2020: The Year of the Schedule!

I like to do an annual end-of-the-year review in which I look back at what I intended to accomplish writing-wise, and compare it to what I actually accomplished. Sometimes my plans change throughout the year because unforeseen opportunities (or complications) arise. Sometimes I’m overly optimistic about how much time I’ll have. And sometimes I just change my mind!

I didn’t write down my goals for 2019, although I did find a document from last April in which I cheerily declared I’d write drafts for the first three novels in a series by the end of the year. 🙂 So rather than reviewing what I’d planned to do, I’ll go over what I actually did instead.

I read from my story “The Other Side of the Portal” (which appears in A Fistful of Dinosaurs) at a reading in Denver in January, was the guest host for a reading by authors Travis Heermann and J.L. Forrest in July, and had a super fun time listening to Jeff Wood, Rebecca Hodgkins, and Shannon Lawrence read from their Monster Road Trip stories. All of these readings were part of the Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Series, which was started by J.L. Forrest. I signed up to be part of Group 43, a new non-profit science fiction and fantasy organization, which is taking over management of this reading series. And I joined a team of co-editors to put together the first ever Pikes Peak Writers anthology, which will be released in 2021.

Then there were all the non-writing-related things…a bathroom remodel (started in September and still not done…), family health issues (including my dad having to stay in a hospital in Iceland for a week and a half…yes, Iceland), dog health issues (including Jasper being unable to lie down on his own for two days—seriously, we had to pick him up and put him down on his side), and other assorted things.

2019 was a busy year. 🙂

My lessons from 2019 were:

  • My writing skills have improved even over the past few years! This became very obvious in July, when I started editing the manuscript for my (now published!) novel Entangled by Midsummer, which I’d last worked on in the summer of 2016. The original manuscript wasn’t bad, but I found myself making a lot more modifications than I’d expected, and they were all because I’ve become a better writer. Hooray!
  • One of my superpowers is multitasking, but I hit my limit when I’m trying to multitask across too many categories. Writing + family health + dog health + remodel + other life stuff = 5 categories, which is apparently one (or two) too many.
  • I need a schedule.

While I can’t control the number of categories of things I need to deal with at any time, I can create a schedule—and I can factor extra time into my schedule which will (hopefully) make it easier to deal with those times where there are just too many things going on and my writing, editing, etc. ends up being the last thing on my to-do list.

A few weeks ago I had a 5.5 hour business meeting with DeAnna Knippling. DeAnna is my business partner in Borogrove Press (which publishes the anthology series Amazing Monster Tales), as well as my editor, as well as a very, very good friend of mine. 🙂 We talked through what we want to do with Amazing Monster Tales in 2020, and decided to publish issues quarterly. We’re both very, very busy, so in order to make this happen, we need a schedule so we can plan our tasks and work our other projects around the tasks for this series. In the short-term, our schedule is pretty tight (since we just came up with the schedule). But once we get on track, we’ve added in buffer time so if something comes up (like a family member being stuck in Iceland…) we should be able to stay on our publication schedule.

Even after only a few weeks of having a schedule for Amazing Monster Tales, it was clear to both me and DeAnna that having a schedule was AMAZING. (No pun intended.) And after another week or so, I thought: this is what I need for my own tasks!

Not that I’m anti-schedule. I’m very organized—which you might question if you could see my office, but hey, I’m also very, very, very busy. 🙂 (Writing and publishing comes before office cleanliness, as does dog happiness, doing laundry, and various and sundry other things.) I’d thought about a schedule before, and even created a semblance of one, but up until now I’d always focused on end dates. Like: “story X is due by day Y.” My argument for doing more than that was that I have a day job, two border collies, and other life things, so it was “too hard” to plan in a detailed way. Instead, I created a prioritized list of story deadlines and anthology publication deadlines. This worked at first, but the more projects I committed to and the more complicated my life got, the less useful my prioritized list became.

The schedule DeAnna and I made for Amazing Monster Tales had publication dates, which I was used to working with. The new part was that we set end dates for a number of tasks required to complete each anthology. This was not rocket science—I’ve done things like this at various day jobs over the years. But until trying out this approach with DeAnna, it hadn’t occurred to me to go to this level of detail with my own publication schedule. Once I saw how well it worked for us, I realized it would be a HUGE help for me with my own projects as well.

And so 2020 is now the Year of the Schedule. 🙂

I don’t actually have a schedule yet… I’ve made a first pass at anthology due dates, and have other tasks in a probably somewhat unreliable calendar in my head. In spite of being off from the day job for the past week and a half, I’ve been super crazy busy with both planned and very-much-unplanned tasks. Right now I’m heads-down, trying to wrap up edits for two anthologies—but as soon as those are out of the way, I’ll finish working out the details of my 2020 schedule.

My goals for 2020 are:

  • Write 12 short stories.
  • Write and publish 3 novels in a new series.
  • Publish 4 issues in the Amazing Monster Tales anthology series (co-edited with DeAnna).
  • Publish 5 anthologies on my own.
  • Publish a collection of my own short stories.
  • Get 4 more of the short story bundles I curated into anthology format, and re-release them (and release in print).
  • Curate a bundle on StoryBundle.com (this is planned for next fall).
  • Experiment with audio. (What exactly this means is TBD, but I have some ideas I’d like to try out.)

There are other things I’d like to do as well, because I like to think big! 🙂 But if I finish 2020 having accomplished just the things I’ve listed here, I will be very, very happy.

That said, I’ve learned that the one thing I can count on every year is unpredictability…so we’ll see what 2020 brings! 🙂

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