It’s been a bad week when I’m happy to get back to a not-great day.
I did some more work getting everything back in order today, then got back to work. I know what I need to do; all there is is to do it …. But first, we had a nice dinner to celebrate my daughter’s successful advancement to first grade. It was a kindergarten graduation, of sorts. Too good.
Vampires Versus Comicon
It turns out that I’m further along with this than I thought I was. Though the chapter progress bar in the sidebar shows only a minority of chapters complete, the plot is almost entirely in place and complete. At least, it is as long as it doesn’t change. And it always changes. Not to worry, though. The more the book is done, the less there is to change. Except … today I had some ideas to make things a little more complicated and a bit funnier. They seem like good ideas, but they might involve changing things I’ve already done, and that opens up a can of worms.
Today, though, I spent some time writing the final fight scenes. It’s not certain the book will end up there, but it feels right, and it’s what my brain wanted to work on today.
Overall, I didn’t get nearly as much work done as I need to every day, but it was great to be moving forward at all.
I haven’t posted here in over eight days. And, my website said “Scheduled Maintenance” for a solid week. A little explanation may be in order.
In ramping up to my current challenge and looking ahead to the future, I realized two weeks ago that I want to keep my writing business simple, efficient, and focused on the production of new books. Early last week, I became fixated on the demands my website arrangement placed on my money, time, and most of all attention, for results that seemed debatable at best. Not for the first time, I found myself thinking of adopting a static website, generated by Jekyll or Hugo or Nikola, and it seemed that I could embrace maximum simplicity, efficiency, and focus with a simple switch to one of those generators. I identified my options and weighted my values among them, and it seemed that a static website was the clear winner.
So, in the middle of last week, I began to make the switch. I thought it would take me a day to change over, and two or three to get everything slick. After all, I used to code this site by hand, and I still make my own tools for making ebooks. How hard could it be?
That was a mistake.
Taking down the old website was easy, a couple hours, but I massively underestimated the time to create the new. Every time I answered a question, two more popped up. Success kept feeling like it was imminent, but it wasn’t. Day by day, a week went by.
The static website generators are not impossibly complicated, but they are different, and they require some learning, not hours, as I originally thought, but days. At least. What’s more, the code that I used to use to generate my static content has suffered terribly from bit rot, and though I could certainly get it running again, it would take days, at a minimum.
And you know what I’m not doing when I’m coding templates and generators? Of course you do.
What kept me going was the idea that I was creating something significantly better, and that giving up would make the whole thing a waste. What finally made me stop and go back to WordPress was the realization that my experience trying to change proved that the benefits of simplicity, flexibility, and freedom lay with WordPress. If the object is to have a website system that my daughter and wife can help me with—and it is—then the best answer, right now and maybe forever, is WordPress, not a static site generator.
Soon after midnight on Thursday, I began the change back. Though I had completely taken the site down, I estimated that it would take me only a couple hours to restore from backup. About fifteen hours later, I had most everything back in place.
The past week was a terrible mistake, but at least I learned something important about myself: Though I used to code websites by hand, and I happily made generators for creating website parts, I don’t want to do that again. Not ever.
I want to make books. And some other creative works.
But not website code. Never again. I am done.
So, thank Matt for WordPress. And everyone else who contributed to it and made the plugins and themes I use.
Meanwhile, About Those Deadlines …
I’d like to say that at least I kept my writing production on track, but I didn’t. And the Universe did not grant me an extension on the events that form my hard deadline.
So, I am way behind, much behinder than before.
I have adjusted my goals. They are more difficult, but nowhere near impossible, and still not the highest levels I’ve produced.
I need only to stay focused and work my plan.
Friday morning I begin again. With new wisdom about myself.
My productive hours were good, but I always wish they were better. What really occupied my time was trying to get a handle on my daughter’s transition to first grade, which was a little rough today, and sucked up a lot of my time and attention.
Every once in a while, I look around and think, how did I get here?
Late night, tired morning. Need to fix that. It was my daughter’s first day of half kindergarten, half first grade. I got a lot of good work (I think) in during the day, then spent well over two hours helping her with the new homework, which was weird. Then, after dinner and bedtime, I got some more work in.
There are so many interesting and cool things to do in the world. It’s easy to get caught up and off track with fun possibilities. I spent quite some time today realizing the fun, complicated, time-consuming mess I’ve made of my website. I’ve been spending time lately thinking about how to best structure my publishing business to optimize its portability and such. Today, not for the first time, I moved toward simplifying things again. A person could argue that it isn’t the best use of my time, but I would argue that it is critical to get the framework right before my newest rush of work gets out. It will be much more work to make changes later.
Vampires Versus Comicon
Late at night, I did get some good work done on VVC. I need to get this done.
If Sundays were days of rest, I could use that time to catch up. Too bad they’re not.
Another late night, another late morning. Abbreviated my short morning routine to get to services, then off to visit my parents, home take care of a situation, then it was time to run a poker tournament and come back exhausted again.
Saturdays are not very good. I know the cure. Can I do it?
After a late night, I awoke late, as it goes. I did my morning routine and some daily maintenance, but didn’t have time for real work before heading out to run a poker tournament. After that, we took Elizabeth to the Enchanted Island amusement park as we had promised, and that was fun, but not productive. At least I did get to see the convergence of Venus and Jupiter. Late in the evening, I was able to drag myself to the keyboard. I was too tired to put together original content, but I was able to do some work on “going wide”.
So, the day was lost to real productivity. I know the cure: get up early and write first. Can I do it?
If I were writing a story, an excellent Thursday would be followed by a Friday of challenges. Weird how life imitates art.
The morning was good, but not great. I took time from writing to go to the coffee with the principal event at my daughter’s school. That was nice, but not productive. And on the way home from that, some other drama began to unfold. It was the kind that trumps everything else, and it took a big chunk out of the productive hours of the day. By the time everything was settled down and I got to serious writing, it was late and I was tired.
This is exactly why rising and getting things done early is so important.
Vampires Versus Comicon
Yesterday I noted that it felt like the story was breaking free. Today, it felt like the story was repetitive, trite, and boring. There is a well-noted phenomenon of feeling this way at the one-third point in books, so maybe this is that. On the other hand, maybe it really is repetitive, trite, and boring. However, even if it is, I can’t stop now. I have plans and deadlines, and except for minor changes, this story is what it is. Forward to done is my only option, and quickly. But I really hope this isn’t stupid.
We all had to get up earlier than usual because my daughter’s kindergarten teacher had requested a meeting with my wife and me—and the principal. Because she had requested the meeting with “… as you know, your daughter is very advanced academically …”, we weren’t worried about it, but still, when people want to have a serious talk about my daughter, there is a lot of room for them to make me angry. Anyway, it was surprisingly easy for us to get up and going and out the door, and I even got my morning routine in, which is always nice.
At the meeting, the teacher started by explaining that they do assessments of the kindergarteners to evaluate what they already know, then she showed us the printouts of my daughter’s results. (These, I can add, are not very helpful on their own. Bar graphs are almost always scaled to show detail, so without some kind of context, is this data unusual, or what?) She told us that for what they test—math and reading—not only is my daughter above what they want for the start of kindergarten, she’s well above the goals for the end of kindergarten. Furthermore, they tested her (manually, apparently, which had to have been fun) for her knowledge of sight words, and they found that she knew all the kindergarten sight words … and all the first grade sight words, at which point they stopped testing, because it was obvious she could just keep going. The teacher said that at reading time she breaks the kids out into four groups according to their skill level, and my daughter is so far above the highest level that she has her go work on a computer by herself.
So, to (try to) keep her engaged and challenged and learning, and to not simply bore her for a year, we (the five of us, including my daughter) decided to “advance” her to the first grade. That’s pretty cool, and I’m extremely proud, especially when the principal told us that it is extremely rare, and he had not ever done it at that school before, and had only seen it done once anywhere. Wow!
I felt a little reluctance, because, on the other end of school, that might mean her leaving home a year earlier and going to college with more mature predators (for lack of better word). However, the idea of her spending the time by herself and learning nothing is intolerable. We can figure out the rest later.
This bit of happy intrusion distracted me for the bulk of the morning. I got some work one on Vampires in the afternoon, then I picked up my daughter from the bus, and we went to have a nice dinner, after which we visited my parents. In the evening, we finished her homework, and after a little rest I got back to work.
Vampires Versus Comicon
Finally today this thing started breaking free. I finally hit the end of Chapter 4, and doing so pushed a lot of material into Chapters 5 and 6. This book is turning unexpectedly comical. It was always going to be absurd, as Zombies is more absurd comedy than apocalyptic horror, but these characters are surprising me with how absurd they really are.
There are 20 chapters left to the end of Vampires, each with about 2,500 words. Doing 7,500 words a day would be three chapters a day, getting it done in a week. That’s the pace I did for Zombies, and if that’s “all” I can get for this, I will take it. But, I will try to do more.
Great news for my daughter, a nice dinner, and good progress. An all-around great day.
Another regular day. Did my morning routine, did some work. Wednesdays are the short days at my daughter’s school, and we were by ourselves again for the afternoon and evening, so that time did not go to writing. In the evening, however, I was able to get some work done.
Challenge First Steps
I want the first chapters of each book done pronto, but I also like having the basic framework in place so that writing fills the book, so I spent a couple hours of work to accomplish that. On one hand, doing this strikes me as busywork at best, and a waste of time at worst, but on the other hand, I like having the books established and filling up with words. It interesting to me that these projects, most of which have been in development for several years, are finally coming into their final form.
From there I went to writing Vampires Versus Comicon. I got some good work done, but ran out of time before finishing a chapter. I have mentioned before how complicated it is weaving all the plot and subplot threads together just right at the beginning of this book, and I struggled with that again. I just need more butt-in-chair time to get past it.
Working late to get Angel of Death into the publishing queues caused my morning to be late. One of my missions this week is to begin getting up at 6:00 no matter what happens. I did my morning routine, then spent a lot of the day composing the release notice and making updates as Angel of Death went live in various places. I also spent a lot of time figuring out and committing to what comes next, as described below. In the afternoon I got my daughter and, because it was just the two of us again, did the homework, dinner, bath, reading, and whatnot evening routine. And late at night I took a long walk and had an adult beverage to celebrate the release of another book.
What Comes Next
Releasing Angel of Death is nice, but in truth I am far behind where I wanted to be by now. A long time ago, I crafted a plan and ordered my work for maximum effect. Time has slipped away, and the end of October is a very firm deadline. Ouch.
Just for fun, here are the projects that are coming next, along with why I need to do them at all and in this particular order.
Vampires Versus Comicon. I need to finish this book immediately because it should have been done months ago. Now, it has a big promotional push slated for December, and the next in the series for the spring, so it needs to be done pronto. Also, my secret projects will have big marketing pushes, and this book, together with Zombies, is part of the Comicon series, and you can’t have a series with only one book.
My Dad and Me and Jack Swilling. The characters in my secret project books refer to this book, so it needs to be written. Also, it was supposed to be written months or years ago, and putting it off until after the secret projects might ruin everything.
Secret Project #1. This book of political satire has a window of timeliness that is closing fast. It should have been done years ago, and it’s now or never. The second and third secret project books refer to this book, so it has to be done here.
Secret Project #2. Like the first secret project book, this one should have been done years ago, and it’s now or never. The third secret project book refers to this book, so this has to be done here.
Secret Project #3. While I don’t think it is absolutely critical for this book to be released before November, I do think that the three secret project books will feed into each other’s success and all will be bigger if they are released in close proximity. Incidentally, there are more books planned in the secret project series, but only these three need to be done by November. If all goes well, two more will be done by the end of the year.
Now, in my entire life, I have finished only nine book-length works of fiction. Is it really plausible to produce more than half that total again in the next nine weeks? Yes, it is. For one thing, for most of my entire life, I didn’t know exactly how to write a book. Not knowing how makes it take a lot longer. I do know now. Also, all these books have been development for months or years. I know what happens in them; I just need to write it down.
The process is rather straightforward. All my books have 24 chapters, because I think that’s the perfect number of chapters for a book, so I know how many chapters these books will have. I just need to write them. Writing a 24-chapter book in two weeks means two chapters a day (leaving two days for the proofreading afterward). That’s not so bad. I also know that the books will have a minimum of 48,000 words, though most will probably be nearer to 72,000 words, and 96,000 words is probably the maximum any might have. That means each chapter will average from 2,000 to 3,000 to 4,000 words. Thus, two chapters a day means between 4,000 and 8,000 words a day. That’s well into pulp speed, but it isn’t crazy. At a typing speed of 1,000 words per hour (which I usually get when I’m into it), that’s 4-8 hours a day of typing. Can I do that for 9 weeks? Of course I can.
When I put it like that, you might wonder why I haven’t done it already. The answer is that the time was not right. I had interruptions, and I thought that mattered. I had not yet developed my perfect story structure. I had not yet discovered how to create the perfect cast. Most of all, I thought it couldn’t be done. I believed in the myths that Dean Wesley Smith debunks on his blog. Now, not only do I know it can be done, I know how to do it, and thus, I know I can do it.
I’ve added the books with their due dates to my book progress plugin, which displays them on the sidebar. I want to make sure each has at least the first chapter done in the next few days, and it will be fun to watch the books progress as the days roll by.
The deadline is approaching fast. It’s now or never. I have to do it. Butt in chair, fingers typing. No excuses.