The holidays have come and gone, as has Midwinter. So, time for an update!
Last month I had a problem — my planning process which I had used faithfully for over two years collapsed on me. To make a long story short, I had two firm deadlines that I didn’t think I could reconcile, and one of the deadlines was a project that kept getting bigger and bigger the more I worked on it. Thankfully, my wife is a trained project manager, and she helped me work through my problems.
For those that are interested, the biggest problem was that my tasks were too big. I had gotten into the bad habit of lumping lots of small tasks into one large task (like “Meetings” or “Pugmire Manuscript”). The end result was that I was doing lots of work, but getting no visible progress, so I kept seeing lots of large projects on my plate. I subdivided the tasks down to the smallest realistic portion, something that I could do in half a day to a day. This allowed me to show momentum and replan quickly — if I was blocked on, say, a particular chapter, I could adjust and tackle another chapter and see progress, instead of one big task of “book.”
The other was that my sprint iterations had gotten too long. For years I used a month as my planning block — it was natural and easy to visualize. However, what started happening recently was that I would build up tasks at the end of the month, so the last week or so got dense with lingering tasks. When the holidays came up and effectively wiped out my end of the month, I ended up with a large plate of tasks that felt like I had been working on them since December 1.
Now I’m focused more on 15-day sprints, and I’ve taken to having tons of little tasks. I get two or three done a day consistently, and I can see progress better. The work itself hasn’t changed, but I feel like more is getting done, which means I’m more likely to get back to work instead of stopping because I feel overwhelmed.
At this moment, I have the first version of the book (called a “proof”) on my computer. My job now is to go through it and adjust the text, find typos, cut a little and add a little so that it all fits in the space allotted. Which means we’re very, very close to releasing it!
I’ve been through a bunch of story pitches for the Pugmire anthology. I think it’s going to be great, but it’s definitely a project I’ve largely handed off to Jim and his stable of writers. Once the first drafts come in I’ll have to devote a fair bit of time marking up canon concerns, but right now writers are writing!
Monarchies of Mau was playtested at Midwinter. It wasn’t as far along as I’d hoped, but in retrospect that was a good thing. Overall the core of the game is still strong, and experienced Pugmire players told me they felt the game was distinct from Pugmire while still being familiar — an excellent start! There were some details, thought, that weren’t gelling well. I did some great brainstorming with folks at the show, and I’m going to spend some time hashing all these new ideas out. Of course, odds are it will continue to evolve all the way through to the final manuscript of the finished book — I’m just working on the Early Access edition, after all — but it’s better to have a solid foundation so I can build a team that will focus on details later.
The Pugmire Earplay has been taking off. Since my last update, I hired a writer to help me with the script of all eight episodes. We did a few revision passes with Dave Grossman, and it’s looking really good. I’ve also hired a composer and an audio team, as well as a voice director. This week we started recording with the actors, and so far the performances have been blowing me away. We’ve still got a long road to go before this sees the light of day, but I think it’s going to be amazing once it’s all done.
Fetch Quest Card Game
As I mentioned above, Midwinter was great for feedback on Monarchies of Mau. I also tested out a Pugmire card game (tentatively titled Fetch Quest), and was pleasantly surprised at how well it did in its first iteration! The design is a cooperative deck-building game: six pioneers from Pugmire are on a quest, and have to acquire Fortune cards to defeat increasingly dangerous challenges. I definitely need to test it a lot more, but I’m already seeing potential to introduce new quests and new characters (including cats). We might even be able to set up a community-generated storefront so people can use their own pets as characters in the game.
I got three Holmes anthologies for Christmas, and a book of Holmes-themed puzzles for my birthday. And as always, once I start reading I begin to think of Holmes-related projects I could work on. Now that the card game went well, I’m kicking around a Holmes-themed card game, as well as poking at my Inspector Lestrade-focused short story idea. I haven’t seen the new season of Sherlock yet, but I’ve heard… not great things, so I admit I’m worried. In the meantime, I’m continuing to make my way through my Blu-Ray version of the Jeremy Brett series when I have time to sit down and really appreciate it.
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