’m willing to take on right now. Hopefully it won’t be a big issue.

I also squeezed three more Leaf articles out of my brain as those don’t require a creative headspace. And batted out an Atomic Junkshop post about Christmas just so I had something up this week.

Looking back at 2021 — man I remember when that was such a futuristic setting — and my goals, it’s obvious I fell way short. Part of that was covid and the anti-vax covidiots ensuring we wouldn’t get out of the pandemic for more than a few months. It was also the sheer amount of work it took to get Alien Visitors — oh, the official title from McFarland is now The Aliens Are Here — finished on deadline. So I’m not beating myself up. And I did well — Undead Sexist Cliches and The Aliens Are Here done (and both good), that golem article finished (and also good) — even if I didn’t get any fiction written.

Still for 2022 I feel quite unenthused about coming up with my usual detailed list of goals, so I’m not. While I’m a firm believer goals should be specific and measurable — it’s much easier to quantify success or failure with “submit sixteen short stories next year” than “submit lots of shorts” — I’ve got a lot of general goals such as “do something interesting locally,” “travel,” “push myself in writing” and “end the year with more money than when you started” (usually my financial goals are more specific). My intention is to set more specific goals for each month and see what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I don’t eat out in January but we have two dinners out in February; if TYG’s schedule doesn’t permit us to take joint day trips, maybe I go solo.

I’ve also got a number of specific goals written, mostly writing related. Publish Undead Sexist Cliches — that one, at least is a done deal at this point. Finish Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Finish six short stories — I do variations of that one every year but this year with no massive nonfiction projects, it should be doable (I hope). And readjusting my schedule to make it more effective again. Eating healthier but also cooking more desserts. If I keep it sensible, both should be doable — though the pecan cream cheese bundt cake I made last weekend is definitely not sensible. I would have made it for a potluck or something but I really liked the recipe and the results were delicious.For January I want to get in 25,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and the same on Oh the Places You’ll Go (as it’s a short story, that represents multiple drafts). A bunch of other projects too. And to resume bicycling regularly. My aerobic workouts in the morning are good, but too many push-ups and lifts takes a toll on my elbows and shoulders (though my impinged shoulder has improved — I think general strengthening has helped). I’d like to shift more of the exertion to my legs.

I’m also going to reward myself if I get a lot of stuff done. I haven’t done that in years but I’m thinking it might be feasible financially to make more big-ticket purchases this year. So why not treat myself to an expensive book if I do well on my goals?

And I’m also going to research just how to adapt to our current reality. I’ve bookmarked a number of articles about “what is safe to do now” and I’ll be browsing them and thinking what’s possible and what isn’t.

If you’re reading this, you too made it through 2021, hopefully without too many battle scars. Here’s to wishing all of us a better 2022.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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