June Update with July Goals

Not a stellar month but not bad either.  I even managed D&E every day this week so far, even though I’m only getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night.

  • Finished the first draft of The Bloodgate Warrior.
  • Firmed up the plot of Phantom.
  • Started Phantom, got about 3K so far this week.  Not NaNoWriMo pace but I’ll take it!
  • Wrote up several guest blogs (forgot how many!)
  • Celebrated the release of Return to Shanhasson!
  • Lost 6 pounds
  • Walked 13 miles.

In July, I’m shooting for the following:

  • First pass revision for The Bloodgate Warrior, with initial read thru and notes this holiday weekend.
  • Keep moving on Phantom with about 500 words a day.  I’d like to finish the first draft this month but the list is long.  I’ll be happy with August.
  • Make initial edit pass for Vicki with Editor Tera’s notes.
  • Write at least 3 more scheduled guest blog posts.
  • Write a short story that’s percolating, tentatively “Ritual Ink”.  Guessing about 3K.
  • Keep planning promo for Golden and print Victor in September. 
  • Walk 15 miles.
  • Start Tony Horton’s Power 90 strength portion only, shooting for 3x a week —> 12 workouts.  If I survive, I’ll add the cardio portion in August!
  • Participate in Romance Biggest Winner.
  • Keep losing weight – but I’m not going to say a number because it’s totally out of my control.  That’s like saying, “Get an agent this year.”  I can query x agents every month…but I can’t make one say yes.  I’ll work my plan and exercise — I’ll get to goal eventually.  I’m averaging about 1 pound a week right now, so if I lose 4-5 pounds, I’ll be happy.

July Goals

For the first time in years, I haven’t suffered the “dog days of summer” syndrome.  *knocks on wood*  It seems like most years, I have to kiss the writing goodbye during the summer months.  It’s too hard to get up in the mornings, because I stay up too late enjoying the evening hours of daylight.  The kids are up later, which make it hard to write at night, and if I’m not getting up early, then I can’t get anything done.

Having a deadline that I really wanted to meet has helped significantly.  I’ve made myself get up early most of June, even on Sundays before church.  Word wars have also been pretty productive.  Yeah, I’m tired, and some days I’m so tired I don’t even hear the alarm, but if I can even get up 3 or 4 days earlier than usual, then I can keep my momentum.  If I can get far enough into that regular writing, then I want to get up.

So to keep that production high into July, I’m still going to be getting up early and getting as much done before the Evil Day Job as possible.  Also, I’m keeping my schedule pretty full, which will keep me too busy to sleep in. 
:mrgreen:

My goals for July:

1. Maya #2 Synopsis.  Last night, I trimmed the monster nearly 6K synopsis down by 42.5% (yes, Wanda, I had to derive the formula), which is a great start.  I’ll print it out today and work on another major revision over the three-day weekend.  I committed to getting it turned in to Alissa by Tuesday, July 6th.

2. Holiday Novella.  Revise first draft, write blurb and brief synopsis.  Submit by July 15th.

3. Vicki.  *Sherri begins dancing with glee*  Re-read the 30K I have and plot out the rest of the story.  Plot outline due by July 31st.

Looking ahead, my goals for August-October will be finishing Vicki and working on Maya#2 per Alissa’s recommendations.  e.g. I might have to plot more, or I might be writing, but both Vicki and Maya#2 are my goals for the next few months.  I would also like to write a freebie to give away around Victor’s release.  By October, I want to be shifting gears back toward Deathright and Seven Crows – one of which will likely be my NaNoWriMo project.

Of course, any of these are subject to shifting around and re-prioritizing depending on what my editors want to see first.

How are the summer months going for you?  Still productive, or have you decided to kick back and enjoy the warmer months?

State of the Writing

I was on a roll for Vicki, and then the first major sex scene totally derailed me.  Last week I picked at the story each night, but I was lucky to get a couple of hundred words, where the weeks before I was clearing 1-2K easily.  However, I was able to finish several “summary” scenes that were important but not “candy bar scenes.”

The big candy bar scene I’m now ready for is with Victor on page.  I decided I should re-read part of his book last night to make sure I got his voice right…….and then ended up reading until midnight.  Oops.

It doesn’t help that I started a new workout routine this week.  I tend to obsess.  (Who, moi?)  I’ve been wholly consumed with getting back on track in exercise, which seems to have done a number on my writing.  However, I know that exercise will make me feel better and eventually, improve my sense of wellbeing and fire my creativity.  Or so I’ve been told.  Right now, I’m still cripping around groaning at sore muscles.

Meanwhile, I’m working on line edits for The Bloodgate Guardian, due back 3/10.  I worked for awhile today and got through about 1/3, so I’m in good shape.

My goals for this month:

  • 50K in Vicki so I can finish her next month.
  • Edits on The Bloodgate Guardian and Victor as they come up.
  • Promo mailings for Dear Sir, I’m Yours.  I have some excellent bookmarks!  If you’d like some, drop me an e-mail and I’ll see what I can do.

Project Management: Cleaning the Desk

Hope you’re all having a wonderful New Year!

Today is a day of planning and thinking for me while we watch movies.  (The monsters are watching Forrest Gump yet again – I think I may scream.)  This is the time to look back over the past year, see what projects were finished, what went well and what didn’t, and decide how to proceed into 2010.

Rather like cleaning off my desk and preparing for a new year.

2009 was the year of Revision Hell, including major revisions to the Maya story, Arcana, and Return to Shanhasson.  Arcana didn’t go so well, and I shelved it again (I hit 50K and hadn’t even touched 25% of my outline.  Ooops!)  The Maya story was arguably one of the toughest projects I’ve ever tackled, and I’m hoping for good news on it in 2010.  *crosses fingers, prays, throws salt over shoulder, knocks on wood* 

Return to Shanhasson is in the final stages of submission and will go to Deena in the next few days.  Arcana?  Not sure yet.  I’ve done so much work on that story it would be a crying shame not to finish it in some manner.  I just can’t figure out what to do with it.  It *may* end up in the SFR world of Deathright.  Perhaps.  Possibly.

Along with Arcana, I’ve had a few other projects I had to clear off my desk.  One of the hardest things of project management for me personally is eliminating a project.  I wish I could do everything, but it’s just not humanly possible.  I had planned to write a Christmas novella set at Beulah Land over the summer, and I just couldn’t pull it off.  I wanted to write a short story in December, but just didn’t have time.  I’d love to write something for the erotic fairy tale antho at Samhain, but ditto. 

I *have* to finish Victor’s revisions in January.  I just don’t have time to pull off a 20K novella at the same time.  I had a pretty cool idea for it, though, set in the same SFR world as Deathright.  Perhaps I’ll write it anyway, later in the year.  Victor is my #1 priority in 2010, followed by Deathright.  Anything else will be gravy.

So what are you planning to work on this year?  Any major projects?

Project Management: Evaluating Your Progress

Have you heard the quote that a high percentage of people who write down their goals actually succeed?  That’s only part of the secret to success.  The other part:  evaluating your progress.

It does you no good to write down detailed, measurable, attainable goals if you never check your progress and make adjustments.  I used to avoid this step because, quite frankly, I hate failure.  I made massive, impossible lists, and then I never wanted to see how little I actually accomplished, so I just worked like a busy bee and never sat down and really thought about what I was doing.

It’s much easier for me now because I have finally learned how to prioritize my lists.  I still have an impossible amount I want to get done, but I’m really only going to be disappointed if I don’t accomplish my MUST DO items.  That list is smaller, manageable, and easily evaluated.

For example, this week, my highest priority goal is to revise 100 pages of Return to Shanhasson.  It’s measurable.  It should be doable in one week.  Just editing 20 pages a day will give me the weekend off if I so desire, and I already knew the opening was pretty solid, so I wasn’t going to have to rewrite massive sections.

Now last night before  I went to bed, I evaluated my goal.  I have 55 pages finished out of 100.  I’m 55% done, I still have 3-5 days to work on this item, so I’m in really good shape.

Today, I have two choices.

  • I can keep pushing forward on the revision and get it done quicker.
  • I can take a look at my ROCKSTAR goals for the week and month to see if I want to get some progress done there.

Before each writing session today, I’ll take a quick look at my plan and see what I want to do.  Tentatively, I’m shooting for another 10-20 pages of revisions today, but I’d also really like to get a first draft of Victor’s query letter prepared.

So take a few minutes and evaluate your progress.  Are you on track?  Do you need to speed up or allocate more time to your projects?  Do you have a half hour to spare for a ROCKSTAR goal?

Project Management: Stepping Stones

Hopefully you’ve taken your Dream List and broken it down into your top MUST DO priorities with a few ROCKSTAR goals just in case.  Now the question you should be asking yourself is HOW you can reach your goals.  

I’m reminded of the scene in The Mummy when O’Connell and Benny are yelling at each other across the river after the boat catches on fire.  Did you find yourself on the wrong side of the river?  Right now, the task may seem insurmountable. 

That’s because you’re looking at the river and letting it become an ocean in your mind. 

Instead of setting up a permanent camp of despair on the wrong side of the river, pick your number one priority item on your MUST DO list.  For me, that’s finish the first draft of Victor, the NaNoWriMo book.  Begin to make a list of all the things you need to do to meet that goal.  Anything, no matter how little, that you can do to accomplish the task.

So for Victor, I know I’m into Act III and the Resolution of the story.  That means I have a bunch of threads I need to tie up.

  • I need to tie up the romance between Victor and Shiloh, make sure they’re comforted and secure after the final showdown in the show.
  • I need to show how the trap Victor laid for the spy is revealed and resolved.
  • I need to reward Shiloh with the elixir, the very thing she created the show in order to win.
  • I need a clever, fun, sexy ending.

So I have about 4 scenes, give or take, that need to be written in order to finish my task.  I’m guessing this is less than 5K, and so I should definitely be able to finish by 12/7, which was my goal.

Maybe your goal is revisions.  I have three types of revisions I need to work on this month, and each will require a different set of tasks in order to accomplish them.  Maybe you like to read thru first and make notes as you go, and then tackle the revision.  Maybe you like to read online — or from a hardcopy with sticky notes.  Whatever your process, make a list of all the things that will enable that process and make you successful.

Maybe your goal is worldbuilding or plotting a new story.  (I have a ROCKSTAR goal for this.)  So my stepping stones are going to look something like:

  • Brainstorm and research.  These two often go hand-in-hand for me when beginning a story, until one particular element speaks the most to me.
  • Listen for the character(s) to show up.  Usually about the time I’ve settled on an interesting research item, a character starts blabbing in my ear about how cool all this stuff is.
  • Begin building the character.  (See the Character Clinic, the Emotional Toolbox, etc.)
  • Begin plotting the journey.
  • Write backstory.
  • Create a world bible (if the story needs it).

So pull out your A1 – MUST DO priority and figure out what step to tackle first.  Now you can cross small items off the list and feel like you’re actually paddling your way across the river, instead of stranded on the wrong side.  Don’t tell me you’re waiting for 2010, either – we’ve still got plenty of time to cross a dozen things off the list in December!

Project Management: Wanna be a Rock Star?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a ridiculous overachiever.  I put way more things on my list than I can possibly do, and then stress myself out needlessly because I can’t get it all done.  Well, duh, of course I can’t get it all done!  Not with a full-time job and three monsters running around sucking out my brain cells.

Yesterday, we wrote up The Dream List of every possibly thing I’d like to get done by 4/30.  (Don’t look back, it’ll give you nightmares.)  Today, I’m going to do something hard, really hard.  It’s going to hurt.  I’m going to whine about it.  But it’s a necessity.  As with any project, we have to be able to define a successful timeline and deadline.  For that deadline to be met, one assumption that we always specify in the scope is that the required RESOURCES will be made available.

As much as I hate to admit it, I do have to sleep occasionally.  I also have to keep the monsters in clothes (you should see our laundry room), cook dinners, and keep my EDJ extremely happy, plus an endless list of household chores.  As much as I’d love to lock myself up in a writing cave until I finished everything on my list, I just can’t do it.

So bring out the scalpels.  Brace for the pain.  And cut that list down.

Take a long, hard look at that endless list of wishful to-dos.  I’m going to concentrate on December only and ask myself:  what MUST I finish by 12/31 in order to be successful?  What can I reasonably, safely, and sanely accomplish and still sleep and function like a normal working human being?

These are going to be my A list priorities, or my MUST DO items.  Now don’t throw away the rest of your list in disgust — we still may be able to accomplish a few extra things too.  Pick a few more things that you just really wish you could do — if time allows.  This is our ROCK STAR list.  If the top priority things are getting crossed off the list, who knows?  We might be able to fit a few more things into our schedule.

So after taking a careful look at my list, I chose the following things to concentrate on in December.  If you can, assign a deadline to each top priority item so you know immediately if you start to fall behind.

DEC MUST DO (deadlines penciled in)

  • Finish the first draft of Victor by 12/7.
  • Polish first 3 chapters of Return to Shanhasson by 12/11.
  • Revise The Horse Master by 12/15.
  • Revise Return to Shanhasson by 12/31.

DEC ROCK STAR

  • First draft of Victor’s synopsis and query.  Oh, yeah, and a TITLE that’s better than the hero’s name would be good.
  • horror short story (antho deadline is 1/15/2010)
  • First Revision Hell pass for Victor.

And now, to keep myself in touch with projects on the horizon, I’m going to make a list of things to keep in mind.  They don’t have deadlines, exactly, but I can’t forget all about these items or I won’t be successful in January, etc.

FARSEER

  • verbally committed to submitting Victor in January.
  • horror story antho call 1/15/2010
  • SFR series:  read partial, organize notes, prepare to return to drafting in January
  • steampumk antho call 4/30/2010: continue mulling over plot, characters, and world.

My December Plans or Why I Need Project Management

Since it’s the first of December — OMG can you believe 2009 is almost over?  Nooooo! — I decided to evaluate my goals and make sure I know what the first of 2010 will bring.

And let me just say that I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach looking at my to-do list.  Seriously, how on earth am I going to get all this done?  I have one book on submission, one that’s *this close* to a completed first draft (Victor), and then I’ll have two books in desperate need of Revision Hell ASAP.  Then there’s a short story I’d like to write, and maybe something for that steampunk romance anthology at Samhain, and oh yeah, my new SFR series I want to kick off.  Oops, and I also owe one last Keldari novella to Deena at Drollerie.

Not to mention all the promotion work for Rose releasing in print Dec/Jan and Dear Sir, I’m Yours in April.

Before I started popping Motrin for the splitting headache or uncorked the bottle of wine, I decided to step back and approach this just like I would any major undertaking I complete for the Evil Day Job. I always have multiple projects in the queue, with varying needs and usually tight deadlines, yet we always manage to get everything (or nearly so) done.  That’s because we plan.  And then we plan the plan.  And then we plan just a bit more.

So for the next few days, I’m going to post about planning and goals, in particular mine, but maybe you’ll get a few ideas on how to start off the new year with a solid plan in hand, while I work toward the endzone for Victor aka THE END.

My first step I completed was to make a list of every possible thing I’d like to get done between now and 4/30.  (I picked that date because that’s the deadline for the steampunk antho.  You can pick any date.  A month.  A week.  All year.)  At this point, I let myself put anything and everything on the list, no matter how unlikely it’ll be that I can humanly accomplish a fraction of all this work.  This is dream time, pie in the sky list in no particular priority or order.

  • finish the first draft of Victor.
  • Revision Hell for Victor with a goal to submit by the end of January.
  • Revision Hell for Return to Shanhasson with a goal to submit by the end of December.
  • Polish the first three chapters of Return quicker — say by Dec. 11 — for potential giveaway idea.
  • Revise and polish The Horse Master, my old freebie story (the first I think I ever put up on the blog) for potential promo idea.
  • Consider writing a short story to give away for the holidays with The Horse Master to help promote Rose.  How about Dainari?
  • short horror story for fun looking anthology
  • Finish Deathright and query ASAP.
  • Replot Seven Crows once Deathright is done.
  • Jot notes for Vicki’s story (the last Connagher).
  • Come up with an idea for the steampunk antho.  Worldbuild, plot, etc.  I have something possibly in mind…but the pieces won’t fall into place.  Needs some major brainstorming.
  • Drag out Given in Fire notes and rethink the plot in preparation for drafting.
  • Manage all the promo giveaways for the holidays, keep the blog interesting, etc.
  • Set up the “Find Gregar!” contest.
  • Book signing 12/12 at my hometown library.
  • Personal note:  trip to home office for EDJ likely in first quarter 2010.

I’m exhausted!!!  I’ll continue this process tomorrow.

RX 3/5/2009

I’ve got a lot to get done this week beyond Revision Xibalba, some that I forgot about.  Like E-Book Week.  So I’ll be working on that frantically this weekend too.

Meanwhile, I did finish the next section in the Maya story.  It was more than a simple polish, since a major side character’s motivation changed, but I finally broke 70K (72,659 words now).

To do list by Monday:

  • Write new Quinn section for the Maya story.  If I’m on a roll, write Tara’s section too.
  • First pass edits of Road.
  • Final blurb/tag line doc on Dear Sir (Letters).
  • Polish The Shadowed Blood and pull together a pdf to give away next week.

Snippet: 

He stood close enough that she got a whiff of his vest.  It smelled… she couldn’t even form the thought in her mind.  The color was fleshy, tanned, some kind of leather.  Still… wet.  She swallowed hard, the bile burning her throat.  Something dripped from the inside of the vest, dark and wet.  Blood.  The vest was…

She gagged, turning away quickly, her hand over her mouth to hide her reaction.  He was wearing skin.  Human skin.  Her mind clamored and her jaws ached to keep back the shrill scream that roared in her throat.

February Recap

I need a do-over.

Other than the terrific news from Samhain, Feb. was pretty much a bust.  I didn’t finish Revision Xibalba — and I should have been able to do so.  I can’t even blame it on a new project, because I only finished one section in the new sfr project.  I was rather scattered.  I spent days brainstorming a new title for Letters, tenatively “Make Me.”  I spent days angsting about an agent.  Then poof.  I looked up and the month was gone.

So today, I cleaned my desk.  I made a consise list of what I need to do in order to complete Revision Xibalba this month.  I have some items to complete for Samhain this week, but otherwise, Revision Xibalba is my number one priority until I get editor revisions on either Road or Letters (MM).

My mood hasn’t been the greatest the past week or so.  After I turned in my “year in review” status report this past week (performance appraisal time is just around the corner), my boss at the Evil Day Job said she thought I was going to quit.  Not hardly, but reflective of how off my game I’ve been. 

Oh, and I also broke my teapot.  With tea in it, of course.  And one paper towel left in the entire kitchen.  Don’t even ask about the dumb thing I did to Bethanie!

So I’ll be shopping for a new teapot — and hoping for a better month!