Back in Writing Journal 241, I talked about a lack of focusMari Adkins linked me to an article on How to Finish What You Start that got me thinking.  So, this weekend I sat down and decided to get organized, figure out what projects I have started and which ones I should focus on.

What a depressing thing that turned out to be.

I list a bunch of projects in the sidebar of this site.  Sometimes, I even keep the progress bars up to date.  (Sidenote: I wish there was a WP Scrivener plugin that just automatically pulled that data right onto the blog.  That would rock!)  That list does not represent the bulk of what I have going, just the things I’m trying to concentrate on.  (Which doesn’t always work)

Anyway, I have been writing for a very long time.  I started in high school on a typewriter that we borrowed from my aunt and uncle.  It wasn’t even electric.  (Weighed about ten thousand pounds, too)  Then I had an electric model, then a word processor and eventually, moved to Word, Mac TXT files and now to Scrivener.  In short, I have used a lot of different platforms/formats.

The stuff I wrote on typewriters is still around, existing on paper in file folders.  I try not to look at those much.  The word processor stuff – if it didn’t get printed, is sitting on unreadable disks in a box.  Everything else is still electronic, but I only keep so much on the laptop I use for writing.  The idea with this laptop was to keep it lean and clean and only use it for writing.  That plan has since fallen apart and I use the laptop for pretty much everything.  But I still only moved the projects that I wanted to work on over to my ‘Writing’ folder.

Little did I realize how much that folder has grown since I bought this laptop.

Starting my project this weekend, I created a spreadsheet to track: Type of Fiction (long or short), Name, Word Count, Word Goal, % Complete. Started, Last Modified and Due Date.  I decided to only include ‘Projects I wanted to work on’, just as above.  Oy.

As of this writing, there are 58 projects on the list, totaling 568,124 words.  That does not include blog posts.

Again, Oy.

The majority of the list is made up of short story IDEAS that I started, didn’t feel it, and moved on thinking I would come back to it when it felt right.  Each has around 500 words associated with it, some more, some less, but still.  A slew of unformed, unfinished projects taking up space, brain power and precious time.

What an eye opener!  A ridiculously depressing eye opener, but an eye opener nonetheless.

The exercise alone has taught me that I need to get a better hold of my brain and keep it in check!

I had no idea things had gotten so bad.  Once I’d put the list together, I was stunned.  I stared at it for like an hour off and on.

Prioritizing took even longer, but had to be done.  I had to go through and really look at what I have written, what are just ideas, what has some substance, and what is worth working on.  Not easy.  Not fun.  But necessary.  I had to make hard decisions to put off things that sounded sexy and fun but were going to be time drains right now.

Coming out of this exercise, I have a list and a plan.  Keeping myself on track and focused will be the tough part.

New Rules for ATFMB:

  • I can only have 1 Scrivener Project open at a time
  • I have to give every project/draft a due date on my little spreadsheet
  • I have to hit my goal/due date before I can move onto something else



  • Jamie Todd Rubin Posted November 9, 2011 8:26 am

    You know that Scrivener, at least on the Mac version, allows you to set project goals (for word or page count) and a project deadline (date). As you write, it will tell you exactly how much to have write on a given day to meet your ultimate deadline. And if you use Growl, it will alert you when you’ve met your goal for the day. I’ve found this to be a very handy feature. It even lets you specify the days of the week that you write so, for instance, if you only write on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, it will factor that into its quota calculation.

    • Patrick Hester Posted November 9, 2011 1:59 pm

      Yep – I use that but only to set a total word count goal, and a session goal – I usually don’t set the extra options. But maybe I should…


  • Paul (@princejvstin) Posted November 9, 2011 12:39 pm

    I’m curious if the Windoze version has that functionality.

  • Fred Kiesche Posted November 11, 2011 7:03 am

    Having lots of projects is not indicative of a bad thing; in writing classes you are encouraged to keep a journal, jotting down this and that. Not every one of those jottings turns into a book, many are dead ends. So perhaps you are jotting, but just in a separate file fashion.

    Also, there’s that bit about having to write x number of words (10,000 or 100,000 or 1,000,000 or whatever the old saying uses now) before you get good. You could still be going through the training cycle.

    Patience, grasshopper. You’re one up on me. I’m lucky to have an idea spring from my head that I can use for a couple of paragraphs, let alone a short story or a complete novel.

    • Patrick Hester Posted November 11, 2011 11:30 am

      Yeah, I think I started doing something akin to journaling after reading about King or someone who kept a ‘list of things to come’, and anytime he had an idea, he’d write it down so he wouldn’t lose it, then continue with what he was working on. Same concept, only blown way out of proportion.


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