If you are using variable contrast paper instead of making one exposure through a single filter of the correct grade you can make two exposures
without a filter and
with the filter at the other end of the scale
If you burn in and hold back different in the two exposures then one can get more control.
While you figure out how to do this to your satisfaction one can use up a box and it is real difficult to make enough notes.
If you are burning in you do need to stay away from 'white areas', try using two masks.
P.S. it is real difficult to get a print the way you want it.