Yearly Goals Checklist

Well, the year is 25% finished, so let’s see how poorly I’m doing at keeping my resolutions:

1-Read twenty books.

What I’ve read so far:

Altered Carbon, The Crown Conspiracy, The Prince, Sworn to the Night

Currently reading: The Art of War

So behind by a few pages. Good enough.

2-Fifty-two blog posts.

I haven’t counted them, but I must be behind. On the other hand, if I stick to my current two-posts a week schedule, I’ll catch up quickly.

3-Get Book the First out of my head.

Editing is progressing steadily. I’d say I’m on track or even ahead of schedule here, and I’m certainly approaching the “One Final Push” stage. I’ll probably take a breather from editing in a week or two to build a list of final-attempts-at-queries, and I’ll probably manage to send those out by the end of June.

4-Work on the actual, not abandonned Book the Second.

I’ve finally found the energy to return to steady writing. The wordcount is at about 6500, meaning we’re at about 10% of the first draft. Below where I should be, but positive trend so let’s take it.

5-Make progress on improving this site.

Progress has been done, so that’s a technical win. Realistically, I still need to work on a lot of things, but that’s not plausible for now. I’ll keep going with the small improvements but don’t expect anything visible.

So there we have it. Not too shabby considering the long hiatus I took. Let’s keep those trends going!

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A Satisfactory Week

Somehow, I’ve managed to turn a very busy week into a very productive one.

Lots of editing. Lots of writing. And I’m not exhausted.

Next week is looking bad, however. My real-life Secret Project is generating tons of anxiety for me right now, and I feel I’m going to run into a stress-wall soon.

But if you’re having trouble managing your life, do try Habitica. That part is a bright spot.

Just My Opinion: The Prince

Machiavelli’s The Prince is one of the seminal works of political theory. I’m eminently unqualified to discuss its importance, apart to mention that it’s honestly worth a read, because it’s ultimately not full of the malevolence and manipulative behaviour the term “Machiavellian” implies nowadays.

In addition, since it’s non-fiction, there aren’t that many lessons I can personnally glean from it for my own writing. But still… writing is writing.

First, some caveats: I don’t read Italian, so I had to read a translation. Which means a lot of the literary flair, for lack of a better word, of the work was lost on me.

I’m also not a history scholar, and the version I read was a bit sparse on annotations and explanations (I’m currently reading a much more detailed analysis of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and it helps a lot.)

That said…

I think that as a literary work, The Prince is a bit too flowery for the content. In other word, there’s a bit too much noise for the signal. In this case, it’s taking relatively simple concepts and discussing them in long-winded passages, with a couple of (often unnecessary) examples to illustrate them.

Now, I’m not saying scholarly works should be short. I’m saying that they should be right length (and one of the strength of The Prince is that it breaks down the art of governance into small, easily digestible chunks… so why bury the small chunks into long diatribes?)

That’s a good lesson to keep in mind for fiction… and one I think I should try to heed. It’s easy to run up a word count with chaff and flowery, adjective-laden language. And, unfortunately, some padding can be unavoidable because of the realities of publishing – if you need an 80,000 word text to be published in your genre, there’s no shame in padding your 78,465 manuscript with an otherwise useless description of a sunset.

But if you have a 24,000 words manuscript…. Maybe pitch it for short story collection instead of as a novel?

Actual Progress

The last week and a half has been something quite rare: it’s been productive.

In part, I think that’s because I switched task management systems, going from ToDoist to Habitica. I won’t pretend the gamification features don’t help (I HATE losing HP) but the real winner for me is the organization (and the fact that missed deadlines don’t necessarily stick around in a Late Queue of Despair.)

Regardless of the reason, I’m actually progressing quite switfly on editing Book the First, I’m slowly adding words to Book the Second, and I’m keeping on top of my other obligations and goals for the year.

It’s not always easy (and in part, I’m succeeding because I’ve set the bar quite low in terms of wordcount-per-day and pages-revised-per-day) but the I’d rather hit easy milestones every day than repeatedly fail at harder ones.

I still have quite a few non-routine challenges on the menu right now, which makes further progress difficult, but I think I’ve finally managed to get some forward momentum going.

So what’s up next? Well, I have a Just my Opinion post ready to be written. I’m probably going to torch all my EU4 saves in order to attempt an easier challenge. And maybe some cool news soon, too. We’ll see.

Reading Progress

I at least made some progress on the reading list for this year.

In no particular order, I’ve gone through:

Monster Hunter International: Urban (except not really) fantasy that’s almost on the military end of things. Not badly written, but didn’t hook me. Worth a look if you’re into high-gunfire stories.

In my case, it’s going onto the reference shelf for decently written firefights and action scenes.

The Crown Conspiracy: Straight fantasy. The characters felt interchangeable, the quest felt underwhelming, the world felt small. One of those “I’ll pull myself through it” books, but definitely not something I’d recommend.

Altered Carbon: well of course given the current hype I’d take a look. I’ve read the criticism that it was obviously written to be turned into a movie/series, and I can’t say I disagree. Still worth the read. From a writer’s perspective, there’s not much to learn from it: it’s a well-written (but not amazingly so) novel, built around very good ideas that I don’t see myself stealing.

As to right now: I’m going through The Prince, by Machiavelli. That’s worth a Just My Opinion post. I’ll also go through Sun Tzu’s The Art of War later this year. Beyond that, we’ll see.

Extended Hiatus

Well, after committing to my resolutions, why not start by not posting for more than a month? Heck, why not drop every creative project for a while?

But I have a good reason – a cool, cool project (on the personal side) that might end up letting me be much more productive later on. Unfortunately, that took a lot of my time.

That said, going forward I should be able to post a bit more frequently. And I should be able to progress on the writing front as well.

But the easiest way to get back on track after screwing up a schedule is to limit the scope of activities, and to cull out the high-work, low-result activities. In my case, this means abandonning the Europa Universalis Let’s Play for now. It’s fun, but it”s a fantastic excuse to just play Europa Universalis, and the writing I get out of it is dry an uninteresting. I might come back to it someday, but I’ll definitely be going for a less marathonian achievement than the world conquest.

So that’s where things stand at the moment. Hopefully productivity will improve soon.