Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

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[process] Tightly coupled systems vs. the Procrastinator

My recent adventures in hardware have forcibly reminded me how much of my life I have transformed into a tightly coupled system. My time is budgeted ferociously tightly when I am working on drafting or revising a book. This includes, of course, time with the_child, sleep, work, eating, exercise, travel-with-distraction (ie, me driving), travel-without-distraction (generally airplane time), dedicated writing time, dedicated blogging time, etc.

While I don't have a formal time budget (I am not nearly that anal), I could readily draw one up. Even my down time and lazy days are carefully scheduled. All spontaneity is fully planned in advance.

I have spent so much effort in analyzing my productivity over the years that I can readily apply time management processes to myself without much conscious consideration. Creating a novel is nothing more than a fairly substantial exercise in project management, after all. Short stories less so, simply because the overall investment tends to be much more tightly packaged. ("America, Such as She Is" was a notable exception to that.)

The complex processes and large time requirements of a novel interact with the associated deadlines such that I need to be this buttoned up. And my system is so tightly coupled that I don't have a time budget for failure. I don't usually think about how carefully orchestrated my whole life is around writing until something goes wrong.

In case you're curious, here's a sample novel time budget for me, drawn from recent experience. At least, this is how I plan it in advance. Actual mileage always varies, of course.

TaskWork HoursElapsed Time

First draft:120 hours6 weeks

Deep line edit:50 hours2 weeks

Scene edit:24 hours1 week

Revision to editorial/reader feedback:80 hours3 weeks

Revision to copy edit:24 hours1 week

Review galleys of hardback release:24 hours1 week

Review galleys of paperback release:24 hours1 week

Total net effort:346 hours15 weeks

Naturally these phases of effort do not abut. They can and do interweave with earlier or later steps of another novel project. Even though working speed under the New Model Process has slowed, it seems to have found a new level of consistency. Still, the first three can vary, usually longer. NMP also requires "drawer time" between the edits, as much as possible, though right now I'm not far enough ahead on my contracts to be able to leverage that to full effectiveness. The book I write after Green will have more steeping time.

Is this horridly overorganized? Probably. But this kind of understanding of my own production processes is just as essential a part of my writing discipline as giving up television and gaming. It's how I manage myself as a professional. Me, not you or anyone else.

Tags: green, personal, process, writing

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