Writing Month in Review – March 2020

March turned out to be a really great month for writing! I’m super-pleased with my results:

Number of Writing Weeks: 4 out of 4

Total Word Count: 4,836 words

Average Word Count Per Week: 1,209 words

% of Monthly Word Count Goal: 241.8%

Other Stats: 3 Writing Days per Week

Now things are really chugging along. Not that they weren’t before, mind you. But, put this in terms of the Hero’s Journey: we’re now crossing a second Threshold, initiating a new round of Tests, with new Allies, Enemies, and Rivals to be revealed.

In fact, my protagonist has just now met the deuteragonist, a character who serves as something of a foil. Both characters are, I believe, necessary to provide multiple perspectives on the main issues that drive the plot. Shortly, within the next chapter or two that I write, these two will come into conflict – neither yet fully aware of the antagonist‘s ultimate aims.

All I can say is: I hope somebody reads and enjoys it once it’s done.

Writing Month In Review – February 2020

I thought January went pretty well – I got super-close to my goal for the month. But what I could really use in my writing life is more months like February.

Number of Writing Weeks: 5 out of 5

Total Word Count: 4,125 words

Average Word Count Per Week: 825 words

% of Monthly Word Count Goal: 206.25%

Other Stats: 2.6 Writing Days per Week (I had a lot less consistency on which days of the week I actually sat down to write: four times on a Sunday, twice on a Monday, once on a Wednesday, twice on a Thursday, three times on a Friday, and once on a Saturday – overall Sundays were my most consistent writing day for February, followed by Fridays.)

Taken altogether, February was an excellent month for my writing. Not only did a write a bunch – by my historically anemic standards – but I also crossed a very meaningful threshold. February was the month in which I crossed the 100,000-word-mark in my novel. That’s a HUGE symbolic milestone for me. I’ve got something real going on here: it’s a big story, and I’ve got the words to prove it.

Story-wise this was a pretty big landmark, too. While I now expect that 100,000 words will prove to be somewhat less than the halfway mark for the finished novel (as reflected in the revised word count totals shown in the right hand sidebar), I’ve nonetheless reached something akin to the book’s spiritual halfway mark. Based on the remaining outline for the book, I’m thiiiiiiiiiissss close to the point where the heroine’s journey shifts gears, where she experiences a sort of mini-epiphany and really takes charge of her story.

Up to this point, I’ve thrown a lot of evil stuff at her, tossing her from one unfortunate circumstance to the next, and never letting her catch her breath. This is not to say her character wasn’t an important driver of the plot. But her goals were small and personal, while the world around her was demanding something more of her. In terms of the Hero’s Journey, she’s been resisting the “Call” for most of the first half of the book, even as circumstances dragged her kicking and screaming into the world of adventure. But now? This week, or possibly the next, I will write the moment when she stops resisting her destiny, and comes to embrace it.

There’s a lot to unpack in all of that, of course – it seems the first half of my novel goes against conventional wisdom that the hero character should be the primary driver of the plot, rather than letting plot happen to them. But I feel this is critical for her journey. In the end, however, it will be reactions from test readers – assuming I can find some when I finally reach “The End” – that will determine whether this approach works for this story, and whether the first half stays engaging despite my heroine’s staunch refusal to accept her role as protagonist. But one step before the next: before I can worry about that, I have to finish the first draft! 2020 may not be the year I do that, but if can repeat February a few times, I’ll start to make some satisfying progress toward that years-long goal.

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!

Writing Progress: Week Ending August 3, 2013

Hey, would you look at that!  I wrote something:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Project D:

  • Wordcount: 1,460

Grand Total: 1,460 words

Does this mean that my long drought of non-writing is at an end?  Does this mean I’m back in the saddle?

In a word: No.

In more than one word: I can’t really say that it is, yet.  Too early to tell.  But I suspect for a while to come that my writing progress from week to week will continue to favor “No Writing This Week” more often than not.  While the proximate cause of my long dry spell in writing (i.e. my being the father of a still-mostly-new-to-this-world infant such as whose age is still  measured in months, and especially of such a one as has had an erratic sleep schedule) has noticeably improved, it has not been fully resolved.  To wit: I’m still the father of a something-month-old baby who doesn’t sleep for more than about 4 hours in a single stretch at night (a noticeable improvement overall, especially in terms of this length of time becoming generally (though not always) more consistent and predictable).  Besides the sleep issue, there’s all the other responsibilities one assumes when becoming the father of an infant.  No small commitment of time, that.   So, I’m still generally sleep-deprived and short on free time.

But for last week, at least, I wrote something.  And it felt great!

You might wonder a bit at the thing that I worked on.  It was neither the Short Story that I’d been focusing on (with intent to send off to Writers of the Future or to some other fiction market upon getting through some clean revisions), nor the Steampunk-flavored Post-apocalyptic Epic Fantasy novel.  The latter is still my main long-term project.  The former has morphed, in my mind, into an “epic” short story series, which may yet see multiple short stories set in the same world, with different characters at different times, each a hopefully satisfying read and a complete story on its own, but which ultimately weave together to tell a longer, more cohesive story.  (Time will tell if I can meet that ambition.)

But “Project D” – so named because it is neither a novel nor a short story nor, really, any of those other wordcount-bound sub-classifications of units of fiction.  It’s a personal project, really.  It’s fiction, yes.  Some flavor of fantasy.  And at this juncture I doubt that I will ever make the story public – that is, I do not expect to see this published and available for reading by other people.  (Though I may opt to solicit for feedback from a small number of trusted folks.)  Not to be too evasive about it, but it’s a “book” for one of my children.  (This one is technically for the older of the two.  The younger will undoubtedly get his own book in time.)  As a “book” it’ll probably be very short – no longer than a very long short story.  But I have ideas enough for this to be an ongoing multi-part serial story (again, doubtless, with some cross-over for the expected eventual book for the second child).

I’m strangely excited for this project.  Like I said, my head is just bursting with ideas for it.  I decided to let my imagination go wild and take me where-ever it though to go.  Whether I’m looking at tired tropes or something strange and new and wonderful… Who knows, who cares?  The only person whose opinion will matter, at the end of the day, is the child for whom this story is written.

And so that’s where I am today.  If I write this week again, then maybe there’ll be another update next week.  If not… well… neither you nor I will be surprised.

Writing Progress: Week Ending March 23, 2013

Spring may have sprung*, but when it comes to writing, there’s no spring in my step:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

There’s no need, I think, to rehash all the reasons why my writing hasn’t exactly blossomed.  Suffice to say that the pace of life with both V.R. and B.T. continues unabated.  At the moment, I have no reason to expect anything else.

As I said last week, it is now quite clear to me that I was being overly optimistic when I set my goals for the year.  I knew V.R. was coming, obviously, but I thought it was possible for me both to have a baby and to find time to write.  Maybe if I didn’t already have a demanding daytime career, that might’ve been true, but I do and it’s not.

I have no reason, at this point, to expect the next several weeks to be any different.  If I get any writing in, it won’t be much, and will almost certainly be substantially lower than my stated weekly goal of 1,750 words.

As the regular reader here could possibly tell from the tone of my recent posts, this all leaves me in a bit of an anxious and emotionally conflicted state. As I should hope is obvious, adding V.R. to our lives has been a happy and much-looked-forward-to occasion. And I regard the developments at the day-job that keep me so busy as being largely positive. But as a writer, which is a big part of my self-conception, all of this is a significant set-back. It’s difficult when you go through a sustained period of time where you must, of necessity, suppress an important part of yourself. For me, there’s a lot of internal angst and conflict over whether I can even honestly use the term “writer” to describe myself when I can’t even perform the most basic and self-definitional of tasks attributed to writers: namely, to write something, anything, regardless of quality. If I can’t even put words to paper, then what am I, really? A poseur?

The answer, I think, is that right now, and for the immediately foreseeable future, I’m not a writer. I’m a father who sometimes, on rare occasions when opportunity presents itself, indulges in a fantasy hobby of writing. I hate to call myself a hobbyist, because writing is so much more important to me than a mere hobby, but at the present time it feels the height of pretense to call myself a writer, much less an author, aspiring or otherwise.

I know that’s just the stress of the moment speaking to me. This, too, shall pass. But in the meantime, the fact remains: I’m not writing. And I don’t see that changing for a while.

Which leaves me wondering: why am I running through these paces, going on about how much writing I’m not doing, every week? I wonder if the time hasn’t come to say: “Hey, I’m not writing right now. I’ll let y’all know when that changes.” Then, I can focus what very limited blogging time I have to writing something more interesting than the same old “hey, no writing this week” post.

What do you, dear reader, think?

*Spring offer not valid in all locations. Please check your local weather listings for more details.

Writing Progress: Week Ending March 16, 2013

Obviously, I’m less happy with this week than I am with the last:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

If I need to spell out why, I’ve not been doing a very good job at spelling out my writing-related goals for the year…

For those following along at home, I’ve now burned through 7 weeks of this year without writing, compared to only 4 weeks of the year spent writing.  I’d allotted myself 14 weeks this year for non-writing, anticipating that I’d need quite a few.  Yet, it’s clear that I was being… optimistic

Overall… I’ve written just north of 3,000 words so far this year.  That’s not a lot of writing, so far.  In fact, even if I take out the seven weeks I’ve spent not writing this year, I’m only at 43% of my goal for the year.  (I should’ve written around 7,000 words if I’d written 1,750 each week that I spent writing.)

From where I stand now, quite honestly, I don’t see a near-term end in sight for this drought from writing.  I know it will end, eventually, but I just can’t tell for certain when it will.  A few weeks?  A few months?  Will most of the year pass before I am once again able to find enough writing time to make some solid forward momentum?  Time will tell, I suppose.  There’s  your daily cliche for you.

So, how are you doing, this week?  If you write, did you get much writing done?

Writing Progress: Week Ending March 9, 2013

All things considered, I’m really happy with this week:

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 1,024 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 1,024 words

The circumstances that have limited my free time have not abated, but with a little help from Dear Wife, I was able to find a little time to squeeze out a little writing progress. A thousand words I’d no where near my weekly goal, but it’s substantially more than I’ve been able to do for most of this year. For that, I’m pretty happy.

Structurally, I’m passing through the first turning point, reaching the end of what I’ve been thinking of as the first of five acts. At about thirty-thousand words, that puts me roughly on track for my wordcount target for this book. Of course, that has several assumptions built into it. For instance, while I’ve plotted the book out, I haven’t really dug into my list of scenes to tease out what the structure actually looks like. The assumed five acts is based on a gut feeling. I’ve also assumed the first act would be the shortest; it has the fewest number of scenes.

Regardless, it’s nice to see that the novel is shaping up more or less how I expected, even if the pace of writing it is much slower than I’d like.

So my week was good. How was yours? Tell me about it in the comments.

Writing Progress: Week Ending March 2, 2013

Yes… it was a slow again.  Same story, different week…

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 0 words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 0 words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 0 words

Circumstances which either prevent or strongly restrict my writing time continue to dominate my life at the moment. Some things are just more important than writing. (Don’t get me wrong, writing is pretty important. It’s just that some things really are more important.) I miss the writing, of course, but with any luck and just a little good planning on my part and I’ll see my way back to having some good, regular writing time again soon.

In the meantime… I got nothing. So instead, it’s your turn. Share something entertaining. Tell us about your week, in writing or otherwise. Just make it interesting!

Writing Progress: Week Ending February 23, 2013

What made last week a poor week for wordcount wasn’t dome with me this week…

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 100ish words
  • First Draft Wordcount: 240ish words

Story of V:

  • Wordcount: 0 words

Grand Total: 340ish words

Granted, that’s still better than last week. I’m grateful for that, as I was just this side of having a zero-wordcount week. I expect writing time will continue to be slim pickings for a few more weeks at least, so weeks like the prior week will be more common than not in the near-term future.

That’s just life right now. You’ve got to live it. I really want to be writing more – I want to dive deep into “Book of M” – but it’s just not an option. Other priorities take precedence. I’m being evasive, of course, but hey: Privacy. It matters.

What I did write last week I don’t have an exact count on. I’ll update this post after I’ve been able to confirm the actual total. But it was roughly in this neighborhood. (ETA: Finally had a chance to look up the actual numbers: 131 words of background, 205 in new draft.)

The background stuff was a few short notes about the “Book of M” short stories I mentioned last week. The rest was new material. It could’ve been more, but I actually spent most of what little writing time I had available last week reading. As in reading what I’d already written. Hey, it’s been something like over three months since I’d written anything new for “Book of M”, and I had to re-familiarize myself with the characters and situations they’d found themselves in. The downside? Since I’m likely to spend the next few weeks not writing – or at least not writing much – I’ll probably have to do all that re-familiarizing again. Which slows me down even more. Sigh.

Well… as I said last week… that’s why I gave myself fourteen weeks off.  (Which, incidentally, I’ve already burned through five of those fourteen weeks – and if this week goes as expected, I’ll soon be at six.  I’m really counting on the middle-stretch of the  year being a little more friendly to me, writing-time wise.  I know the holidays will be here again before I know it, and with them yet another highly probable dearth of writing activity.)

So, how about you, this week?  How are things going?  For you writers out there (which is most of my readers here), how do you handle those times when life and its necessities and priorities literally leave you no time for writing?