Should of known better

I admit it. I’m a fiend when it comes to spelling.

It drives me crazy when I’m reading somebody’s script and find a misspelled word, especially if it’s something used on an everyday basis.

I can understand making a mistake with a 25-cent word more likely to be found in the SATs, but ‘their’ instead of ‘there’? Or ‘lose’ and ‘loose’?

Yeah, spellcheck is a handy resource, but it doesn’t know what you’re trying to say.  You’re going to have to rely on that eye-brain connection to see you through.

Not the strongest speller? Consider an extra tab/window on your screen featuring, just to be on the safe side.

Don’t trust yourself? Find somebody you do, making sure to offer some kind of reciprocation in gratitude.

The industry is always looking for a reason, no matter how insignificant, to say ‘no’ to your script. Maybe they’re willing to overlook one misspelling out of the whole thing, but you better have a kickass script to begin with.

The more mistakes they find (spelling and otherwise), the more likely your script is toast.

Misspelling not only makes your script look bad, it makes you look bad. It shows you may not be taking this as seriously as you should.

Just to put it in perspective: a friend sends you their script, but you find at least four spelling errors in the first 10 pages. The rest of it probably looks like this as well. Would you want to keep reading?

-Movie of the Moment – A MONSTER IN PARIS (2011) An absolute charmer of an animated film.  Take elements of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, KING KONG and slapstick comedy, set it in 1910 Paris, add music, and this is what you get.

Looks like my get-up-and-go has got up and went

Everybody feels like this sometimes; today just happens to be my turn.
Amazingly, not as comfy as you’d think

I’m up to page 80 of the first draft, with maybe 2-3 pages to go to hit that next major plot point, which would put me approximately 7-8 pages over. Not necessarily too bad.

But there have been times lately, especially in the past few weeks, when writing feels more like work, which it really shouldn’t.

I’m not going to call it burnout, but it feels mighty close to that. Call it the writer’s equivalent of battle fatigue.

I don’t like it, and what bothers me more is the why.

Maybe it’s from not exercising as much, so my energy levels are down. On the other hand, I did two 13-mile runs in just under a week, so maybe I’ve exhausted myself.

Or maybe it’s psychological.  The ever-present concern whether people will like the end result is shaking my confidence, which makes it hard to focus.

A lot of writers say they write because they can’t imagine doing anything else. I agree, but what do you do when it’s tough to actually write?

It’s not writer’s block. I know the material. And it’s not motivation. Believe me, I really want to get this done.

The biggest drawback to all of this is if I’m not mentally jazzed about writing, the writing’s going to reflect that.

I could have an incredibly thrilling action sequence ready to go, but it might read as sluggish, listless or, god forbid, lazy.

It’s one thing to say to yourself “Keep going! You can do it!” It’s another to actually put those words into effect.

-Movie of the Moment – MAN OF STEEL (2013) Talk about tired and listless. How can a movie about Superman feel so empty? The special effects were impressive – I’d expect nothing less – but in terms of story and characters, I was very disappointed there wasn’t more of a sense of fun to it.

A friend says they were following the Nolan/DARK KNIGHT model and going for dark and brooding, which is what Batman’s all about anyway.

For a character with the nickname of the Big Blue Boy Scout, ‘dark and brooding’ isn’t exactly what comes to mind.

V and I saw it, and there were a few times she asked “Is it almost over?” This is a child who really enjoys a good comic book movie, and she’s known about Superman since she was really little, so when she asks that, you know it’s not a good sign.

Make that sprawling epic a little less so

There can be such a thing as too much
There can be such a thing as too much

An underrated bonus of working on a first draft is having the freedom to put in just about anything you think will work (provided, of course, it advances the plot, story and character development).

There will be the inevitable edits and rewrites afterward, but this is your chance to take that outline and really build on it.

But it’s also easy to overdo it.

All that witty dialogue, intricate scene descriptions or clever subplot you just thought up can quickly add up without you realizing it, and suddenly your tight, compact story has become a bloated, overstuffed mess.

Scripts usually run 90-120 pages – one page equals one minute of screen time. Does yours fall somewhere in that range? Anything more or less, and you’ve got some work to do.

If you ask somebody to read your script, one of the first things they’ll do is check out how long it is. 97 pages? Cool. 137? Unless you’re an award-winning filmmaker, not so cool.

“But there’s nothing I can cut!” you exclaim.

Wanna bet?

Once you’re done with your current draft, don’t look at it for at least a week; two would be better. Put it away and walk away. Focus on something else.

Then come back and just read it.  No editing, just reading.  Still think there’s nothing you can do with it?

Now the fun begins.  Go through it and really scrutinize each scene.

Is it absolutely crucial to the story? If so, can it be shorter?

All that great stuff you came up with on the fly – does it still work?

It may be tough at first to kill all those darlings, but more than likely, you won’t even miss them after they’re gone.

If you want to be a better writer, you have to learn how to not let your ego and emotions dictate your edits. In the end, both your script and writing skills will be the better for it.

Deterred? Me? Never!

Just...a little...farther...
Just…a little…farther…

And so another half-marathon has come and gone, along with my latest attempt to break the much-desired time of 1:55.

This time it was the SF WiPro on Sunday morning. There was a lot more uphill along the course than I expected, but I’m proud to say I didn’t stop on any of them.

End time: 1:57:28, for a pace of 8:58, which is actually pretty good for me. And taking all that uphill into consideration, it ain’t too shabby. It gives me confidence of how I could do on an entirely/mostly flat course.

Was I disappointed about still not hitting my personal best? Sure, but it’s in the past and now I can look ahead and get ready for my next race in August.  I’ll do my best for that one and see what happens. If I beat 1:55, great; if not, there’s yet another race in October.

For me, training for and running in these races is a lot like working on a script. I work at it when I can. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it isn’t. It’s a tremendous effort that takes a lot of dedication and commitment, and success does not come easily or quickly.  However, the payoff for when it does go well can be extremely gratifying.

Most importantly, no matter how hard things may seem, or how much I feel like giving up, I keep going.

Every single time I put myself out there, either for a race or a script competition, it’s a challenge to myself to do better than the last time. If I don’t get the results I’d hoped for, the next step is to figure out how I can improve.

I like to think I’ll eventually break 1:55, and my writing situation has been steadily improving, both in terms of skill and career development.

It’s been a long, tough effort, but my proverbial finish line is somewhere out there. It just takes a while to reach it.

-Movie of the Moment – ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012) It sucked.

Saying more with less

The digital version of this is inevitable
The digital version of this is inevitable

Logline and synopsis update!

Just some minor tweaking of the logline, and the synopsis is “good, but too long.” Could I maybe tighten it up, and how about ending with a cliffhanger?

You mean after spending so much time delicately crafting everything so it all flowed smoothly, I’m supposed to just go in and hack it all up?

Exactly.  Streamline what I already have, cut the non-essentials, and focus solely on the main storyline.

This was challenging, but it had to be done (and could potentially help me get over my dislike of writing a synopsis in the first place)

I worked my way through it and ended up with a tighter, better version, including a double cliffhanger.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard was during a workshop with UCLA’s Richard Walter:

Write as if ink costs a thousand dollars an ounce.

Which are you more likely to want to read? A script with lots of white space on the page, or one with big, black blocks of dialogue and action lines?

It’s not enough to have a well-crafted story. You want the words and pages to really move, and a minimal amount of text can help make that happen.

Go through that scene you just finished. Figure out how to shorten it, keeping only what’s necessary.

Don’t think anything can be cut? Look again. Adverbs and prepositional phrases are good places to start.

You want the reading experience to be a breeze, not a slog. Too many words can do that.

-Finally attempted the Great Baklava Experiment. Apart from somewhat time-consuming and working with phyllo dough, not as difficult as I thought.  Maybe a little too much sauce, which is probably better than not enough.

Overall, consider it a success.

Now to figure out what to make next.