February 27th, 2008


[personal] The things that wrap themselves around me while I'm dreaming

Overheard in my sleep last night:
Sean Connery's older than John McCain now. No, wait, he's always been older than John McCain...
Also, I woke up with a really good short story ending in my head. Of course, it needs a decent short story in front of it to make any sense, but I can probably handle that. I think I'll call it "Love in the Time of Eschaton."

My writing mind is back in high gear. Things on the literary front have stabilized a little in the wake of my hardware failure and associated time loss. I got in about three hours on Madness of Flowers last night. That involved bushwhacking 5,000 words or so on a subscene/paragraph level edit where I had previously made note of some dragging points in the text.

Tonight I'll have to go back in and figure out what scenes or subscenes can be merged. Even now, at 157K or so, it's too tight just to drop a section out somewhere. (Much like its predecessor, Trial of Flowers Powell's | Amazon ], this book doesn't really have chapters.)

[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.


[writing] Madness takes its toll

I have Madness of Flowers hammered down to about 151,000 words thanks to last night and tonight. I only need another 6K out to make my delivery length. I'll be a day or so late, thanks to the disaster on Monday. Grr.

Work tomorrow, Omaha Beach Party tomorrow night, then packing for my early Friday flight, so I doubt I'll get much done.