My last check-in was six weeks ago, so I’d say it’s time for a new authorly update.
As of mid-October, I was about to start a big revision to my schedule for creating the content you enjoy on this blog and elsewhere. Basically, things had gotten disorganized and out of hand to the point that my “Short and Weekly” projects were interfering with my “Big Projects”… like finishing novels and story collections.
I stuck to this course correction over the end of October, rolling up my sleeves and starting the work of bringing my too-full schedule under control. That phase was all about re-aligning the production and posting of my microfiction to consolidate most of my weekly and bi-weekly deadlines into single monthly one. This began with a marathon microfiction production session one weekend, and then the implementation of a cross-platform “buffer month” of content the next that ran for most of November.
Establishing that buffer between when I initially write my vignettes, and when I needed to have them all produced, edited and posted… was vital to the plan. Previously, the buffer was only a week.
I’m happy to say that, although getting it all setup in only two weeks time was tough work, that stage then went off well and did exactly what it needed to do.
I also took steps beyond scheduling to make my life easier by doing something about my frequent bouts of eye-strain. I’ve been suffering with tired eyes for years, but it’s gotten worse in recent months to the point of impacting my productivity. So, at the very end of October, I picked up a new pair of eyeglasses to supplement the general pair I use to overcome my Velma Dinkley level of eyesight. They’re a specialized prescription optimized for computer work, which accounts for 70% of my waking hours between my writing and day job.
They were absolutely a worthwhile investment, and have created a noticeable reduction in my eyestrain as I’ve gotten into using them. :-)
Going into November, I’d planned it to be a productive month for my big projects, and to make some solid progress on Shadow of the Black Tower. But that wasn’t in the cards.
My wife injured her leg at the start of the month, to the extent that she needed a crutch for a time, doctor’s visits, and physical therapy that is still ongoing as of this post. Added to that was the disruption of my time surrounding Thanksgiving, and the severe cold my wife picked up on the holiday itself that made her last two weeks of November extra miserable.
I needed to put my authorly things on the back-burner to provide her lots of TLC and take-up the slack on household chores so she could stay off her feet as much as possible. This was the case for the whole month, and while I kept my small projects above water, I didn’t have much time to spare for the big ones.
However, there was some progress on my big projects. I did add 1,200 words to the draft of Shadow, and did a heavy edit to it’s next to latest chapter which included a fair number of revisions. The draft is now sitting at a little over 31,000 words. I’m eager to return to it, as I think it’s only a few chapters away from completion.
Also, while my wife was recovering from her leg injury, she used the downtime to learn a new roleplaying game called Spell to run at our beloved PortCon next year. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and got me thinking about my own plans for running games the convention. That had been a source of anxiety for me, as I don’t want the setup for them to become the multi-month disruption to my writing goals that they have been the last three years.
One thing that I’d been fiddling with is an idea for a RPG system that’s optimized for the one-shot session play that’s found at the con: Something that’s easy to grasp and fluid so most anyone can get right into the game and storytelling, but with just enough definition to the system that the rules won’t stumble over their own vagueness. It’s been easy for me to find systems that are one or the other, but I’ve found none that have the balance of both that I want. So I’ve been exploring ideas to make my own game.
I hadn’t made much progress or given the project a lot of time since June. But I started jotting down a few good ideas on a Friday night… and they just kept coming. It was pretty clear that I was on a creative roll, so rather than hit the breaks and do a total gear-shift to try and write on Shadow one weekend, I instead rode the momentum where it wanted to go.
5,000 words later on Sunday, I’d finished writing the core rules for my own original role playing game system. :-)
Now, it’s not like I completed a draft rulebook for a game. It’s more like a thorough essay that outlines the essentials and links all the concepts. But — beyond ordering some custom dice and dressings — it’s all that I need to run games with my new “JARP” system.
This accomplishment also greatly reduced my stress-levels about game mastering at PortCon in 2019, so it was well worth it. Once I finish the comparatively simple tasks of creating player characters, handouts and a few notes to run my scenarios next year… I’ll be ready months in advance. :-)
November ended with the first full-scale use of my new schedule to tackle the social media monster. And it was… uh… pretty rocky. I got it done, but it was well over 21 man-hours of work.
Now, the initial run was complicated by a lot of unusual factors, so I’m not going to judge it harshly. Things like my wife’s poor health derailed a lot of the prep-work I wanted to do leading up to it. And then there were things like it being my first doing things this way, and my decision to make it five weeks of content instead of the planned four so the next setup won’t need to be done until after the Christmas holiday. Finally, my desire to create and plan some Yuletide content for the coming holidays also added more work that normally wouldn’t be there.
My hope and feeling is that the setup for January I’ll do at December’s end will go a lot faster than this one did. And even with all the problems already mentioned, I got well over 200 posts assembled and scheduled around a core of 70 pieces of microfiction… all of those written, polished and produced in five weeks’ time. That’s no small accomplishment to get done given all my other commitments, either creatively or from a production standpoint.
And now, it’s December.
My wife is recovering well from her severe cold, and is making slow but steady progress with her leg injury. Her health was good enough that our Saturday evening excursion for dinner and then attending a performance of The Nutcracker ballet on December 1st with friends wasn’t the struggle we’d feared it would be. Instead, it was quite the opposite. We had a wonderful time.
Writing wise, the rest of the month looks bleak. Although I’m keeping pace with ongoing weekly small projects like my Night Wings serial (now over 7,000 words and 155 tweets long) and daily microfictions, finding time to make progress on big projects like Shadow is hard.
I’m sure I’m not alone. The six weeks encompassing Thanksgiving to New Years have so many holiday gatherings and activities, and they all seem to get shuffled onto the weekends we writers still working day-jobs like myself use for our craft. With similar events to our Nutcracker excursion occurring throughout all but my last weekend in December, my opportunities to make significant progress on big projects will be slim.
It’s enough to make a writer ponder, grumpily.
However, I’m not going to let holiday shenanigans and delays get me down. I’ll put the stressing-out over not making “big-project” progress aside to enjoy taking some breaks and go with the flow. Goodness knows I work very hard, and could use a few weekends off.
Instead, I’m keeping up with the weekly small projects and meeting my core monthly goals. The last days of this month will include my January media setup, and I definitely do not want it to be the down to-the-wire crunch and heavy workload that December’s was.
To that end, my efforts are focused on making sure that goes smoothly. I plan to take a four-day weekend while 2018 bridges into 2019: I want to start the New Year off right by getting the media setup done early and spending the last day of this year and the first of the next writing on Shadow of the Black Tower.
Have a great week everyone! Happy Holidays! And keep writing!
~Jason H. Abbott.