Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Prime Regent Pitch Follow-up

It's been over a week since I pitched The Prime Regent to an agent during the ANWA conference. The response wasn't quite what I had hoped for, but the agent asked me to send a few pages. So while she didn't fling the door wide open, she didn't slam it shut, either.

There are some serious problems with this book that my beta readers all pointed to, but those start around page 70. Fortunately, I think the first ten pages are in great shape. So maybe it's a good thing she only asked for the first 10. That gives me time to fix the issues, in case she loves my writing and requests the full manuscript.

And even if  she doesn't ask for a full, there's another agent who did, although it's been nearly 18 months and I probably missed that train. 

In any case, fixing these issues will help me grow as a writer, and hopefully avoid these problems in the future. 

In the meantime, the pages and pitch and synopsis have been sent, and I have the next month's writing work cut out for me. 

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Delusion and The Pitch

Ten years ago, I started a blog called Fifteen Minutes of Delusion. During that time, our lives had been turned upside down and inside out, and I was desperate to provide my two daughters with some regularity in their lives.

Forget delusions of grandeur; I had delusions of normality. And I knew it.

Yet during this time, I discovered that recognizing, accepting and embracing this delusion gave me the strength and courage to press forward in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Fast forward to the here and now, and my attempt to build a writing career while maintaining a full-time job and high-maintenance family. This effort also seems hopeless. And believing I have a chance at success feels entirely delusional.

So once again, I'm recognizing, accepting, and embracing the delusion. And that delusion is giving me the courage and the strength to pitch my latest book to a literary agent tomorrow.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Great American Eclipse - My Take

I was excited for Great American Eclipse of 2017, especially since the path of totality went very near my house.

Unfortunately, I didn't buy my eclipse glasses when I had the chance, and by the time I got serious about finding a pair, they were gone.

I figured I could probably find a pair at one of the many eclipse viewing events, but I didn't want to take that chance. So I poked a hole in a piece of foil and made an eclipse viewing box.

The morning of the eclipse dawned gray and foreboding. It was not a promising start.

Undeterred, I climbed in the car and drove to the Amelia Earhart airport in Atchison, Kansas. I figured even if I couldn't see the eclipse, I could see some airplanes.

I also found some friends, and one of them had an extra pair of eclipse glasses. Sweet! Now I just needed the sky to clear.

It didn't.

Fortunately, my eclipse viewing box was big enough to keep me dry.

The weather radar implied that the rain might stop in time for the eclipse, so I took refuge in my car and tried to do some work while I waited.

Oh, the irony.

I also had some fun with Heihei, my pocket chicken writing muse.

It was hot and steamy waiting out the rain, alone in the back seat of the car. And more than a bit disappointing. 

But then a couple of minutes before totality, the rain stopped, the sky lightened, and I ventured out of the car.

Through a high, thin cloud cover, I was able to see a sliver of the sun! The crowd parked around me cheered as the moon slowly, eased its way in front of the sun. The sky darkened once again, but this time it wasn't rain. It was a total eclipse! I could even see the sun's corona through the haze.

I was so excited, I didn't take any pictures. (Bad blogger!) So I stole one from the internet and digitally altered it to show what it looked like. 

Then totality passed, and the traffic jam began. But for that brief moment, I was able to see something that is truly rare and amazing, and I'm excited for the chance to watch another eclipse in just seven short years.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Beta Draft built and released with Agile/Scrum

My experiment with applying Agile/Scrum methodologies to my writing has been a huge success. I credit the planning and organization this framework provides with moving a stalled draft to a releasable beta in just 10 weeks.

Both the story and the methodology are still works-in-progress, but I am confident I'll have a submission-worthy draft when I pitch next month at the ANWA conference.

While the draft is out with beta readers, my sprints have focused on creating synopses for the 2nd and 3rd book in the series. I realize this is probably over-optimistic, but I'm using this as an opportunity to explore different plotting methods. And I have more than enough delusion to allow myself a little optimism.

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 an 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."