extribulum

I Have A Cunning Plan

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

I’m not usually one for a lot of New Year’s resolutions. This year I mostly wanted to go into the new year with nothing huge hanging over my head — no major duties left undone, as it were. My one resolution, which I talked about over on my personal journal, was to play more video games. (So far I’m doing quite well. Tetris has come a long way since the first time I played it on an original classic NES.)

I wasn’t really thinking about a plan for writing, even, at least not until I ran into an article a week or two ago at The 99 Percent. The 99 Percent — unaffiliated with the Occupy movement — is a website for creative professionals, primarily, and though it contains a lot of rather bland corporate-inspirational writing, it does occasionally hit the nail on the head.

Okay, sometimes you have to dig a little for the nail.

The article itself is called Productivity Tie Breaker. It’s about how to balance out the need to focus for significant periods of time on one project with the need to answer emails and phone calls and handle day-to-day business. There’s a lot of “visualise yourself successful” in the article, but some of it pinged me as genuinely helpful, so I turned it into a sort of workbook for writing in the new year.

Before the start of the year:
Look ahead and decide what are the big projects you want to achieve next year. Write the projects down – including deadlines – and put a reminder in your calendar so that you hold yourself accountable.
At the start of every week:
Look ahead and decide what you want to achieve that week. Work out how many days/hours you’ll need to block off for sustained work. Now think ahead to anticipate important deadlines and demands from others […] to avoid letting people down on critical projects.
At start of every day:
Look ahead and decide what you want to achieve today. How many hours do you need to block off for focused work?
At each step, you should also consider an alternative universe, where you let other people’s demands dictate to you – hour by hour, day by day, year by year.

.

My favourite part is that last bit. I’m going to have so much fun this year imagining alternate-universe me.

I decided I had three major writing goals for the year: rewrite / approve / publish The Dead Isle, choose two stories from my ideas file to “treat” for future work so that I can start on one of them when I’m done with Dead Isle, and make a new list of things to write about here so that I can keep this blog up.

I’ve been working since then to try and choose the two stories I want to work on once Dead Isle is done. One of them will be Valet of Anize, which needs to be ripped apart and done over, and not only because I’ve written myself into a corner. The other one will be drawn from my ideas file, which contains both vague “This would be cool to write someday” concepts and more immediate “Wow, I really want to write this” ideas.

I chose the seven or eight ideas that I liked best and wrote them down on the backs of business cards, because sometimes you do just have to hold things in your hands. Since then I’ve been shuffling them around, sorting them by different categories — stories I like best, stories my readers will probably like best, stories that need the most plot work, stories that need the most research. It’s amazing the number of ways one can catergorise a project like that. And, slowly, I’ve been discarding the ones I’ve decided not to work on just yet.

I’m down to three candidates now. Technically my “deadline” for choosing is the end of February, but I certainly hope it won’t take me that long. One would require a lot of research, but could be the best of the three stories; one is set in parts of Chicago that I know very well, but needs a lot of plot work. The last one would be the most complex to write and in some ways the most satisfying — but it’s at a level of complexity where I wouldn’t be able to post it for Extribulum purposes. At least, not easily. I can’t imagine how I would turn it into an e-book. The quality of the challenge for all three is remarkably difficult, but I guess that’s a good thing.

Who knows if I’ll keep to the schedule I set in my little made-up worksheet. Some writers work great with schedules; I work great with structure, but rarely schedules. Most of the books I’ve written have been things that simply caught fire and demanded I write more. Fortunately I can come back to this at the end of the year and compare notes. $Deity bless the internet.

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