Time Management Revisited (or My Favorite Long-Term Project)

Last week, I talked about applying time management techniques to designing your plot. This isn’t exactly a plot-example, but it is one of my all-time favorite game-related projects to work on, and a lot of why it is illustrates how my time management plot tips work.

Some of you who’ve been around for a while might remember way back in early 2009, when I illustrated the concept of giving back to the GM with a piece I’d done for my own GM. Complicated little thing, isn’t it? And yes, it was a blasted frustrating piece of work, during which I spent a lot of time ranting about the input from my fellow players (“What does ‘rugged yet stylish’ mean, anyway?”), the difficulty of drawing some of the figures (“Blasted dragon, when I’m through with him he’s going to be a neon pink tapeworm”) and the trouble I was having getting the colors right. But here are the elements of the time management tips that made it worth the unusually (for me) long prep period.

  • Subdivide the big tasks. I do my artwork in phases, in part so if I screw something up I don’t have to redo the entire thing to fix it. (I’ve already mentioned how much that came in handy with my sketch of Carmilla.) With this piece, there were a lot of phases: The background inside the frame as lineart, complete with characters; the details on the frame, added to a photocopy of the original background; the color version of the above (right on the first draft, thank goodness); and meanwhile, each of the characters in the foreground was individually sketched out, photocopied, colored, and the final version glued onto the colored background at the very end. (Yes, I don’t do digital much. It all works out.) This got me focusing on the ends of things that were close at hand, phase by phase.
  • Alternate between multiple projects. I didn’t actually have a choice in this one. With the exception of one character in the foreground, almost everything had to be discussed with someone; I asked the players about their characters’ presentation, the GM what sorts of elements he expected on the gate frame and what color the sky was…. you get the idea. Since all of them were only accessible by IM, some more than others (fortunately, the GM was online more than anyone), I had to be able to jump between them depending on which I could do. Even better, it kept it from getting boring.
  • Set rewards. In this case, the need to coordinate with other people literally was its own reward. For each step on each of the characters, I needed to show the players—just about everything else and sometimes the characters in the foreground, I needed to clear with the GM—and while they had criticism, overall they thought it was awesome. It helped. A lot.
  • Don’t forget the back burner. This actually hearkens back to the alternation element: not everyone was there, and even when they were there not everyone had the answers I needed, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t ask them to start thinking about it. Sometimes it was direct, like “So could you start thinking about what you want the area we’re coming out in to look like and who’s going to be present so I can do the background?” after a game session. Other times, I had to just throw a question out by offline IM or person-in-the-same-general-location, and wait for them to get back to me. But it did mean I didn’t have to be constantly over everyone’s shoulders, and there were times when I was off doing something else in which stuff still got done.

Can you adapt this to creating a plot?

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