I’ve been writing, just not here


Despite the relative quiet of this blog, I’ve been quite busy.

  • I’ve retired from photography projects. While I believe I’m pretty decent at it, the engagement model for photographic art in 2015 is fleeting at best. What takes me hours or days to create should take more than a couple of seconds to appreciate. But the world is what it is.
  • I’ve been writing more. A lot more.

One of my major writing contributions was for Project MX, which is pretty neat as the work itself de-emphasizes a list of credits for all who took part and instead emphasizes the subject.

Bigger still, I’ve taken on NaNoWriMo. I took a good bit of October just noodling on my concept, and towards the end of the month I built a bit of outline for it, as well as character and location sheets to help keep me true. I’ve been averaging about 2,500 words written per day every day, and set a hard limit on myself to write no more than 3,000 words per day. At this pace, I’ll easily finish NaNoWriMo ahead of schedule, and use my remaining time to beef up my story to novel length. This is just the first draft, so don’t expect to see any publication announcements soon.

I think the bigger takeaway for me is that I can write novel-length prose, and always could. But unlike other creative projects, I can’t just put myself in front of a blank medium and go to work. Writing a novel takes a bit more thoughtfulness and preparation than that. Moreover, I’ve had to restructure my life a good bit to put my writing on a pedestal. There will be no excuses for missing my writing goals, but my writing may be a completely valid excuse for not taking on any additional responsibilities.

My current project, “My Love, My Slave”, is a compelling story. But I don’t know if I’m ready to publish this one yet until I’ve earned more gravitas. The subject matter is socially challenging, and it’s not a genre I expect to be working in again after this.

So the plan for now is just to finish the first draft, then use the remainder of the year to come up with a 2016 plan. This will include coarse-grained project goals, and taking a first stab at a workflow and schedule that can work with my existing day job responsibilities. I’ve got a rather significant backlog of stories to tell already, and only so much time in which to tell them. You’ll probably see a few of the others published before I get “My Love, My Slave” out there.

The plan for next year will likely not include publishing “My Love, My Slave” for a number of reasons. Instead, I’m hoping to kick off a series of novellas that occur within the same continuity and are released on a regular cadence. This way, anyone who invests early in the series won’t have long to wait for the next installment. I may end up holding on to “My Love, My Slave” until I’ve got six to eight novellas already out there. At least that’s my initial thinking.

The local NaNoWriMo group has been great to get me started on this road. There’s a strong sense of community, and writers pull each other along on 15-20 minute “sprints” that do a great job of incrementally improving one’s daily word count. The more experienced writers are coaching the newbies, giving great advice about keeping one’s priorities straight, just tell the story now and worry about editing later, etc. There are servant leaders called “ML’s” (for Municipal Liaisons) that organize write-in gatherings in family-friendly public spaces, usually coffee shops and public libraries. Through this group, I’m gaining a sense that there is a smaller core that remains actively engaged with one another as they write throughout the year.

Special technology shout-outs:

  • Scrivener – My previous attempts at long-form writing used old typewriters and fountain pens. These are marvelous tools, mind you, but in this modern age the choice of using them carries with it certain responsibilities to do double work (such as transcribing everything from paper into a computer). This is my first serious project in Scrivener and I love how it’s helping me to keep it all organized. When I’m done the first draft, I need to take some time to explore more of its feature set.
  • Evernote – Every time I have a random idea, or run into a link that is informative or inspiring towards one of my writing projects, I can squirrel it away in Evernote and meta-tag it for easy retrieval. The tool hasn’t figured in as much for this project, but I’m already beginning to use it for collecting ideas for future projects. Idea for improvement: The use of templates right now is really clumsy and inconsistent across platforms. I’d love to see templates become a first class feature of Evernote and given consistent treatment across platforms.
  • Dropbox – I’ve got Scrivener set up to push backups of my projects out to Dropbox as I go. I’m usually on a WiFi network when I write, so my backups go out to their storage service almost immediately and sync back down to my other devices. This has been really convenient and reassuring.
  • Apple Macbook Air 11″ (2014) – I bought this late last year specifically for writing, and while it took me a little while to ramp up, I’m really loving it. It’s super small, super lightweight, has great battery life, and it’s powerful enough to do everything I want to do with it. I will say, I made a point of having them max out the RAM at the factory since the standard 4GB seemed insufficient. The 120GB storage is also very spartan, so I don’t load this thing down with music or anything… that’s what the next one is for. I’m hoping the next upgrade will still be available in 11″, still have standard USB ports (which I use heavily), and more fully support a 4K external display at 60Hz (because I’d like to upgrade the display on my desk to 4K). I’d like to see more generous storage and memory options next time, too.
  • Pandora – I know a few songs that I want to hear when I’m writing, and love that Pandora will fill in the blanks with other music that shares the same DNA. I know all the cool kids today like Spotify, but Pandora’s working out well for me and my writing.
  • Trello – I left this for last because I’m not particularly impressed with it. I’m pretty well versed in Agile project management, and I wanted to set up a project board for my writing. Points to Trello for letting me get set up a lot more rapidly than I would have with JIRA. But at the same time, it’s been very primitive. I would even say to the point of having really disappointing design flaws. For example: if you set a due date on a task, you’ll still get alarms on that task even if you move it to a Done state. Trello’s response to me about this was advice to manually clear out the due dates on each task as I complete it. I’d contend this is bad advice covering for a poor design decision: “Done” should consider a task as resolved and treat its alarms and reminders accordingly. I’m very likely to look for a more sophisticated alternative to Trello before I get more ambitious with my writing projects. I’d really like to get a bit crazy with my board and include things like subcolumns within swimlanes to track step by step progress for each task type (example: writing 1,000 words and publishing an edited work to Kindle are two very different tasks but should be followed on the same board). I’d also like to be able to nest tasks into stories into epics.
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