How Did I Do In February?

Darn good, as it turns out. No, not 100% on point with my plans, but probably 90% there. Which is pretty awesome, considering my realistic goal was about 70%!

Rather than taking you through the things I did this week, I’m going to summarize how my overall goals for this month fared.

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  • The Shadow of Saturn First Draft
    • GOAL: 30,000 words
    • ACTUAL: 23,000 words, but the day isn’t over yet. I’m sure I can get to 28,000 tonight, which is close enough. I am still on track to finish this first draft by May.
  • Paradisa Edits
    • GOAL: To be halfway done with developmental edits
    • ACTUAL: This is a bit hard to quantify, but I did schedule all my edits between now and March 31, and I met all of those goals. I also decided to devote April to line-editing, which takes off some burden. Originally I wanted my past tense conversion and all line edits to be done within this next month, but I’m going to focus on developmental editing only.
  • Short Story Submissions 
    • GOAL: Submit 12 poems or short pieces to 12 publications.
    • ACTUAL: Achieved! And two are in the “final round of consideration” for two different publishers. I will hear back from both in April.

Overall writing grade? I’d say an A. I was a pretty studious writer this month.

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  • The Con Runner’s Handbook
    • GOAL: Brainstorm the book.
    • ACTUAL: I did brainstorm it. I thought my goals were more lofty on this one, as I felt bad about not having it fully outlined. Looks like past!Michelle knew that would be a bit too much for the time being, and already set the bar low.
  • Kindle Shorts
    • GOAL: Write and publish four shorts for Kindle.
    • ACTUAL: I completed one of them, and hope to publish it tonight. The other three were consumed by Sundays that went to other projects. I’m not going to beat myself up about this, especially as writing the first one was a lot of fun and not terribly difficult. But this first one is taking me awhile because the process is new to me. Once I can get into a routine, I’ll hopefully become more prolific. Additionally, I’ve decided to devote 1 Sunday every month to writing a short story for publication, so that will reduce my Kindle burden too.

I’d say a B for this one, as I technically completed my Con Runner’s goal and I am exploring the Kindle Short publication process. Perhaps not as quickly as I’d hoped, but it’s coming.

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  • Video Company
    • GOAL: Work on website, research equipment, and file for an LLC.
    • ACTUAL: I did manage to file my LLC, ha! I am now officially a business owner. I also researched equipment, and narrowed it down to two DSLR cameras (the Canon 70D and one of the Canon Rebel EOS t series. Any opinions?). I designed my logo, linked my domain to my Squarespace account, and started designing my website. And best of all, I secured two “gigs” for when I purchase my camera (nonpaying, but it will help my reel). I still hope to launch the site officially on April 1st (no joke ;D) and I feel that I’m on track. I get a bonus at work this month, which I’ll use to purchase my equip.
  • Dead Air Webseries
    • GOAL: Complete Episode #4
    • ACTUAL: I did it, aside from some color correction and sound balancing. On to the next!
  • Indie MoCap
    • GOAL: 20 articles, a completed March newsletter, functional social media accounts and a site launch on March 1st.
    • ACTUAL: 9 articles, plus two secured interviews with some wonderful people in the industry. March newsletter is complete. My Twitter is thriving, although I need to get my YouTube, Google +, and Facebook accounts going. The site launch has been pushed back to March 7th, but I’ve been working diligently on the site, mailing list, forums, and many other features.
  • Animation Tutorials
    • GOAL: 4 animation tutorials complete
    • ACTUAL: 1 complete, plus some tinkering with Black Desert Character Creator, downloading Source Filmmaker, and the start of a 2nd tutorial. Mondays were rough. I’m going to move animation to Thursdays in March, and maybe put my Indie MoCap stuff on Mondays (as I….sometimes get that stuff done at work >.>)

I’m very pleased with how things are going. The prospect of my video company becoming a thriving business is incredibly exciting, as is the growing interest in Indie MoCap. I modified my schedule to make animation more of a priority, and I will continue to work diligently on finishing Dead Air in time for my video company’s launch. \o/

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  • Freelance
    • GOAL: Have talent, make money?
    • ACTUAL: So, you can see why I failed here. I didn’t have any concrete goals! I threw Freelancing onto the burner end of my schedule – Friday nights and Saturdays – which I normally use to relax. I did start interacting with the Freelance Writers Den and doing research, but I didn’t set up my profiles on Odesk and such. With all of my film goals thriving, I’m starting to wonder if freelance writing and graphics is too much extra effort. Or if I need to approach this a different way. Perhaps in March, I will resolve to 1) set up my profiles and 2) write an essay or article to pitch to a few different magazines.
  • Side Hustles
    • GOAL: Earn $100
    • ACTUAL: I earned enough through Google Opinion Rewards to pay for my YouTube Red subscription (I think it was about $13 total). I am up to $15 on Inbox Dollars and $15 on Swagbucks, as well as $13 on Ibotta. I think I’m at $4 on ShopKick. Total, that’s $60. I didn’t put nearly as much effort into this as I could have, and I haven’t cashed out yet. I think I’ll lower my goal to about $40 in March and see where that goes.

Big C for this one, gang. I need to decide where to take my Freelance work and accept that my side hustle apps are pretty low priority.

otherstuff

  • AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel
    • GOAL: 8 videos
    • ACTUAL: 5. It would have been 6 or 7, but Austin’s setup gave us massive technical difficulties on Saturday. At least the 5 we have turned out really well!
  •  AusmAtari Retro YouTube Channel
    • GOAL: A book every week
    • ACTUAL: I did it! I completed Chris Kennedy’s Self Publishing For Profit, Leona Wisoker’s The Secret of The Sands, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars, and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. All of which were quite good, although TSotS was long and has scared me away from books over 100k for awhile (it just took me a long time to get through, and I don’t want to get behind on my 50 book goal). This week, I’m reading Ready Player One. Also in the pipeline for March is The Call of Cthulhu by Lovecraft, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Calvino, and Rollback by Robert J Sawyer.

 

Usually after a productivity attempt, I totally overhaul my old methods and come up with something new. However, I think I’ve finally struck gold with this schedule. Aside from swapping my Indie MoCap and Animation days, and consolidating The Shadow of Saturn to 4 days instead of 7, this schedule will remain the same. I am also reducing my load on Fridays, as I find it to be the most unproductive day of the week. Overall, I do not feel any sense of fatigue or burnout. I did a lot of fun things this month, from playing several hours of Fallout 4, to going to a friend’s party, to going to the movies three times and watching plenty of Hulu and YouTube.

We have to know ourselves honestly to achieve that which we strive towards. I have to accept that I am useless on Fridays. I have to accept that technical difficulties happen sometimes. I have to accept that sometimes, projects require more work than I originally planned and may require a week or two of delay. And don’t be afraid to reevaluate your plans and consider if they’re what you really want (like my freelancing). If you really want something, you will make time for it. You’ll have vision for it. If something keeps getting pushed off, you and that project may not be right for each other after all.

Cheers, kids! What are your proud of from February, and what are you looking forward to doing in March?

 

Stuff To Be Proud Of: Looking Back on August

August was the first month of putting my new work system into action. It began in June when I outlined all the major projects I want to tackle in the next 4-5 years, across a variety of mediums. In July, I mapped out a general timeline for each of these projects and plotted all the little goals I would need to get there (they say that breaking big tasks into smaller ones is a hallmark of productivity.) In August, I abided by a daily schedule, which would accumulate in 8-10 goals I wanted to achieve by the end of the month. So how did I do?

On a task-to-task basis, if you count up all the items on my August calendar, I completed about 75% of my tasks. Not bad for a newb, I think. If you look at my actual goals, I only achieved about 2/10 fully – although many were partially completed. Overall…

Things I Did Great At:

Editing my web series, Dead Air. This web series was originally realized in my sophomore year of high school, and I filmed a lot of my Broadcast Journalism class goofing around in order to create it. Eight years later, Dead Air has remained a dream. I decided to tackle it now in order to give my videography background another credit. I wanted to finish one episode by the end of the month, and I am about 95% of the way there. I really enjoy editing, but I especially enjoy tinkering with this footage. I don’t have any doubts that all five episodes will be complete by January, which is the big picture goal.

– Writing Paradisa. I wanted to finish the entirety of Draft Six, and came about 8000 words short. I did write  13,000 words for Paradisa this month though. Part of the reason I fell short was a purposeful priority shuffle, considering that I’m starting a 9 day vacation at the end of this week ;) I knew I’d have plenty of free time over Labor Day to pump out those last 8k, so I diverted my sputtering August energy to short stories instead.

Outlining my Kindle business. This is also super fun, so I had no problem tackling it. I want to start selling Kindle erotica next year for some extra money, and coming up with all the different pseudonyms, storylines, etc., is oddly enjoyable. Don’t worry – when I start publishing in January, you guys will be with me every step of the way! I will be very open about the financial results of my little Kindle experiment. I will also try publishing some nonfiction next year, but I’ll talk more about that when we get there.

Reading. I finished The Disaster Artist this month, which I will reflect on during my end-of-year book post. I also started J.J. Abram’s S, I read a few stories from a Vladimir Nabokov short story collection, I skimmed through some mythological books…so I’m pretty satisfied! This is way more reading than I’ve accomplished in a while, and I feel like it’s not taking any extra time. I’m mostly replacing “scrolling through Facebook” with reading, and I now read 30 minutes before bed. That’s it. In September, I will continue with S, and will read The Martian and The Maze Runner books.

Things I Did Okay At:

– Short Stories.  I wrote 5500 words of a story called Ambrosia, and about 1000 words on a story about workplace harassment. I also wrote a poem called In The Event of My Death, and I revised an older piece from college. Still, I missed about 4 deadlines that I wanted to hit because I didn’t finish my two main stories. Part of this is because of all the work I did on Paradisa. Part of it was lack of inspiration, as I’m not really a great short author. I’m not going to be too down on myself about August’s progress, but I do hope to improve my short story turnaround times in the future.

– Literary submissions. I wanted to send out 20 stories. I only sent out 8, mostly because I didn’t finish any of my short stories, so I ran out of pieces to submit. Additionally, I’m running out of publications that accept flash fiction and/or simultaneous submissions. Most of what I’m sending out now is flash. *shrug* If I manage to finish Ambrosia in the next week, I’ll be able to catch up a bit. I’m sure I will get much closer to 20 in September.

Animation Tutorials – Planned to do 4, only did 2. I’m remedying this by setting aside an hour a day for animation and modeling practice in 3Ds Max, rather than an hour every Tuesday. I know I have the time, and I do quite enjoy it. It’s just a matter of making sure the timing is manageable.

My Writing Journal – Granted, I didn’t start this til the 16th. I think I’ve written four entries between then and now. I’d like to make this a daily, or at least every-other-day thing.

Things I Sucked At:

– Motion Capture. I pretty much tanked at this. I didn’t work on my motion capture site, I didn’t work on my email list, I didn’t get my Kinect set up. Luckily, none of this was urgent. It needs to get done in September, though. I’m trying to brainstorm and schedule mocap stuff in a way that encourages me to actually do it this month.

– Working on Saturdays. No more of that. I need Saturdays to rest. I assumed all this creative stuff would be fun and wouldn’t feel like work, but it does feel like work sometimes. Especially fiction writing. So if I fully take off Saturdays, I hope I will  have the energy to use Sundays as a truly productive work day.

It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. I think that setting really high goals is a great way to be productive, because even if you fall short, you still end up miles ahead of where you’d be otherwise. Yeah, I was a little short on finishing Paradisa Draft Six, but it looks like I’ll have that 40,000 word rewrite done with only 2.5 months of work. That’s crazy, considering it took me 7 months to do the same amount of work on Draft Five! And the fact that I’ve nearly finished a web series episode, I’ve written 6k+ worth of short story, I’ve put my work out there to 8 places….yeah, I may have fallen short of the goals, but 80% of “awesome” is still “pretty great” ;)

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Writers

For the past month, I have lived by a grid telling me what to do each day. For Type B people, this may seem ludicrous. But since graduating from college, I’ve been winging it and have almost nothing to show except one long suffering manuscript and no progress on other endeavors. I wasted two years that I could have been building my film portfolio. Two years I could have been freelancing my graphics skills. Two years I could have been writing and publishing short fiction.

I’m not wasting time anymore.

But a schedule means nothing without discipline, and that discipline is something I have to grow. I don’t meet all my goals every week. I barely meet my goals every month. But I do reach 70-80% of them, and it gets easier every day. By the end of 2015, I hope these goals will instead be habits. And since the point of this blog is to share both my progress and philosophies so that they may help other writers, here are a few tips to transform ideals into real habits:

Multiple projects. I wasn’t always a supporter of this, mostly because one project tends to overwhelm my brain at a time, leaving no inspiration for other things. In some ways, this remains true – I still can’t write two novels at once. But a novel and a short story? That’s okay. A short story and a website? That’s cool too. Spreading your projects across different mediums is a great brain hack, because I think we all have a set of muses instead of just one. You can fire all of them up at the same time and work steadily on everything, rather than burning out “the novel muse” before you’re even done with it.

Meditation. You know how the best ideas come to you in the shower, or on the ride to work, or as you’re about to fall asleep? There’s a reason – those moments are when your mind is most relaxed (assuming you’re not driving in D.C. traffic every day!) Stepping back and letting your mind wander is like instant inspiration. I swear, half the plot twists for Paradisa were born in the bathroom. You could try setting aside 15-30 minutes every day to physically meditate, but I personally haven’t made time for that yet. Instead, I harness my brain’s natural meditation cycles by keeping a small memo pad close by, and by using my smartphone’s voice recorder app. Like dreams, a lot of ideas and writing envisioned during this period can be fleeting, and I don’t want to forget them!

Schedules. Again, some more. Sorry, but they’re essential for me. I have road marks for all of my mediums going all the way through 2020! But some things, like my ambitious feature-length mocap project, actually take that much preparation. When you’re trying to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for something, you need the luxury of time and a multi-year game plan. And for anyone trying to be an indie anything, you need time to build a platform before you can expect to be successful.

Another thing about schedules – they ensure all months have a fairly even workload. I have allowed myself a hiatus on most things during months where I’ll draft a new novel. Similarly, during months where my novel is in beta, I focus more on non-novel things. I don’t want to reach March and realize all my deadlines have converged at once and I’ve given myself an impossible workload (only to be followed by a month where everything is slow and I’m basically wasting time).

Know your limits. In my prime, I could write 2000 words/hour. That seems like a fantasy now, because I no longer live alone and I have a much earlier bedtime. In fact, I didn’t really have a bedtime two years ago and constantly showed up to work bedraggled. In exchange for getting 8 hours of sleep every day, barely drinking caffeine, and being a decent live-in girlfriend, my maximum daily word count is about 1000 words.

When setting goals, don’t pretend you’re someone you’re not. Remember that sometimes you have sinus headaches, sometimes you want a nap, sometimes you have to work late, sometimes you want to marathon Lost on Netflix. If you schedule yourself like some kind of creative workhorse, you’ll burn yourself out if you meet your goals or you’ll be disappointed if you fail them. Or, like me, you’ll end up at the chiropractor for six months because being hunched over a laptop like a machine crippled your back. >.> Books like “How I Write 10,000 Words A Day” are tempting to emulate, but remember that those people are usually professional writers whose sole job 8 hours a day is to write fiction. For the rest of us working stiffs, especially those of us who want some semblance of a social life even if it’s just with our partner, that’s simply not realistic.

And even with a mere 800 words a day, I’m still writing more than I would have otherwise. It looks like I will complete Paradisa Draft 6 in two months, when it took me 7 months to do the same amount of work on Draft 5.

Priorities. Sleep is now a priority for me. Giving my partner attention is a priority. On the other end of the spectrum, I try to prioritize my art over playing video games and watching TV (which is a shame, because I love Fallout 3 and wish I had time to play it!) But now I’m talking about prioritizing your actual projects. Right now, Paradisa Draft 6 comes before anything else. It’s what I spend the top chunk of my energy on because if everything else fails, I still want a completed manuscript of this book to show for it.

Then there are bonus goals that do not have immediacy behind them, and do not have any particular external deadline (like an anthology reading period) or self-set deadline to meet. I work on these second.

Taking A Day Off. Unfortunately, I did not design a day off into my schedule, which has so far been a terrible idea (as a side point, I’d like to stress that schedules and goals are organic things. Too many people see organization as a prison. It’s not. It’s entirely in your control, and you can make the variables be whatever suits you). When I get the chance to reorient things, I am definitely leaving Saturdays free of responsibility. I never accomplish anything on Saturdays as it is, and I need a day to recharge from the combination of my full time job and the creative work. It’s tempting to shove all your creative projects onto the weekends, but personally, I get a surprising amount done on weeknights. Which leads me to…

Treat writing like it’s your job. Ideally, I will treat Sundays as if I’m a work-from-home writer. Austin works on Sundays, so I have the whole house to myself. I rarely have responsibilities on Sunday aside from household chores and making dinner. So that leaves me 7-8 hours to sit in my office and, for one day every week, pretend like this is my job. I’ve yet to do such a thing – probably because I haven’t given myself Saturdays off yet ;) This is my ultimate goal by the end of the year though, because imagine how productive one could be if they devoted a whole day to writing and creating?

Hope this helps some of you who struggle to find the time or motivation to complete your projects. One of the most admirable methods of creativity that we don’t utilize enough in America is focusing on what you can do with the resources you have rather than aspiring towards goals that are beyond your scale. Time is a resource. Energy is a resource. Find out how much you have of both and work within those limits rather than pretending you have more of either. If you simply commit to working on something – anything – it’s pretty amazing what you can build.

Camp NaNo, Here I Come?

Several of my writer friends are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Camp NaNo is a laid back, set-your-own-pace version of November’s 50,000 word sprint. Unlike the regular competition, Camp NaNo encourages short story writers, and people revising a previously written novel, to participate along with those writing a novel from scratch.

I didn’t concern myself much with the news, as I’ve never participated before. To me, NaNoWriMo is a November thing. I participate mostly out of tradition, and to beat my previous goal every year. I also use it to kick off new projects, which isn’t of much interest to me at the moment. I’m still fully devoted to Paradisa.

But Camp NaNo actually showed up at a good time for me. After some serious thinking, I’ve decided to rewrite the first 40 pages of my book, which I estimate to be about 25,000 words. I don’t want this rewrite to take 7 months like the previous one did (although, luckily, this rewrite is not as extensive as that!). I know that if I put my mind to it, I can probably knock out 25,000 words in just a couple of weeks.

So I signed up. I set my goal at 25,000 words. That means for less than 1000 words a day, I can have my major revision complete by May 1! Of course, I was planning on writing these 25,000 words anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to have an extra fire under my butt. I’m all outlined-up and ready to go!

Some writers are pro enough to set such goals unofficially and carry them out. I was like that about a year and a half ago, despite having a full-time job, but I think my writing productivity tanked around the time I started cohabitating with my boyfriend. We’re now on the same sleep schedule  which leaves me less productive time to write (going to bed far too early, at 10 PM) and I’m naturally drawn to more collaborative activities rather than solo ones now. When I lived alone, I could plop myself in a chair for four hours and forget the rest of the world. When there’s someone else’s feelings to consider,  that’s basically impossible now. Hopefully when we move into a bigger place in the next couple months, we’ll have more elbow room to do our own things in our own time. He’ll be getting his own office in the new house, which he doesn’t have now.

Until then, I think I can set aside a half hour every evening and get 1000 words out. Little goals seem more obtainable than big ones, no? And having a sophisticated word count system (I could rave about NaNo’s statistics system all day, ya’ll. It’s probably the #1 reason I keep doing this) helps motivate me as well.

Feel free to become my writer buddy on the Camp NaNo website. I am under the moniker “musemorgan.”

 

Who Do I Want To Be In 2015?

I am almost halfway through my “12 Days of Christmas”, aka the amount of days I took off work. I was hoping to use this time to finish Draft Five of Paradisa, but haven’t written much yet. Austin and I have had five Christmases since Tuesday and we’re gearing up for a sixth at the end of this week.

So today was my first semi-reasonable day for writing, but I was stuck with a headache for most of the day. ALAS! So the rest of tonight, Monday, and Tuesday will hopefully be my writing marathon days. I have about 24 scenes left to complete, 6 of which have to be written from scratch. I’m shooting for Beta Round 2 beginning February 1st. We shall see!

But this leads me to other stuff I’ve mulled about during my extended break. The new year is coming. Even if you are against “New Year’s Resolutions,” I think we all have high hopes for what the next cycle around the sun will bring. What we can accomplish. What can make us happy. I am shocked to say that in 2014, I went from a half-finished first draft to a nearly finished fifth draft of my maiden novel. I feel like it’s been longer but…I guess it has only been a year! Now, I also wished that I was querying by now, but I think I can say that goal looks promising for 2015.

Probably autumn of 2015, but 2015 nonetheless.

I think that it’s best to approach each new year with prospects of who we will be rather than what we will do. I would like to be an author of a finished novel by the end of 2015. I would like to be an agented author by the end of 2015. I would like to be a published short story author. I would like to be a successful cosplayer. I want to be a drummer. I want to be a business owner. I want to be a home owner. I want to love how I look and feel. I want to be an avid reader.

If I get any closer to any of those states of being, I consider it a successful year. It’s not about pass/fail accomplishments on a bucket list. It’s about making one New Year’s resolution, the same resolution, every single year – never grow complacent.

Best of luck to us all in 2015, as we continue to grow and develop our crafts. I hope to be blogging more frequently soon, once I get past the editing stage and have more interesting things to talk about again ;)

Being Realistic About Tackling NaNoWriMo

I have spent the better part of six days in sick girl limbo. Not sick like…flu sick. Just sick with sinuses, lethargia, headaches, and a lack of coffee because my latte-making SO didn’t live with me for a few of those days. With the house to myself for a while, you’d think I’d get a lot done. But you don’t want to do much when a nail’s driving through your eyeball for two straight days, or when you just want to sleep.

I have chronic sinus issues, and the headaches are getting more difficult to deal with. Used to be, I could take two ibuprofen and knock it out. Now it takes about a day and a half and ~8 ibuprofen to kill the headache, and sometimes it’ll still come back the next day. As anyone who’s had a sinus headache knows, it’s not just about the pain. It makes you dizzy, nauseus, loopy. Like you can’t focus on anything and that you just want to sleep.

So, while I went home early on Friday and had a mostly empty weekend, I still barely sewed at all. And because I’m so behind on my cosplay and so swallowed by it, I definitely haven’t looked at my writing!

What does this have to do with the title – planning for NaNoWriMo? Because I know myself. I know my health issues. I know that at least 3-4 days a month are devoted to me clutching my skull and whimpering about how miserable I feel. And I know that on those days, I won’t be writing.

I also know that Thanksgiving is in November. And AtomaCon, which will eat three straight days from November 14-16. Another Saturday will probably be devoted to PlanitCon in Myrtle Beach. These are also days that I won’t be writing. I just know that I won’t. I’ve done this a couple of years now and I know that AtomaCon is WAY too busy to even look at my laptop, and sickly days are really hard to fight through.

I aim to write about 70,000 words (or a finished book – whatever comes first) this month. And I won’t be doing it in thirty days. I’ll probably be doing it in about 21 days, if I’m realistic about my busy schedule and my health.

So that means on the days I do write, I need to write more. I need to strive for about 3300 words a day instead of 2300 if I’m going to really finish in November.

Do you have your own personal minimum word count? Are there days you know that you won’t write in November, or are you determined to write EVERY day? Or are you just winging it, and what happens happens?