Enjoying it – while it lasts

Slight shorty today.

The latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy spec is in the hands of some beta readers.

One has already gotten back to me with some suggestions of minor fixes, but overall very positive comments.

Which is really, really nice.

And they also liked a lot of the jokes, which is definitely nice to hear.

I can’t really explain it, but there’s something about this script that’s giving me a real positive vibe.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way about a script this early in the process, so like the title of the post says, I’m riding this wave of positivity as long and as far as it’ll take me.

I’m sure it’ll require at least another pass, maybe two, until it gets to the quality I want it to be, but for now, I really like how it turned out.

Like with each of my scripts, I had fun writing it, and hope the reader has an equally great time reading it. This is something every writer should experience. It really does make a difference.

As the wait for the remaining notes continues, the focus shifts to cranking out pages for the microbudget feature, which is coming along nicely, thanks for asking.

Hope you have an exceptionally productive weekend.

Seeing some shine on that diamond in the rough

Even as I was getting the latest book ready over the past few weeks, I still made an effort to split time among a few other ongoing projects.

On that list: a severe edit of the animated fantasy-comedy spec.

The previous draft had clocked in at 120 pages, which admittedly is kind of long, especially for an animated story.

So it had to not only be tightened up in regards to what’s on the page, but also the actual number of pages. Fifteen to twenty, while seemingly excessive, felt appropriate.

Armed with some exceptional notes and a strong idea of all the issues that needed addressing, I set to it.

The phrase “kill your darlings” played a significant role during this process. Several scenes I loved were, as pointed out by an extremely savvy reader, more of a distraction from the main storyline and were actually slowing down the read.

Highlight, delete, mourn their demise, move on.

A good number of scenes underwent a major overhaul, including severe tightening up, rephrasing of dialogue, and a whole lot of moving stuff around. Sometimes a change would be made that I didn’t realize needed to be made. That’s always a surprise.

All of this combined ended up cutting 14 pages, bringing the grand total down to 106. Not too bad.

From my perspective, what ended up being the biggest accomplishment was that the whole thing seemed stronger than before; more put-together. It’s been a while since I’ve felt this positive about a draft.

It’s been sent to the latest batch of readers, and I’ve no doubt they’ll do a bang-up job in finding faults and spotlighting what needs work. As they should, and that’s fine with me.

It’ll help the next draft be even better.

A book (or three) for you

Some exciting news today out of the literary department at Maximum Z HQ:

My new book GO AHEAD AND ASK! INTERVIEWS ABOUT SCREENWRITING (AND PIE) VOLUME 3 is officially released – in both paperback and e-book.

Putting all three volumes together has been quite an effort, and definitely a long time in coming, but they’re all set and ready for purchase here or here.

It was always my intent to have these books be about more than just writing a script; it’s about providing the writer with the tools to help them improve. This is why each volume is chock-full of helpful information, tips, and guidance from a wide variety of writing professionals to not only guide you in developing your craft, but how to potentially make your script better. Definitely a win-win scenario.

Not only that, but if you like what somebody has to say and are interested in asking them about helping you with your material, their contact information (email and/or website, and the occasional social media handle) is right there on the page for you.

Plus, numerous types of pie, along with a few other assorted desserts, being mentioned, which is always a good thing.

For those who’ve already purchased volumes 1 and 2, I offer a heartfelt thank you, while also hoping you feel the need to complete the set and get volume 3. Or if there’s a special screenwriter in your life who you think might benefit from, or at least enjoy these books, I’ll just casually mention that the holidays will be here before you know it, and that books always make for an excellent gift.

Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoy them.

From the archives: That’s me – the human flying buttress

Just offering what little support I can

Even though screenwriting (and writing in general) is a solitary activity, a lot of us experience the same ups, downs, and everything in between. While one of the great benefits of networking is how it can help you on a professional level, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of the personal aspect.

Being part of the writing community offers up what is more or less a built-in support team. Other writers have been through just about all the same things you have, so they know how to respond and react to whatever’s going on with you. Count me as one of the many who’s been on both sides of the equation.

The past few weeks have seen a lot of announcements from some of the big contests, and lots of writers have posted their good or not-so-good news. Whenever I see that sort of thing, I try to be as encouraging or sympathetic as I can. This brought up thoughts of a post from way back in 2013 about this sort of thing.

Thought you might enjoy it.

When another writer follows me on Twitter, I’ll send a thank-you DM when applicable and ask how their latest project is coming along. The responses are usually pretty enthusiastic, and it’s great to see such a wide spectrum of material and how each person’s path is developing.

(What writer doesn’t like to talk about their work? I’m no exception either.)

Or maybe they’ve hit a bump in the road. “I’m stuck in Act Two,” “This rewrite’s killing me!” or “I’ve been dragging my feet on getting this draft done.”  Happens to all of us.

Based on how they’re doing, I’ll usually write something like “That’s awesome!” or “Hang in there!”, followed by the ubiquitous “Best of/Good luck!”

And I actually mean it.

Honest.

So it was a little surprising when I got this response during a recent DM chat – “You have a special gift of encouragement. WHO does that these days?”

Really? Nice, supportive people are now considered a rarity?

I’m not an idiot. This is a savage business a lot of us are trying to break into. It’s extremely competitive, and the odds are definitely not in our favor.  It’s extremely easy to get disenhearted and want to throw in the towel after receiving that 97th rejection letter.

A few words of support are never the wrong thing to say, even if it’s something as simple as “Good luck.” That may be just the extra push you need to get yourself to keep going, start again, or what have you.  If you’re lucky, you have loved ones, friends and trusted colleagues who support your efforts, regardless of how long it takes.

And consider me part of that group as well.

-Movie of the Moment – STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013). Nice to look at, but is it really asking too much for an original story and characters – again? I didn’t like the Leonard Nimoy/Spock part of the 2009 movie, and was disappointed at the way this one played out.

For a funnier, NSFW spoiler-filled review, click here.

It bothers me that Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof have become the go-to guys for pop culture sci-fi flicks. Yes, they’ve got talent (to a certain extent), but their work just feels like something’s missing. Maybe too much relying on flashy spectacle and not enough smart storytelling?  The effects should enhance the story, not the other way around.

As much as I enjoy a good fanboy film, I’ll take a solid story over gee-whiz special effects every time.  I suspect a lot of people also feel this way, or at least hope they do.

Trust your audience to be able to follow along; they’ll appreciate it.

What’s new, missing, or different?

It happens to every writer. You start the rewrite of your latest draft, and you need to figure out what needs to be cut or changed. Sometimes it ain’t that easy, and sometimes you hack and slash with wild abandon.

Part of my recent focus has been rewriting the fantasy-comedy spec, which has involved a little bit of both.

It already needed some trimming – at least 5-10 pages’ worth, so that’s just one of the many things taken into consideration as I work my way through it.

I’ve been told my writing is pretty sparse to begin with, so finding material to tighten, let alone cut, has been somewhat tough.

Tough, but not impossible.

There’s the small stuff. A widow/orphan word here, a snippet of dialogue there. Finding some way to get those three action lines down to two, or one if you can swing it.

Then there’s the big stuff. One noteworthy item was a particular story detail that had been around almost since the story’s inception that wasn’t syncing as well with the story as it was now, so that had to be changed. This caused a domino effect on all the things it impacted, which meant making sure all those connections had to be adjusted so everything still meshed in a smooth and organized manner. It was a bit of a pain to deal with, but it had to be done.

The big stuff also has its fair share of little stuff. A scene or sequence that needs a major overhaul – already dealt with a few of those, as well as a few half-page scenes that I hated to cut. Then there was a character I initially loved that proved to be ultimately unnecessary, so out they went.

If I maintain this amount of cutting, there’s no reason the finished draft couldn’t fall within the target range of the aforementioned 5-10 pages. If it ends being more than that, great (but at this point seems highly unlikely). If it’s just a few pages shorter, that’s still okay, and I’ve no doubt my beta readers will have plenty of suggestions that I probably never even considered.

No matter what gets cut or changed, it’s all for the benefit of the story. As long as the script is a tight, succinct and solid read, that’s a win.

(Turns out I’ve written about this before, waaaay back in 2013. A lot of it is still applicable, except for the part about my time in the half-marathon. Those days are long past.)

Friendly reminder: my book Go Ahead And Ask! Interviews About Screenwriting (And Pie) Volume 3 officially comes out on October 7th (two weeks from today), and the final setup of the links on Amazon and Smashwords is just about done, in case you’d like to purchase it slightly ahead of schedule. Signed copies will be available. Just let me know.