I’ll take “Potpourri” for $300, Alex

All this AND he plays hockey
All this AND he plays hockey

-I’ve been burning through my stash of unplayed podcasts at a rapid pace (including Scriptnotes), so I’m looking to add maybe one or two more to my library. Any suggestions?

-Since my current project has a 40s/50s noir vibe to it, playing era-appropriate music on Pandora really helps capture the mood (dig that crazy sax, man).  I may even don my fedora while I write to complete the transition.  If I enjoyed scotch or bourbon, there’d definitely be a glass of it on the desk. Guess a stiff cup o’ joe will have to do.

-My original intent with the rewrite was to completely start over, but the more I read the previous draft, the more potential I see. For now, it’s all about figuring the best way to combine ideas and elements from both.

-If there’s a writer whose work you really like, find out if they have a website, blog or on Twitter and send a friendly note telling them exactly that. Everybody likes a little compliment now and then.

-Could somebody please tell Netflix to get their act together and put Season 3 of THE WALKING DEAD and Season 7 of DOCTOR WHO on streaming? Haven’t we waited long enough? This might be my chance to finally start watching BSG, BREAKING BAD or MAD MEN.

-Definitive sign autumn is here – pumpkin pop-tarts (or toaster pastries, if you want to avoid the copyright infringement) at Trader Joe’s. They’re…okay. Maybe I’ll just make more pumpkin bread instead.

-Hope your latest project is going swimmingly. Enjoy the weekend, and try to write something.

Devilishly handsome? Sure. But lovely…?

One Lovely Blog

You never know who’s reading your stuff.

Such is the case with this blog. All I know about my readers is how many there are and where they’re reading me, geographically speaking.

So it was a very pleasant surprise to get a message from The Novice Screenwriter: “I really enjoy your blog (and might I add your great sense of humor:) and I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award.

In the words of the Cowardly Lion, “Shucks, folks. I’m speechless.”

One of my earlier bosses in radio stressed the importance of PIE. Not the world-changing, life-affirming dessert  (which, granted, is very important), but how your performance should always be Professional, Informative and Entertaining. That’s an acronym I’ve tried to adhere to in all forms of my media output, including this blog, which is why I’m flattered to get this kind of recognition.

And apparently there are rules/guidelines for this as well:

1. Add the “One Lovely Blog” image to your post
2. Share seven things about you
3. Pass the award on to seven nominees
4. Thank the person who nominated you
5. Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs

Thanks to Aarthi at The Novice Screenwriter for the nomination. When somebody tells me they heard me doing traffic on the radio, I always say “It’s nice to know somebody’s listening.” So in this case, it’s nice to know somebody’s reading.

Seven Facts you may or may not know about me:
-I’m the youngest of 5 in a typical Jewish-American family. And by “typical”, I mean there’s a doctor, a lawyer, and the one in showbiz.

-I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey. The southern half, where there are no accents.

-My wife and I saw HEATHERS on our first date. We’ve been together ever since.

-I really enjoy cooking and baking. One of my specialties is pecan pie from scratch – crust and everything. A friend with strong roots in Georgia was practically orgasmic over it, which must mean something.

-I like to run half-marathons, averaging about 4 a year. My pace is around 9 minutes a mile, with the goal to someday break the 1:55 time limit. The idea of doing a full marathon is intriguing, yet very intimidating.

-I collect comic books, but have never attended Comic-Con in San Diego. Someday I will. In fact, the dream is to be there while The Movie I Wrote is being promoted (with a panel in Hall H and everything!).

-I didn’t go to school for screenwriting. Everything I’ve learned comes from reading books and scripts, watching and studying movies, attending a handful of seminars, and most of all, writing and rewriting.

Here are the seven blogs I heartily recommend:
My Blank Page – good nuts and bolts advice from a working screenwriter
Just Effing Entertain Me – practical advice for writers and a high-profile script competition (hurry! final deadline is Aug 15)
Sex in a Sub – an extremely prolific writer plus fantastic analysis of Hitchcock films
Sprinting to Fade Out – great info for aspiring writers (regrettably on hold for now, but worth checking the archives)
News from ME – a wide variety of topics from a veteran writer-director who works in TV, cartoons and comics
Scott Tipton’s Comics 101 – got a question about comics? More info than you could possibly imagine, especially if you’re a fan of ROM: SPACE KNIGHT
Comedy Film Nerds – actually a podcast about movies, but extremely hilarious, entertaining, informative and very NSFW

I have no idea if there’s an actual award connected with this, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m just happy to be nominated, and will practice my “forced smile to mask my internal pain” look just in case it’s not my name if a winner is ever announced.

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.

More like chiseled in frosting

Didn't work out right the first time? Go back and do it again.
Sometimes you just have to go back and do it again

Y’know one of the best things about putting together a story?

If something doesn’t work, you can change it (and most of the time, the change is for the better).

Most of the details in my western outline seemed pretty solid, and they were transferring nicely to the steady output of pages.

Then I got to the culmination of a big sequence – it involved a shootout. Something seemed out of place. I read the thumbnail sketch of the scene in the outline again.

Wait a minute.  Where did the one character get a gun?

A quick check of some previous scenes. There was no opportunity for that happen.

So now I’ve got a choice to make: keep it as written in the outline, or try something different.  Keeping it would mean going back and changing several scenes, which could also potentially slow the pace of the story. I opted for something different.

The end result was a shortened scene that retained crucial story and plot points, which gave them more of an impact. I also went with ending the scene ‘bigger’, keeping with the overall tone of the story.

There’s a good chance this will also result in having to rework parts of the big finale, but for now I like the way it plays out.  Besides, there’s another chance for a rewrite for the better.

So even though you think your story’s ready to go, chances are more than likely you’re going to reach a point where something has to be changed, fixed, altered or just plain rewritten.  Don’t see this as a negative – welcome the opportunity with open arms.

You want each scene to advance the story in the most effective way possible, and now you’ve given yourself the chance to do that.

Ask yourself if this is the best way a scene can be done. If not, what can be changed so it not only does what it’s supposed to, but does it better than your original version?

Then do the same for the next one, then the one after that, until you reach the end.

Simple, no?

It’s either optimism or hypothermia

Luckily for me, it doesn't snow here
Luckily for me, it doesn’t snow here

My bike ride to work is an enjoyable 6-mile pre-dawn journey across most of San Francisco. The temperature when I left the house just after 4 this morning was 43 degrees, so by the time I got to work 40 minutes later, some of my outer extremities were a bit chilled and are taking longer than I’d like to thoroughly thaw.  Especially my feet. They’re still cold.

But looking back today at how this year developed for me combined with what I’m hoping to make happen in 2013 make for that warm glow of satisfaction.

-My writing has definitely improved. Several drafts later, DREAMSHIP is much stronger now, and I’m feeling really confident about it. While a sale would be fantastic, I’ll focus on getting representation for now.

-Because of the feedback I’d received on DREAMSHIP, the outlining process for LUCY is working out much, much smoother. Once the outline is ready, and it almost is, I’m really looking forward to getting started on pages.

-I didn’t get to read as many scripts as I’d wanted to, so setting a weekly goal of at least 2 seems pretty doable.

-I had a blast doing The Script Adventurer!, and am that much closer to bringing it back as a podcast. Still planning on a January launch. This is becoming a real learning process, and is actually kind of exciting.

-I did three half-marathons, finally breaking 2:00. I plan on doing at least three more this year, hopefully adding 1-2 more into the mix. Once again, the objective is to break 1:55.

-Since the running took care of my lower body, 2013 will also see more attention to upper body. Hoping for bigger arms and flatter abs. First up – the 100 Pushups program.

-I made a lot of pies this year. So many that they’re now strongly requested when friends invite us over for dinner. Pie-making will continue, but baklava remains at the top of the “I really want to make this” list. (This is not necessarily counter-productive to the previous item – it’s all about moderation)

-I’ll try to keep posting on a semi-regular basis. As always, my appreciation and gratitude for those of you willing to endure my ramblings continues to be limitless.  I hope 2012 saw good things happen for you, and that 2013 is even better.

Happy New Year, and see you on the other side.