PaintingI signed the contract for Cheapskate Computing on Feb. 17, 2010, which means I’ve been working on this thing now for 34 days. It’s due May 1, which is 39 days from now. I’m now working 6-7 days a week, eliminating my social life almost completely and making my boyfriend’s life kinda miserable because I’m just not that much fun to be around. (He says, “Good morning, sunshine.” I answer, “I can’t deal with that right now. Don’t you know I’m writing a book?”)

As of this morning, I’ve written (drum roll, please):

175 words.

Um. Yeah. You read that right. I’ve written 175 words of what will probably be 35-40,000. That means I’m about .05% finished with the writing. And that word count kind of includes the title.

I know. You’re thinking, “Holy crap, Ziesenis. What the hell have you been doing?” Believe it or not, I am exactly on schedule for this thing. For one of the first times in my life, I didn’t just jump into the middle of a project and start writing it from both ends. I created two databases (using low-cost favorite SurveyMonkey) to collect data from the owners of the free and low-cost tools. With the help of my assistant, I’ve contacted about 275 vendors of tools to ask them to fill out the survey, and so far about 75 people have provided clear, concise and critical data to allow me to write up their products. By Thursday I will identify all the important tools that have not yet filled out a survey, and my assistant will visit their websites to find the missing information to enter into the database.

Next week we will download the survey database and do a massive mail merge, placing each tool with all the supporting info on its own Microsoft Word page. The tools will have comments from friends, the descriptions I’ve already written on Cheapskate Freelancer (if available) and all the information I need to methodically clean up and finalize each entry. My writing retreat is the following week, and I’ll hunker down and plow through the tools one by one, then group them into chapters, create a quick reference guide for each chapter, then finalize. After I come back from my retreat, Claire and I have about two weeks to fill in the holes that I will inevitably discover.

I gotta tell you, I’m proud of myself for being this methodical. Usually I’d kind of panic and jump right in, taking one tool and trying to grab info from here and there and everywhere to get it onto one page. I know for a fact that this would take me much longer than the way I’m doing it, and it would be frustrating and exhausting, and I’d feel like I was making mistakes and leaving stuff out. When one paints a room, one should always take the extra time to prep the room by taping off the edges, laying down the dropcloth, moving the furniture. Usually I’m so excited that I just open the can (after barely shaking it, not stirring it) and dip a paintbrush and go from the closest wall right in the middle. Now I’m proud that I’m taking the time necessary to prep the room so that the next step goes easier.

Yet, I fear that the next step will be harder than I imagine. What if each page takes 20 minutes instead of 7? What if the mail merge doesn’t work and I have to cut and paste everything by hand? What if I haven’t left enough time? Or I have a breakdown, or ….

Yeah, well. I have to plan the work and work the plan, and, as of today, the plan is on schedule. As they say, that’s my story.