Author Big Year: Day 73

Author Big Year

I’m in a shambles. Working desperately hard does not, repeat, does not mean I’m getting in the hours, each and every day, to which I’m committed. Nor are the hours always the work I need to do. I can’t decide whether to draft or produce the next mystery (launching in April) or improve marketing or try new projects. Aaaaaaaaaaaah!

I’ve worked just over 6 hours a day over the 73 days. That’s close to the year end target, but I should be up at 8 hours/day to allow for upcoming holidays, breaks, whatevers. And real writing, that is, writing on the nuclear history book, is only about 3 hours/day, well short of what this Big Year wants.

I’ll try and collect my thoughts over the next day or so, and then reorient.


Day 59

Author Big Year

I’d love to be immersed in 1957, writing up German post-war reactor efforts, but today is urgent editing of Gentle & Tusk #2. I’m always surprised by how long it takes to process editing input – in this case from a hired copyeditor and six “beta readers” – and how unenjoyable the task is. But it must be done. And soonest!

Days 45 to 58: An unequal struggle but keep going

Author Big Year

Another 14 days and much the same story, tracking at 6 hours a day, not the minimum of 6½, definitely not the preferred 8 hours a day to compensate for non-working days. I have to say it’s a tough issue, squeezing out the hours. Grandparenting duties have begun and they’re so joyous it makes no sense to resist them. Friends needed help. The sun shone and I’m trying to get back my running mojo. Red wine… well, what can I say?

I’m still on the case, however, and the next week should see me alight with purpose. I’m aiming to report back on progress more often, in more detail, to really hammer out what it takes to meet this onerous Big Year’s strictures.

Author Big Year: Monitoring

Author Big Year

The dynamics of this 13-month Big Year, in which I aim for 6.5 hours of quality writing work every day, require me to monitor more closely than I’m accustomed to of late. You’d think that after three decades in the corporate world, I’d be scrupulous at measurement and feedback, but in fact I tend to get lost in the days and the work.

So let me take a quick look. I’ve had a month and a half. I’m aiming for 6.5 hours/day but need more hours now, before interruptions like travel cut the hours, so a “clean” day should deliver 8 hours. What have I achieved? The bare minimum of 6 hours. I should be happy enough but need to work harder. This issue is important because a poor start will ruin me. I’ll try to check in more often. Wish me luck!

The murky terror of 2019

Big Decade 2019

My fourth year of the Big Decade commences tomorrow. It’ll be nothing like the first three years. This time I have no exercise component, this time I’m putting all my eggs in one basket (almost). My Author Big Year is, frankly, much like the writing Big Years of 2016, 2017, and 2018, but now it looms even larger. Make or break, that’s what it is.

For those of you unaccustomed to the seriousness with which the obsessives of the world take their obsessions, you may not understand why I use the word TERROR. But right now, looking forward, that’s what I contemplate.

Author Big Year: Exploring Europe

Author Big Year

Darwin, then Sydney, as much time as possible on narrating the beginning of nuclear power in Western Europe in the late 1940s and early-to-mid 1950s. I got in more time in the first locale, simply because there’s a granddaughter in the Sydney, but overall I made a good start. Belgium is done and I’m tidying up Norway and the Netherlands. Sweden is next, followed by Italy.

Author Big Year: We all need to dream and big

Author Big Year inspiration

Concluding Van Jackson’s “Nuke Your Darlings” blog about writing a history book… “Well, I missed yesterday’s entry,” writes Jackson (Entry 79 of 92) on April 6, 2018. “I’m an exhausted bag of bones by evening time.” On the return flight, his blog reveals that he sees life as “a collection of habits interspersed with 8-Mile moments,” that phrase denoting Eminem’s movie, especially his key soundtrack song, “Lose Yourself.” (Not your stereotypical academic, eh?)

From this nadir blooms resurgence. “These final chapters are flowing,” he writes on Apr 11. In Wellington, he decides to climax the book with the upcoming Trump-Kim summit, scrambling at the last moment to wrap that into his narrative and analysis. How bold! Each April day now delivers draft slabs even while the North Korea situation explodes with rumor and news that leave him “mentally and emotionally exhausted.” In late April, jettisoning all his other mandatory commitments, “I wrote like a man possessed this weekend – more than 3,000 words [wow!].” On Apr 25, getting set to conclude drafting, he diverts to blog how he organises his day, 31 planned time segments from 5 AM to 9 PM – I know, he sounds over prescriptive, but guess what: I’m like that!

Apr 27: “700 words closer to finishing today but still not quite there.” And then we’re there, Entry 92 on April 30:

First draft complete!… It’s bittersweet, but now that I have a full draft in hand, I intend for this to be my final Nuke Your Darlings entry. As of now I have 93,000 words, which is more than the limit I agreed to in the publishing contract. I just need to pare it down as I revise. I skimmed through most of the chapters today and really like what I’ve produced. I’m kind of amazed that I did this. Hopefully readers will enjoy the final product!… These daily entries have also helped me reflect on how I write… The biggest surprise benefit of this diary is how it’s seemingly affected others.”

Well, I’m one off those affected. To hold a dream in the face of an uncaring universe is tough but wonderful.