What comes after you ride into the sunset?

And the journey continues...
And the journey continues…

At long last, the latest rewrite/polish of my western has reached a satisfying conclusion.

For now.

Several drafts later, it’s 6 pages shorter than the original, and packed with more character development and tighter scenes. That’s how I see it, anyway. Looking forward, as always, to the helpful feedback from trusted friends and colleagues.

This happened just in time, too. I was feeling pretty close to total burnout, so now I can rest and recharge, let alone even contemplate the idea of taking on another inevitable rewrite.

It’s an odd experience when you finish a project to which you’ve dedicated so much time and effort. You work, toil and slave away at it almost to the point of obsession, and then all of a sudden, poof! It’s done. You might not even know what to do with yourself.

“What now?” you might wonder. Treat yourself to a little reward? (Pie, as always, a great option) Take a break? Start something new? Maybe just kick back, relax and watch something (Netflix sent us THE MONUMENTS MEN, so maybe that) There is no wrong choice, so enjoy it. Bask in that glow of self-accomplishment. You’ve earned it.

I haven’t decided what to do yet, but knowing me, it’ll probably involve a day of not actually writing combined with thinking about the next big project, followed the next day with actual writing.

Not sure yet about the pie, though.

Reduce heat; let simmer for 2-3 months

I look exactly like that after finishing each draft, flour and all
Exactly how I look after finishing a draft, even though the flour wreaks havoc with my keyboard

It took a little longer than expected, but the revamped outline for the pulpy adventure spec is finally done.

As is my usual practice, I won’t take another stab at it for at least a couple of months partly because I’m feeling a little burned-out on it. This has been my primary focus for the past couple of months, and I just need a short break from it.

The other reason is I’m getting ready to jump into rewriting the Christmas-themed mystery-comedy. Notes are in place, so hopefully it won’t take too long.

But getting back to the outline, my original thought upon finishing it was the standard “It’s better than it was, but still needs a lot of work,” but experience has taught me that this may not necessarily be the case anymore.

I like to think I’m a stronger writer compared to a few years ago, so while I would never consider the material as it reads now as perfect, it may surprise me when I return to it as to how much better it is than I remember.

At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

On the other hand, I could read it and think “Where did that come from?”, “Well, that’s not going to work,” or even “Hmm. How much wine did I have that day?”

Taking it another step further, taking this break will enable me to pretty much forget a lot about the story, so I’ll be able to read it with fresh eyes and potentially come up with fresh ideas about how to improve it.

All things being equal, I like the way it turned out and am looking forward to getting back to it.

But first things first. Time to shift from the fight against monsters wreaking havoc to seeking out answers behind seedy goings-on in a holiday metropolis.

As always, watch this space for updates.

Moving that inner strength outward

It may not be as heavy as you think
It may look heavy, but it might not feel that way

I hate hitting a lull. Even the sound of it is off-putting.

“Lull.” Yuck.

Which of course is exactly where I found myself over the past few days regarding the first draft. I thought I was making some good progress, but instead found myself staring at a screen that mockingly stared back.

“Come on, writer boy,” it seemed to say. “Show we what you can do.”

Putting more pressure on yourself combined with the anthropomorphization of electronics doesn’t usually end well. You’re already frustrated, and when the words won’t come, you just want to throw up your hands and do your best Bill Paxton impression.

I’ve been down this path before. I don’t like it, it ain’t pretty, but it’s gonna happen and I accept that.

This is one of those times when you have to remind yourself that you’ve got two options: quitting, which is the easy way out, and totally squashes all the hard work and effort you’ve already put in.

Or you dig deep and force yourself to keep going. Again.

I recently started re-reading my copy of THE FIRST TIME I GOT PAID FOR IT, which chronicles the tales of many successful and well-known writers and how they got started. Apart from some great stories, it’s a good reminder to us outsiders striving to be insiders that even the pros started in the exact same place we are now.

And if you’re like me and want to change your status in that scenario, there’s only one way – keep writing!

I don’t know what the exact trigger was, but the next time I faced off against that blinking cursor and half-empty page, something clicked.

Boy, did it.

The words didn’t just flow – they gushed. It was like a Niagara Falls of scenes and dialogue pouring onto the page. My fingers could hardly keep up with my brain.

Whoa. Three pages in thirty-five minutes? Inconceivable!

I definitely now feel back on track. A renewed sense of what drew me to the story in the first place. Being that much closer to being able to type FADE OUT. And a little more faith in my ability to be productive, even when I don’t think I can be.

Take that, lull.

Start. Write. Repeat.

Apropos of nothing. I just like Paris.
Apropos of nothing. I just wouldn’t mind being there.

With all the activity surrounding the one script these past few months, and even though I was working on some new stuff, I’d practically forgotten that I really needed to build up my arsenal of material. When somebody asks “What else have you got?”, I want to be able to say “This, this and this.”

Thus the pattern of always working on something continues. As it should for every writer.

Progress on the western spec has been pleasantly steady. And with school starting up the week after next, there’s no reason I can’t bulldoze my way to FADE OUT soon after that. When that’s done, it’s right into reworking an older script with the hope of a quick turnaround.

Changing your focus every once in a while helps keeps things fresh, both on the page and in your head. It gives your creativity a necessary recharge. If you’re working in different genres, it allows you to put yourself in a totally different mindset.

Think of it as crosstraining for the mind. You work on this for a week, then something else the next week, then another the following. Skills are sharpened while attention is spread out equally. In the end, you’ve got progress on multiple fronts.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly rewriting the same thing over and over, which can quickly lead to frustration and burnout. New work can help avoid that.

Take advantage of the opportunity to switch it up, and even when you start something new, keep one eye looking just ahead to the project after that.

-Stan Lee update. Didn’t get to meet him, but took some nice pix from deep within the crowd. I also won a signed copy of Avengers #31. Both V and I had a good time despite the Giants losing 6-1.

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.