Sprint 20: Our First Sprint Blowup
August 13, 2016 by David T. Allen
July was swelteringly hot and chaotic, and not at all what we originally expected. We had to do a serious pivot in order to re-focus on what was most important. Two milestones we set at the beginning of the year also came into question.
We had planned to work on our second book in the Bitlather Chronicles series in July, but changed our minds the first week after we received an agent rejection. It made us rethink a few of our choices.
This caused a sprint blowup. Instead of leaving our original tasks on the board, we took them down and re-planned. We knew we weren’t going to get to book two, so there was no sense in leaving tasks that would never get finished.
Leslie balanced revising Echo Chamber Heist with finishing her intensive twelve-week developer boot camp. After the program ended, the job hunt began while she continued to revise for Pitch Wars.
I focused on Steampunk Fairy Tales 2, setting up retirement investments (which was long overdue), and reviewing Leslie’s revisions.
I began following a pixel art tutorial on Udemy. I still want to seriously tackle a game dev sprint, and after talking to other developers, I’m starting to think I should use pixel art instead of 3d models. Stardew Valley also reminded me how much I love the pixel aesthetic.
We deprioritized the milestone PSG Done, which was for finishing a rough draft of the second book in our series. If we’re selected for Pitch Wars, the rest of 2016 will be devoted to Echo Chamber Heist. If we’re not selected, we’d like to put Echo Chamber Heist in the drawer for a few months so we can come back with fresh eyes. Since we’ll be waiting to hear back for Pitch Wars, Leslie began drafting a new idea we tossed around early this year. I sometimes revisit a draft I started in 2015.
We also might deprioritize querying 50 agents. We’ve learned a lot from agent rejections, so we like to have only a few out at a time. Once criticisms are less consistent, we’ll query more.
Because we blew up and re-planned the sprint, we ended up doing pretty well. Leslie didn’t use scope creep tasks this time. She knew she had to finish making the most important changes to the manuscript by the end of the month, so toward the end, she just pinned as she finished things.
- 80 planned tasks (Leslie: 37, Dave: 43)
- 71 finished tasks (Leslie: 35, Dave: 36)
- 58 finished planned tasks (Leslie: 35, Dave: 23)
- 13 finished scope creep tasks (Leslie: 0, Dave: 13)
9 unfinished planned tasks (Leslie: 2, Dave: 7)
- 1 finished scope creep milestone: Finish Academy Pittsburgh
Milestones are great, but they are merely guidelines. You should try to adhere to them unless recent evidence suggests change. For instance, we want to be published, and realized the rest of this year will either be spent on our current manuscript. If not, we should consider writing other stories before writing book two.
Enter writing competitions. Even though we weren’t selected for Pitch Wars last year, we tried (and did well) in other competitions. Having agents request full manuscripts was a confidence booster. We also improved our querying and synopsis skills.
Value your time. Don’t sell yourself short. A friend of mine recently started a consulting company and they closed their first deal, but not before agonizing over what their price tag was. In these situations, talk to other people in the same business. This should boost your confidence so you don’t sell yourself short, or set the price too high.
Walk away from ridiculous contracts. Don’t trust organizations that waste your time and severely erode your rights when you sign a piece of paper. (There are some exceptions to long contracts, like when you buy a house. What I’m talking about is contracts that are inconsistent with other, similar organizations.)
Twice now, I’ve been burned by companies with long contracts that try to cover every scenario under the sun. Both times I thought about walking away, but I didn’t. Both times I regretted it. An unusually lengthy contract implies you’re dealing with bullies.
Cut time-wasters out of your life. If you have a big project in mind, like writing a book, or building a video game, or starting a business, you need to minimize time-intensive distractions. A salary job that expects 60-hour weeks (and weekends) is stealing time that you could invest in your dreams.
Merely driving to work five times a week, at twenty minutes per drive, is 200 minutes in a car per week. Assuming 4 weeks of vacation, that’s 6.6 days a year. Assuming you sleep 8 hours a day, that’s 10 days of awake time. Just in a car, with a “reasonable” twenty minute commute.
What would you do with 10 more days a year? If you have a 30 minute commute, what would you do with 15 more days a year?
Can you take public transportation instead of driving? That gives you an opportunity to read or write. Every day adds up.
Our next sprint will start with submitting to Pitch Wars and work on Steampunk Fairy Tales 2. Leslie will keep interviewing and focus on her next manuscript, while I hope to continue learning game dev, catch up on blogging, and maybe revisit my own manuscript.
Reflecting on July
July was the month of big, vegetarian breakfasts.
The first class of Academy Pittsburgh was coming to a close, and Leslie wanted to do something special for John and Josh, the two guys that put the program together. She thought they could use a break, so instead of throwing another party, she thought it would be nice to re-invest in the class by having everyone donate programming books. She made this bookshelf to keep them all together.
The graduation party was at the PAPA (Professional and Amateur Pinball Association) headquarters. All of the pinball machines were free play. My favorites were The Walking Dead and The Wizard of Oz.
But the most important thing was getting everyone together one last time.
Leslie will write a separate article about Academy Pittsburgh.
After the class was over, Leslie and I implemented changes from a recent agent rejection, in preparation for Pitch Wars.
Some of our oldest friends, Garett and Lauren, came to visit.
The garden produced well.
One day, Leslie and I were a bit short with each other, which is atypical. We realized later that we were just too hot. We retreated to a spare bedroom with an air conditioner.
Since I started this section with breakfast, I’ll end with a shot of night in Pittsburgh.