Making space in my repertoire

This many
On the verge of this many more

After finally finishing the outline for the rewrite last week, I immediately jumped into re-reading the western spec in preparation for the inevitable rewrite/polish.

Looking at it after a 1 1/2-month break was incredibly helpful, and it still reads great.

Then it hit me.

If I can keep up this kind of productivity, I’ll have two brand spanking-new scripts ready to go relatively soon.

Yay.

This whole “dedicating a little time each day to writing” thing continues to be paying off.

Added bonus – more material at my disposal to respond to the question “What else have you got?”

Making the most of a limited timeframe

Fortunately, I'm not doomed when the sand runs out
Fortunately, I’m not doomed when the sand runs out

My schedule is probably a bit different than yours.

A job in broadcasting, getting around a large metropolitan city via bicycle or public transit, and escorting V to her numerous afterschool activities means not a lot of time to sit and write. Maybe a little over an hour a day. Maybe one and a half to two, if I’m lucky.

Since it’s all about getting stuff done, I’ve learned how to jam as much productivity as possible into that short window. Sometimes it’ll be “write until the end of this particular scene” or “crank out X number of pages.” Other times it might be “write until this point in time” or “write until you just can’t do it anymore”.

An hour may not seem like a lot of time to work with, but you work with what’s available.

Plus, setting up this kind of work habit is extremely beneficial on several levels:
-compels you to concentrate
-regular work pattern can improve skills and boost creativity
-problem-solving becomes easier and less necessary
-productivity may be slow, but remains steady
-that sense of accomplishment from having actually written something (very important)

These extremely unscientific results are how it’s worked out for me. I can’t speak for others, but I would imagine the results have been similar.

Find a system that works best for you, and keep at it. Make the commitment and stick with it. A few pages a day, and before you know it, you’ll be done.

Then you reset the clock and start all over again.

Isn’t a rock a hard place to begin with?

Gotta pick one, but which one?
Gotta pick one, but which one?

Hard choices. That’s what it comes down to for your protagonist.

Someone in my old writing group put it very succinctly: each scene should force the protagonist so they have no choice but to go with the option that makes things harder for them.

If things were easy for your protagonist and everything went right for them, it wouldn’t be much of a story, would it?  We’d be bored silly.

It all stems from the necessary key word: conflict. Something must be opposing them reaching their goal.

This doesn’t mean it’s someone or something physically blocking them, although that is one option. It could be something out of nature, like a great white shark, a hurricane or a killer virus, or something from the grand scheme of the universe, like time, fear or silence.

One of the great things about conflict is there are countless ways to present it. It comes in all forms, but it really boils down to something in the scene (as well as the overall story) preventing your protagonist from moving things forward.

Taking it one step further, not only do you have to make sure they do, but they have to be the one doing it. Anything else is a cheat, and totally negates their development as a character.  Imagine if Dumbledore said, “Here’s a step-by-step list of what you have to do, Harry.” The mentor figure is there to guide the protagonist down the right path, not take the path for them.

The protagonist has to endure all of these conflicts in order to not only accomplish their goal, but grow or change from what they were when we first met them.

So go ahead and put ’em through the ringer. It’s the way it must be.

-I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Henry Sheppard, aka Adelaide Screenwriter. Check it out here.

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.

Quel est le bon mot, baby?

Normally I'm a G&T kind of guy, but one these sounds pretty nice right now
Normally I’m a G&T kind of guy, but one of these sounds kind of nice right now

Opting for a random assortment of topics today. Enjoy.

-Ever get to the point where you just want to finish whatever is you’re working on and get it out of the way? That’s about where I am right now with this first draft. I wouldn’t call it a slog; more like resisting the urge to make a mad dash to the end.

On a positive note, the closer I get to finishing, the more I see how much has to be fixed.

Here’s a great guest column from Lee Jessup’s blog about how a writer should approach rewriting.

-Sometimes you come up with a story idea out of nowhere that makes you wonder: Even though this is a totally new genre for me, could I make it work?

I came up with a concept for a found footage story, including what may be a workable grasp on how to handle the ‘omnipresent camera’ part. It can be a little intimidating to try something new, but you won’t know until you try and possibly even discover a strength you never knew you had.

-I connected with this fine fellow the other day on Twitter. Do so if you haven’t already, and make sure to take the screenwriting survey. One of the questions is something along the lines of “what are some of your basic screenwriting rules?”

This is what I came up with:
1. Don’t be boring.
2. The audience is more intelligent than you think.
3. Write as if ink costs $1000 an ounce.

There are lots of others, but I think those are pretty important. Feel free to contribute yours in the comments section.

-This isn’t necessarily me hopping on the Kickstarter bandwagon, but check this out if you’d like to help preserve the small moviehouse experience. Give if you can, even if you don’t live in the Bay Area. It’s a great theatre.