Tag Archive: planning

Motivation

I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.

Sisyphian motivation

Sisyphus is not the motivation I’m looking for. I would like to wake up and look at the mountain I’ve made in the morning.

This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.

I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.

I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.

What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.

Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.

So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!

Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!

I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.

I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.

And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.

Related article about the desire to get things done undermining effectiveness

Camp NaNo

Camp NaNo is coming up soon and I’ll be using it as a chance to dig in and focus on a giant monster edit pass of the first in Jenna’s series.

I know that some writers are judgey of NaNoWriMo and the NaNo camps. For me, at least, they are a good opportunity to set my focus on one project and try to carry it to completion. Doing NaNo doesn’t mean I never write for the rest of the year. And for the people who do only write once a year? Good for them for writing once a year! That’s awesome. If you were a full time author and only wrote once a year for a month? You might still be doing fine. If NaNo isn’t for you that’s great too. Do what you need to get the outcome you need. If you need NaNo and the camps? Great! If you need a daily goal, every single day? Great! If you need to go to a hotel in Amsterdam? Good for you.

For me? I work on other projects, editing, flash, podcast. (I have a podcast! You should check it out!) But using NaNo to write novels is really valuable to me.

Now that I just said that I’m going to loop back and say that I’m going to edit this NaNo. (And I’m going to record in the summer camp.) I have partially finished projects floating about everywhere and I want to start moving forward with some of them. For years I’ve been writing things and throwing them out. Writing and moving onto the next thing. Even writing, editing, and then abandoning. I need to move forward with some of these projects.

broken watches

Camp NaNo is about time, and so is Jenna’s second book!

I really like Jenna’s story, I like what I’ve written. I like the second book, but the first needs work. (Though I did have a moment of re-reading it last summer when I did this thing I do when I’m reading a book I really like where I move from spot to spot in the house without stopping reading at all. That was a great moment.) So I need to make some big sweeping changes and that is what I’m going to try to tackle this April.

It doesn’t make me a bad author or a lazy author or a good author. It just means I’m trying to use the tools that work for me. NaNo is a tool that works for me. I’d be silly to not use the tools that work for me.

Compiling Feedback

What now? I need to start compiling feedback.

Ok so I’ve gotten feedback and I’ve thanked the person (I really liked Elizabeth@Be There Dragons’s suggestion of a small thoughtful gift is a great one). Then I need to work on what to do with it.

Some feedback is better than others. If I’m going to be doing a full rewrite  the grammar and spelling are likely not that helpful. If someone doesn’t like the genre…then not much I can do about that. If someone doesn’t like strong female leads or magic or aliens or whatever, then I have learned that the book/short/flash wasn’t for them. But I’ve also learned that the piece doesn’t have a lot of cross over appeal.

Within a novel/la

I try to pinpoint things like if a character is called out multiple times throughout a novel (or novella) for being harsh, crabby, angry, etc. I want to step back and look at is that the perception I want of this character. If it just shows up once? Or only from one person it isn’t a theme, I can look at that one incident. What I want to see first is what are the things that are repeated. Anything that shows up more than once needs a lot of attention, it needs to be carefully considered and look for why is that showing up.

I have something in my To Edit queue where the major feedback was on the character’s attitude. Some people thought it was bitchy, others said cold, some aggressive, some thought she was kickass. This was a theme, this character fit a pattern and I sat down and looked at who was reading it (inside genre readers/outside genre readers/men/women/etc) and compared that to my target audience. I also thought about what the goal was for the reader to feel toward her.

My initial goal for her was that she be a bit…not ideal, kind of not really a person you’d want to be friends with. Which I achieved. Except that doesn’t really make for a good read. So I succeeded. YAY! But I failed. Ok time to dig back in and make changes. Sometimes you try things and they don’t work well, that’s ok. But, then I need to loop back and fix it.

This is a bit where iterative design strategy comes in, but hold that thought for now.

So I create a list of character changes that need to happen. Then I focus on plot, what was confusing, didn’t work, or needed expansion. In beta passes these are the things I want to know. If it is one person or one spot? I’m going to try to fix that one spot, or consider if that one person (out of many, one out of one wins, one out of many may not) makes sense. (Back to the person who hates magic and complains every time my character uses magic? I’m going to ignore that. The person who doesn’t like strong female leads? I’m going to try really hard to ignore that even when it continues to eat away at my brain like a horrible brain eating worm.)

Shorter or flash fiction

I treat this a little different because especially for flash fiction and sort of under 7K fiction I’m really looking to see if the tone works, if it feels like a whole story, does it work.

I want especially to see what things people are confused by and on the other side what lines they really like. In a short piece (and since I do audio for my short works) a line that reads well is worth a lot so I’m going to hang onto those.

Just one person or many

When working on web design or elearning design and one person can’t get to the next screen that could be multiple things. It could be a technical issue, which we rarely have in writing, it is extremely rare that someone is unable to turn your page. So I almost never have to trouble shoot technical things like that. (Except last week when all the i’s disappeared from my comments.)

If one person has a problem with something it is worth considering, if more than one? It likely is a problem. If they can’t understand something? It isn’t understandable, I can do a better job of explaining it.

Iterate

I’m sure someone has written a book perfectly on the first pass. But I am super not that person! I am a fan of iterating. Some people write a first round and then throw it away and then go forward after that. I don’t always do that. But I’ve absolutely thrown things out. Sometimes it is better to take the lessons you learn and move forward.

Most of the time you can wrap those into the next version. A character too cold?  Find ways to warm them up. Reread the scene. What else needs to happen.

I often fix a bunch of things on a single pass, but having a plan makes a big difference in getting a good outcome.

You can’t iterate endlessly. At some point you have to put your penny down and go forth and try it.

BUT!…

I get this. A lot. Less than I used to, it happens a lot though. I read a piece of feedback and I get this gut reaction of …BUT!

I struggle, but I generally manage to set aside the explanation, or write it down (which is useful later). When someone is reading (or listening) to something I wrote I don’t get a chance to explain when they make a confused face.

Everything I want to tell them, everything they need to know has to be in front of them when they need it. Sometimes you don’t want to give it to them yet, so you have to compel them to keep reading.

You don’t get to argue with the reader, you don’t get to hold the book in front of them, you don’t get to tell them they have to do something.

That moment when I want to go “but!” is the moment I can learn the most from.

Feedback: editing and tracking

I’m just writing this as I go (so I don’t have a month’s worth of Feedback and Editing and UX posts all ready to go). I may have totally screwed up by not planning this all out, but I really just wrote the first post to get my own thoughts out and it turns out I have a lot more thoughts…So I have learned a thing. And next time I have a big thought thing I might plan it out better. Maybe. …

My editing checks

I have some things I always get wrong. I try to make sure before I send anything out I do a good solid edit pass of my own to really make sure I’m proud of what I’m sending out. Knowing my own weaknesses is a strength. (Yes Dunning-Kruger, I know you. I fear you, as I should.)

  • Undescribed characters (yes, I have characters you don’t even know the gender of, sometimes that’s intentional, sometimes I just haven’t done a good job of describing the character)
  • White rooms (I’m not quite as bad with this, but still not great)
  • It’s and Its (I’m horrible at this, I’m very slowly, painfully getting better, but I always do a CTRL+F on both it’s and its and check each instance to make sure I got it right)
  • My word list (I have a list of words that I …probably don’t want to use unless I’ve got a good reason for it, I CTRL+F all of these as well)
  • Read out loud (yup, I read all my stuff out loud before sending it along)

This is just what I try to always run down my checklist. I have other things on my checklist but these are always things I try to nail down before I send it off to live in someone else’s brain.

Tracking feedback

I’m the kind of person who makes spreadsheets to track all the things. So I have a feedback tracking spreadsheet. For the Critters site I mark down everyone I critique for, my thoughts of it in the form of a 1-5 word note (good, weird, eh, NEVER AGAIN, hilarious), if they responded.

I also color code them. Green means do all the critiques for this person! Either the actual thing was fun to read or incredibly good. Or…maybe more frequently, it was good and the person was gracious in response. I have had things I read that weren’t great, but the person responded to lengthy or intense feedback thoughtfully, those people get a green fast. People who respond by lashing out, being weird or demanding, or aggressive? They get red. (I have seen very little of this, it is mostly positive.)

I think it helps take some of the oh I think I remember this person out of the equation and helps me to feel like I’ve got a basis for those future decisions.

Up next?

I think I’ll write about what I do with the feedback and how I take it in and what I do with it after I’ve got it.

I still want to wrap in how I think about the feedback as a user experience test but I’m having a hard time putting that into words.

To Do Lists

To Do Lists?

I love them. I have a very deep love for to do lists. But I want to not just write to do lists, I want them to help me write better. For me Chuck Wendig style flailing and shouting isn’t actually useful. Yes, but what will I write? Which project? How much? By when? Me? I need structure. All brains love structure, but I know mine does and I want to feed it structure so it can barf out success.

Try and try and try again

I’ve been trying different varieties for a while and narrowing down what really helps. I just don’t like digital to do lists. I have no doubt that this will come as a shock to people who know me and know how much I love tech stuff, all the tech stuff. But for me there is something wonderfully visceral about having a to do list and crossing things off and then throwing it away when it is done. Crumpling up my phone and tossing it away and sighing with success is not really a thing.

Physical lists

So with a physical list and mostly focusing on weekends, I tried a bunch of things. I tried just making a straight up list of everything that needed to be done. Overwhelming.  I tried making a list broken out with each chunk of the day and what I was going to do. Better, but unsatisfying.

These were sort of my two main points after some very unsuccessful attempts earlier that included digital lists, lists of only the next 2 and 3 things that needed to happen, lists that only showed the task I was supposed be working on at that moment. Just didn’t work.

What works for me

A multipart list has worked best for me. It basically comes in two parts, the primary list and bonus.

A list chunked out Friday PM/Sat AM/Sat PM/Sun AM/Sun PM. Broken out like this I can have a general idea of what I’m supposed to be doing, if I have brunch plans they can be listed, but they won’t take up the whole chunk of that space. So it stops me from feeling like I’ve just overwhelmed a part of my day with a social obligation (yes, I’m an introvert, why do you ask?). It also gives me a way to check and see how I’m doing without checking too frequently.

The bonus tasks list is a list of things that I can do and cross off at any point during the weekend. It isn’t a huge problem if they don’t get done at all, but they also help me to not feel like I am only treading water. Adding the bonus tasks really helped me to feel like whoohoo! I’m ahead of the game. Which is really where I want to be. Simply adding all those additional tasks to the primary task list made me feel like I wasn’t getting ahead and I was falling behind if I wanted to do something like put off taking the trash out until the next time I was leaving the house. All the stress was not productive and I got less done.

What are bonus tasks? For me they are mostly household things. They are easy and fast to do and I get to cross them off. I know chances are very good I will do them. They are easy to do when I need to take a break from whatever it is I’m working on. They are also sometimes things for writing or the podcast that could be done now but aren’t really needed for a while.

So partial day chunks with a bonus task list. Generally created Friday morning before work, sometimes Thursday evening. I have found a tasking plan that works for me!

Any problems?

A weird and specific to me problem is audio recording. I need to be mindful of running the washing machine, turning on the heat, or my robot cleaner when I want to do audio. The sound is usually one I can clean out, but it is easier and faster if I just don’t have it there to start with. It is mostly something to be aware of. I also know I tend to do those things in the morning so I put audio recording duties as afternoon tasks.

What is your motivating, planning, get to creating style?