This week has been a lot busier than expected, so I’ve gotten practically no writing done. Which really sucks. Or does it?
I haven’t worked on the rewrite since last week, and most likely won’t get back to it until next week. For me not to write over a 2-week gap is really something. But while this will unfortunately push back finishing the whole thing, it could also have a positive impact.
When a writer loses their focus, it really messes up their productivity. And stepping away, voluntarily or not, could actually work in your favor.
You’ve probably heard it. After you’re done writing, put the finished product in a drawer and ignore it for at least a week or two. Then when you come back to it, you’ll be seeing it with a clear head and fresh, invigorated eyes. Maybe you’ll see a problem you didn’t see before, or at least think of a way to make it stronger. Or maybe you’ll uncover the solution to a problem that’s been driving you batty.
Got my fingers crossed for those kinds of results.
I was doubly fortunate to interview two writer-directors live and in-studio on yesterday’s installment of The Script Adventurer! – Joshua Grannell and Mary Regan. Among the many subjects discussed was how each of us develop our ideas, especially in the beginning phase of building a script. (If you weren’t able to catch the show live, never fear – it will replay this Sunday at 7PM PST on radioslot.com)
While everybody has a different approach to how they put a story together, the style is usually very similar. You come up with an idea, then figure out how to develop a story around it. Some people like to come up with as many potential scenarios that could arise from that original idea. Others may choose to meticulously weave an intricate web of storylines around it. There’s also the time-honored practice of metaphorically throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks.
No matter what your style, it’s extremely important to hammer out all the kinks of your story BEFORE you start on pages. It’s a lot easier to fix a problem contained in one sentence rather than one page. This will also cut down on your frustration over having to go back and edit and/or rewrite.
Another plus is it gives you a more condensed and detailed view of your story, so it’s easier to keep track of where something happens if you need to jump back in and fix it. This way you’re not wasting time scrolling through pages trying to find that one thing you need to change.
Maybe this comes from years of focusing more on the outline first, but I’ve found that once I’m satisfied with how the outline is put together and start on pages, if I find something that needs to be fixed or I come up with a way it could be better, making those changes is a lot easier than it used to be. I suppose it’s because I already know what the point of the scene or sequence is, so I don’t have to worry about what’s supposed to happen next and can instead channel my creativity into making it stronger/more effective.
I had a great conversation with Richard Walter on yesterday’s edition of The Script Adventurer!. He was his usual entertaining, anecdote-filled self. (Missed it? Never fear – it’ll play again Sunday at 7PM PST on radioslot.com)
There were two things in particular he talked about I thought were extremely important for any screenwriter to keep in mind.
When asked what was the most important thing any writer should know, his answer was Move The Story Forward. If you have an interesting story that really flows and holds the reader’s attention, then your script is already that much more ahead of others.
Scene A should lead into Scene B, which leads to Scene C, and so on and so on. But if Scene R can fit between B and C, and not disrupt the flow, then it shouldn’t have been Scene R in the first place, or maybe R needs a serious rewrite.
The other thing was that unless you want to be part of series television, it’s not absolutely necessary to live in Los Angeles to be a screenwriter. In fact, he added that it may even be an advantage: you’re not constantly surrounded by people in the industry. I cited Nick Schenk of Minneapolis, who wrote GRAN TORINO.
A big reason for this shift in thinking is the internet. Query letters by email. Scripts attached as a pdf. A ton of resources and groups available online. I’ve connected with writers around the world via Twitter, which at times seems completely mind-blowing. I could ask for feedback on a script and get responses from just about anywhere.
With a solid script and an internet connection, there’s no stopping you.
When it rains, there are more problems out on the roadways, resulting in more work for us already heavily-burdened traffic reporters. End result – I’ve worked a lot of hours this week, so not as much time to write as I’d hoped. A couple of pages a day at best. Positive spin – nearing the end of Act Two.
Even though I’m working off an outline, sometimes a new approach to a scene will pop in. Will this work? Does it impact the scene better than the original? Is there conflict? Does it move the story forward? If it involves the main character, is he the one driving the action? (important questions all). If I can say ‘yes’ to these questions, then I give it a try. Lately, it’s been working out.
Case in point: the current sequence. The way I had it was good, but thought it could be better. I wanted to expand on it a little. Keep the tension going. What would be the most effective way to accomplish this? I came up with a few different scenarios, finally picking the one I thought worked best. The reshuffling of and minor rewriting of the involved scenes wasn’t as bad as I expected, and I liked the end result.
-My guest on The Script Adventurer! this coming Monday will be UCLA Screenwriting Dept Head Richard Walter. If you have a question you’d like to ask him, email it to me and I’ll try to ask it during the show.
-Movie of the Moment – JOHN CARTER (2012). This was not the debacle I’d been led to believe; it was actually pretty good. Although I didn’t see the need for the 3-D.
For the most part, I liked it, but some of the story details were a little confusing. I remember that from the book as well. If I really like a movie I see in the theatre, I’d consider planning ahead to get it on DVD. I didn’t get that vibe, but I’m more likely to read the book again.
I was surprised Michael Chabon had a hand in the script. I can see that, especially after the great job he did on SPIDER-MAN 2.
Disney’s marketing department completely messed up. You’d think they’d know better. A sci-fi adventure story with romantic elements. How can you not sell that?
I thought Taylor Kitsch did an okay job in the title role, but he looks too generic. A character like this needs more than just a pretty face and muscles.
My attempts to make Chinese food could be described as aspiring, but ultimately they fall short. My first-ever batch of General Tso’s Chicken? I’m pretty sure the sauce was not supposed to have the consistency of jello.
As much as I would like to be able to whip up a killer batch of chow mein, I’m just not there yet. But despite numerous almost-got-its, I keep trying. I like to think someday I’ll get it right.
Which is also how I approach writing a script.
Starting out, it was learn as you go. I made a lot of mistakes, but was able to learn from them and knew what not to do the next time. It also helped to get feedback and advice from more experienced writers. Without their guidance, my progress would have slowed significantly.
So I write as often as I can. Daily, when possible. My writing’s improved, but I’m still learning as I go. And the more I work at it, the better I’ll get. That’s the plan.
If only this could apply to my Chinese food. So until that magic day when it doesn’t suck, I’ll remain eternally grateful for take-out menus and home delivery.