Sunday, June 4, 2017

First Sprint Results - I nailed it!

I finished my first sprint as an Agile Writer yesterday. I completed 39 points, and I'm pretty sure it took more than 15 hours. As with any process, there will be constant refinement with regards to how much I can do in a sprint, and how to assign points to the various tasks. 

But one thing I know for certain: I worked a lot harder on my writing this sprint than I have in a while, and I felt like that work was either more productive or less futile (depending on my state of mind. 

Here is a screen shot of the results:

And here is a screen shot of my coming sprint. there are a lot more tasks, plus some reading and research work thrown in as well. This sprint will be good for 46 points, which means it will be a nice stretch.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Becoming and Agile Writer

If this blog were your sole window into my life, you would think that nothing is going on. But this couldn't be further from the truth. Life has been incredibly busy.

The challenge I face -- the challenge I have always faced and will likely face until the very end --  is that I have so much going on it's nearly impossible to keep up with everything.

I have tried simplifying my life, but I'm not sure I can cut back any further without causing real harm to important responsibilities. (That's another blog post for another day.)

My life outside of work - what I have begun referring to as "Discretionary Time" (because time is never free...) - is a bit of a jumbled mess. I feel as though many of the activities I spend my time on aren't really moving me towards my long-term goal. (I've named that goal Project Sisyphus - another post for another day.)

In my job as a software engineer, we have adopted a management framework known as Agile Development. It has made a huge difference in the way our development team works. From my perspective, those differences have been overwhelmingly positive.

I've decided to experiment with applying some of the agile development methodologies to my writing life -- namely Scrum. I chose Scrum for two reasons. First, I'm familiar with it. Second, it excels at dealing with projects that have stalled out.

Scrum isn't a perfect fit; for one thing, the methodology is designed for small teams rather than individuals. But the principles of defining an Epic, dividing the Epic into Stories, and breaking the Stories into Tasks, is very similar to the way I write already. Combine that with the concept of a Sprint (a two-week effort with a pre-defined list of tasks to be completed) and I think this is a great tool to help me focus on my most important writing tasks.

As an added bonus, Scrum prescribes that stories are assigned point values. Points! Which means that, at least in part, scrum is a way to make a game out of work.

I will be finishing my very first sprint tomorrow. How am I doing? I'll post a Sprint Review on Sunday, but I can tell you that during the sprint I have completed rewriting one very difficult scene, and am about 600 words away from finishing the other. I have a solid new backstory for a major world building element.

And I have a blog post.

That's right - I wrote this blog post because it was on my schedule for this Sprint, and I don't want to end the sprint without finishing the work I promised myself I would do. Proof positive that this Agile Writing thing is already making a difference.

You're welcome.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Struggle

I hesitated to write this post. I like to think of my blog as inspirational and everything. Unfortunately when things are not going so well, I use that as an excuse not to post. And then I get out of the habit, and there are no posts for months.

I realize I have to be willing to share my challenges along with the wins. I can't always be inspirational. Sometimes I just have to be genuine.

Last May at the LDStorymakers conference I made a small blunder; one that just keeps growing. 

I pitched a book that wasn't finished.

To be fair to myself, it was supposed to be finished by the time of the conference. Once we decided to move, I knew that would throw the writing schedule way off. But I figured the book would be done soon after the conference and so I went ahead and kept the pitch session.

The agent loved the idea. She wanted to see the whole manuscript. The manuscript that I didn't have.

Ten months later (!) I still don't have a manuscript to send to her. But it's not for lack of trying. I have made some pretty hefty sacrifices to try and squeeze one or two hours of writing time out of my day. It's exhausting, especially given the slow progress.  

Part of the problem is that I made some significant mistakes in the original outline that required not one but two rewrites. Massive rewrites that have taken far too long. But necessary rewrites, and I believe the story is much better for them. 

Last week I finally sent out a beta draft of Cybernetic Mermaids (working title, formerly known as The Space Corps General). The feedback has been trickling in, and while it has been positive it also confirms what I already know: This book still needs a lot of work before I can send it to an agent.

I really wanted to have an agent in time for this next LDStorymakers in May. Or at least a rejection from an agent. Something that shows I've made some progress from last year.

But now I'll be doing good just to have the draft submitted by the time the conference rolls around. And a full year after it was requested? Terrible form. But it is what it is. 

With my book in the hands of beta readers, I took this past week off from writing. I was surprised how much I absolutely missed it. I only have a little bit of feedback so far, but it's enough to start the revisions bright and early tomorrow.

I feel like I need to end on a positive note, so here is a bit of feedback from one of my unbiased beta readers:

"There were quite a few jokes that had me laughing, too, or at least smiling. Overall, good job, Daddy. I'm excited to keep reading."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

MidAmeriCon II: My First Worldcon

Over the past four days I attended my first Worldcon Science Fiction conference. This year's Worldcon went by the name of MidAmeriCon II and was held at the Kansas City Convention Center, which is about 30 minutes from my house. Since I am an aspiring Science Fiction author and prodigal SF fan, I decided it would be entirely irresponsible for me NOT to attend this year.

I made sure to find out which of my writer friends were coming in from out of town, took the days off of work and headed up as early as I could Wednesday afternoon, the first day of the conference. But apparently I was a little TOO early (even though I spent the morning seating the toilet in the master bath - but more on that later). Nothing but registration was open, and none of my friends had arrived yet.

But once the conference began, I found it chock-full of amazing and unexpected wonders.

And it got more amazing once my friends started showing up and, better yet, introduced me to THEIR friends.

Although it looks like I'm just sitting around taking a selfie, I actually have my laptop out to write. One of my goals was to capture the inspiration of the convention by making the time to write. And I did! (Just don't ask me how many words I wrote, because I didn't actually keep track.)

I attended a lot of panels, and they were all extremely informative. And decidedly nerdy, even for a Science Fiction conference. For example, this panel is talking about economics vs technology as drivers of the future. Cool stuff for anyone trying to write a realistic society.

By far, however, the most educational panel for me was the one on the Future of Work. This is a topic I have been studying for my worldbuilding in Space Corp General. So when the moderator announced that the original panelists were unable to attend and asked if anyone felt comfortable enough with the subject to fill an ad-hoc panel, I jumped at the chance.

Yes, that means I was a guest on a panel at Worldcon. Feedback from others - and my own gut reaction - says I nailed it. 

One thing I pointed out on the panel is that work is not going away, because even though technology might make some things and services faster, easier, and cheaper, we are still a social species and we crave personal interaction. This is why thousands of people come together at conventions even though all of the information is most likely available online somewhere.

And why I will always value the time I spend with friends old and new above everything else I gain from attending a conference.

I can truly say, without any hesitation, that I had a wonderful time attending this year's Worldcon.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Big Move

Sometime life gets in the way. This year, life involved a moving truck.

Several moving trucks.

Lots and lots of moving trucks, actually.

Okay, not that many moving trucks. But close.
It also involved renting heavy equipment.

Hiring specialists with their own heavy equipment.

There was paint involved. A lot of it.

Enough to mess with  my sanity, apparently.

But after a lot of hard, hard work, we sold our house in Texas and moved the whole family to the Kansas City area.

We started out in an apartment complex; one that had an occasional balloon flyover.

Now we are in a house. It doesn't need a ton of work, but there are more than enough projects to keep us busy for a long time to come.

Oh, yeah -- and we brought our cat Diesel.

But that's a different blog story for a different blogging day.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Into The Wind Release

It's been an incredibly busy six months here at the Delusion Tree. I'll share a few details below, just in case you're interested. But first, the news I hope you've been waiting for! 
I am excited to announce that paper copies of Into The Wind will be available through Amazon starting March 10, 2016.

Also on the 10th, the Kindle edition will be marked down to the incredibly low price of FREE!

However, if you just can't wait (or have Kindle Unlimited), the Kindle release is available for purchase RIGHT NOW

In other news, the Carey family is moving to the Kansas City area at the end of March. Getting ready for this move is pretty much all that has happened in the last 6 months -- packing, painting, and having the foundation repaired are just some of the exciting, non-writing tasks that I've been involved with. But the end is in sight!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Finally - A Writing Group!

Back in May, I carpooled to the LDStorymakers conference with these guys. After four days in the car plus three days sharing a room at the conference, we got to know each other pretty well. 

And we decided to start a writing group when we got back to Texas. 

It took us four months, but we finally had our first official group meeting yesterday. We read about firing squads and un-killable prisoners, farts that smell like flowers and flowers that smell like farts, and how cybernetic mermaids are always the worst. 

I think this is going to be a very entertaining group!