Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Tuesday, 14 September 2004

More struggling with the structure of the robots story. I've made lots of notes. It's starting to come together, but it's not there yet. Certainly, I'm not ready to jump in and start the rewrite yet.

I finished Trash Sex Magic by Jennifer Stevenson. It was wonderful! It's kind of hard to describe, or even come up with anything to compare it to, but it's kind of like Christopher Moore, only infused with an incredible love of place. That the place was not to far from where I grew up was just a small bonus--the local plants were the same plants that I know (and the details were right, too). If you like funny, sexy, fantastic stories with magic in everything, then consider this book.

Unrelated to my fiction reading, I'm planning on getting and reading a book or two on time management.

Generally, the biggest barrier to my being effective is laziness rather than lack of organization. Sometimes, though (and now is one of those times) I find that being disorganized has become a big enough obstacle that it's worth putting some effort into getting more organized. So, I'm trying to do that.

I went through a round of trying to get more organized about 5 years ago. I read some books on time management, created some to-do lists, and started using a Palm scheduler. It worked pretty well. I got more done and was generally happier. The fact that now I need to it again is about one-third backsliding. Mostly it is that my life has become more complicated. I'm trying to keep track of more stuff.

One thing I've been working on, is deciding how to organize the work of my writing. Currently, I have it organized by story: Each story has a folder which includes all of its drafts and related stuff. Usually there's also a file of text that I wrote and later cut, but might want to scavenge bits out of. Sometimes there's a file of "rewrite notes" with a summary of what I took away from a set of critiques. Separately, but also organized by story, I have a database of submissions of stories to editors. (I used to keep that information in a file in the story folder, but with the information spread out like that, it became too cumbersome to answer questions like "do I have a story at magazine X right now?" or "Do I have any submissions that haven't received a response after 3 months?" The database works very well, although I need to add a few features. In particular, there's no quick way to enter an editorial response.)

Lately, I've been considering the idea of organizing the work by "kind of task" rather than by story. The reason that I'm thinking about it, is that some things are more efficient if I do them in a batch. Packaging stories to send out to editors, for example. Deciding where to market a story next also, especially for prioritizing stories that want to go to the same markets.

I find even as I'm writing this, though, I'm deciding that I don't think this is a good idea. The only time that it makes sense to batch up story submissions is when I've been bad about getting rejected stories back out to markets. Otherwise, I'll hardly ever have more than one or two stories that need to go out at a time. For almost all of it, the work can be organized by story nicely. I write the story, I get critiques, I revise the story, I submit it to an editor. If it comes back from that editor, I submit it to another. Each step leads to the next. Since I also organize the story folders by stage (Active, Critiqued, Completed, Sold, and, of course, Trunked), I can even decide something like, "I'm in the mood for rewriting," and quickly find something to work on.

When I'm not feeling the least bit creative, it makes sense to do something brainless like printing out mss, address labels, and SASEs. But I can still do that without changing the way I organize my work.

[Photo of sculpture near office]

The university just installed a new sculpture near my office. It's not really my sort of thing, but nice enough, I suppose. From where I took this picture, if you look right through the center of the sculpture, my cube is there on the second floor.

The picture, by the way, was taken with one of the camera phones I'm working on. I'm kind of impressed with the picture quality, considering that it's a phone.

My doctor wanted to get my cholesterol, blood sugar, and such checked, so I needed a fasting blood draw. My doctor's office is right on my way to work, so I just swung by to do the lab work today. The weather was nice, though, so I rode my bike. Jackie always suffers when she has to fast for a medical test, but I don't find it such a big deal. Once the blood had been drawn, I was ready for breakfast, but I wanted a good breakfast, so we rode on another 3 or 4 miles to Bo Peeps. It was good.

We had a strong thunderstorm come through in the late afternoon and dump enough rain that it wasn't practical to bicycle home. This is the first time all summer that I ended up having Jackie come get me in the car after I bicycled in in the morning. I was sorry to miss out on the ride home, but it was pleasant not to have to ride in the rain.


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