Sprint 4: April Edition
March 30, 2015 by David T. Allen
The majority of this week is in April, so it’s time for a new sprint! Despite a bottleneck in March, we accomplished a lot and had fun doing it. Either the weather’s getting better or we’re starting to figure out this work-life balance thing.
Sprint 3 Retrospective
The week dividers we implemented last month created mini goals that kept us motivated and focused. Our perspective changed from “I have twenty things left this month” to “I only have two things left this week.”
We went to a burlesque show at Cavo Nightclub in Pittsburgh’s Strip District for week two’s entertainment. We haven’t gotten dressed up in a long time, so naturally, we were adults about it.
The show was nice. Cavo did a wonderful job with atmosphere.
For week three, we went to Banjo Night at Elk Lodge with Lana. It reminded us a bit of the Lodge from Roseanne.
Week four’s fun entailed pinball and a new sport Dave invented using a bottle cap and two shoes (game rules are included at end of this article). We’re so happy pinball is open again.
Leslie had given herself one No Book goal per week, in which she wasn’t allowed to do any writing, editing, or critiquing. This day of rest helped her accomplish more on the other six days. On top of that, the house is cleaner and we actually have groceries. She even had time to make kimchi.
Our new critique group (seven people) is doing well, so Leslie focused on editing old chapters. Writing new chapters and editing old chapters in parallel reduces how much editing we’ll have to do when we’re done writing, which is great because editing every day makes Dave a dull boy.
Pittsburgh was graced with a few days of nice weather, which meant time spent working on the yard.
I had to pivot last sprint. Originally I planned on focusing on blog articles and learning about marketing, but I didn’t feel right about one of the chapters we were going to post to our writing community in week two. Leslie had spent days preparing it and wasn’t sure what else to do with it, but I had some ideas.
However, I write slow. My most productive time for writing is right when I wake up, and I lose that time on weekdays because I go to work.
While editing, I ended up creating two new chapters to fill in some gaps I was uncomfortable with. This became my top priority, so I moved some of my blog tasks off the board.
I discovered a marketing challenge: it seems like most people aren’t familiar with steampunk. We need to figure out how to target audiences that may not be looking for steampunk, but would enjoy our story anyway. On the positive side, many writers in our community have read our stuff and say they’re going to look more into the genre now.
Breaking the month into weekly goals was a success. We had to prioritize or remove tasks from the board at times, but the weekly divider made it clear how well the week was going. This helped us predict how well the month will go.
The board’s objective is to motivate and focus. Removing or re-pinning tasks is okay if priorities shift. A month is a long time to plan. Perhaps two week sprints instead of month long sprints would be better, but we don’t want to try that yet.
We should focus on writing. Now that Dream Eater’s Carnival is published and we don’t have enough books written to warrant time spent on marketing, product should be the main focus. We should also review outlines together before Leslie works on them so we can talk about pitfalls before she spends days on a chapter.
Taking a day off every week improved happiness and quality of work. Leslie now had time to enjoy herself and do other chores. We are very motivated by moving tasks on the cork board, so creating a “No Work” task ensures Leslie won’t actually work on the book.
Doing fun things improves our writing. Echo Chamber Heist takes place, in part, in a burlesque house. By going to a burlesque show we generated ideas for improving those chapters. Dave also came up with some short story ideas while at Banjo Night and Pinball.
- We need to figure out how to raise awareness. Most of our beta readers never heard of steampunk before. What keywords can we use to make our stories discoverable?
Before we talk about April’s sprint, I want to review some numbers.
- 18 chapters (41,483 words) from Echo Chamber Heist were submitted to our writing community
|December||6||6,921||Started Dec 26|
|January||8||19,696||Already polished these years ago|
|February||2||5,069||Joined intense critique group|
|March||6||9,797||Pre written chapters were rougher|
- 299 critiques received between December 26, 2014 and March 30, 2015
|Curious Vernelius Babbage||41|
|Dim Lantern (part 1)||29|
|Dim Lantern (part 2)||26|
|New World Rebellion||25|
|The Lion's Den||21|
|The Wheel of Death||14|
|The Corset Tightens||15|
|A Haphazard Quadrille||13|
|The Joint Pullman Express||13|
|The Fortune Teller||13|
|The Nongke Orchid Incident||9|
|The Anti-Theft Variable-Gravity Box||7|
|The Blasted Middle Class||4|
28 tasks assigned to Leslie this month
48 tasks assigned to Dave this month
Pacing to finish 3 year-long milestones
Attempting to post an estimate of 17,000 words this month
- Given past evidence, we will likely come short – but 4,000 words is almost done from last sprint so we’re starting strong.
Leslie is focused on posting two chapters and editing one chapter a week. She’s also starting to gather materials to make costumes for conventions.
Dave has a lot of small tasks that fit under seven themes:
- KDP free days
- Print edition of Dream Eater’s Carnival
- Cover of Echo Chamber Heist
- Visiting a convention
- Blog posts
- Web site tweaks
- Short stories
If we succeed, we will finish three of our milestones this year:
- Print edition of Dream Eater’s Carnival
- Post up to Aboard the Drake, which is the last (chronological) chapter we had written years ago
- Visit a convention
Whew... it seemed less aggressive when we had planned it. I predict we’ll come up short, but still accomplish a lot. It’s good to be ambitious.
Flip Cap League Rules
As promised, the rules for Flip Cap, a game I invented on a strange day in week four of the last sprint.
- Flip the cap with your thumb.
- The cap must completely leave the table and not touch you after your thumb hits it.
- The winner is whoever can flip the cap so that it lands closest to the starting point.
- If the cap touches either shoe, you subtract five inches from where it lands.
- If the cap lands inside the shoe... you are the champion.