Success And Failure

Last month, depending on how you want to look at it from a writer’s perspective, was either a complete failure or a fair success. I say fair because a rousing success would have been fairly easy to spot, and this wasn’t it.

I set out to do a few things. First, since it was April, I wanted to write a 100 page script for Script Frenzy. Failed. I made it to 84 with a massive effort on the last day but it was too little too late. I started off well, but got sidetracked on other things and never crossed the finish line. However, I also wanted to take the script I’d attempted last year and rework the story to make it more coherent, and I wanted to learn more about writing for comics. I definitely did both those things, so I’m calling Script Frenzy a success from a writer development perspective, even though I never hit the ultimate milestone.

I also wanted to write a new short story. I’d been in a bit of a funk, and I had an idea for a new story which would be ridiculous and unsellable, but fun. A sort of writerly palate cleanser. It ended up being a lot longer than anticipated, but I managed to finish it, and I even managed to finish a from-scratch second draft. I’ll call that a complete success, even though I know the silly thing still needs a lot more time being polished before it’s useful. Also, a couple of days after I finished it, I saw a paying market open for subscriptions asking for precisely the type of story I’d just finished. If I can put the right polish on it, it might not be unsellable after all.

The last thing I really wanted to do was to catch up a little bit on my word count for the year. On January 1st, I’d set myself a goal of 1,000000 words for this year. I knew going into it that it was going to be very difficult, bordering on the impossible, based on my average pace. I knew I could do 50,000 in a month (I’ve done it for Nanowrimo), but that’s always been a not-to-difficult target to reach. Figuring that at that pace and with some extra time and focus, I should be able to put down more words per month than that, I decided to raise the bar and make every month a write-like-crazy month. I haven’t made my target in any single month up to April 1st, and so in order to hit a million word by the end of the year, I needed to start hitting a monthly pace approaching 100,000 words. I was hoping that this month I would make my monthly target and get in a few thousand extra to do some catching up and it didn’t happen. I wanted to write 85,000 words this month but only managed a touch above 66,000. I’ll call that a partial success. It’s a failure target-wise, but it’s definitely the most number of words I’ve put down in any month in my life, so I’m pretty happy with it. Now I have to do better. And do it again.

So what kept my pace down?

1.) Time. Not so much the lack of writing time, because I’ve been pretty good about finding and setting aside writing time. I could spend more time writing but it would start to take away from other things. I have a day job, I have a family, I have a house to maintain. I’ve learned that, unfortunately, I do need more than five hours of sleep. I’m getting old. Also, I need to do fun things every once in a while. I’ve been fairly disciplined about putting writing before gaming, but I also don’t want to become a hermit. I don’t think the extra one night a week where I choose to spend time with friends is going to make or break my writing career, but not ever taking that one night a week might just cost me some friends in the long run, and it would cost me my sanity. Probably in the very short run… What I really need to do is make better use of the writing time I do have, which brings us to…

2.) This absolute stain of a netbook which I’ve been writing on for the last few months. I bought it for several reasons. First, my laptop was dying and I needed something portable to write on. Second, I didn’t have a lot of cash. Third, I needed something light, portable, with a good battery life. The netbook seemed like a good compromise. It wasn’t expensive (About $200 Canadian), it had an 8-hour battery life, and it had low specs, but since I don’t play games on it I figured I’d be fine. All I really need is a wireless connection, a working browser, and Scrivener. I figured the netbook would meet those needs. Boy was I wrong. The 1 gig of RAM limitation is absolute murder. If I have two things open (say, Scrivener and a browser with 5 tabs open – not unreasonable these days), it takes several seconds to Alt-Tab from one application to the other. It takes several seconds to move from one tab in a web browser to another. Just before launching myself into this post, I launched Scrivener and LibreOffice to get to my writing spreadsheet, and it took so long that I had time to halfway empty my dishwasher and put the stuff away. It’s so slow that it affects my writing time, and it’s so slow that it’s frustrating to use so it makes me angry, which also doesn’t help my writing. Also, I’ve never been a particularly fast typist (I’m good, but I don’t blaze) and the adjustment to the smaller keyboard has been killer. Not only has it slowed me down, but it’s made it easier for me to make mistakes. Especially when I’m tired and my fingers start going on autopilot, I can make a typo every five or six words, which means I have to go back and fix them, which slows me down. Using this netbook might be so bad as to cut my word output by 25%, but I’d have to test it scientifically and I don’t bloody feel like it. Anyways, I’d always intended for this machine to be a temporary measure to tide me over until I got a new laptop, and possibly to serve as a travel computer, but the sooner I get a real laptop under my fingers, the better.

3.) The last thing that really slowed me down was Script Frenzy. Words flow much more slowly when I’m writing a script. Probably it’s due to all the formatting and the negotiating of white space, which breaks my flow of thought constantly. On the nights where I was working on the script, I’d find it much harder to hit my word count total. not forcing myself to write a graphic novel script will probably go a long way toward my making my targets more often.

As I go back and re-read this, it seems like a long-assed post, so I’m going to kill it here. But yes, some successes, some failures, some room for improvement. Life goes on.

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