Sprint 2: February Edition
February 1, 2015 by David T. Allen
Leslie and I are taking an “agile” approach to writing this year. I’ve borrowed a few ideas from software development, but I won’t bore you with software dev … in this article.
We made a board in January that contains all of our month’s and year’s goals. Let’s see how January went:
We agreed on January 1 that Leslie would focus on the new book, Echo Chamber Heist, while I would finish and publish Dream Eater’s Carnival.
Leslie crushed her goals (pink) but I didn’t do so well (yellow). It’s important to analyze what happened.
Let’s focus on Leslie’s successes first. She only missed three items: check the PO box works and submit two chapters to our writing community. That’s because we pivoted a few weeks into January.
We received an unexpected number of critiques and were invited into an intense critique group. Because we already had a lot of input (well over 100 chapter critiques), we decided to update the posted chapters instead of posting new content. This helps us get feedback on changes sooner and should reduce the time spent editing later.
Even though a few items were unfinished, Leslie more than made up for it with edits. We added pink slips to the “done” column for chapters she edited.
We asked a mixture of new readers and old critiquers to beta read Dream Eater’s Carnival. The results were positive, but everyone highlighted a few weaknesses.
I had to be careful with changes. It’s easy to introduce flaws this late in the game.
It wasn’t until we passed the changes to each other a few times that we realized something awful: we disagreed on how modern day people viewed the history of cathedrals.
It was difficult to handle, at first. Both of us were stubborn – me especially – and I was frustrated that we weren’t actually finished. I took a long walk in the snow (because that’s what I do on Sundays) and, when I returned, I realized we could still accomplish all future goals related to the cathedrals regardless of which approach we took.
But still, neither of us were willing to give in on who was correct.
So we sent both snippets to our critiquing chums and stamped it with URGENT. These wonderful people finished in a day, but yet again we had bad news: none of them agreed. What one person loved, another person hated.
We analyzed their input and found some middle ground we both could agree on.
So, I didn’t publish anything – and all of my goals were blocked because they relied on publishing Dream Eater’s Carnival.
The board keeps us focused, motivated, and happy. At a glance, we know what we need to do and what we’ve already accomplished. In the past, it felt like things were never getting done, even if we worked on the book for hours a day.
Even though Leslie and I had a heavy load at work this month, we feel more productive with our writing goals than ever before.
It’s difficult to figure out when a work is good enough to publish. Almost every book has flaws, and at some point, you have to publish and move on with your life. And boy, were we ready to move on. But when all of our beta readers flagged the same issues, we had to fix it.
Adding a few hundred words to a nearly completed book is much harder than writing brand new chapters.
Editing for months at a time is soul sucking. Having Leslie focus on new content made us happy. We should always balance writing with editing to reduce time spent editing a finished book.
- Early stage critiques are invaluable. Dream Eater’s Carnival would have went smoother if we had found a good writing community sooner.
We moved all finished tasks into a quart jar and placed it in our cabinet, next to the lentils and quinoa.
Then, we reordered our year’s goals. It’s important to read the long-term goals to stay focused on how this month gets us closer to completion.
Finally, we added our new tasks. We decided to use different colors from January so our eye would be drawn to incomplete tasks.
During this process, our dogs took turns licking an empty jar of peanut butter. I added pictures for your amusement: