Cue the cartoon Disney animals!

You know that feeling when you come up with a story idea you can’t wait to jump into, and then when you actually do, writing it is even better than you could have possibly imagined?  Almost as if the physical act of writing is no longer a chore-like slog, but has become a thrilling way of putting the excitement of your imagination right there on the page?

That’s exactly what’s happening now as I turn my western outline into a script.

I’ve been doing my best to stick to the at-least-1-page-a-day method, and so far, it’s been working out nicely. Going into yesterday, I was on the verge of getting to page 3, but made it to almost the end of page 4 courtesy of bringing my laptop to V’s soccer practice.  It was also cool to completely revamp the scene’s ending totally on the fly. I like when the creativeness kicks in like that.

(Working in a public space is becoming so much more productive. Good thing there are lots of coffee shops and cafes in our neighborhood.)

It’s really hard to describe how jazzed I am about writing this.  I don’t know if it’s the love of the genre, or letting my enjoyment of pulp-y adventure shine through, or just plain having fun with it. Maybe it’s a little of everything.  Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade this feeling for anything.

How powerful is this positive sensation? Not only am I not even acknowledging that internal voice of self-doubt and naysaying, but if it were possible, I’d send everybody a piece of my homemade pecan pie just to make their day a little brighter.  Trust me. That’s saying something.

Of course, I’m not completely oblivious to reality. This thing is going to need some major work when the first draft is finished. There will most likely be all sorts of details that need to be fixed, ranging from story to characters to historical accuracy.

But I don’t care about any of that right now. I’m really enjoying this and want to keep that feeling going as long as possible.

It’s also my hope that my enthusiasm comes across on the page, which would make it that much more fun a read for somebody else.  Who wouldn’t appreciate becoming engrossed in a rousing tale of adventure?

-The Oscars. Since we have Apple TV, the show wasn’t streamed live (unless we wanted to subscribe to a service we’ll never need or buy a useless product) so we couldn’t watch it, but were able to hear the audio. Hopefully the Academy and the networks will accept that live streaming is an inevitable part of the future and make the appropriate changes. Probably not, but one can hope.

Regarding the awards the awards themselves, nothing too surprising except for how well LIFE OF PI did. Guess I’ll actually have to see it now, along with most of the other BP nominees.

-Movie of the Moment – DREDD (2012). I’m familiar with the comic, and this was a much stronger adaptation of it than the Stallone version. Karl Urban was a great fit for the lead.

In terms of plot, if you enjoyed THE RAID: REDEMPTION, you’ll like this. The same concept, more or less, but with less martial arts and more whiz-bang special effects. Overall, not a bad way to spend 92 minutes.

Yet another go-round on this neverending rollercoaster

Ups, downs, twists and turns. It's all part of the process...
Ups, downs, twists and turns. It’s all part of the process…

Yesterday was…eventful. Almost like condensing my establishing a career in screenwriting into a single day.

Good: somebody actually downloaded DREAMSHIP from the Black List!  Nice, especially since it entered double-digit basic views a couple of days ago. Hoping to get a professional review sometime in March.

Not-so-good: a manager who read the script passed, claiming “while I enjoyed the read and did think it was well-written, I just couldn’t get excited enough about it to warrant taking on a new client or project right now.”  I’m still not sure exactly how to interpret this, but it still boils down to “thanks, but no thanks.” Oh well. C’est la vie.

(Gotta admit it’s somewhat of a silver lining that just about all of the rejections from those who read the script mentioned how much they liked it.  Just not enough to take it to the next step.)

So what now?

Easy. Spend a few moments feeling sorry for myself, put it behind me and soldier on to the category labeled “Promising,” in the form of  the overwhelming need to start on pages for the western.

The only way I could feel better was to write.  Doesn’t matter if the outline’s not 100 percent. I HAD to do this; not only as a form of catharsis but to feel like I was actually moving ahead and remind myself of the potential awesomeness of this story.

So I did. It was only half a page. Nothing fantastic, but at least it was something.

(just wondering – are you still supposed to write ‘FADE IN’? I’ve heard both yes and no.)

It’s been quite a while since I started a new script. Any writer will reinforce the concept of nothing as intimidating or challenging as a blank white screen, with that little blinking cursor just sitting there, ready to spring into action.

The key is to keep the cursor moving.  Which is exactly my plan.

The awesomeness comes later.

A world of my own design OR Atlas, schmatlas

The land is mine to manipulate as I see fit. So there.
This land is mine to manipulate as I see fit.  So there.

Making some good progress on the western outline. This “working at least 30 minutes a day” thing has really moved things along; actually much faster than originally anticipated. Give it a try if you haven’t already.

Sure, there are still some small details here and there that need to be hammered out, but for the most part the majority of the story is pretty close to being done.

When I started this, I wanted to make it as realistic as possible (or at least as much as a story about a female train engineer in the Old West can be), and that included using real geographic settings.  I wanted the fort here, the showdown here, etc.

But that just raised more questions. If the fort’s here, how far is it to this other point, and how fast would the train have to go in order to get there, and could trains go that fast during that time, and was there even a rail line between those two points?

This was becoming way more complicated than it had to be. I want to tell a story, not set up a math word problem.

So as I was going back and forth between the new and previous drafts, it dawned on me: I can just make stuff up, including where things happen.

I’m the writer. I’m allowed to do that.

So out went locations that actually exist, and in came totally fabricated ones (yet another benefit to all those years of listening to old-time radio westerns).

The feeling’s quite liberating. No longer do I have to worry about making sure every single detail is spot-on accurate, and can now focus on developing a rousing tale of adventure populated with colorful characters.

Which is how it should be.

-Major crisis narrowly averted! I’d lost a flash drive with a lot of script stuff on it. Only during the DREAMSHIP rewrite did I start making additional copies onto my hard drive, so a lot of projects I’d started before that were apparently gone forever.

I did a fairly good job of masking my pain, but was internally kicking myself for not having more backups (20/20 hindsight and all that).

Happy ending – K found the flash drive. Lesson learned – I’m in the process of saving everything on Google Docs so I never have to panic like that again.

You’re probably thinking “that’ll never happen to me. I’m always careful.” I used to think that too. Now it’s all about taking extra precautions.

-Movie of the Moment – FRANKENWEENIE (2012). A lot of fun that cleverly pays homage to classic monster movies. Parental advisory – V cried when the dog was killed (done very tastefully offscreen)

Warning! Contents approaching levels of overstuffedness!

Why this man isn't a megastar is beyond all comprehension
Why this man isn’t a megastar is beyond all comprehension

This past Saturday night, K and I got to attend an extra-special screening of that beloved classic film: Sam Raimi’s ARMY OF DARKNESS.

Part of what made it extra-special was that before the show, there was a live, onstage Q&A with the film’s star, the immortal Bruce Campbell.  Icing on the cake – Patton Oswalt was the interviewer. Yes, it was fantastic as bon mots were liberally tossed about, audience questions were handled with severe aplomb and a rousing good time was had by all.

Then the movie started.

We’d never seen it on the big screen, which definitely makes it that much more of an enjoyable experience.

If you haven’t seen it, make a point of doing so.  It’s silly fun and clocks in at an amazing 81 minutes, including credits.  That may sound short, but writers Sam and Ivan Raimi really jam a lot into it. There’s no fat, every scene serves a purpose AND advances the story. Earlier drafts and certain scenes may have been longer, but they kept what was necessary to effectively tell the story.

I was reminded about this important rule this week as I worked on my outline. While a lot’s going on in the story, there are still things I need to include (mostly subplot stuff). What I have to be careful about is making sure there’s not too much going on.  You want to engage the reader/viewer and keep things moving; not make them feel like this is a slog they wish they didn’t have to endure.

For now, the best strategy is to keep pushing forward and make sure the story and characters are solid.  Once I’m confident that’s been accomplished, it shouldn’t be too much of an ordeal to go back and trim the fat (since I always put in more detail than I probably should during the outlining phase).

Look at it this way: nobody wants to read a bloated script. Specs over 120 pages better be incredible to warrant that kind of page length.

Go through your pages. You may be reluctant to edit them down, but it must be done. Once you get started, streamlining is easier than you think, and it also gives you the chance to flex those creative muscles. Find a way to say something in less words.  You can do it.

You’ll be surprised and possibly even impressed with the end result.

Don’t mind me. I’m just regrouping.

Cut a little slice out of each day for creativeness (and done literally, you get pie!)
Cut a little slice out of each day for creativeness (bonus – pie while you work!)

Remember that New Year’s resolution you made about being more diligent and really sticking to a writing schedule and how you were going to be super-productive in 2013?  How’s that working out for you so far?

Well, here it is almost the middle of February and what does yours truly have to show for it, script-wise?

Zilch. Zip. Nada. The proverbial big fat goose egg and other colorful metaphors.

An outline with barely any dents in it and podcasting equipment that’s been taken out of the box twice.  How am I supposed to move ahead when I feel like I’m standing still? Not acceptable!

I could claim that most of January was focused on the query letters, but that’s kind of a lame excuse.  There’s no reason I (or any writer, for that matter) shouldn’t be able to set aside at least 30 minutes a day to work on something. Anything.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve got that constantly-burning fire inside you that makes you want to write, create or produce something, and when you aren’t able to do that, you feel like you’re taking a step backward.

So consider the reset button officially pushed.  Let’s call this my New Year’s Resolution, Take 2.

I will do my best to try and accomplish at least one important thing each day for both script and podcast.  To be fair, there will be days where circumstances are just beyond my control and nothing will happen. It’s inevitable, and I accept that.

But the rest of the time – no excuses.

-Movie of the Moment. Not necessarily a movie, but a rediscovered treasure.  All 5 seasons of ROCKY & BULLWINKLE on Hulu Plus. Want to see countless examples of smart and hilarious writing in action?

Bullwinkle and a general watch helplessly as a missile takes off with Rocky strapped to it.

GENERAL: That squirrel is headed straight for Washington!

BULLWINKLE: Do you think he can carry the farm vote?

Look no further, my friends.