I just finished reading Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work!, and I recommend it for any creator out there interested in fostering a community around their creations. I’ve followed Mr. Kleon’s blog for a while now, and you can probably see that his ideas have influenced some of my past entries.

Currently, I’m about 54% through the production of novel #3. “Why is this taking so long?” several of you have asked me. Well, here’s the sobering math behind just this stage of the work.

I finished the rough draft around January 1, and I’m going through the first revision now. That means that sentence by sentence, I’m cleaning up for grammar and flow, but also asking myself these three questions for every scene, and sometimes, every sentence (learned from by Jim Macdonald  and Myke Cole):

  1. Is it providing backstory?
  2. Is it showing the character’s motivation?
  3. Is it moving the plot?

These are in my mind as I sweep and edit. The rough draft came in at 177,140 words and average about 13 words per sentence, so that means I wrote roughly 13,626 sentences. While editing, I do a broad sweep and then a fine sweep, averaging about a minute per sentence*.

Therefore, time to edit first revision = 13,626 minutes = 227 hours (approximately).

As you can see, that’s a big block, and that’s not even the entire project; that’s just the first revision. So then the issue is finding that time. Between a day job, caring for two small children, and “life”, I manage to scrape together about 10 hours in a good week, and so it takes me about 20-25 weeks to complete the revision, because sometimes an entire week gets interrupted by life events (weddings, funerals, illness, etc).

I could absolutely find more time if I

  • Spent less time with my kids
  • Spent less time with my wife
  • Stopped working my day job
  • Slept less
  • Stopped exercising (I wouldn’t gain much there)
  • Stopped writing this blog

…and none of those are sacrifices I want to make. But I find the 8-10 hours most weeks, and am always looking for ways to execute more efficiently.

How do I prioritize? That’s a larger question for another post, but Mr. Kleon summarized it beautifully:  “[remember that] One day you’ll be dead.” With that in mind, I choose how to spend my time carefully every day.

I realize that the point of Mr. Kleon’s book are to show you what I’m actually working on, and when the manuscript reaches a certain level of quality, I’ll share some sections. But a significant part of my work is the structure behind it – the planning, the mind maps, and the math. By creating a schedule for novel #3 that looks more like a project plan, I’ve been able to stay on task, measure my progress, and light a bigger fire under my ass than I have in the past. It’s been refreshing.

Also, next week: an announcement!

*Some sentences are very quick, but others can bog me down for a several minutes as I clean them up, crop, combine, and condense, double-check word choice, reference my notes to resolve continuity errors, etc. A single sentence might soak up ten minutes. So the 1 minute average is about right. Hopefully as my writing improves, I can reduce that cycle time.

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