March by the Numbers

March by the Numbers

Tracking your writing can be kind of brutal after a while, especially if you have a month where it feels like you didn’t hit your goals. March was one of those months despite the fact that I was actually very productive in a few important ways.

First off, a lot of my writing time in March was devoted to several weeks of my screenwriting class. We read scripts (written by class members) and watched a few movies to understand their structures. We were also given the occasional homework assignment specific to our script ideas.

I counted my time spent in class or working on assignments under the “Related Work” column of my spreadsheet, because it was a valuable use of my time that required a decent amount of mental energy. That time spent also tended to preclude any other kind of writing work.

Additionally, because I needed to devote my time to class (I did pay for it, after all), I made a point of setting aside my short stories until class was finished. This meant that my fictional output was almost non-existent in March.

As for my non-fiction writing, I published four book reviews over at Full of Words and four posts on this site. Those eight posts amount to 4171 words altogether, which means I did around 1552 words of journal-writing.

I’m actually pretty proud of myself for writing eight posts in one month - that’s an average of two posts a week. It’s a rare month when I blog that consistently, so good on me.

Even though I wrote a good number of blog posts and spent a lot of time working on assignments for class, I felt like I wasn’t productive enough because my fiction word count was so low.

Maybe it’s just a psychological hang-up that I need to get over, but it doesn’t really feel like I’m achieving my writing goals if I’m not producing a quantifiable number of words (or pages).

Fiction writing feels like a more achievable goal than screenwriting, so that’s probably why I’m so focused on word count as a metric.

I don’t really want to start producing screenplay pages before I have an outline ironed out. I know for a fact that I’d have to throw out a bunch of work if I started writing without planning. I know it’s a delaying tactic, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Ghost of a Friend is a good example of what happens when I write without planning. I’ve reworked it significantly after every rewrite, and I don’t think I discovered the core of the story until after multiple rounds of feedback and rewrites. That’s kind of an inefficient process… but somehow it produces results, flawed as they may be.

I know in my heart of hearts that outlining improves my writing, but for some reason I still freeze up at the thought of planning out a story. Some stubborn idiot part of my brain rebels and I don’t get anything done.

I’m not really sure where to go from here other than trying to tip the balance towards outlining instead of just pantsing everything.

My final counts for March 2016 were:

  • 26.5 hours of related work
  • 0 script pages
  • 559 words of fiction
  • 5723 words of non-fiction
  • 6282 total words

To recap, these were my goals for March:

  1. Finish a draft of an outline for my screenplay.
  2. Do a final pass on my newest short story and submit it for publication.
  3. Fewer journal entries and more fiction.

Here’s how those goals actually played out:

  1. I didn’t draft an outline, but I did come up with a list of ten set-pieces that feel really solid. I can see a potential through-line for the movie in those pieces, so it’s just a matter of formalizing it. I made measurable progress, but I didn’t end up with a finished product like I’d hoped.
  2. I made it halfway through a final pass on Ghost of a Friend. I stopped at the point when I realized that I needed to rewrite a huge chunk of the story. I’d also spent almost four hours working on the rewrite and it was time to leave the coffee shop.
  3. I feel like I whiffed on this one. My only attempts at fiction-writing were fitful stabs at starting a new short story. I’m not really happy with any of those fragments, so it’s back to the drawing board with my new ideas. I also resorted to writing in my journal way too many nights.

Here are my goals for April:

  1. Finish my final rewrite of Ghost of a Friend and submit it to at least one market by the end of the month.
  2. Create my outline board (i.e. draw lines on the board and lay out the sections) and outline at least one sequence of my screenplay.
  3. Find more ways to get concrete wins that make me feel like I’m progressing as a writer.


    
writing, tracking, progress, and update