Word Count for October 2020

I wrote a total of 9,908 words in October 2020, over two separate projects. This is up from September’s total by 7,333 words. July remains my most prolific month by a little over 700 words.

I wrote 517 words on a project that has been in my brain for many years, a comic or graphic novel, tentatively titled Cursed. In Cursed, a princess turns into a metaphor for Depression. I wrote 517 words on this project in two days. I have no idea if I will pick it up again in 2020.

The overwhelming majority of my October words came from Something Undone, formerly “Untitled Nursing Home Project”, . Something Undone is my first finished feature length script, coming in at 94 pages or 17,088 words. According to the standard of screen writing, each page should be around a minute on film, giving me an hour and a half run time.

I haven’t been this excited about a project in a few years. Something Undone really picked up steam in October. I wrote over 500 words for multiple days, ending my streak with 2134 words in one day. I experience this a lot when I finish a first draft. Once I write the emotional climax of a story, the rest falls into place with relative ease. This, coupled with a contest deadline, pushed me to finish the project on October 25th, 2020.

I am tentatively proud of Something Undone. The story itself is good. Any missteps can be corrected in the editing and revising. I have no idea what will become of the script if anything. That’s for the future. Right now, I’m just proud of the finishing, more than the story itself. I started planning the script at the end of June and finished in the last days of October, roughly four months from concept to physical script, easily the fastest turn around I’ve managed in my career. I don’t expect to repeat it any time soon.

What happens after a project is finished? In the early days of November, I’ve gone through Something Undone and fixed the most glaring practical errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation and continuity. I’m sure I missed plenty of problems. My system is to figuratively but the script in the drawer and come at it with fresh eyes in about a month. With luck, and help from my screenwriter friends, I can polish the story and create a product to shop around at festivals and contests. But that is a task for December Kate.

November is National Novel Writing Month. I will not be participating this year. I am still very much in the world of Something Undone and have no desire to court burn out by starting a large project so quickly after finishing my first feature. I’m still writing (literally, right now) but I’ll be writing with frivolity, leaping on to whatever strikes my fancy in the moment. I plan to return to Something Undone in December, and hopefully emerge with a polished feature in January or February of 2021.

Word Counts for August and September 2020

July was my most productive month of 2020, with 10620 words written across seven projects. I felt good, like I had a handle on living a creative life in the midst of a global pandemic and national unrest.

Then my word count dropped by an average of 4022 words for the next two months.

Let’s examine the data before we start making conjectures about why and how.

I wrote 6026 words in the month of August. The majority dealt with my screenplay, then known as “Untitled Nursing Home Project” with 4244 words. I ran into a fairly significant roadblock toward the end of August. The antagonist of the script is a malevolent ghost named Gertrude who can only be seen by protagonist Helen due to Helen’s recent near death experience. Helen’s loving husband, Larry, assumes that Helen’s talk of ghosts is a symptom of dementia. Gertrude delights in causing the couple strife so she had no motivation to reveal herself to Larry. I needed a way for Larry to start believing in ghosts, without completely ignoring Gertrude’s character profile. (Gertrude’s character is that she’s a bitch.) This problem stopped the script cold for several days, into the month of September.

While trying to figure out how to make a fictional Grandpa believe in ghosts, I wrote 865 words on blogs, most of which are available here, but some were deleted.

I wrote 652 words on Comedy in August, as part of an application for an internship that I did not get and don’t want to talk about. They were good words and I’m glad I wrote them, but not as glad as I would be if they’d done what they were supposed to.

I wrote 2575 words in September, entirely on the screenplay. On September 17th, I figured out how to get Larry to believe in ghosts. SPOILER ALERT: It’s more ghosts. More ghosts, different ghosts, different motivations. Ghosts whose sympathies are with the living reveal themselves to Larry, proving that Helen is sane. Once that’s settled, she and Larry can take on Gertrude.

Why did my output slow to such a degree in August and September? First, without going in to too much detail, August and September were a hard couple of months. Covid continued to affect nearly every aspect of my life, including my extended family. I remain worried about them, my friends, my finances, and my country. The irony is that I am faring better than many of the people I know. I’m young and relatively healthy, with a support system I can depend on if things get worse. Most people don’t have that. Even as my anxiety consumes me, I appreciate the stability I have.

Second, August and September were busy months. In August, I got a job and in September, I started working for it. I am now an In Home Social Service worker, helping a wonderful elderly gentleman with his day to day needs. Because the state provides my paycheck (Thank you, California), there was a mountain of paperwork and orientations to go through. Once my place was secured, I went from working whenever I could finagle it, to working six hours a day for six days a week. While the job was an absolute godsend for my finances and peace of mind, it was also an adjustment. Energy and focus that usually went to writing were, appropriately, transferred to the new job.

Most importantly, I believe I didn’t write as much in August and September because I wrote 10,000 words in July. Most of the time, writing is mentally exhausting. Long word counts require the physical ability to sit at a computer, stare at a screen, for hours on end, and/or the mental energy and focus to write quickly. More than that, writers are not just typing random words or copying from the dictionary. It takes time to come up with a story, to arrange the words in the right order to illicit the correct response in the audience and move the story forward. Due to the factors described above, I simply did not have the energy.

Word count is not the only measure of a writer. I spent a lot of August and September staring out of windows, reading books, talking to friends, and moving around in my city. These are all part of the creative process, experiencing the world around you and allowing yourself to think. It’s just very difficult to put it up on a graph.

If you’ve struggled creatively and need some extra commiseration, check out the Onion article Man Not Sure Why He Thought Most Psychologically Taxing Situation Of His Life Would Be The Thing To Make Him Productive or the Oatmeal’s Creativity is like Breathing. I hope things get better.

Word Count for July 2020

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Greetings from the abyss!

It’s always been hard for me to feel productive, even in the best of circumstances. Now that I spend most of my time confined to a three room apartment, it’s easy to lose track of what I’ve done. So I started graphing my word count by project and keeping it by my desk. It’s a good visual tool that changes everyday and encourages me to write more.

In July of 2020 I wrote 10,620 words, divided among seven projects. I did not write every day but the output was greater than either May (5904) or June. (4509).

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I wrote 3,487 words on The Lost Souls Veterinary Clinic Pilot script. Based of a short story written by my good friend and better mother, Marcia Canter, Lost Souls explores the responsibility we bare to those around us. Joe, a homeless veteran marked by addiction and loss, finds unexpected friendship with a cynical veterinarian, Rachel, and her bubbly yet social conscious receptionist, Jesse, when he brings an abandoned kitten into their office. When his dark past becomes clear, Rachel must decide if she’s able to trust him and Joe must decide if he’s worthy of redemption. I finished the pilot and added it to my writing portfolio.

I wrote 3708 words on a yet untitled film. It follows an elderly couple who discover ghosts in their assisted living facility. In these 3708 words, I finished the beat sheet and summary and began the script itself. I’m very excited to finish it.

I wrote 689 words on blogs, most of which are available on this website.

I wrote 1518 words on Comedy. Writing comedy is very different process from writing prose or even a script. In the case of stand up, I am likely the only person who will ever read it. Stand up isn’t about how words look on a page but rather how they sound out loud. I may do another blog about my stand up writing process but the cliff notes are I get an idea, try it at a few open mics and then write out the actual joke to edit and memorize. 846 words of that 1518 were on a sketch about breakfast cereal.

I wrote 782 words on Shy Turtle, which is a short story about a shy turtle and the various woodland creatures that try to make her less shy. I have no idea if anything will come of it but Shy Turtle is extremely relaxing. If you are ever stressed out, you could do worse for your mental state than researching semi aquatic animals.

I wrote 201 words on Gilded Girls, a D&D parody of the Golden Girls. Ideally it will become a comic but honestly I don’t know where, if anywhere, it will end up. It follows adventures Orcthy (a half orc warrior), B’lanche (an eleven bard), and Rose (a halfling monk) as they help Orcthy’s mother, Skullphia, (Orc mage) find a death worthy of her.

I wrote 235 words on a film outline tentatively titled Defarge. In a list that includes a D&D parody of the Golden Girls, Defarge is still the nerdiest thing I’m working on. It’s an epic film following the life of Therese Defarge, the main antagonist in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Madame Defarge has fascinated me since I read the novel in summer 2017. Obsessed with revenge at any cost, she is easily the most interesting woman Dickens ever wrote, possibly the most interesting character. I want to explore more of her life before and during the French revolution, to see the moments she embraced or turned away from her ultimate humanity before totally embracing her role as the villain.

I tend to write where the wind takes me, unless I’m working with a professional deadline. I can often go months without writing on a particular project, if I don’t abandon it all together. Blogs and Comedy are broad enough subjects that I usually write on them every month. Lost Souls is finished for the moment. The untitled film currently holds the highest August word count. Gilded Girls make take a back burner since I wasn’t particularly inspired in July and Defarge is still too new to get my full attention. We’ll see what August brings.