Month: September 2018


I use Macs for most of my computation needs these days. I started using them because I needed a Unix laptop (after having a Linux laptop for a few years) and my experience has been that the hardware has been pretty bombproof*: my kids are still using the Mac I bought ten years ago, and my wife’s machine isn’t much newer. Managing Macs is less onerous than my experience has ever been with Windows, and less panicky than my experiences with Linux**.

They last.

But they do sometimes need software upgrading.

All of our machines complain if we want to install recent applications that the OS version is too old. The concern with an upgrade is that we may not be able to run the tools we like on newer versions of OS X***.

So today’s project is to upgrade my machine to a more recent version of the OS and then install the applications my wife wants to make sure they still work.

… or to provide a firm signal that it’s time to find another tool to use.

33 minutes remaining, it says. Time to find some more displacement activity.

[*] apart from a lemon of an iBook which had its entire guts replaced three times before getting a replacement. Which, to be fair, Apple did not cavil about.

[**] I love Linux because I am technical, but I am also too lazy to maintain a system to the standards I want to uphold.

[***] this is a weird echo of concerns I hear constantly at my day job also, which is a reminder that people use tools rather than the other way around.

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Song Completion: Prioritising What’s Left

I am still working on the third draft of Song, and I realised that I was floundering a bit in finishing off the remaining tasks.

My experience as a software developer means I tend to approach writing with a software mindset, and the same applies to process. When you’re not sure what to work on next in software, you look at all known issues and you prioritise them.

For the remaining Song problems, I did the following*:

  1. assigned a reference number to each open issue.
  2. copied the issue numbers and descriptions to another file.
  3. classified the issues. The classes I used were “broken”, “hidden”, “silly”, and “rewrite”. These classes would undoubtedly be different for a different project.
  4. ordered the issues by priority. The classes help with this because anything “broken” is likely to be higher priority than the merely “silly”, but there priorities within a class and I did find some broken things which were less urgent than would be expected.
  5. copied the ordered issues into a new section of the third pass tracking file called “::PRIORITY::” so I can find them again later.

The point of this is to give me a list of things to work on over the next few weeks with the highest impact, because I am going to put this down soon. Novels, they say, are abandoned rather than finished and there will always be things to be improved if I keep looking for them. I need to set an end point, a finishing time. This needs to be done with by the end of October.

Having a prioritised list of things to do means I will get the best value I can out of the time remaining.

How do you plan your completion of a project? How do you finish things?

[*] I edit my tracking files in vim, which makes automating parts of this process quite easy. I started documenting the vim commands I used, but this isn’t a vim tutorial.

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NaNoWriMo 2018 Decisioning

Just a quick update on my decision-making about what to write for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

In the end, I found more than half a dozen ideas I could plausibly work on, including another attempt at the Kissiltur books and a new story about space-faring dragonflies. All of these sound great (even the Kissiltur one, although it’s not really a NaNo project) but I can only pick one.

And the one I have picked is the second book of Song, currently called Some Cinnamon Harmonies*. I will be thinking about that story as I continue work on third pass edits on the first book, then start prep in earnest in October.

I’m excited. The second story line in the original book was a lot of fun to write, and I am looking forward to reworking it into a full length novel.

[*] of course, as soon as I made this decision I started coming up with plot ideas for a second Livia book along with several others, but ’twas ever thus. They are captured and boxed for now.

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Literary Frenzy Awaits

It’s early September which means it must be time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo, right?

I will be doing a series of posts on NaNo prep in October, following my own prep of whatever story I decide to work on. I have two probable ideas:

  1. the second Song book. The zeroth draft of Song turned out to be two books smooshed together. What I am nearing completion on now is the first book expanded out to make an entire story, but I want to have the second book written at some point too.
  2. rewrite Livia. As I mentioned in the wake of the Willamette Writers Conference, I am planning on reissuing Livia as a better book then continuing that series into the other parts of the world that Rome interacts with.

Unlike when I first wrote Livia, the answer to this question is not “both” because I would rather write one 80-100k book than two 50-60k books. At this point I am leaning pretty hard towards Song II (Cinnamon Harmonies, perhaps?) but I should make a formal selection.

My process for choosing which story to do (assuming I have several ideas and need to make a choice) is to write up a short treatment on each, then read them back the next day to see which one engages me more. This has been very helpful in the past when I’ve had several competing ideas, and the one I thought I was going to do beforehand turned out to be the least engaging story!

Do you have plans for NaNoWriMo this year? How will you choose what to write?

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Weight State

I alluded to this in my things post for this month, but the health plan has been progressing.

As of now, I have the following measurable improvements to report:

  1. I’m more than a stone down — not quite to a stone and a half, but close. My average has been close to a couple of pounds* a week, which is about where I was last time. In fact, this is the least I have weighed in about six years**.
  2. my clothes are fitting better — I am comfortable wearing shirts I haven’t worn in a while, and I am almost at the point of going down a jeans size.
  3. my running is easier – less stress on my joints, more power available to hurl myself along the route. I am consistently running well under ten minute miles, and seeing more runs in the low nines or even high eights. Now, some of this is undoubtedly down to continuing improvement from training, but the rapid speed increase seems likely to be more a function of weight.Also, my shorts fit better which is nice.

One of the things which I particularly want to celebrate is staying on programme during both the conference and the holiday.

Having said that, my latest weigh-in was a little disappointing: my measured weight was flat, despite having been as consistent in my eating as before. There are two factors which explain this, though. Firstly, I’m prepping for a routine medical procedure which requires me to follow a particular diet, and it has (ahem) changed my routines. Secondly, it’s colder so I am now wearing jeans rather than shorts.

So, things should return to normal in a week or two.

I’ve got about another stone to reach my goal, so we’ll see how we go.

[*] a kilogramme

[**] ie since I started at the current day job and the ready availability of delicious snacks overcame the last vestiges of willpower.

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September Things, 2018

August involved a lot of time away. We were travelling for nearly half the month, and another three days were blown with the conference. I didn’t make up that time anywhere else because, honestly, I needed to take things a bit slower.

So, with that lowering of expectations, let’s look at the things themselves.

Three Things for August

  1. Willamette Writers conference – attended, learned a lot, met a number of interesting people.
  2. revise Song – finished working through punch list comments, as noted earlier. I can’t claim to have fixed another third of the draft comments, though. Call this half a point.
  3. short stories
    • draft next short story – started. I have three of the eight or nine scenes I need, so call this a quarter point.
    • submit an existing story – not done.

Not covered in these things are the gains made on health goals: weight has been coming off, running speed has improved. I had a check up for the first time in several years. So even though the goals I defined for August probably count for 1.75/3 I am going to call this month a win as far as life goes.

Three Things for 2018

Two thirds of the year has passed. What is the state of the annual goals?

  1. finish A Turquoise Song – draft completion this quarter looks more doubtful since August had about half the work on this that I had hoped, but I really do want to have this done before November. I think I can put a bow on things before that, or at least get it in a readable state.
  2. submit my work – a goal in two parts:
    1. submit Song once it is done
    2. complete and submit short stories

    No new submissions but third BSQ short story is being drafted.

  3. produce Livia as an audiobook – no new work, as expected. This goal is in jeopardy, although since I lost so much of the year to a voice which was scraped raw by throat infelicities this is not unreasonable.

Three Things for September

September is back-to-school month* which means writing routines can be reconstructed. My goals for the month are mostly around finishing things.

  1. revise Song – incorporate outstanding punch list comments into third pass list, and fix another third of the third pass comments.
  2. short stories
    • complete next short story
    • submit an existing story
  3. investigate self-pub options – if I’m serious about reworking Livia, I need to figure out how much I can put into pubbing it properly.
  4. setup audio recording area – I have to clean up my office anwyway. Might as well get somewhere to record.

Need to get some things finished. So, do that.

[*] actually, our school district starts the new year in the last week of August, but it’s been so chaotic that it hardly seems to count.

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