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Where I’m at Right Now

I’ve had a tough year so far.

When I last checked in on my writing goals back in December, I talked about how the US election did a number on my motivation and ability to focus.

I sort of recovered from the post-election blues in January and February of this year… but then my cat, Jackson, got very sick. I ultimately had to put him to sleep on March 16th.

Jackson was sick for a while – since at least the middle of 2016 – but he took a turn in February and went downhill very fast. The whole thing was incredibly stressful and absolutely devastating, even though I knew on an intellectual level that my cats were reaching the age where health problems could be a concern.

Needless to say, I was pretty much useless while he was sick and after he died.

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The Current State of my Writing Goals

Well, I had a good run while it lasted. I managed to write almost every day for more than half a year. No matter how you look at it, that’s a major accomplishment, especially compared to every other time I’ve tried to write every day.

I started missing days in the middle of the summer – first because we went on vacation, and then later for less compelling reasons – but I didn’t completely blow it until November.

First, however, I spent most of October working on a script. It was hard work, and I wrote a lot of pages in a fairly short amount of time. I delivered my draft at the end of the month, but I haven’t gone back to it since.

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June and July By the Numbers

If you thought my last post in this series was belated, this one takes the cake!

I just barely stuck to my writing goals in June and July. I had more than one day where I seriously considered throwing in the towel and calling the whole thing off, but I still managed to soldier on (for the most part)

We went to Palm Springs in the middle of June, right after Amy’s job ended. I gave myself permission to skip writing for those days since it was a vacation. I knew I’d have a hard time getting anything done after hanging out poolside all day, and I wasn’t wrong.

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(A Belated) May by the Numbers

Well, here it is, halfway through the month of June, and I’m just now getting around to posting about my writing progress for May. That tells you a lot about what kind of month it was, and how my writing is going in general.

The most significant thing I did last month was re-submit Ghost of a Friend after it was rejected several times. I ended up rewriting it a little bit every time I submitted, which got a little nerve-wracking after a certain point. I started worrying that my changes weren’t actually improving the story.

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April by the Numbers

April was a good month for writing. I finally managed to buckle down and finish a third draft of Ghost of a Friend, and I did it with enough time left to submit to Fireside during their open period. I worked on the newest draft in small chunks throughout April, writing 100 or 200 words here and there until I finished it in a rush of more than 1200 words at the end of the month.

I’ve wanted to submit to Fireside ever since the magazine first launched a few years ago, so I’m glad the timing worked out. My submission was one of 2,393 stories they received during the month of April, so the probability of my story getting accepted is pretty low (Duotrope says they currently have a .51% acceptance rate!), but at least I made the effort.

If my story is rejected, my plan is to submit it to all of the pro-level markets on Duotrope one by one starting with the quickest to respond. I’ve resolved to keep submitting Ghost of a Friend until it finds a home.

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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.

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Collaboration Is Key

Writing is a bit of a contradiction: the physical act of writing usually happens in solitude, but the only way to succeed at writing is through collaboration.

When I say that, I don’t just mean the sorts of collaborations where two people sit down and try to write one story. I also mean collaboration in the sense that everyone who gives you feedback or helps you brainstorm is a collaborator.

The people in your support system can be some of the most important collaborators you’ll ever have, even if the only credit they’ll ever get is in the acknowledgements or a thank you speech at an awards ceremony.

There is this romantic idea of the writer who disappears into a cabin somewhere and whips up the Great American Novel, fully formed. It’s complete bullshit.

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February by the Numbers

The second month is usually where it all falls apart. My dedication to a goal starts slipping and I start coming up with more and more reasons why I don’t actually need to keep doing it.

The last few times I’ve tried to commit to a daily writing habit, I’ve given up pretty quickly after that first month. I’m sure that one of the reasons I’ve had a hard time sticking to my goals is that I made it very easy to fail. This time around, I’ve done what I can to give myself more ways to succeed, and so far it seems to be paying off.

I had a bit of a dip in productivity in February, but I still reached a few milestones. My overall output was lower versus January, but I finished a second draft of my newest short story on February 10th. I sent it off for feedback and received some very thoughtful responses, but I haven’t actually sat down to start my next (and hopefully final) revision.

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January by the Numbers

Writing in January went pretty well overall. I started by writing a little bit of fiction every day and I eventually pulled off a streak that lasted through the end of the month.

Right near the end I decided that I needed to figure out a way to count working on an outline, because I spent that last Friday and Saturday getting ready for my screenwriting class and all of my energies were devoted to my outline instead of writing or rewriting.

I updated my spreadsheet so that I could count the hours I spent in class or working on my outline. Problem is, it feels a bit like cheating even though it’s a pretty important part of the process.

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Screenwriting Class, Round Two

I signed up for the 201 level of Tom Vaughan’s Story and Plot class a few weeks ago, and I’m really looking forward to it. The class starts next Saturday, and this time around we’re actually going to be writing script pages. I enjoyed the 101 class a lot, but it’s definitely time I started writing a script of my own instead of limiting my creative energies to short stories and The Leet World.

I have two ideas that feel like feature films, but of course I’m planning on using the idea I didn’t bring to class last time around just because I want to make things difficult for myself.

The idea I brought last time is a contained sci-fi thriller about what might happen if teleporters existed and garage inventors started tinkering with them. The problem is that I couldn’t figure out what the character arcs needed to be; it was more of a philosophical premise than an actual character-based story. I never spent the time necessary to develop it into an actual working script, but I don’t plan on abandoning it entirely. I’ll just come back to it some other time.

This time around, I’ve decided to focus on an idea that I originally thought might work best as a web series. It’s a story about a home-brewer who stumbles into a world of magical beer recipes and secret societies. I have a much clearer idea of the main character’s story arc, so I think I’ll be able to come up with a decent outline pretty quickly and start producing pages.

As for the outline, I’m using Amazon Storybuilder to create a corkboard version. I feel like I have a pretty solid first act mapped out, but I’m not sure where the script needs to go from there. I’m planning on using the rest of this week to complete the handouts from the 101 class and fill out the outline as much as possible before class begins.