Writing Month In Review – January 2020

First a quick note about how I’m reporting my stats month-to-month.

The writing progress stats tracker I built (in Google Sheets), first, treats a week as running from Sunday to the following Saturday – nothing weird there. Using that definition of a week, it derives weekly writing stats for me. Then it looks at monthly writing stats.

Because calendar months don’t align neatly with actual weeks, I built a work-around to better align the two. Instead of each month ending on the last calendar date of the month, my stats tracker ends it on the last Saturday of the calendar month (with the next month officially beginning on the Sunday after). This neatly ties my month-to-month stats to my week-to-week stats – with the slightly weird artifact, naturally, that some months have 4 weeks and some months have 5.

January was a 4-week month in this system (running an even 28 days, from December 29th to January 25th).

The peculiarities of my tracking system dispensed with, it’s time for my first self-report on my writing progress for January 2020:

Number of Writing Weeks: 3 out of 4

Total Word Count: 1,957 words

Average Word Count Per Week: 489 words (652 on weeks where writing occurred)

% of Monthly Word Count Goal: 97.85%

Other Stats: 2 Writing Days per Week when writing occurred (primarily on Fridays and Saturdays)

January was actually a decent month to start my Year Of Writing off with, all things considered. My annual writing goals for 2020 aren’t overly aggressive – but they’re more aggressive than in recent years. Translated to monthly progress goals, I’m expecting to do 2,000 words a month. And I’m as close to almost-on-the-mark-but-falling-short as you can be. The one week that I didn’t write was expected. (My oldest and I had a weekend trip to go to Space Camp with the rest of his Cub Scout den; seeing as how my writing is predominantly on Fridays and Saturdays, it simply wasn’t possible to put any words down under the circumstances. Regardless: it was a Fatherhood Win!)

All in all, in spite of falling juuuuuuust short of my goal for the month, I’m still pretty happy with the results. I feel I’ve set myself up for a year of success, and I’m ready to take the second half of this novel on and wrestle it into a workable first draft!

What to Expect When…

…You’re Reading the Undiscovered Author

Last week I posted for the first time literally in four years, and I mentioned that I would be blogging again more regularly as a means of staying honest about my writing progress as I try to get back into my groove and really focus myself on my lifelong goal of becoming a professional author.

So, what does that mean in real terms for the blog? How often will I be posting, and what will I be posting?

For starters: I plan to post regularly once a month. Other odd posts may creep in here or there, but the plan is once, early in the new month to report on the previous month’s writing activity. I haven’t thought out yet how much detail I’ll share – probably just the total wordcount, maybe the actual number of days in which I actually sat down to write, that sort of things.

I’ll probably test how I feel about sharing snippets of what happened in my life during that month as well. But I’ll do my best to keep it all short and sweet. Realistically, I want to save most of my writing mojo for whatever fiction I’m working on at the time – right now that’s still my code-named “Book of M” project.

As a sample, here’s a quick recap of my writing activity in 2019:

  • Total Wordcount: 11,448 Words Written
  • Writing Days: 23 Days
  • Average Wordcount Per Writing Day: 498

Not super-productive by any means. 2020 WILL BE DIFFERENT.


The Writing Rules & Rewards

I also want to be clear about my approach to writing – the “rules” I’ll try to follow, as it were. Writing is intended to take priority over a lot of ways that I could spend my time… but not over every activity.

Accordingly: activities with my wife and family – including playing board games, and rarely also including watching movies or TV with them – will always take a higher priority. Writing, on the other hand, takes priority over just watching TV.

There’s an exception to the above, however: every let’s say 5,000 words I complete in my current project, I am allowed to reward myself by watching an episode – one! – of some of the shows I’d like to watch: catching up on The Mandalorian and Stranger Things, for instance, or checking out Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and The Witcher. Yeah, fact is I don’t actually watch a lot of TV on my own, so I’m way behind on all of these shows that everyone else has already seen… What usually happens, instead, is that I end up vegging out while my wife has one of her shows on – sometimes a show that I enjoy, but sometimes a show that I watch for no better reason than because it’s on. The latter: that’s the kind of thing I want to cut out going forward.


Long story short: 2020 is going to be the year of ME. I’m going to do big things this year, and make major progress on “The Book of M“, on which I’m rapidly approach what I believe to be the halfway point. I’m so excited to be diving back into this story and this world, and I can’t wait to write the scenes that come next – scenes that I’ve been anticipating writing for the better part of the last decade!

Whatever you have planned for the year to come: I wish you good-luck, too! Let’s make it a year to remember!

Getting Back in the Saddle, New Year's Resolutions (and Other Cliched Metaphors)

Have you ever been away from doing something for so long that doing it again sounds difficult?  Where you’re not even sure if you still can do whatever it is?  Where the prospect of even trying it is actually frightening?

Yeah.

Blogging is that way. Seriously: it’s been literally four years since I last posted here. Basically, it’s just easier not to blog. And yet, here I am, after what feels like forever, dusting this old thing off and actively thinking about regular blogging again. But blogging is not what I’m here to talk about today.

For me, sitting down to write – to really write, to write the fiction I crave to write, that I must write – after a roughly 13-week hiatus brought on by a million-and-one reasons (some good, some bad, but all unfortunately valid) is sometimes one of those scary things.  Sure, like I said, I have reasons.  Many of those reasons I am powerless to alter.  (We could argue the point, I suppose, but I’m also not here to talk about the reasons writers don’t write.)  It doesn’t matter.  Whatever the reasons, they are standing in the way between me and engaging in an activity that is fundamental to who I am.  (I’m not me if I’m not writing.)

(Apparently I’m also not me if I’m not making parenthetical asides.  I jest.  I can totally stop making parenthetical asides anytime I want.  Parenthetical asides aren’t the boss of me.)

I don’t have a magic bullet answer for this.  (This isn’t a writing advice blog.)

I guess… If the opportunity to write presents itself, whatever valid but usually insurmountable reasons I don’t often get to write there are, then I should shut up, put my but in the chair, hands on the keyboard and just, you know, write.


So I have a lot of lofty goals for 2020: get in shape, lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy. The standard list. And I don’t mean to give these short shrift – I hope I can actualize those things in my life. But my true goals live elsewhere: in my heart and soul, I am a writer.

In respect to that, I need 2020 to be the year I start taking my career as a writer seriously. You read that right: my career.

No, I haven’t garnered any publications in the years I’ve been away from this blog. But here’s the thing: I’ve long considered myself to be an aspiring author. Except there’s one thing that’s lacking: I haven’t acted as though I’m seriously pursuing this as an actual career. It’s always just been this little hobby of mine.

On the plus side, treating it like a hobby has insulated me from most of my own self-criticism when it comes to lack of writing. No big deal, I reasoned, It’s just a hobby, and I have other priorities, like my actual career, and my family, and being a homeowner. Sometimes I just don’t have time to write and that’s okay. Well, those things aren’t going anywhere. I’m still a father, still a homeowner, still a corporate desk jockey. So I still have priorities which will often supersede my writing. And when those things are done, I’m still going to need days where I just have a little downtime, when I’m not working.

But I’m changing my perspective. I’m also a writer. And that means I write. That means that when I have have the bandwidth, when I’m presented a choice between spending my “free time” vegging on the couch watching TV, or writing, I will (more often than not) choose writing.

It’s not going to be easy. Those other priorities will mean that sometimes I can’t choose to write. Sometimes, I’ll have a choice, for instance, between playing a boardgame with my wife and writing – and I’m going to choose to play the boardgame, because time with my wife having fun is a priority for me. (Have I mentioned that I’ve gotten the itch to start designing more own boardgames? Yeah. I actually have a prototype game design that I’ve printed up [it’s terrible, mind you, but I made it]. Maybe more on that later.) Sometimes, I’ll have the choice between TV and writing, and I’ll choose TV because I have a deficit of mental energy. These aren’t inherently bad things, obviously.

My point is: sometimes I won’t write when I have the time, and that’s okay. Recently, however, I’ve just gotten used to not writing. It’s literally been months since I added any real words to my novel. And diving back in is daunting, because I have to reorient myself to what was going on, reread the last five or ten pages, and as often as not that takes up all of whatever free time to write I had. Inertia sets in, and I just don’t even think about it.

That’s not an excuse. And starting now, in 2020, that’s not happening anymore.


What does this mean for my blog?

I’m going to start updating here again. Mostly just to keep myself honest about my writing. How much did I write this month? What did I write about? What did I do if I chose not to write? That sort of thing. Maybe, occasionally, I’ll geek out over something or other.

I’m not going to try to stay abreast of the industry, or comment on ongoing trends in SF&F literature. I’m not going to offer writing advice. There are other sites and blogs that do these things and better than I could ever hope to. Realistically – I’m still learning the ropes same as the rest of you.

If, however, you’re interested in me as a writer, if you’re interested in my writing: then you’ve come to the write place. Err… right place.

Welcome (back) to the Undiscovered Author.

~Sincerely,

Stephen A. Watkins


Header image from: https://pixnio.com/fauna-animals/horses/field-horse-macro-saddle-animal

Lunchbox Napkin Art Day 7: Roger Roger Robot

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Like any right-thinking boy, B.T. thinks robots are pretty cool.  Unfortunately, as young as he is, he doesn’t yet understand that the robots are poised soon to revolt and overthrow the dominion of man, becoming our new and implacable overlords.

But, hey, until the coming day of the bloody robot coup, robots are still pretty cool!

This vintage-inspired robot (with design elements cribbed from Robby the Robot, B-9 from Lost in Space, and Johnny-5) comes flanked by some Star Wars Lego robots that B.T. built yesterday.  B.T. has yet to see any of the Star Wars movies – I’m waiting until he’s just the right age to fully appreciate them – but even without having seen them he intrinsically understands that Star Wars sits at a rare pinnacle of awesome.  I just can’t wait until he finds out that Darth Vader is Luke’s father.

(Oh, yes… of course, as a proper Star Wars-loving father, my children will be introduced to these movies in the proper order: Episodes IV, V, and VI first, followed by Eps I – III.  When they’re a little older we can have long discussions about the flaws and plot holes left by the poorly-scripted and too-often poorly-cast prequels.  But first, I’ll let them enjoy the prequels, only after they’ve first enjoyed the originals.)

So, anyway, yeah… Robots!  Or Droids, if you prefer.

(Alternate titles for today’s post included “These Are the Droids You’re Looking For” and “Danger Will Robinson”.)

Lunchbox Napkin Art Day 6: Magic School

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B.T. got a “magic science” kit for Christmas.  His third such science kit (the first to have a make-your-own magic wand). He loves these things.  From last Christmas he had a wizard hat and a robe his mommy made for him.  He wears those whenever we use the “magic” science (as opposed to the regular science he did before).

So, you know, learning is pretty cool.  So is school. I think I mentioned he loves kindergarten.  Put 2 and 2 together and you get magic school.

Also, someday I expect he’ll want to read Harry Potter.

Lunchbox Napkin Art Day 5: Way Down Deep

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B.T. has a lot of favorite books among which one ought to count “Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea”, in which a young boy dives deep into the ocean and interacts with various sea creatures as he swims to the bottom where he retrieves some sunken pirate treasure for his mommy before being chased to the surface by a shark. The twist: he was taking a bath the whole time, using his imagination, and the sea creatures were his bath toys. It’s a fun kids’ book.

More recently he’s gotten into a game on his new mini tablet, as well as a related show, featuring cartoonified mer-kids and a merdog called Bubble Puppy (the dog’s name, not the show; I don’t know what the show is called).

So, I thought an undersea theme featuring some merpeople might go over well with him. Maybe it’ll go over well with you guys, too.

Lunchbox Napkin Art Day 4: Just a Griffin

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No particular reason.  Just a griffin.  Or a griffon. Or a gryphon. Or, you know, whatever.  Not exactly my best mythical creature, but see my earlier comment about drawing in ink.

Lunchbox Napkin Art Day 3: (After) Work

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The holidays are over, and holiday camp is out, but school was not yet in. So today’s theme was a “bring your child to work day” thing.  B.T. was a trooper sitting in the empty cube next to me most of the day.  Here’s a shot of what today’s napkin looked like after a little use. 

I’m terrible at people in ink. Pencil had always been my preferred medium for art. Even then, faces and bodies take me considerable more effort to prefect. 
But yes, that is supposed to be myself and my eager young space cadet going in to work.  In reality, I realized post hoc that B.T. is still quite a but shorter than that. He comes not to my shoulder but just past my waist.

In parting, I leave to the reader’s imagination what the various oddments found here at my place of labor represent.

Lunchbox Napkin Art: Day 2 -A Dark Fairy Forest

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BT is at nature camp this week, and that made me think about trees, and woods, and forests.  So inspired, I scribbled this hoping to similarly inspire him to look a little closer when he’s out in nature, and maybe find a little magic there.

Lunchbox Napkin Art: Day 1

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So Dear Wife and I trade off on drawing little doodles on a napkin that goes in BT’s lunch box.

Did I mention yet that BT is in kindergarten this year?  No?  Well, BT is in kindergarten this year.

He takes a lunch box every day.  We give him a napkin to go with.  Dear Wife started doing doodles and art on said napkin.  I later joined in the fun.  And here we are.

This is not my first napkin rodeo.  Some of mine have been pretty good (for a five minute doodle on a napkin by a guy who hasn’t done art seriously or consistently for years), and Dear Wife had convinced your humble host that they are blog-worthy.  This is not my best work, but it’s the first after I decided to take her up on the idea.

Most napkins I post here won’t have so much commentary.  I just wanted to provide some context for this little side trip.

BT is doing camp this week since regular school is still out for “winter” holidays.  (Scare quotes because global warming is telling us it’s already spring here. We’ve literally had to turn on the A.C. to stay comfortable.  Years we’re cranking the heat.) So, my doodle is of a young scout at camp.  I intentionally made the head extra-round for mostly unsuccessful stylistic reasons.

Enjoy.