The fine art of interpreting notes

Not those kinds of notes
Oops. Wrong kind of notes.

It still needs some work, but the latest draft of the outline for the pulpy adventure is done, so it’s headed to the back-burner for now as focus shifts to rewriting/polishing the western.

I’ve been very fortunate the past few weeks to have received some high-quality notes for it, which includes a wide spectrum of suggestions of how it could be improved.

As expected, some have merit and some don’t (and this includes some professional comments), as well as a few changes not even originally considered. Each one gets serious consideration, but it all comes down to what I think works best for the story.

When I first started, I would assume every note I got was coming from somebody who knew better than me, but then there’d be so many changes/edits that the script was getting away from what I wanted it to be.

You and only you know what your script is supposed to be like. There will be many notes accompanying each subsequent draft. Don’t automatically think each one is right, but don’t immediately dismiss it either.

Ask yourself “Does this note help make my script better?” If so, how? If not, why not? If you’re not sure, look at it from both sides. Don’t rush just to get it over with. This requires a lot of thought, patience and attention.

It’s also important to not let your pride get in the way of the story. What’s more important – keeping your ego intact or making the story as good as it can be?

It took a while, but I eventually learned to trust my instincts to the point that I can now identify what I consider good notes and not-so-good notes, which has really made a difference in helping both me and my writing improve.

Riding that positive vibe

Nice and zen
Nice and zen

Not a lot to say today, but thought it would be nice to mention how I’m feeling kind of upbeat about the writing.

-Started the latest rewrite of the outline for the pulpy adventure spec. After some more researching and figuring stuff out, the story seems more solid and streamlined. Completing the previous draft took less time than expected, and hoping to repeat that this time around.

-Already developing ideas for the pending rewrite of the western. Those combined with some great notes I’ve received make me pretty confident in what the end result will be.

Enjoying this buoyant sensation while it lasts, and hope you’re feeling the same.

Something awfully familiar about this – OR – Already seen it

Not exactly the same, but mighty darn familiar

I was THIS CLOSE to being done with the latest version of the outline for the pulpy adventure spec when my writer’s sense starting tingling.

“Something’s still not right!” screamed out my internal editor.

What? That couldn’t be possible, could it? I’d spent the past few weeks being oh-so-meticulous in reorganizing sequences, working out subplots and connecting story points. How in the names of Walter Gibson and Lester Dent could there be a problem?

I looked at the outline with a more critical eye.

Opening sequence – check.
Intro of hero, establish his world – check.
Hero’s world drastically changes while raising central question of the story – check.
Complications ensue – check.
Midpoint where hero becomes fully committed to achieving his goal (accompanied by reminder of the central question) – check.

Wait. Back that up a little. To right between the “Complications” and “Midpoint” parts.

Hokey smokes, there it was. Cue the flashing red light bulb (with optional klaxon).

Two consecutive sequences just way too similar to each other. This is what’s been bothering me.

No doubt about it. One of ’em has to go. Probably the first one. You’d think it would be no big deal to just go in and change it.

And you’d be kinda/sorta wrong.

The events that happen during these two sequences are vital to the story, so the outcome needs to stay the same. The tough part now is figuring out how to change the “what happens” in that first one so not only is it unique enough unto itself, but also falls neatly into the overall structure of the story.

As always, a daunting task. For now. But potentially solvable given some time and exploration of possible alternatives.

I cannot stress enough the importance of why you should outline your story before even considering starting on pages, and being extremely thorough about it while you do. This is where you get all the heavy lifting done by figuring everything out. Where it’s a lot easier to identify the cracks in the foundation. Where it might take you a few passes to realize what works and what doesn’t.

Then again, this is how I do it, so your approach may be totally different. But speaking for myself, I prefer to go back in and fine-tune a couple of scene descriptions consisting of one to two sentences, rather than labor my way through several pages, then have to totally junk them because they’re not working.

So my focus for the time being is fixing this, then going through the whole outline a few more times, making adjustments where necessary, until I think it’s done/ready for conversion into pages.

-Got to see JURASSIC WORLD and INSIDE OUT last week. Both very enjoyable, but for very different reasons. Of the two, I’m more interested in seeing INSIDE OUT again, mostly for the writing and storytelling aspects.

Regrettably, still haven’t seen MAD MAX: FURY ROAD yet. Of all the summer releases, this feels like the one that must be seen on the big screen. Will do what I can to rectify that.

An impression most memorable

I had the good fortune to connect with another local writer a few weeks ago. We met for a casual chat over drinks and discussed the usual stuff: our writing backgrounds and experiences, what we like to write, and so on.

I love this kind of stuff (both the networking and the discussion) and genuinely enjoy hearing the stories of others writers.

As we started to wrap things up, she commented on how nice it was to meet me and how inspiring and motivational my attitude was, which totally caught me off-guard.

I was just being nice (as is my way), and, like a lot of people, tend to get excited and a little animated when I talk about screenwriting.

Apparently that’s a good thing.

But why be anything but nice? I always marvel at when another writer recounts how somebody they met with did not portray themselves in a positive light, bragging about themselves or their “accomplishments”.

One of those constantly-repeated pieces of advice for when you’re starting out is that when you meet someone working in the industry, you should present yourself as someone who would be pleasant to work with (followed up by actually acting that way, of course).

This also applies to when you meet somebody else in a face-to-face scenario. Amazingly, not a lot of people are going to be interested if your favorite subject is you.

A lot of this business is built on relationships. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” right?

If you found about a project where someone’s looking for a certain kind of writer, and you know two who fit the bill exactly, but one’s kind of a jerk, wouldn’t you be more likely to recommend the other one?

You’re going to meet all kinds of people along the way of developing your career. You want to make a good first impression and have people think of you in the best possible light.

Think of it this way: Would you rather be remembered because people liked what they saw in you, or because they didn’t?