Playing with exposure for some sort of zone system thing, but not working out some basic development time issues for your workflow?

Can't get there from here. You need to look at the whole flow- exposure, development, printing.

Pick a film, developer, paper. Do a 'normal' test. Seriously- do tests. Don't worry about the subject, don't spread it out over three months. Focus on this one issue and do the shooting, the developing, the printing. Get this to work. Use it for six months.

Then see where you are at.

Muddling around with a little of this, a little of that, maybe some more of this, throw this in, throw this out.... Muddle is what you will get.