Monday, January 26, 2015

Abstract Thoughts: I'm Being Quantified

Wisdom from an Inner Editor
As we've discussed, at length, on this blog, Renee is working on a series of short stories this year. She's mainly doing this to get herself back in the habit of completing projects and also to build up a base of completed work that might eventually translate into lovely things like publishing credits and payments.

And that's all wonderful.

One of the other aspects of this project that Renee hasn't discussed much is that this is an opportunity to fully explore how the Project Manager runs things. He has yet to work on a project all the way through.

More importantly, the Project Manager has yet to work with me. He's spent a lot of time working with the Muse on plotting and writing. And he spent a little bit of time working with the Idea Salesman on the flash fiction Renee recently sold to Fireside. But we haven't actually revised a project since the Project Manager came on board.

Which is sad for me on a number of levels, I assure you. Or it would be, if I was the type of abstract entity given to sadness.

But this will soon be rectified. In about two weeks, we're going to start revising "Fishwife". The Project Manager and I will be working together to keep Renee on track and make sure all these short stories she's been writing lately actually go somewhere.

But Renee came to me the other day with a strange question. She wanted to know how the Project Manager should quantify my work.

Silly writer. She really needn't have wasted a joke on me. After all, I'm not an abstract entity given to humor.

For the record, one doesn't quantify my work. I'm not a Muse, churning out word after word until the pages are all filled up, or an Idea Salesman, sending submissions out here, there, and everywhere. Those two need to be tracked and charted and such to keep them from dilly dallying or wandering off on some random flight of fancy.

But I'm an Inner Editor. My work is done when the work is done. They story could need a massive overhaul. Or it could only need minor tweaks and polishing. Or it could fall somewhere in between, anywhere on the spectrum really. It's a delicate process that needs constant attention and reevaluation.

You can't plan this kind of thing out and plug it into one of the Project Manager's funny little spreadsheets.

. . .

Oh. Apparently Renee was not joking. The Project Manager intends to attach a list of "actionable items" to each project and keep tabs on which have been completed. There's to be a revision schedule. Deadlines. He actually thinks he's going to represent my progress on his charts and track my productivity over time.

He's going to *shudder* quantify me.

I am not amused.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Abstract Thoughts: New Project!

Writings of the Muse
We're starting a new project! ***squee***

Starting a new project is so exciting. There's all this energy and Renee lets me run around unchecked in her imagination. I get access to everything--childhood dreams, overheard conversations, random song lyrics, everything.

Starting a new project is also when Renee turns all kinds of confident and productive. There's no "we were supposed to write tonight but we just sat on the couch and played games on the phone instead" or "we were supposed to write 2000 words today but we can't get past this broken plot point and instead we only managed to scrape up 3" bullshit.

We will write this thing and it will be glorious.

Well, it will be workable. (The Inner Editor needs something to do later, after all.)

And it will be on time. (The Project Manager really likes it when we focus on hitting deadlines.)

And when we're done, we will sell it to. . . someone. (Three guesses who threw that one in there.)

So, we're starting a new project. We're all very energized. We will write it and it will be gloriously workable and on time and marketable. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some old memory chests to rummage through.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Junk in the Trunk

As the last couple of posts have mentioned, I did not finish the zero draft of Guardian by the end of last year as I had intended. And I made the decision not to give myself a new deadline on the project either. I've set it aside, stuck the manuscript in my trunk, and moved on to other things.

It's a very difficult thing, deciding to set aside a project rather than finish it. Particularly for someone like me, who has compulsions in the mix making me feel like I have to focus on this one project until it is completed. As a serious writer, a professional one even (I'm never going to get tired of saying that, just so you know), I am supposed to FINISH THINGS.

I know this, because Chuck Wendig says so and I believe him.

But there's also this little pearl of writerly wisdom to consider, from Ira Glass:

Guardian, I think, fell into that taste gap that Mr. Glass talks about. It was good. It had potential. I wouldn't have spent a year working on it if I didn't think it had potential. The characters were strong and the plot ticked right along and the world I built was interesting. But at the end of the year, sitting there having written and rewritten half a novel, I realized that there was something missing. I'm not sure what, but something just wasn't there.

It needed. . . I don't know. But whatever it is, and I can't quite put my finger on it, the lack is keeping that novel from being what it could be. What it needs to be.

I could keep beating my head up against it. I'm not stopping because some shiny new idea has caught fire in my head and I don't have the discipline to keep myself on track. I'm very certain that I could keep flinging words at that manuscript, scraping them out of my skull with a worn rusty spoon, until I shove the characters across the finish line.

But I don't want to because I know, know, that someday I'm going to find whatever it is my storytelling needs, and I'm not going to find it in this project. I'm getting closer with everything I write, I can feel it, but I'm not there yet.

So I put Guardian in a drawer. It's a trunk novel now, along with Familiar and the Epic Fantasy Trilogy of Doom, and a couple of other bits and pieces of things I've fiddled with along the way. My guardian will join the other lost characters floating around in disconnected worlds I made up in my head, not quite ghosts yet but no really alive for me anymore either.

Someday, when I find my missing whatever, I might pick it back up again and be able to fix it. Or at least chop it up and use the pieces to build something better. As I said, I know the potential is there and that is what trunk novels are for.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Project Management Updates: New Year and New Beginnings

Reports from the Project Manager
Happy New Year! We're gearing up the writing machine for new projects for 2015. I'm particularly excited about this because I can finally begin at the beginning instead of coming in on clean up detail. Setting the right elements in place at the beginning is crucial to producing a successful outcome.

Renee tends to like the charts we have built together to visually demonstrate her prior failures projects. In truth, they were helpful in demonstrating one of the key reason projects fail--lack of resource availability. We have already built out a simple Gantt chart for the year to show how long it actually takes to product a novel or short story from beginning to end. Now we will get to put the model to the test.

There will still be fun charts and diagrams coming in the year ahead. From Renee's goal post last week, you can see that we are focused on a higher number of shorter projects this year. More projects = more charts :-)

That's all for now from Project Manager land. Check back for updates as we get moving.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Abstract Thoughts: We Did It!!!

(Housekeeping note: This post was meant to go live on Monday, but we ran into a little technical difficulty on that front. There's big, important stuff in this post though, so we're putting it up now. Because this is our sandbox and we can build whatever kind of crazy castle we want to over here. Just pretend you're time traveling and it's Monday again for a few minutes. Because if time travel were a thing, I know we'd all pick a Monday to relive. . . )

(Also, I don't know that I believe the whole thing about Renee deleting my post instead of publishing it. She says she "must have hit the wrong button", and now suddenly, since she had a couple of extra days to think about it, the Inner Editor is chiming in with criticisms of my font choices. Whatever. I'm not buying it, ladies, and I'm not changing it. My blog post, my caps lock.)

Brilliance from the Idea Salesman
 Welcome to 2015 and welcome back to the blog! I know you've all missed us terribly, but we're back now, so worry no more. Renee will be officially back from her blogging hiatus on Wednesday, but I wanted to take the opportunity to open things back up with a big announcement.

WE DID IT!!!!!

*** throws confetti ***

*** cues band ***

*** drops balloons ***

*** schedules parade ***

*** cancels parade due to the fact that most of us are imaginary here and that means there's not enough real people around to carry all those giant balloons ***

I can just hear you all now. "Wow, Idea, Renee finished the zero draft of Guardian? That's wonderful!"

Yup. That's right. We--

No. No, we didn't do that. Actually, the Project Manager declared that particular project dead and we had put it away in the digital drawer. Man, way to kill my buzz y'all.

But, wait! Don't go! We did something even better! You may have seen this announcement already over on Twitter, but in case you didn't. . .


That's right, folks. I have finally proven my worth as one of Renee's abstracts. With my help, Renee has convinced the good folks over at Fireside Magazine to invest their time and money in publishing a piece of Renee's writing. Which is a little surreal for Renee because she reads Fireside on her own and now she's going to be in it.

(By the way, Fireside is very cool and you should start reading it if you don't already. And not just because they're going to publish Renee. The writing is always top notch. Plus Lilith Saintcrow--Renee might have mentioned being a fan of hers once or twice or a million times before--is doing their serial this year and it's awesome.)

(And yes, it did cause a rather impressive level of wholly unprofessional fangirl squeeing when Renee realized that it's entirely possible that this publication thing might mean her writing ends up in the same magazine as something by Lilith Saintcrow.)

Anyway, back to me. Check out this little snippet from Fireside's blog last month.

Wasn't it cool of them to draw attention to Renee's name with those massive red arrows and stuff?

Okay, fine, I added that part. But that's still a cool blog post. 10 submissions accepted out of 671 and Renee's was one of them. Because I am a pretty damn spectacular Idea Salesman Renee rocks.

If you look to the sidebar on the right side of this page, you'll see we've added a new widget box thing called "Upcoming Releases". Because Renee is officially a professional writer now and she has an upcoming release.

In terms of details, we don't know which issue yet, but as soon as I know, you'll know. We do expect edits sometime in the next few weeks or so and I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled the Inner Editor is about that. I swear if those crazy pencil skirts and sensible shoes didn't pretty much rule out the whole possibility, the woman would be turning cartwheels just thinking about it.

Renee's Reading: What I Read in 2014

In the spirit of catching up with the whole 2014-in-review thing, I figured I'd get my annual reading review out of the way this week too. Because I know all you bots out there are just crazy for long posts about numbers relevant to pretty much no one but me.

The Idea Salesman is going to take this blog away from me someday. Especially since I apparently deleted his Monday post instead of publishing it.

(Yeah, that's on the docket for me to rewrite later today. Did you know I sold something recently? If not, don't worry. The Idea Salesman will be shouting it at you in all caps later.)

Anyway, back to the point. I've pulled together the list of everything I read in 2014 in a big spreadsheet and analyzed it approximately six hundred different ways. Here's the resulting data:

Total Books Read: 166
My goal for 2014 was to read 200 books, so I didn't quite get there. :-( I still averaged 3 books a week though, which is very nice.

Breakdown by Month:
January: 22 (13%)
February: 20 (12%)
March: 20 (12%)
April: 6 (4%)
May: 14 (8%)
June: 4 (2%)
July: 17 (10%)
August: 19 (11%)
September: 9 (5%)
October: 14 (8%)
November: 12 (7%)
December: 9 (5%)
This is a very different trend for me than I've seen in past years. But I can't really say I'm surprised. I had a pretty atypical year in terms of life stuff and that bled over into pretty much every aspect of my life, reading habits included.

Breakdown by Source:
Books Bought: 148 (89%)
Books Borrowed: 18 (11%)
Oh dear. That's a lot of book buying. But I didn't go over budget at all, because most of the books I "bought" were free. I can set the blame for this imbalance square in front of a little newsletter I get every day from BookBub. Free books! Free books that don't go away after three weeks like the library books do! Huzzah!

Rereads: 6 (4%)
Another year of mostly reading new-to-me books rather than rereads. I'm liking this trend.

Breakdown by Rating (1-5 Stars):
0 Stars: 0 (0%)
1 Star: 0 (0%)
2 Stars: 5 (3%)
3 Stars: 34 (20%)
4 Stars: 70 (42%)
5 Stars: 57 (34%)
Average Rating: 4.08
I'm generally quite happy with my reading choices lately. Which is great. Because if I'm going to be reading 3 books a week, I should be liking the darn things.

Breakdown by Publication Year:
Before 2000: 13 (8%)
2000-2009: 21 (13%)
2010-2013: 60 (36%)
2014: 72 (43%)
I set a deliberate goal to concentrate on new releases this year so I could keep the current market in my focus. I think I met that one handily.

Breakdowns by Genre:
Erotica: 12 (7%)
General Fiction: 5 (3%)
Mystery: 6 (4%)
     Contemporary: 3 (2%)
     Paranormal: 3 (2%)
Nonfiction: 4 (2%)
     Humor: 1 (1%)
     Writing/Editing/Publishing: 3 (2%)
Romance: 99 (60%)
     Contemporary: 32 (19%)
     Historical: 60 (36%)
     Paranormal: 7 (4%)
SF/F: 40 (24%)
     Science Fiction: 8 (5%)
     Urban Fantasy: 31 (19%)
     Victorian/Gaslight/Steampunk: 1 (1%)
I've gotten away from reading in my chosen genre of SF/F this year. I don't have much of an excuse beyond I was feeling crappy or recovering from feeling crappy (which, really, is just more feeling crappy) for a very large chunk of the year and I read romance when I feel crappy because it makes me feel better. Plus, I've hit on a bunch of romance authors whose work I really love in the last few years and I've been buying up everything of theirs that I can get my hands on. Which is lovely and all, but I'm going to need to consciously turn my attention back to SF/F in the future, lest I slide completely out of touch with the genre I actually write in. On the plus side, I did set goals of reading more science fiction and nonfiction this year, which I did, though not by much in either category. Still, progress is progress.

Breakdown by Age Range:
Adult: 159 (96%)
Young Adult: 7 (4%)
This is a goal I totally failed at. I wanted to read more Young Adult this year and I ended up reading less. Bad Renee. No cookie. Better luck next year. As a housekeeping note, anything that's classified as New Adult is lumped into my Adult numbers because I didn't track that as an independent category this year. I will be tracking it separately going forward though.

Breakdown by Format:
Kindle: 156 (94%)
ePub: 8 (5%)
Paperback: 2 (1%)
I am Amazon's minion. I'm coming to terms with it. Those two paperbacks I only read in that format because I got them for free at a conference. I still have three more sitting next to my desk collecting dust because reading paperbacks just isn't my thing anymore. Otherwise, this would have been another digital only year. And my percentage of ePub is steadily decreasing. I only read in that format now if I absolutely can't read whatever I'm looking for through my Kindle app. I'm a Kindle user and that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon. I had given some serious consideration to switching away from Amazon and Kindle earlier this year in light of the whole Hachette debacle, but I couldn't find another ebook seller that offered me the same quality of user experience for the price. And I just don't have the luxury of not considering price as a major factor at the moment. Maybe when I'm a super huge international bestseller with a whole string of blockbuster movie adaptations and spin off merchandising that dominates every kid's Christmas list and I've won the lottery several times in a row... ;-)

Part of a Series: 157 (95%)
Yup. Like pretty much everyone right now, I'm big on series reading. I find new ones and work my way though the whole thing (or as much as I can before I lose interest) usually within a week or two. And then I wait for the next book to release. And wait. And wait some more. Stupid books, making the authors write them instead of just springing to the market fully formed and perfect right when I want them.

Author Analysis:
Number of Authors: 56
New-to-Me Authors: 29 (52%)
Male Authors: 12 (21%)
Female Authors: 50 (89%)
I'm continuing to do a good job reading new authors. I managed to find even more this year than last year. Go me! In terms of the battle of the sexes angle, I've discovered once again I have an imbalanced scorecard, but in the opposite direction than people usually complain about. Does this mean I'm winning? I suspect it means I probably ought to focus next year on reading more male authors, though obviously not at the expense of the female authors I already read.

I also had an idea in my head that I was going to try to read all the #1 New York Times Bestsellers in Combined Fiction, Combined Nonfiction, Young Adult, and Children's Series for 2014. Yeah, that didn't pan out. I couldn't even bring myself to fully analyze this section of the spreadsheet, my fail was so epic. Of all of the books that ended up on this list, I read 9. I just couldn't get interested in most of the titles.

I'm going to set a lower goal for next year of only 100 books. It used to be that I wasn't reading enough. Now I think I'm probably reading a little bit too much. I have too little time and I need to be a bit more selective. I am still going to focus on seeking out new-to-me authors, new releases, and keeping current with my favorite genres as well as delving into those I'm less familiar with. I guess I'll probably also try to balance out my YA/NA/A and M/F ratios. Plus there's a lot of talk right now about focusing on reading books with diverse characters and by diverse authors. I should keep tabs on that too.

Alright, fine, lots of goals. I'll stop now before the spreadsheet gets too far out of hand.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014 In Review

I have returned from my self-imposed blogging exile. Welcome to 2015! How was your 2014? I know I'm a little late to the 2014 Wrap Up Post Party, but I've been out of town for a couple of weeks on vacation, so I'll ask you to forgive my tardiness.

In a change from last year, I realized at some point this year that it was kind of ridiculous to structure my entire calendar around NaNoWriMo. Not that I don't love NaNoWriMo or anything. I do. I love NaNoWriMo. But it's not really feasible to structure my professional plans around it. Especially when it's entirely possible, and likely, that I won't be participating in it every single year forever.

The ridiculousness became apparent, by the way, when I tried explaining my structure to the Project Manager. Lots of weird patterns I've fallen into start looking ridiculous when I try to explain them to him. Funny how that works.

So I switched over to just ending my year at the end of the calendar year like pretty much everyone else. Which had the added incentive of giving me an extra three months to finish things up and let me put off my year-end reporting as well. BONUS!

But here we sit at the beginning of 2015 and the year isn't getting any younger, which means it's time for me to get on with things. How did I do in 2014?

Goal #1: Finish the zero draft of Familiar by January 31, 2014.
What's the Status? Unmet. :-( Familiar has gone into the digital drawer. I still love the concept, but the execution just wasn't there.
What Went Wrong? The timing on this project strung out too long and the story had too many flaws to finish it in a reasonable amount of time. The Idea Salesman already talked about this here when I made the decision not to continue.
What Went Right? Well. . .  I'm going to have to file this one under a learning experience. As in I learned a lot about how not to finish a novel. For example. . .
What Have I Learned From This? I cannot string out deadline after deadline after deadline. The longer this project took, the harder it got for me to find any motivation to work on it at all. I got so bored with it and eventually saw nothing but the problems it had.
What Are My Next Steps? There are no next steps currently planned for this project.

Goal #2: Write a zero draft of Guardian by September 30, 2014.
What's the Status? Unmet. :-( Guardian is also going into the digital drawer.
What Went Wrong? Good grief, what didn't go wrong with this project? Personal problems, medical problems, major replotting and rewriting. So many things went wrong.
What Went Right? I think I hit on a really strong voice with this one and my plotting process got a lot more refined this time around. Plus, this was the first project I really worked with the Project Manager on, which has thus far turned out to be a good thing.
What Have I Learned From This? Plotting and planning really does help me draft faster. Those times when I wasn't getting totally derailed by my stupid life anyway. . .
What Are My Next Steps? There are no next steps currently planned for this project.

Goal #3: Write, revise, and submit a short story (TBD) by September 30, 2014.
What's the Status? Met! :-) Okay, so technically this was a piece of flash fiction, not a short story, but that's really just a very short short story, so it totally counts.
What Went Wrong? Nothing. Seriously, I can't think of a single thing that went wrong with this one.
What Went Right? Everything. I wrote it. I revised it. I submitted it. AND I SOLD IT!!!!! Yes, 2014 marks the year the Idea Salesman convinced someone to pay me for my writing and I officially became a professional writer.
What Have I Learned From This? Apparently my writing really can be worth the investment of someone else's time and money. Also, having something out on submission does still make me stupid anxious and nauseated every time my email dings. And I get a lot of email.
What Are My Next Steps? I'm expecting edits on "Time Out" sometime in the next month or so.

Goal #4: Work the blog up to 4 regular posts per week.
What's the Status? Met :-)
What Went Wrong? I did get myself up to the point where I was writing 4 regular posts a week. And it just about killed me. It was so hard to keep up with that schedule.
What Went Right? I think there was the occasional hit on this blog from actual humans. Still mostly bots, but, you know, real humans from time to time.
What Have I Learned From This? I cannot at this time sustain a four posts per week schedule. It's just too much. Also, it seems that flash fiction is a thing you can sell (see Goal #3) and so I'm going to stop putting that up on the blog. Because what am I going to do there? Only offer up the not-quite-good-enough stuff? That doesn't seem like a good blogging strategy.
What Are My Next Steps? Drop back to a three posts per week plan and get back to a regular schedule.

Goal #5: Create more regularly scheduled writing time, working up to 15 hours per week.
What's the Status? Met. :-)
What Went Wrong? 15 hours a week is just not feasibly possible on a long-term basis for me. I did get up to 15 hours a week at one point, but I was so exhausted from staying up so late that I couldn't maintain it.
What Went Right? As I said, I did get up to 15 hours a week at one point and those writing sessions were very productive. It's not something I can sustain right now, but it's nice to know for the future.
What Have I Learned From This? Longer stretches of uninterrupted writing time does make me more productive. Also, I need at least six hours of sleep a night to get through the day, so staying up to work past 10:30 is not an option for me.
What Are My Next Steps? Drop back down to 10-12 hours of writing per week and get back to maintaining a regular schedule.

So, that was my 2014. A few big unmet goals there, but I learned many things and I think I'm finally getting a clear handle on my process. Plus I get to call myself a professional now, so I'm calling the year a win.

That said, what's on the list for 2015? I've spent a lot of time now developing my process and figuring out things that don't work for me. No more of that. 2015 is all about finishing things. A year of short stories. Well, mostly. I've got ideas for another novel in the works too.

Goals for 2015:
1: Revise and submit "Fishwife" (which still needs a real title) by April 30, 2015.
2: Write, revise, and submit at least three additional short stories or pieces of flash fiction by August 15, 2015.
3: Plan, plot, and begin next novel project, targeting ~40,000 words of the zero draft by December 31, 2015.
4: Maintain the blog at three posts per week.
5: Continue to schedule 10-12 hours of dedicated writing time each week.

The Idea Salesman in over the moon about this new plan. Lots of things going out into the world this time around. The Muse and the Inner Editor. . . well, they're gearing up for a marathon. I don't know about the Project Manager. More projects means more tables and charts and stuff on his spreadsheets, so I assume he's happy about it. He'll be checking in on Monday, so I guess we'll find out more then.