organization


Instead of posting all over creation what I’m up to (like I’ve been doing), everything’s going here. I’m seriously out of time for the luxury of posting the same thing in multiple places.

That said:

Did a bit of a story (911 words) over at FM today as a final assignment example for the class I ran this month on designing a non-human MC. I liked doing the class, some people came up with things I’d never considered.

If you’re a writer and haven’t heard of Forward Motion, you really should go check it out.

Almost done reading a novel for my crit group (also over at FM), but today I did a bunch of admin stuff for the group. Fortunately it only needs to be done every so often.

Haven’t heard back on the short stories out there. I only have two out; my goal was one per month this year. Grr, that means I need to edit the ones I’ve had critted too. But I won’t get any good at editing if I don’t edit.

Something (which I’ll go into later) reminded me of this article:

As essential as change is to renew life, most of us resist it and cling rigidly to old survival systems because they are familiar and “seem” safer. In reality, even if an old, obsolete survival system makes us feel alone, isolated, fearful, uninspired, unappreciated, and unloved, we will reason that it’s easier to cope with what we know than with what we haven’t yet experienced. As a result, most of us will fight to sustain destructive relationships, unchallenging jobs, unproductive work, harmful addictions, unhealthy environments, and immature behavior long after there is any sign of life or value in them.

This unyielding commitment to old, exhausted survival systems that have outlived their usefulness, and resistance to the rejuvenating energy of new, evolving levels of existence and consciousness is what I refer to as the fatal flaw of character.

The FATAL FLAW is a struggle within a character to maintain a survival system long after it has outlived its usefulness.

It’s a good article; go read it.

The precipitating event to remembering this piece, though, came from a cycle from real life:

  • I take on too much
  • I procrastinate
  • As a result, all (figurative) hell breaks loose close to deadlines.

I gotta stop doing this. It’s one of my many fatal flaws, which is going to come back to bite me if and when I ever try to get a book published.

This time turned out better because this time I saw what happened and took steps to prevent the usual multi-faceted meltdown: I backed out of two things where my contribution wasn’t vital, and I quit procrastinating on the two things that only I can do.

In a week or so we’ll see if that was good enough.

I’m getting ready to write yet another novel, and I noticed a lot of people come here using the search term ‘Snowflake Method’. Well, I use it.

If you’re not familiar with it, click the link to it in the sidebar then read the article. That’s what I do when I’m getting ready to write something. I have a couple days left before I start (going to be participating in JulNoWriMo (yet another NaNo spinoff), so I’m at the spreadsheet outline step. Spreadsheets are awesome.

I usually skip the step where you do the detailed character sheets because I throw them away when I’m writing (which is where I find out who these people are). I set the sheets up (on PBWiki, which is also awesome) and notewhen I find out something important (for example, that Javin can’t swim). I never get to the part where you summarize each scene, because I usually run out of time. But that’s procrastination more than anything else.

Everyone is different. I can’t write without knowing something about what I’m going to write about, and an outline helps me remember what my plot was (my memory sucks), so in the middle of speedwriting I’m not trying to research something or remember how I had planned to get two twelve year old children, an elderly knight with a bad heart and a blind archer past a stockade complete with armed guards. 🙂 If you can do without an outline, great.

So that’s what I do. Plan it out, set a deadline for planning (I plan the month before a marathon), then start writing as fast as I can!

Well, as far as writing goes. I wrote almost 56k on Tachyon People this month. It’s close to being finished in first draft. The story went a direction I never thought it would, out of necessity. I had written much too short an outline when I made the outline a year ago. Live and learn. It’s a much better story (IMHO) than it would have been in the original outline.

So far, I’m still pretty much on track with my original schedule. I’m reconsidering doing the Story-a-Day in May. I have so many projects going now that I’m not sure writing 30 new stories is a good idea. We’ll see. It’s a great idea as far as getting more writing done, but my problem isn’t writing, it’s editing. I’m a decent non-fiction editor, but not so great at fiction editing.

So now I’m going into April with a major editing job to do on Clan Twelve.  Got lousy reactions on the crits last year, mostly revolving around poor writing and low tension, which shouldn’t be. Time to put all the things I’ve learned over the last year into action. Wish me luck.

I’m not so interested in displaying my private life on this particular blog, as you might have guessed. I have other blogs for that. I figure you’re more interested in learning to write better or in some other aspect of being a writer if you’re here, or you’re one of my friends stopping by, or both. But I do a lot, and one of my friends asked me how. Which might pertain to writing.

I’m not the most organized person in the world. I never realized being the stay-at-home parent was so much work. This is the way the spouse and I are able to make our personal dreams happen, and we’re happy with the way things are going. But it was a shock when I started this seven years ago. People are not happy if you don’t do what you said you would (like make dinner or pick the kids up on time). I found this out the hard way.

So I’ve been working my way along towards being more organized, and over the years I’ve found a few tips that worked. Get into routines. Use a calendar. Say no to things that aren’t important (aka ‘you must not be busy, can you…?’). Last year, I began using the Snowflake Method (see the sidebar for a link) to prepare and organize my writing. Through that, I discovered the spreadsheet.

I’m a doctor, not a businessperson (to paraphrase Bones McCoy), and spreadsheets were something new. Best thing I ever learned to use. Not only are they great for outlining (you can insert a new scene with the touch of a button), but they’re useful in organizing other things as well. Can’t remember how much you wrote this month? Can’t remember if you put chemicals in the pool yesterday? Did you exercise/update your blog/take the next step towards filing your taxes? If you marked it down on your spreadsheet, you know.

I can look at how many words I wrote last month vs. this month, how many days of the month I worked out (like I keep saying I will), whether I did maintenance on our koi pond, and when the last time I did laundry was (just in case a certain someone asks).

I have the date over on the left, with columns for whatever I want to track. I put in a new set of headers every month, so I don’t have to scroll all the way to the top all the time. Most spreadsheet programs have a way to add up word counts, so you don’t have to. I’m fairly new at this but if you’re looking for a way to keep track of what you’re doing I would consider it. Almost every computer comes with a spreadsheet program, so poke around and see what yours has on it.

Now that I have a variety of novels written, I thought I’d better schedule when I was going to edit them. So today I made a list of the rest of the year month by month. I won’t get to all of them this year, unless I double book myself (which might happen, I’m fond of multi-tasking).

Here’s what I came up with:

January:

  • edit Freedom (not going to finish this month, but I’ve made significant progress … even though now I see this needs a rewrite. Argh.)
  • snowflake my FebNoWriMo story (Test of Time) . I got to step 5 so far, I might jump ahead and start outlining just so I have what’s in my head down. (see sidebar for the Snowflake Method). If you want to participate in FebNo, go over to NaNoPubYe (see sidebar) and sign up.

February:

  • write Test of Time

March:

  • get caught up on the 2 Year Novel (2YN) class I’m taking over at Forward Motion (see sidebar for link) . The story is called Tachyon People.

April:

  • edit Clan Twelve

May:

  • participate in the Story A Day challenge over at Forward Motion

June:

  • snowflake a story for JulNoWriMo. NaNoPubYe had one last year, and there’s another site just for this which I never did much with.

July:

  • participate in JulNoWriMo.

August:

  • participate in the Labor of Love challenge over at FM. The idea is to write as much as you can in one week.
  • get caught up with Tachyon People and the class.

September:

  • edit The Vacation Game

October:

  • snowflake a story for NaNoWriMo

November:

  • NaNoWriMo!

December:

  • edit Double Cross

This will most likely not happen in exactly this way, but writing a schedule feels freeing. I don’t have to worry about when my novels are going to get edited anymore.