PeterMBall

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

This week I’m revising the first 5,000 words of my thesis novella, do the paperwork for the American tax system that will allow me to get Brain Jar’s books into a bunch of the sales systems, setting up the options that will allow me to sell books here on the site, and putting together a plan for the first chapter of the theory side of my thesis.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’m doing a lot of novella reading at the moment, nailing down the structure now that my brain seems to default to a 50,000 words narrative instead of 25,000. This week’s was Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers On Bone, which is a really nice blend of hardboiled detective tropes and the weirder end of Lovecraft’s cannon. The voice and the metaphors in this one are great, and I can see why a bunch of friends rave about Khaw’s work.

Incidentally, it’s currently available as part of an ebook four-pack with three over Lovecraftian themed novellas from Tor.com. I’ve read Agents of Dreamland already, ’cause Kiernan is one of my must-buy authors and the book is outstanding, and I’m halfway through The Ballad of Black Tom and enjoying it immensely.

What action do I need to take?

Man, so many things. I sat down yesterday morning and put together a list of 34 things that need to be done before the end of October just so I don’t miss something. The biggest task is going through all my bookshelves and sorting out books that can go into storage, books that are going into storage as “unread,” and books that are definitely staying in the apartment as I start making room for my significant other to move in. A lot of the choices are about figuring out what research/reference books I’ll need when, based on the projects planned over the next year or two.

Coming Full Circle with Brain Jar Press

I’ve spent the last few months preparing for my major project in 2018: launching Brain Jar Press and getting its first book ready for release.

I did my first stint with indie publishing back in 2005. It’s strange, looking back, because indie publishing hadn’t really taken hold in fiction publishing yet and I was still a few years away from writing fiction anyway. I focused on short, useful products for the D20 system, the open-sourced rules for the edition of Dungeons and Dragons that was in vogue way back then.

It taught me a lot about the difference between writing and publishing, and it shaped the way I thought about everything I did in writing after that.

2005 is another world, given the pace publishing moves at these days. We didn’t call it indie publishing back then – I set out to be a micropress, producing content by me and a small group of other people, and in the space of two years we managed to get out 50 odd products. I had a blast, and I enjoyed the process of taking a book from a raw idea to a finished product, and it represents the single-most focused chunk of time I ever had writing because I knew where everything I did fit into the overall plan.

I made a pretty good chunk of money, too, courtesy of some forward thinking and an attempt to hit niches that needed to be filled. The products I got rebadged after the end of the D20 system still sell, and I imagine the rest would too if the death of my PC and back-up drive hadn’t wiped out all the production files at the end of 2006.

In another place, another time, I’d have settled into RPG publishing for good and probably done okay with it. Instead, a computer failure forced me to sit down and replan my next few years, and I noticed four things:

  • First, the yet-to-be-diagnosed sleep apnea was kicking my ass, making it harder to focus on the business side of things. Since I wasn’t anywhere near being willing to admit that something was wrong, I focused on conserving energy.
  • Second, the writing was on the wall for the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and the d20 system would lose marketshare as a result; this would result in some pretty significant shifts in the business plan and a lot of product rebranding, which the computer death made…problematic.
  • Third, I had just been exposed to the fairly toxic streak of ideology among some gamers that would eventually harden into things like Gamer Gate, and I was disheartened by the idea of writing for that audience.
  • Fourth, I had just gotten into Clarion South and was about to focus on fiction for the first time in nearly fifteen years, so it was time to pivot and try something new.

And with that, the Clockwork Golem Workshop shut it’s doors and I started writing fiction. Then I got a job at Queensland Writers Centre, and eventually found myself running GenreCon. I watched the rise of indie publishing in the fiction and non-fiction space from the sidelines, passed on what I knew from the RPG side of things to folks who came to QWC’s indie publishing workshops. I learned a lot from researching those seminars and following the evolution of the indie side of things, and I learned even more by comparing the way indie publishing evolved in the gaming space with the way the nascent self-publishing options transformed into viable strategies.

The thought of getting back into publishing has been around for a while. I started putting together plans for how I would approach indie publishing back in 2012, but that was three years before the sleep apnea was diagnosed and the upside of knowing the effective business models for indie publishing is being able to gauge whether it’s an effective thing for you, your goals, and your process. The thing eager beginners often miss about going indie is that it works best when you’re dealing in quantity, producing multiple books a year and building up a long series. It’s a business model that works based on a deep, readily accessible backlist. If you’re not starting out with that backlist – and most writers diving into this aren’t – then your first few years are basically building that list from the ground up.

In 2012, I knew I wasn’t going to produce solid work at the speed I’d need to in order to make self-publishing viable, given my long-term goals. In 2015, I felt like I was getting closer, but still wasn’t able to hit it. In 2016 I started looking at the changes I’d need to make going indie viable for me and my long term goals.

A few months back I put together the business plan and did all the paperwork for making Brain Jar Press an official business. Next month, on November 1st, I put a collection of my short stories, The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales,  up for pre-order.

On November 30, it becomes an actual book, and I gear up to hit the ground running in 2018. The things I know about indie publishing will come up against the thing that I need to learn, and I test the long-term plan I’ve been tinkering with for nearly five years against the reality of actually writing, releasing, and commissioning books.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the publishing side of things, after nearly a decade away from it. I’m looking forward to the learning curve as I figure it all out in a whole new era.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

The final phase of Project Countdown hits its end this week, as I finally get Brain Jar Press officially started and prepare The Birdcage Heart and Other Strange Tales so I can open it up to pre-orders on November 1 and delivery by November 30. This means finalising the copy, setting up the files for the print edition, and running through a pre-launch checklist to make sure I’ve got everything ready to go. It’s a bit of a soft launch, as I’ll be working on the press in earnest in 2018, but I wanted to get all the publication processes down before I moved on to adding new work to the mix.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’ve been reading volume one of the Shadow Unit project, which is a bunch of professional writers getting together to create fanfic for the best TV show that doesn’t actually exist. It’s one of those interesting not-quite-crowd-funded projects that would have made a lot more sense a decade later, with the existence of Patreon, and it’s interesting to look at how they’ve implemented the concept in light of my PhD project. 

The whole series has been online for a while, but I’ve been collecting them in ebook and reading everything that way.

What action do I need to take?

I’m due to show my supervisor progress on the thesis novella this Friday, and I’ve been distracted enough that I still need to do some final drafting and rewriting before it’s in a state where I can do that. I keep putting it off because I’ll also need to cut about six to eight thousand words out of the final draft, based on the wordcounts I’m meant to be hitting, and it’s frustrating to know that before the project is done.

When you run a con, you’re never really not-running a conference…

In the weeks before a major event, you never really switch off. You just power down for a bit, waiting for the next call where you leap into action and get things done.

We are five weeks out from GenreCon, and it’s my sixth go-around running a big event, so I know what to expect from this bit. I know that I cannot be trusted with an iron, because we’ve entered the period where I will just leave it on. I know I’ll climb aboard the wrong train and go 25 minutes out of my way before it occurs to me that I should be home by now. The nightmares have started and the constant, low-key adrenaline has set in.

People keep reassuring me that things will be fine, and I’m about 99% sure that they will be, and event like GenreCon is a lot of moving parts and this is the period where I’m not responsible for all of them. There’s a lot of handing off to others and waiting for news to filter back, and there’s a lot of points where people who aren’t familiar with the con start interacting with systems and processes.

This is the point where we start finding out what I’ve got right this year, and what can be improved next time. It’s the point where I am on alert at all times, in case I can circumvent just one more thing and keep it all running smoothly.

I play a lot of computer games in the lead-up to a con, because they’re relatively easy to immerse myself in when needed and put down when it’s time to fix something. I mainline a lot of TV. This year, I’m gearing up to run a D&D campaign for the first time in seven or eight years, and the sudden shift from very rules-light to moderately rules-intensive systems gives me plenty of things to tinker with when I need to keep my brain distracted.

It’s also a good time to learn new skills and experiment with my practice. Last time around, I switched over to drafting in notebooks after writing on PCs for nearly a decade. This time, I’m putting things into place to launch a micro-publisher going by the name of Brain Jar Press before the end of the year, the culmination of several months of set-up and planning.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

With five weeks to go, my brain is largely focused on GenreCon logistics and planning out work for the post-GenreCon writing period so I can bounce back fast and get to work. My only writing focus this week is doing some rewrites on Project: Red ahead of meeting my supervisor.

What’s inspiring me this week?

Rewatching Game of Thrones with my partner, and I’m becoming increasingly appreciative of the way the series frames its conflicts. There is almost always a series of scenes early in the season that will be mirrored in the later parts, either playing out exactly the way someone predicted or serving as an inversion of the earlier situation. The set-up and reward is incredibly tight, and something I’m interested in stealing for my own work.

What action do I need to take?

I meant to do an October checkpoint earlier in the week, but time got away from me. I really need to sit down and map out all the important deadlines and commitments in the next month, then figure out what can be done around that. It’s particularly important now, because I get a little fuzzy-headed and distracted in the lead-up to the con and I’ve already jumped on the wrong train at least once and ended up an hour out of my way.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Last week week was rough on the writing front, courtesy of two projects moving into their final quarter at the same time and the looming point where GenreCon starts to take over my thinking. I’ve hit the point where raw word count ceases to be a useful benchmark, so this week I’m taking those to projects apart and setting up a list of scenes that either need to be revised or created anew.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I finished watching the first season of The Tudors and reading/watching Game of Thrones in the same week, and it’s interesting to see the parallels between English history and the way GoT is set up. The War of the Roses has always been an obvious reference point for Martin’s series, but there was a scene in the Tudors where Henry offers the role of chancellor to Thomas Moore and the immediate parallels between the portrayal of Robert Boratheon and Ned Stark leapt out.

I also started playing X-Com 2, courtesy of Kevin’s video project, and it’s starting to get me excited about a project I’ve had in mind for a while. I won’t be starting it just yet, but I’m locking down a bunch of research and planning in advance of getting time in my schedule.

What action do I need to take?

I’ve got to put together a bunch of meta-data that’s serving as the penultimate major task before Project Countdown moves into its final phase, but I’ve been putting it off because there’s no clear list of everything that needs to be done. This week I need to move that task back a step and establish the list and word restrictions I need to put together.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Still running through the mix of projects this week.Both Project Beeman and Project Red are in the final neck this week and next, and I have to keep reminding myself that the final scenes never feel right on a first draft because they’re victim of all the problems in the earlier drafts. This means one of the big task that’s occupying my attention is fleshing out Project Beeman and doing some corrective rewrites on a bunch of scenes that are using the wrong POV or simply don’t work after the story changed around them.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I spent some quality time being introduced to The Tudors this week, where I spent a lot of time failing to recognise Henry Cavill and basically being surprised at the number of people who went on to be more recognisable in other things. It has had the unexpected consequence of getting me looking at a lot of the history, winding back to the War of the Roses for the additional context it provides.

What action do I need to take?

I’ve got three emails that really need to be sent that keep getting put off and about 500 words of copy, all of which advancing Project Countdown to the point where it hits the pointy end.

Getting Shit Done is Always Subjective

If there’s a pattern in my writing routine that remains unassailable, it’s this: Thursdays are the hardest days of the week. It’s rare that I get a day where writing is the sole thing I’m doing – there is always thesis work, and meetings, things that need doing for GenreCon and spending time with my girlfriend – but Thursdays are inevitably the day where the balance tips towards not-writing. It’s the day I spend six hours at work, the evening in which I will go game with my friends, and it’s often the evening where my girlfriend and I will abscond to the local sushi place for pre-game dinner.

On Thursdays, I get stuff written before work. Yesterday, I managed about two thousand words, which is a pretty fucking efficient day given there was only about two hours of writing time before I had to jump on a train. It just felt like a failure, in many respects, because the rest of the working week I can usually manage twice as many words before my brain grinds to a halt and refuses to do more. Everything else that gone done in that day didn’t register, because my brain is focused on stories and deadlines and thinking through what needs to be done when.

Productivity is subjective. A year ago, getting two thousands words done on a work day would have seemed like a monumentally awesome thing. I would have given myself a mental high-five and been incredibly pleased with myself. Even a week ago, I would have nodded sagely and put the days productivity into context.

Instead, this week, I brooded on the lack of productivity for most of the day, and spent the commute home on an overcrowded train pondering the difficulties in telling the difference between a bad day, actual depression, and the feeling of being three-quarters of the way through writing a book and deciding everything is awful. Then I came home from gaming and dragged another thousand words out of my brain, because I’ve got projects and deadlines and gantt charts to follow and the book does not get any easier to write or any closer to finished if I’m not working on it.

I’ve written 14,699 words since Monday. I will get that up around 17,500 by the end of today, which means I’ve hit my targets for the week and can afford to take the weekend off to recharge the batteries and come back on Monday eager to be working again. By the end of the month I’ll have a thesis novella of my plate and will be searching for beta-readers for Project Beeman, then start brainstorming the second book in that particular novella series.

By every metric I use to measure what I’m doing, I am getting shit done. I am keeping projects on track and bringing them home, managing my time effectively. Subjectively yesterday felt like arse, but objectively I did exactly what I needed to do.

Which is why I have the metrics and plans, creating the hard edge I can use to measure things instead of trusting in my gut.

Feeling like you’ve got shit done is subjective as hell – the good days are rarely as good as you’re thinking and the bad days are rarely as bad. Data for its own sake is useful, but incomplete. Data within a context or timeline shows you progress your gut will ignore, which is what makes it worth tracking. My brain can tell me Thursday sucked all it wants, but the data I’m tracking tells me the things that got done kept my urgent projects on track, and the things I had to set aside had minor effects on my deadlines.

In short, it was a shitty day, but I did a pretty good job with it. I totally got shit done.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

I mentioned a whole bunch of things in Friday’s post that are still very much on the cards, but my priority for the coming week is running down the checklist of things that need to be done to get Project: Countdown finalised by the end of September.

Splitting my focus continues to work for me. Three of the five writing projects that get my time on a daily basis have deadlines within the next three months and all are ahead of where I expected to be at this point. I had a big epiphany about Project Beeman on Friday that has basically made the entire book fall into place, and set up a bunch of the things that will follow it in the months to come.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I put out a call for books with great racing descriptions this week and a friend suggested S.B. Divya’s novella Runtime which features cyborgs running ultra-marathons. It’s a neat little cyberpunk concept with some great worldbuilding, but reaction to it has been mixed as people either love it or find that it falls into that perennial critique of novellas – “it feels undercooked and I wanted more.”

I feel on the latter side, and given that I’ve written a bunch of novellas and plan on writing more, I spend a lot of time paying attention when I have that reaction in an attempt to figure out where it’s frustrating me. I’m still not sure yet, but reading reviews and comparing my reaction to other people’s is intriguing.

What action do I need to take?

That checklist of things for Project Countdown? I need to revisit it and rebuild it from scratch at this point, since I’m still working on the next-action list I put together a month ago and things have progressed much, much faster since then. I’m now at the point where there’s a bunch of vague things I know I need to do, but no clear guidelines about when or how they’re going to occur.

I also need to keep a close eye on the site’s spam list this week, as it swallowed a bunch of incoming posts from last week’s Sunday Circle.

 

Things I Am Currently Doing, September 8 2017 Edition

  • Sitting in the UQ postgraduate room, waiting until midday when I will go and meet with my supervisor about the work I’ve done while she was away at WorldCon. Happily, I can report that there’s been some movement in my thinking about Dramatic vs. Iconic characters in series works that will be useful to explore in my creative project, and I’m on track to finish the first of my novella drafts by the time we hit the end of September.
  • Working on said novella draft, dubbed Project: Red in my to-do list. The current word-count is spread the full length of the project, mapping out the plot and its movement, so much of what’ remains is going through to flesh out scenes and make them make sense.
  • Working on Project: Gladiator, which will be the first in a series of short, very pulpy novels that I may-or-may-not have danced around the idea of writing a few times on social media. Currently one-sixth of the way through and just sorting out the voice issues – I’m starting to deploy present tense, as this is very much trying to capture a B-movie feel and present tense is the tense of film treatments and scripts.
  • Working on Project: Beeman, which started out as a novella and is probably going to trundle into short novel territory.
  • Proofing The Birdcage Heart and Other Strange Tales, a collection of short fiction that I put together to test some ideas I was reading about for the thesis and liked enough to put as a book. This one brings together twelve stories on the fantasy/magic realist/slipstream end of my work.
  • Putting together Not Quite The End Of The World Just Yet, which will essentially be the follow up for the above that brings together some of the stories I’ve done which fit in the range between slipstream and SF.
  • Preparing to put together an email newsletter, which is one of those things I’ve been toying with for nearly a year now and have no real reason to avoid anymore.
  • Hyperventilating and fretting about things.
  • Getting everything in place to finish off a thing that’s been on my list as Project: Countdown for nearly a year now, waiting for me to finally commit to it.
  • Hanging with guinea pigs, which are considerably cooler than I first thought they would be.