Wanted: wonder, fun & excitement

Seeking this kind of vibe
Seeking this kind of vibe

This was parent-teacher conference week, so my after-school parenting schedule was shaken up a bit. As a result, not as much time to work on the mystery spec rewrite.

So in an attempt to make the most of my limited time, and without my laptop with me, I opted to tinker with the outline for the monster spec.

Like any good writer, I had my ever-present notebook and story notes with me. Seriously.  I keep them in my bag for just such a situation.

The first act is really coming together, with most of the focus now on working out the details of the gaps between the plot points of Act Two. And as happened before, I’m having a blast.

At its heart, this story is a pure pulp adventure, which is exactly the mood I’m going for. Grab you from page one and not let go as it gains momentum from there on, building and building until finally culminating in a jaw-droppingly amazing, can’t-believe-I-just-saw-that finale.

Simply put, my objective is to create a simple-yet-solid story with three-dimensional characters, using the spectacle aspect as support that keeps things interesting.

Similar to how it was with the western, I’m a huge fan of the genre and know what I as a member of the audience would want to see. I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel here; just tell a fun story. Hopefully my appreciation and knowledge of this kind of material will come through on the page.

What it really boils down to is the more I can make this a smart and exciting thrill ride, the better.

As I work out the story details, I’m keeping this in mind: If there was a free-of-plot-details trailer for this, you’d be overwhelmingly compelled to want to see it.  (Sort of what they’ve done for GODZILLA and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.)

Getting ready for the next go-round

Hang on! We're going back to almost where we just were!
Hang on! We’re going back to almost where we just were!

The previous draft of the mystery spec was a nice round 100 pages. As this rewrite continues, I just hit page 90 and I’m still in the last quarter of Act 2, so there’s probably somewhere around 20-30 pages left.

Not too bad, and as I move ahead, I’m already thinking about what needs to be fixed in the rewrite after this.

The constant question during initial writing and each subsequent rewrite is always “How can I make this better?”

Even as I crank out pages, the wheels are already turning as to what changes and improvements to implement.  Honestly, sometimes it’s a little dizzying trying to keep track of everything.

This is just a part of the whole process, but it seems to get a little easier with each rewrite.

-Contest news update! The western has been submitted to the PAGE and the Nicholl, with maybe 2-3 more targeted for later in the year.

Fingers, as always, firmly crossed.

In the meantime, focus has switched back to the current ongoing projects because the arsenal must continue to build and it’s never too early to get ready for next year.

Time once again for…

Okay, class. Who's got stuff to talk about?
Okay, class. Who’s got stuff to talk about?

…the much-anticipated Project Status Update!

So simple, anyone can do it in just two easy steps!

Here’s how it works:

1. What you’re currently working on
2. How it’s going

I’ll start the ball rolling.

1. A rewrite of my mystery spec.
2. I’m up to page 82, which places it in the latter half of Act 2. This includes the realization that my “page 75” plot point has changed, but still works.

See? No sweat. Give it a try.

And continuing with the theme of something not seen in a while…

-Movie of the Moment. THE LONE RANGER (2013). Yep. Finally.

It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. My biggest complaint was that there was just way too much going on. I’m all for an epic western, but this felt like they were trying to jam in as many cliches as possible. They could have totally removed at least two supporting characters and the inane “1933 Tonto telling a story” scenes.

It really seemed like it couldn’t decide what kind of story it wanted to be. Slapstick comedy? Buddy picture? Drama with touches of gore? All these and more on display.

One of the first rules in screenwriting is to make the audience want to root for your main character, which unfortunately doesn’t happen here. I actually thought Armie Hammer was a good choice to play the part, but the material was all wrong. Yes, he’s adapting to the ways of the frontier, but for crying out loud, this is the LONE RANGER. You do not make him a naive doofus.

Regarding Johnny Depp as Tonto, Graham Elwood of the Comedy Film Nerds podcast summed it up perfectly: The name of the movie is THE LONE RANGER, not JACK SPARROW GOES WEST.

One can only hope that the failure of this film will not once again stop the resurgence of the western.

Their opinion (singular) vs their opinion (plural)

Anybody else have something to say?
Anybody else have something to say?

When you get feedback on your work, you have the luxury of being able to pick and choose which comments and suggestions you’re going to use, and disregarding the rest.

It’s only one person’s thoughts, right? Maybe there’s a worthwhile nugget or two in there.

But what if more than one person makes the same comment?  If those folks mentioned it, it might be likely more are going to as well.

Take a look at what they’re saying. Can you understand why they said it, and more importantly, what can you do to fix it?

Such was the case for a pivotal plot point in my western spec. At least three people asked “Why does this character do this?”

Each claimed it didn’t make sense and felt contrived, like it was happening because the story needed it to, rather than being set up organically.

If one person had said this, I would have thought “Maybe I’ll take a look at it.”  After the second and third piped in, it quickly changed to “How can I fix this?”

It took some work (mostly with the dialogue) to set things right, so not only does this character now feel more fleshed out, but their actions come across as more believable, there’s more conflict between them and the main character, and the flow of the story is smoother.

A writer’s ego is already a sensitive thing, but what’s more important? Thinking your work is perfect as is and doesn’t need any changes, or being willing to make those changes to make it better?

Maybe it’s a little fix or maybe it requires a major overhaul. No matter what, you’ve got some work to do.

Here’s to our biggest fans

Couldn't do this without you
Couldn’t do this without you

Even though writing is primarily a solitary activity, there are often times when we just can’t go it alone.

Friends and trusted colleagues can only take us so far. The rest of the time we need somebody else.

But not just any somebody. Somebody extra special.

Somebody who’s there for us no matter what.

Somebody experiencing the ups and downs right along with us. Somebody who shares in our joys and frustrations.

Maybe they’re a writer too, but chances are probably not, but it doesn’t matter. They know what it is we’re trying to accomplish, and how tough it is, and offer whatever support they can.

They’re there for us in countless capacities. A sounding board for potential ideas. The editor or proofreader who sees our work before anybody else. The gatekeeper of our writing sanctums.

They provide encouragement when we’re feeling low. They sympathize when we suffer from writer’s block. They are the ones we look to for solace when the long-awaited answer is ‘no’.

But they’re also the first person you want to tell when something good happens.

They are our support, our motivation, our inspiration. They help us to move forward, keep trying and carry on.

So pass along your gratitude to your someone. Let them know how much you appreciate everything they’ve done to help you and your writing.

This is a tough enough journey as it is, and without them, it would be much, much harder.