There it is. The party train rolls into July, and with a snap of the fingers, half of humanity…sorry, half of 2019 is done and dusted. It’s been a funny six months, with a lot of excitement and promise mixed with a lot of stalls and stutters. I was propelled into January off the back of my first published short-story and completed first drafts for both a novel and a new screenplay. What followed was a whirlwind of meetings, talks and genuine discussions about my film and TV career that were so close to bearing real, tangible fruit that I could almost feel the juice spurting over my keyboard (I really need to stop eating kiwis at my desk, it’s the fourth time this week…).
Then it stopped.
For a number of reasons, the fruit was snatched away and projects that had garnered fresh momentum ground to a halt. Since then, there’s been some degree of waiting to see where things go, but also of evaluation to see what new routes I can explore to keep things moving forward and ensure the spark of writing fire nurtured at the beginning of the year doesn’t run out of fuel and fade away.
This is not a new feeling by any means. Across the six years I’ve been committed to screenwriting, I’ve had countless false dawns and dead ends with projects. I suppose what’s different here is that these projects don’t feel dead on the vine like some others have done; they simply feel “on hold”, and whilst in many regards that is certainly better than being dead, it adds a great deal of uncertainty which is difficult to manage at times. It doesn’t help that everything seems to come with uncertainty at the moment, from the micro-scale (little old me) to the macro (stupid fucking Brexit), but I guess the way through uncertainty is to just keep moving forward with things you can control. That might not be much, and such things may vary across different times, but there will always be something that can be pushed forward, and with a bit of luck, that something could open new doors you never knew existed…
Target Number 1: Spend a minimum of 20 hours editing my novel.
Status – ACHIEVED 😊
Last week I was quite nervous about meeting this target. I had just shy of 9hrs writing time to make up, which across the available 168 hours of a seven-day week doesn’t seem like much, but alongside preparations for another project, general life shenanigans, and my insatiable appetite for food/sleep, could potentially have been a really tight squeeze. As it turns out, I was able to set aside a couple of days to really hammer down into the story and crack on, which not only brought me up to my target of 20 hours editing, but helped me to exceed it by a couple of hours as well. The final total for June stands at 22hrs 14mins, with a lot of progress made with the story, both in terms of what appears on the page and the world that is being created to support it.
Setting a time-specific target is something that paid off well. The word-count targets I set in The Writing Journal for my first draft were excellent, and were one of the main reasons why I was able to finish the first draft as quickly as I did. With a second draft, this is a much more difficult figure to monitor as editing is not always about addition of words. Time spent at the desk, therefore, is a good substitute, particularly on days when I strictly enforced the rule that there would be no other distractions during that allotted time. Some days were more difficult to keep to this than others, largely because I’m forgetful and forgot to pause the clock if an email/chore popped up, but overall, I’m delighted to have this effective technique to fall back on with the novel to keep me going during the marathon race to the end.
Target Number 2: Write a first draft pitch document for a TV show.
Status – FAILED ☹
No surprise there! I said last week that this would be a casualty to my next targets (to be revealed below) and I’d made my peace with that. In all honesty, the target may have been too ambitious regardless of the other distractions, given how much of the show still had to be unpacked when I started out. I made a lot of progress on the idea itself, however, and I will certainly return to develop it further in the future, but for now there are other projects that need my attention more urgently, and so this project has to join the others that are currently “on hold”.
So how do kick off the second half of 2019? With a familiar friend and a jump into the unknown…
Target Number 1: Spend a minimum of 20 hours editing my novel.
The novel is in a really good place at the moment, and is a project I am genuinely excited by despite the marathon that still lies ahead. There is a fresh wave of momentum behind it, thanks to the new time targets, and whilst it hasn’t necessarily translated to page count/progress right now, it has added a lot of depth to the world, characters, and story arcs for this novel and the series I hope to establish from it. 20 hours was a challenge last month, and with a new venture to explore could be even more ambitious this time around. But these targets are here to be a challenge, and setting the bar high will help me power through.
Target Number 2: Launch my audiobook/podcast.
This is a complete leap of faith into territory I’ve never explored before. Long-time readers of the blog will know this is something I played around with earlier this year, but then parked, to work on the features that came in. It’s something that has stayed ticking over in the back of my mind ever since, and a couple of weeks ago was something that muscled its way to the fore as I contemplated what the next steps may be in getting my work out to an audience.
With the school summer holidays coming up, and several, several hours for parents to fill with entertainment for their kids, it occurred to me that it might be the ideal time to launch this kid-centric podcast, when grown-ups are most likely to be searching the interwebs for a way to get a ten minute respite from paddling pools, swingball racquets, and requests of “Are we there yet?”. I could be entirely wrong, and there are a great many ways this could end up failing spectacularly, but on the other hand it could be a good jumping off point to find a host of new paths to explore.
Both these targets could be a real challenge this month. There’s a lot that needs doing in order for the podcast to be ready in time for the holidays, which will have knock-on effects for the amount of time I have left to work on the novel. The comforting thing about both, however, is that they are both within my control, and that if I work hard at them, there could be a whole new world of opportunities to move forward with in the future.