First Draft Complete

Yesterday, I completed the first draft of Murder on the Pitch, a novel I began on June 16. I’ve never written a first draft that quickly, nor enjoyed doing it so much. My last effort produced an unsalvageable mess after a painful, three-year slog.

I have tried a variety of ways to prepare to write, ranging from not planning at all to rigid outlines, complete with scene sketches. I always went off the rails within a few chapters. If I pushed ahead with the plan I had, the result was a disorganized mess. If I stopped to re-plan, I felt frustrated because I wanted to be writing, not planning. And a chapter or two later, I’d go off the rails again, anyway. This time, I tried Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. Obviously, it worked.

With the Snowflake method, it never felt like I was planning. Each step re-told the story in increasing detail that allowed me to uncover hidden assumptions and unforeseen contradictions that I could correct on a limited scale. Each iteration helped me discover new ways to develop character and plot and made the story better.

I made one modification to the method. After creating a four page synopsis, Ingermanson recommends making a scene list. I tried it, and it felt like previous, failed attempts to plan. Instead, I expanded the synopsis once again, doubling its length. It helped. The four page synopsis contained a few problems that would have required drastic changes and knocked me for a loop if I’d discovered them while writing the first draft. When I completed the expanded synopsis, I felt ready to write, confident that no major flaws lurked in the story.

I still discovered new things along the way, but I understood the story so deeply after so many iterations that new ideas were easy to weave into the story. Each day, before I started working on the draft, I wrote for ten minutes about what I would write that day. The draft kept chugging along. I enjoyed the work. And when life force me to step away for two or three days, getting back into it was never a problem.

Now that the first draft is done, I’m going to set it aside for a while. I’ll have a free-lance editor look it over in the mean time, and I’ll develop the foundations for a new novel. Around January, I’ll start revising Murder on the Pitch.

Statistics for those who are interested in that sort of thing:

Number of days from start to finish: 108
Number of days I actually wrote: 80
Final word count: 74,405
Average words per day, inclusive: 689
Average words per day on days I wrote: 930
Worst day: 114 words
Best day: 1825 words

TBSMG, August 2016

This month at the Tampa Bay Scrum Masters Guild, we followed up on the vision for the Guild that we decided on at last month’s meeting:

To take an active role in building up Tampa Bay as a major technology hub.

That’s a pretty tall order! Before we can decide how to make it a reality, we needed to decide how to recognize when we achieve it. We used a variation of brain storming called “Brain Writing” to generate a list of ideas, then used dot voting to select the five best indicators of success:

  • Increase in startup funding for tech companies/actual tech startups on par with major cities like San Francisco or NYC
  • Major technology conferences are hosted in Tampa
  • National media start to report on “Tampa Tech”
  • Increase in tech-related degrees awarded at area colleges/universities
  • IT salaries increase to be competitive with existing tech hubs, i.e., the Research Triangle or Austin

The next step will be to decide what steps to take to make those indicators happen. It’s a topic on the Trello board; vote for it if you want to see more progress on turning vision into reality.

We closed the meeting with a report on the Agile Alliance conference in Atlanta. Sam Falco (that’s me!) talked about two themes that cropped up in several Agile 2016 sessions: making work a safe space for experimentation and innovation, and the future of Agile. Both topics fed into a group discussion of “Modern Agile” and how its four principles map to the values in the Manifesto.

Next month’s guild meeting will be held at Grow Financial on September 7. Don’t miss it!

Writing Stats

I started the first draft of Murder on the Pitch on June 15, with the goal of averaging 750 words per day, and completing a 70,000 word first draft by mid-September.

Total word count as of this morning: 36,126
Total days: 50
Average words/day, overall: 723
Days skipped: 10
Average words/day, excluding skipped days: 903

At these rates, I’d be on track to complete the first draft by the middle of next week. It will take longer, though, because it looks like the first draft will most likely come in at around 90,000 words. It’s not a bad problem to have, I suppose, but I’m looking at a mid-October finish date now.

Also, I need a better title. Here’s hoping one will come to me in the next 75 days or so!

TBSMG, July 2016

I missed the last few Tampa Bay Scrum Masters Guild meetings, but I was on hand for the July meeting at the offices of Mad Mobile last week. I’m glad I attended, and not just because of the food supplied by Clearly Agile. At this meeting, Adam led us in exercises to refine and clarify the Guild’s purpose, vision, and values.

Why do we meet? What is the purpose of having the Guild? We split into four groups to brainstorm the Guild’s purpose. Each group presented its list. Dot-voting selected a list that forms the peculiar acronym, SLRPN:

  • Share
  • Learn
  • Reassure
  • Practice
  • Network

Guild purpose - dot voting

The third exercise re-visited the Guild’s list of values, created in one of its first meetings. We kept some of the original values, and added more. Look for Adam to post the new list on the Guild’s Trello board soon.

In between those exercises, we generated a vision for the Guild. This exercise aimed to give us a wider goal than the Guild’s purpose: not just “why do we come here,” but “what do we want to be known for.” Once again, each group brainstormed and then put its best vision forward for a vote. The clear favorite was:

To take an active role in building up Tampa Bay as a major technology hub.

Guild vision

To close the meeting, Adam asked for suggestions for topics for future meetings; one of the suggestions was to start figuring out how to turn our new vision into reality. That topic, and a few others are on the Trello board. If you have other suggestions, please add them!

The next Guild meeting will be August 3. Don’t miss it!

At The Cloisters, NY

This fountain is my favorite thing at The Cloisters. It’s not the oldest thing here, nor the prettiest. It’s my favorite because of what happened near it.
An annoying family of three seemed to be shadowing our every move. Every gallery we entered, they’d follow. The father babbled loudly and incessantly to his toddler son, injecting fake enthusiasm into his every utterance. (LOOK at the STATues, Jonah! Aren’t they GREAT?)We ducked into the courtyard where this fountain is the centerpiece, hoping to shake them. No luck. (Look! It’s a DOORway. Isn’t that GREAT, Jonah?)

As we tried to get away from them, Jonah had to be shown the fountain. (It’s WATER, Jonah! Isn’t it SO COLD?) And Dad balanced Jonah on the edge of the fountain so little Jonah could stick his hand in the SO COLD water (because he’s never seen water in his life, apparently).

And then it happened. One of the museum guards saw this idiocy and barked out, “Why doncha dunk him? I could get you some soap, you can give him a bath.”

As Dad squawked indignantly and hustled Jonah away, the guard continued, “Thing’s hundreds of years old. I know, I’ll put a baby in it. Morons.”

I love this fountain.

Hanging the Iguana

Several years ago, my wife’s mother gave her a life-sized metal iguana sculpture. She has always wanted it hung on our front porch wall. I’ve talked to several handymen about having it done, but most were unwilling to take the job, afraid of damaging the wall, the sculpture, or both. The only person who offered to try wanted to use epoxy to permanently affix it. That would have meant we couldn’t take it down if we needed to paint the house, so I declined the offer.The iguana sculpture in question
This weekend, I decided to take a stab at the project myself. The feet had threaded screw holes, and I thought I might be able to make a mounting bracket that I could screw to the feet, and bolt the bracket to the wall. The first problem was that only one of the screw holes could securely hold a screw. The threads of two of them were completely stripped, and the third was in bad shape, too. The correct size machine screw fit, but if I wiggled it, it came right out. The next size up was too big and wouldn’t fit at all.

I decided I’d deal with that problem once I made the bracket. I bought a piece of 1″ x 1/16″ aluminum, cut a 10” length, and drilled holes. I attached the bracket to the sculpture by inserting a sliver of wood between the screw and the side of the hole on the bad foot. It held, but it seemed a little shaky. Then I held the sculpture in place with one hand, and marked the spots for the hanger bolts with the other.

Drilling the pilot holes and installing the bolts was easy, but I discovered that even though I’d taken precautions to be precise, the bolts were a fraction of an inch too far apart for the bracket. I thought I might be able to widen the hole enough to make it fit, but all I succeeded in doing was ruining the bracket. Oh, and the screw in the stripped hole fell out the minute I tried to redrill the bolt hole.

I made another bracket, this time measuring carefully against the hanger bolts already in place. By chance, I drilled the holes to fasten the bracket to the feet a smidgen farther apart than the first bracket. That had the happy side effect of making it necessary to insert the screw for the semi-stripped hole at an angle, which made it secure in the hole. I slid the bracket over the bolts, secured it with wing-nuts, and now it looks like a live iguana is crawling up the front of our porch. And my wife is very happy.

Iguana sculpture mounted to our front porch

This is not growth

It must be spring, because Bill Peterson is again making asinine comments about how fast the league is growing. As I pointed out last year, the pace of the league’s growth has been glacial from its inception, and it hasn’t gotten any faster.

Last season, we had eleven clubs. Two dropped out after the season ended: the Atlanta Silverbacks (who will field an NPSL side this year) and the San Antonio Scorpions. Two teams are joining at the beginning of the 2016 season: Rayo OKC and Miami FC. Puerto Rico FC will join mid-way through the season.

From eleven teams to eleven and two-thirds. Peterson says this is growing the league, “[A]t a pace that is very fast but manageable.”

This is not manageable growth. It is stagnation due to  mis-management. Allowing a team to join in mid-season was a bad idea when they let the Cosmos do it, and it’s a bad idea now. That’s aside from the questionable decision to add a team that will drastically increase the travel budgets for every team in the league, including some that barely made payroll last season. Meanwhile, we still don’t have the west-coast team that US Soccer requires, and Minnesota United will leave for MLS after this season.

Peterson was Traffic Sports’ pick for commissioner. I’d hoped that after it divested itself of its last team in the NASL, that the NASL owners would jettison the buffoon. Why do they keep this guy around?