Odds, ends & everything in-between

A little of everything for all tastes
A little of everything for all tastes

It’s spring break this week, so script progress has been somewhat limited, but at least it’s still happening.  In the meantime…

-Had an unusual case of writer’s block yesterday. Scene notes in the outline had the main character asking something completely out of the blue, and I didn’t want that. Just couldn’t fix it, so rather than sit and stew in frustration, I stepped away. Potential solutions have been brewing ever since.

-Been reading some great material from assorted gurus – check out recent scribblings from Lee Jessup, Erik Bork and Michele Wallerstein. Each has some info and comments worth hearing.

-For all my fellow Passover celebrants, do NOT be misled by the way Manischewitz portrays its products on the packaging. Just about every one of their items tastes the same, no matter what it looks like. Trust me on this one.

-Seriously considering entering DREAMSHIP in the Tracking Board’s Launchpad contest. deadline is Sunday night. Details here.

-2nd year in a row of not being able to attend Wondercon this weekend in Anaheim. It’s usually here, but the idiots who run the venue can’t get their act together so it’s down in SoCal again. Hope fading it’ll return for 2014.

-Movie of the Moment:  Since it’s spring break, V and I had a double feature yesterday.  First up was OZ THE GREAT & POWERFUL (2013). Liked it, but didn’t love it. Thought it felt kind of sluggish in parts.

And you know how an antagonist’s goal is supposed to be contrary to that of the protagonist?  Didn’t really get that here. If they really wanted to stop Oz, wouldn’t they have been more active, rather than just sitting around?

Still, nice to see Sam Raimi include Bruce Campbell’s obligatory cameo, and I think I figured out where the 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 made its appearance (courtesy of a teaser from Campbell himself at a personal appearance a few weeks ago).

-Second movie was JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (2012)  Never saw the first film – JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, but this looked like something V would like, and she did. Family-friendly Disney-esque adventure with some honest laughs (courtesy of Dwayne Johnson and Luis Guzman). Not a bad choice for family movie night.

-As always, what are you working on this weekend?

Mistakes were made

How could I let this happen?
Hurts for now, but I’ll bounce back

Don’t you just hate when you mess up, especially when it’s something entirely under your control and you really should have just known better in the first place?

That was exactly the case for me running the Oakland Half-marathon this past Sunday. I started out with lofty expectations of potentially surpassing the much-desired goal of 1:55, but poor choices did me in before I crossed the starting line.  Details aren’t important, but I messed up on several fronts and the results weren’t pretty.

2:01:10*. Ugh.

*I know some people would think this is still good, but not when you set certain expectations for yourself.*

I’m not making excuses for my performance, but after the obligatory beating myself up over it, I’ve already started figuring out what I did wrong and what I need to do for next time, which for now is in mid-June.

Taking a look at it from the writing perspective, imagine you had a script you were all fired up about and sent it to a contest, potential rep or producer. Then you realize there were a lot of mistakes still in it.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to fix it and will just have to chalk this up to experience.  The benefit of making mistakes is learning from them and making sure they don’t happen again.

You work harder and harder so next time, that script will be more than ready.

You’ll double- and triple-check that thing, taking as many precautions as you can to make sure it’s as rock-solid as possible.

Remember, writing a script isn’t a short run; it’s a marathon (or a half-marathon for some of us). It’ll take a long time to work your way up to getting through it.

So keep at it, no matter how exhausted you feel, and the finish line will be that much closer.

My, how you’ve grown!

I assure you everything is under control
Despite how it may look, I assure you everything is under control

I wouldn’t say the first draft is becoming bigger than I could have possibly imagined, but when a scene in the outline is 1-2 sentences, and it takes 2-3 pages to properly execute it, then chances are pretty good that overall page length is something to keep an eye on.

Fortunately, this is a first draft, so the primary goal for now is just working through the story and putting it all on the page. At the rate I’m going, I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing hits around 150.

Not an issue for a high-profile pro, but way too much for somebody like you or me.  Would you want to read a potential 2-1/2-hour spec? Me either.

This is another item added to the mental scene checklist  – on top of everything else, can this scene be written as short as possible and still do what it has to? (moving the story ahead, character development, etc.)

Take a look at this post by John August from 2007, which has also been turned into a very useful infographic every writer should print out and keep near their workspace.

I’ll worry about the numerous edits and changes that will no doubt be necessary later.

For now, I’m focusing on reaching the finish line, page length be damned (but still kept in mind).

The subconscious storyteller does it again!

How could I have missed that?
How could I have missed that?

When I start a new story, one of the first things I do is figure out the major plot points – statement of theme on page 3 (or at least thereabouts), inciting incident on page 10, and so on.  After that, it’s coming up with the most effective way to get from one to the next.  It’s how I’ve always done it, and it works for me.

One of the key purposes of the end of your first act is to get your hero off on their journey. This includes raising the central question of your story – will the hero accomplish their goal?  For example, in STAR WARS it’s the scene after Luke discovers the smoldering corpses of his aunt and uncle. He tells Ben he wants to go with him to Alderaan, learn the ways of the Jedi, etc.

Since I’d started working on my western outline, a lot of the plot points were pretty firmly established. I knew what I wanted to happen and when. For the most part, they’ve stayed the same this whole time.

I filled in the gaps between those points with scenes and sequences that I felt did the best job of moving the story forward, including some that needed to have the proper amount of emotional gravitas.

Jump ahead to the present. The churning-out of pages continues. Some scenes are easier to write than others, but progress is constant.  I work my way through Act One, wrapping it up with a sequence that really changes things around.

But then I realized Act One really ends in the scene right before it.  This short, dialogue-free scene still moves the story forward, but has a more significant impact on the story itself – moreso than the rousing sequence that follows.  The hero’s situation completely changes direction, and you can’t help but wonder how she could possibly accomplish her goal after this. No matter what, her situation is going to get worse before it gets better.

Working all of this out during the outline stage was a huge benefit. It seems very doubtful I would have discovered this if I had just dashed off a quick outline and dove into pages. Further proof why it’s important to take your time and fine-tune your outline.

So now I’m a few pages into Act Two and as this sequence kicks in, things get changed up even further.  Only negative that came to light: my hero isn’t the one making things happen. She has to be more active and less reactive.  I may spend a little time on it now, or come back to it during the rewrite.

And if I’ve done a good enough job on developing this outline, the answer may already be right there in front of me again.

I just don’t know it yet.

All work and no play, etc….

Avoiding the obvious SHINING reference
Wanted to avoid the obvious reference to THE SHINING

About 2 1/2 weeks into this first draft. Page count somewhere in the low 30s, and getting ready to dive into a big action-packed sequence to wrap up Act One.

Not too bad.

Cranking out pages is anything but exhausting, especially when you’re enjoying it.  Which I definitely am.  I’ve been able to set aside time to write just about every day, and really like how it’s worked out.

But even though I won’t make any progress if I don’t write, sometimes a little break is kind of necessary. I actually don’t mind spending some time NOT writing.  Blasphemy, I know, but think of it as recharging one’s creative batteries, for lack of a better metaphor.

(Besides, probably like almost every other writer, even when I may not be physically engaged in the act of writing, it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about the project. Which I always am.)

Another important part of this is not to feel guilty about it.  There’s no need. Better to step away from the laptop than to sit there and actually feel your brain cells burning out.  We’ve all been there.

As long as you know you’ll throw yourself back into the grind in the near future.

So today, during that short stretch of free time I would usually set aside for writing, chances are I’ll most likely crash on the couch and finally watch another episode of that show I’ve been meaning to watch, or happily exercise my reflexes and hand-eye coordination playing video games. Maybe even a nap somewhere in there.  All these choices!  The mind reels!

That’s today. Tomorrow – back to work.