Category Archives: Time management and goals

I rode myself hard and hung myself up—wait, does that sound right? (#SFWApro)

It was a week that did not go as I planned.

I submitted my first Screen Rant article, and then my second, but they both took way longer than wanted. And that required really pushing myself, hence the title. I need to trim the time down, and I need to relax and have more fun with the writing too. I love comics, which makes it easy; I’m working under a tight deadline and specific format requirements which makes me veer serious. I did better with the second one though (I’ll post a link when it’s up), so hopefully next week will be better yet.

I have my History article on tractors 80 percent done, and I should be able to get it out next week. So yay!

And I started indexing Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast for a Createspace edition. If I’m going to go hard-copy, it should have an index. Annoyingly, I found one minor error in the intro, so I have to correct the ebook too. I’ll wait to see if I find any more — indexing is good for that.


But I got almost no fiction written, which is not yay. That’s happened before and not that long ago — back last year when I was wrapping up Now and Then We Time Travel, for instance. However, I don’t want to be doing that now, if I can help it. I enjoy nonfiction (obviously. I’ve written enough of it), but fiction is the reason I write. And I do want to get two more drafts of Southern Discomfort in this year. So like I said, I’d better get more efficient.

I am pleased that despite the rush to finish up Screen Rant #2, I made time for essential stuff like exercise, and making sourdough bread while the dogs were in doggy day-care on Thursday. It’s important not to let even demanding deadlines roll over normal life, if I can possibly help this (and if I want to do Screen Rant regularly, I have to help it). I was sufficiently rushed I forgot adding the salt to the dough (sourdough buckwheat bread) but that’s easy to fix with a little salt sprinkled on each slice. It’s an easy mistake — I’ve done it before when I was rushed.

I’ll close with a shot of some dead leaves I took this week. It symbolizes … well, whatever you want. Free symbol! Please credit me if you want to use it.



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Filed under Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

My week in review makes me think of that TV series Hindsight (#SFWApro)

One of the things I liked about VH1’s Hindsight was that after the protagonist travels 20 years into the past and fixes her big problems (her train-wreck first marriage and her dead-end job), she has no idea what to do next. Knowing what was wrong in her past doesn’t show her what path will lead to happiness (her best friend points out that she’s no worse off than anyone else). Which is sort of what I felt like working on Southern Discomfort this week.

The one part of the book I still haven’t outlined is Joan and Maria journeying to Caer Gwalchmai. It has to be less than the relatively simple “waltz through the Otherworld and get the magic McGuffin” sequence in the last draft, but I’m not sure what. This week I got a clearer idea of what I don’t want: it shouldn’t be just a struggle fighting through supernatural forces and monsters. My gut says that’s wrong, and I trust my gut. However I’m not sure what the alternative is. A series of traps and wards they have to circumvent? Maybe. Or something I haven’t yet thought of. Quite possibly. I’ll keep pushing until I figure it out. And start on the earlier chapters while I’m thinking, so I don’t waste too much time staring into my navel for inspiration.

I did not get as much work on the novel done as planned because of those two assignments I mentioned last week — a History Magazine article assignment and a trial run as a writer for Screen Rant. I got the History research collected and managed to bat out a rough draft (very rough, but it gives me a sense of how I want the piece structured). And I found the photos I need online.

The first Screen Rant column, as I suspected, took much longer than I wanted it to. If I’m going to stick with the gig (assuming they like my work), I’ll have to write much more efficiently. But that was the case with Demand Media: the first few articles were crawling, then I found my rhythm. I’ll also have to structure my time so that I don’t work on them over the weekend — this one will have to be wrapped up Sunday. The writing’s done, except for proofreading, but I have to enter it in the system, which will probably take a bit longer. And I have to find illustrations and crop them which will be a pain. But then again, writing about comics and getting paid for it is pretty damn cool, so onward!

I applied for a couple more freelance jobs, and that was about it for work, even with more than the usual number of hours in. Of course that’s partly because reading White Flight was slow going, because the book’s so packed with information. And I got stressed and tired Wednesday which made hump day less productive than I’d planned.

To end on a high note, here’s a look at Plushie after his new cut. Adorable, is he not?


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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Paper and Pen: two weeks of organizing old school (#SFWApro)

So as I mentioned after buying my new computer, I found myself dissatisfied with the new Calendar app. I went out a week later and picked up a planner (I did try a couple of new apps, but none of them worked as well as iCal for me).  It turns out I’m not one of those people who desperately needs to kick it old school.

The planner is way better than Apple’s Reminder, and much easier to use than the other calendar/list making apps I tried. But still, I’m not going to carry it along with me when I move my computer from one room to another, which makes checking on my progress a little more awkward.

And also I just picked the wrong planner. Understandable, as I haven’t used one in what, six or seven years? This is a page-a-day planner, and I think a bigger one with a week per two pages would have suited me better. That way I can see all the tasks I have for the week without flipping any pages.

Come the end of 2017 I think I’ll take a much closer look at what planners are out there, see which will really suit me.

But I miss my iCal.

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Filed under Personal, Time management and goals

I totally did not see these plot twists coming (#SFWApro)

Plot twist the first: after a big get together last weekend, TYG came down with a nasty cold. As of today, it appears I’ve caught it too, but in much less virulent form (that’s how it usually works with us). I felt like all I want to do is nothing, but I’m not hacking or sneezing any. So yay for small mercies.

Plot twist the second: I routinely submit query letters to various non-fiction magazines, but my success rate is so low I’ve often wondered if writing and finishing more fiction wouldn’t be smarter. But this week, guess what? I got a go-ahead from History magazine for an article proposal. After the initial panic at having committed myself (I’m so used to working without deadlines or obligations these days) I took a deep breath, relaxed, and enjoyed the moment.

PT the third: I also apply for freelance gigs through the Journalism Jobs website, usually without much success. But this week I pitched Screen Rant on a gig writing about comic books, and they liked my stuff. It’ll be a trial run at first to see if it really works out on both sides, but writing about comic books (list-style articles) is like a dream job. More details when I have something posted.

This, of course, leaves me with the challenge of adjusting my schedule for the new assignments. That’s tougher than you’d think, simply because I don’t want to give up time on fiction — but most probably, work on short stories will take the hit. Next to actual paying gigs, Southern Discomforts is the top priority, lesser projects will have to go on stand-by.

Speaking of which, this week’s replotting went reasonably well. I have a rough outline of how things should happen and how everyone reaches their endpoints. I do not have, however, the scene by scene breakdown that I wanted; my vague outlines tend to fall so far apart midbook that I have to give up and start over, and I don’t want that. I’ll continue scene-by-sceneing it but I may start work on the early, well-detailed chapters as well. But I’m still concerned that I may be losing some of the sense of Pharisee as a community outside the plot of the story. I’ll have to watch that as things progress.

I delivered my next And column, though it’s not out yet, and got another 12,000 words written on Undead Sexist Clichés: The Book (not how it will be titled, but it’s the simplest way to distinguish from the same name blog-post series). I also took care of getting a second opinion on one household project (major repairs not necessary for a while, whoot!), and took the car in for its annual inspection.

A good week. With surprises that were mostly pleasant ones. I’m as happy as a plush dog chewing on a stick.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

Out of the gate: January goals (#SFWApro)

Like last year this time, I did well meeting my January goals: 79 percent. That may merely be the same determination that fuels most people to work on their New Year’s Resolutions right after they make them, but it does feel good.

Unfortunately my biggest writing goal was completely replotting Southern Discomfort and I didn’t manage that. There were several short stories I’d planned to work on too, that I didn’t get around to. And I didn’t get any work done on my taxes. I did get my 35 hours a week in, but just barely.

On the other hand, I did finish redrafts of three stories, so that’s not bad — though Rabbits Indignationem still needs a better ending. I got in several non-fiction queries, published Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast and submitted two and columns. I submitted Fiddler’s Black to a new market, but it came back (though with Send Us More attached).

I tinkered with a rewrite of Atlas Shagged but decided it wouldn’t actually fix the problems so many editors have with it. I’ve gotten enough positive feedback (from editors and others) I think I’m going to self-publish it with reprints of some previously published short stories.

I researched starting a Patreon (haven’t decided), and I redesigned this blog so that you can see covers in the sidebar. Hopefully that will help sales.

I had a number of personal and exercise goals this month, including rereading a book on photography (I did, now I’ll start applying the lessons) and bicycling for one hour twice — if we’re ever going to travel the American Tobacco Trail from Durham to Raleigh again, I need to start rebuilding my exercise legs. Only made it once, but I did manage to get one hour-long exercise walk in (another goal). I hadn’t thought I would, but I took the dogs for a lunch walk last Saturday and they were in the mood to walk a lot.

And speaking of the dogs, here’s Trixie with the Big Ball–it doesn’t show here but it’s bigger than her head.


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It snowed on me. You won’t believe—actually, what happened next is pretty believable (#SFWApro)

But first, some PR: annual Raleigh-Durham Illogicon is here again. And as I have been the past few years, I’m on some panels:

Friday 7pm: Magic Systems in High(ish) Fantasy
Saturday 10am” Repeating Itself: Historical Fiction
6pm: Writing Real People and Places (or, That Looks Familiar!)
Sunday 11am Reading: Fraser Sherman
12pm: Time Management for Writers.

And here’s the Illogicon mascot, Schrodinger, from last year:

professor2Now, the week. As  I mentioned this morning, I was snowed in with the dogs until Tuesday evening. To put it mildly, that did not work out well for me: Tuesday work I pretty much zoned out (I love the pups, but constant confinement for four days with them got to be a little much. Okay, a lot much). Happily it thawed out enough that I could make writers’ group Tuesday night. It’s always fun to hang out, more so after not getting to go anywhere.

What I did get done was the first chapter of my book version of Undead Sexist Cliches. I hadn’t planned to put that much work into it this month, but I was kind of zoned Monday too, and nonfiction is easier.

The rest of the week I worked primarily on Southern Discomfort, thinking about the character arcs, the characters and some of the plot holes. My brain moved slower than I wanted, but it did move and I got a lot of thinking and revising and changing accomplished. I’ll probably discuss it next week.

Then Thursday TYG had an unexpected schedule glitch. So she was up late. So I was up late. Trust me with the dogs there’s no way for her or me to slip quietly into bed. So I was pretty zonked today. I’d planned to work on Trouble and Glass but wound up mostly doing more thinking about Southern Discomfort. I definitely think I’d have made more progress if I hadn’t been so thrown off by schedule.

One distraction did work out well. We had to take Plushie in to the vet to check his kidney levels — they were a little high last year — but it turns out that the kidney food we put him on did the trick. They’re fine. So yay.

And by the time you read this, I’ll probably be at Illogicon while TYG gets to make up all her lost time with the pups.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

You’re stark, raving mad! Goals for 2017 (#SFWApro)

For 2016, I had 55 year goals, mostly patterned on my most recent 101 in 1,001 list. I wanted to write at least 10 short stories over the 1,001 days that started 1/1/16, so my 2016 goal was to write three (I finished four). As noted yesterday, my success rate was around 54 percent. So I’m not sure upping my goals to around 80 for 2017 makes a lot of sense. But I did it anyway.

Some of the growth was because there were a couple of 101 items that I haven’t begun yet, so I might as well start. A lot of it was personal stuff, though. Sitting with the dogs all day sometimes gives me a bad case of cabin fever. As we didn’t hit Dragoncon this weekend, I haven’t had a break of more than a day since our trip to the Mensa gathering in July. Coupled with TYG’s heavy workload, watching the pups has been more exhausting than usual of late (I should make it clear, she really appreciates and is grateful for the time I put in with them).  I feel the need to counteract that by coming up with more goals that involve getting outside, even simple ones like “walk or bicycle outside every weekend.” Or go beyond my usual outside travels by finding roads or bike paths I don’t know.

I also want to get out and do more stuff with TYG. Which takes a conscious effort (hence putting it in the goals) because it’s so easy for us to stay home with the pups. However she’s got some heavy-duty time commitments in 2017, so I won’t be working on those goals until after she’s free.

On top of that, I feel a need to push or challenge myself in some new ways. Experiment with and improve my photography. Improve my inept juggling. Not that I expect to become professional-class in either, but I do enjoy trying to improve myself, particularly in areas where I don’t stand to gain anything but fun.

While it’s not exactly a goal, pushing myself is definitely part of what I want to do. Need to do. Looking at some of the goals I didn’t do last year, it’s because I just never pushed myself to do them (work backstage in one of the local theatrical productions, say). Part of that’s a variation of the cabin-fever thing: it seems so natural to stay at home and not go out, it makes it easy to just pass up alternatives. I don’t think that’s a good thing, much as I enjoy the house, the pups and TYG. Even when I put stuff on my goals list, I don’t make any effort to actually do it. Possibly I don’t really want to and I’m fooling myself, but more likely it’s inertia. So this year, I push to change that.

My two most ambitious goals? To bicycle to the Raleigh trail-head, one of those I failed to push for in 2016 (as noted yesterday). And to finish Southern Discomfort. I’m not a fast writer, so the latter will take work. And bicycling will require getting out on my bike regularly so I can build up the stamina for a 28-mile trip. Next would come finishing six shorts this year; that’s more ambitious than last year, and I’m not sure I’m a fast enough writer, but we’ll find out.

trixie big eyes(See? Trixie may be a lot of work at times, but she’s worth it. Photo is mine, rights to photo are mine, please credit me if you want to use it).

I’ve also got a fairly ambitious list of goals for January — like most people, my determination is strong in the New Year — which given TYG’s schedule and other distractions (I may have jury duty) may be foolishly optimistic. Or as the post title suggests, barking mad. We’ll see as the month unfolds.

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Filed under The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals