It may not pretty, but at least it’s something

This isn’t saying the Mona Lisa isn’t pretty. It was just tough to find a picture of people looking at art.

Some exceptionally helpful notes continue to come in on the latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy spec. For the most part, very supportive and encouraging, along with some great suggestions for small fixes here and there.

But one note really hit home – not because it was overly negative, but because it touched on something that I’d been uncertain about.

I won’t go into too much detail, but it involves how in one sequence the focus shifts from my protagonist to set up the backstory of some important supporting characters. Even while I was putting it together, it seemed kind of odd and I wasn’t entirely sure it worked, but felt it was “good enough for now”.

Nevertheless, something about it still didn’t seem right.

Numerous options rolled around in my head as I strained to come up with a solution, but still nothing. Also not helping was that constant trepidation when dealing with a rewrite. Would I be able to come up with something that works the way I need it to?

So I decided follow one of the most important tips for writing, screen or otherwise:

I just sat down and started writing. I knew what I wanted to accomplish – have the protagonist be part of it, which helped guide things along.

And thus the words did flow.

Revised and totally new scenes were churned out over the next 60 minutes or so. As is my usual m.o., there’s probably more in the new stuff than I’ll need. Trimming the fat later shouldn’t be too challenging, but I’d rather have more than I need than come up short.

I also managed to come up with a few details that I could plant early on in the story that would pay off later, and came up with a joke that actually made me laugh out loud. Hopefully others have the same reaction.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. Confidence and enthusiasm for this script continue to build.

But don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely more work that needs to be done, but this is a pretty encouraging step.

A friendly reminder – just two weeks to go until the Maximum Z Winter ’22 Script Showcase goes up (Dec 2), so make sure to send in the details about your spec screenplay or TV script ASAP.

All the info is right here: https://wp.me/prjnO-8yJ

The next mountain awaits

Wrapped up the latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy earlier this week and sent it to a few readers.

Notes have begun trickling in.

Overall responses: very positive, but could still use some tweaking. Points were awarded for creativity, originality, dialogue, and the jokes.

I appreciate all of those very much.

But…it can still be better.

I’d estimate it’s maybe one to two drafts away from being where it needs to. Waiting for a few more notes to come in before diving into that.

What’s also helped is that a lot of the changes don’t seem to be of a major overhaul type, but I suspect it won’t be a few minor changes here and there either. Somewhere in that nebulous middle.

It’s been quite encouraging how fast and effectively things are playing out for this one. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but all the time spent writing, rewriting and constantly trying to make previous scripts better are yielding the desired results for this one in a more timely manner.

Another thing that’s different about this time around is that confidence levels were already pretty high about the script, and getting comments about what still needs work hasn’t diminished them. Many times in the past I would get notes and think what a terrible writer I must have been, which was not the case.

I’m quite psyched about this one, and can’t wait to get back to work on it.

**SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION!!**

I was the featured guest on some recent podcasts:

What Are You Watching? with Chris Mancini (who has a q&a on this blog)

The Successful Screenwriter with Geoffrey Calhoun (a 2-time q&a on this blog – here & here)

Struck out in contests, but…

A lot of the major screenwriting contests have wrapped up, or are in the process of, and once again, yours truly did not achieve the desired results.

A big fat goose egg on all fronts.

Disappointing? Very much so.

Frustrating? You betcha.

Making me wonder if my writing must be ridiculously bad? Without a doubt.

I wasn’t just in a hole of depression. I’d felt like I’d fallen into the deepest hole ever dug on Earth.

Fortunately, I wouldn’t be there long.

Encouragement from K and more than a few members of the screenwriting community reminded me of several very important things:

First – CONTESTS ARE ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE. Sometimes your script clicks with readers, sometimes it doesn’t.

Second – CONTEST SUCCESS IS NOT A GUARANTEE FOR INDUSTRY SUCCESS. You can claim the top prize, but that doesn’t mean you should quit your day job. The road to an ongoing career is long, twisty, and loaded with uncertainty.

Third – THEY ACTUALLY MAKE FILMS FROM SCRIPTS THAT HAVEN’T DONE WELL IN CONTESTS. If a producer likes your script and wants to get it made, they’re not going to be as worried about how it placed in a contest.

Fourth (and this one really hit home for me) – SCREENWRITERS SHOULD NOT LIVE BY CONTESTS ALONE. Doing well in a contest is a potential boost to help you establish a career, but that’s it – potential. It’s only one of numerous paths.

As was pointed out to me, I may not have done well in contests, but I should also consider:

-I’m currently writing the script for a microbudget feature. The producer really likes how it’s all coming along, and has been completely ego-free since we began.

-I self-published 3 books about screenwriting this year (a great gift for screenwriters, yourself, or both. I got a kid in college, so anything helps).

-I continue to be the co-host of a podcast that’s all about writing. Fortunately, both my co-host and I know A LOT of writers, so there’s always somebody interesting to interview.

-I got to be on the other end of the microphone by being interviewed on a few screenwriting podcasts.

-I took part in a few panels about screenwriting at a writing conference, which led to being invited to give a lecture about screenwriting next month. (more on that another time)

-I still get the occasional email asking me to give script notes. It might take me a little longer to get to it than expected, but I enjoy doing it, and the writers seem to really appreciate what I have to say.

-there’s been progress, albeit the really slow kind, in making my short film. I was hoping to film it before the year was over, but looks like early next year might be more realistic. It’ll happen yet.

So my losing streak in contests may continue, I’ve got a decent number of other irons in the proverbial fire. And a few other fires, for that matter.

I may get knocked down, but I get up again (and again, and again), and they’re never gonna keep me down.

Consider me in this for the long haul.

The journey continues…

Hope you have an excellent pre-Halloween weekend. I will happily lay claim to any leftover plain M&Ms and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that manage to stay out of the grubby little hands of trick-or-treaters.

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.

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.