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.

Building up to what it all comes down to

What he's holding represents what's at stake. Think about it.
What he’s holding represents what’s at stake. Hint: It’s not a rock

Time now for a very, very important question every writer needs to face:

Do you know how your story ends?

You come up with an idea, then proceeded to develop, shape, and organize all the stuff that happens in the middle, which eventually has led us to the where we find ourselves now: the big payoff. What the whole thing’s been about.

Everything your characters have been doing have been leading up to this. In theory, your first two acts have been about the protagonist’s world undergoing some drastic changes, how they dealt with it and now it looks like the bad guy’s going to win.

Which brings us to the grand finale that is Act Three, where our hero must somehow find a way to overcome these seemingly insurmountable odds, defeat the antagonist and hopefully come out of the experience a different person than the one they were way back when we first met them.

That being said, there’s still more to it.

-Your protagonist has a physical goal (what they want) and an emotional one (what they need). They can achieve both, just one or neither. Which applies to yours, and have you effectively steered the action to ensure that result? Can we see the changes they’ve undergone?

-Working with a subplot or three? If they haven’t wrapped up by now, better make sure to do it soon. Do you really want the reader to wonder “Hey! What happened to the part about ____?”

-Even a supporting character needs an arc to complete. Have you given each of them enough attention throughout the story to make this happen, and does their story wrap up in a convincingly believable way?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned about putting a story together is that the central question (“Will the hero achieve their goal?”) is raised with the inciting incident around page 10, and each subsequent plot point raises it again, albeit with the stakes a little higher each time.

What happens in Act Three is where you show us how the central question is answered.

-And now, the much-heralded return of Movie of the Moment! This time, a way overdue look at GODZILLA (2014).

Wow. Everything PACIFIC RIM should have been. Instead of non-stop giant monster action, we get only glimpses as the focus is directed at the human aspect of the story. A much more effective approach.

While it’s not hard to suspend disbelief when it comes to a movie about giant monsters rampaging/duking it out in the downtown area of the city where I live, perhaps the most amazing piece of cinematic fiction (as observed by both K and myself) was in the background of one scene where a garage sign read “All-day parking $15”.

Now that’s make-believe.

Doth it suck? Yea, verily

Because "Dude. Yorick. Bummer." just doesn't have the same panache
Because “Dude. Yorick. Bummer.” just doesn’t have the same panache

Oh, first draft. You teasing vixen.

I go over the story ideas in my head, everything coalesces and plays out like a well-oiled machine.

But try to transfer them onto the page, and it all discombobulates into a tangled mess on par with the cord on a pair of earbuds carelessly tossed into a gym bag.

Experienced writers know what I mean.

Although it took a while, I finally reached the end of Act Two in the revamping of the outline of the pulpy adventure spec. On one hand, I’m thrilled to have gotten here. On the other, I want to shrug my shoulders and mutter “eh, good enough” about the scenes and sequences that led up to this point.

They’re definitely far from perfect, and without a doubt will be totally different as future drafts come into play.

Let’s pause to consider the phrase “future drafts.” As in “there will be more”, emphasis on “will”. Not “might”. “Will”.

I recently connected with another writer on a networking site, and they ended our introductory correspondence by letting me know they had first drafts of their scripts available to read.

I sincerely hope not.

Unless you’re looking for feedback, don’t show your first draft to anyone. Ever.

The first draft is the attempt to put all your ideas into some kind of order. Know going in that it won’t be pretty, and will most likely be a big mess requiring a ton of fixes. Not a bunch of little edits, but huge, drastic steps. The end result should look totally different from what you started with.

Don’t regard rewriting as a chore or a slog. It’s something you have to do on a regular basis. It makes the script better and helps you become a better writer.

Consider the last script you wrote. How many drafts did it require to get to the point where you finally said it was done? And wasn’t each successive draft a little better, until the final draft turned out significantly improved compared to the very first one?

That’s what you should be going for. Every single time.

Got an A for my Q?

Gimme the straight scoop, pal
Gimme the straight scoop

Every time I connect with somebody on some kind of social media or community forum, I ask the same question:

How are your latest projects coming along?

It’s always a wide variety of genres in various stages of development, and always nice to hear.

Here’s what’s going on with me.

-Still trudging my way through the revamp of the outline for the pulpy adventure spec. I’m somewhere between the midpoint and the page 75 plot point. It feels a bit disoriented as I work my way through it, but it should get better as I push my way forward.

So how about you? What’s occupying your time these days?

Greetings from No Man’s Land!

Lost? Of course not. Just recalculating my position.
Lost? Of course not. Just recalculating my position.

It took some doing, but I finally managed to get to the midpoint of the rewrite of the monster spec outline.

As is required for this particular plot point, my hero is now firmly committed to achieving his goal, plus not one, but two new conflicts thrown into the mix to make it that much harder for him.

There’s still a little setup-payoff work that needs to be applied to some earlier scenes, but I really like how it’s coming along.

But for now, my attention shifts forward – further into the vast wasteland that is the rest of Act Two.

To some, a staggering task of herculean proportions.  For me – not too much.

Well, maybe a little.

Act Two can be incredibly intimidating. Your script can have a killer opening and fantastic ending, but if what happens between them isn’t as good, if not better, than you’re in trouble.

What takes place in those 50-60 pages can really make or break your story. A reader or audience wants to see things happen as the characters grow (or at least change).

With such a vast canvas to work with, you might lose track of a lot of elements – supporting characters, subplots, etc. I remember reading a script that introduced what I thought was going to be an interesting subplot, but after that initial appearance, it never showed up again. It’s possible the writer just forgot about it, or maybe didn’t know how to develop it.

Take your time to plan things out. Yes, we all want to get done faster, but in this case, that’s the worst thing you could do.

Let’s assume you’ve got your plot points in place, so now it’s a matter of connecting them.  What has to happen in each scene to move things ahead to the next one?

Remember: each scene, no matter how big or small, should advance the plot, theme and character, as well as contain some kind of conflict.

It’s easy to get lost in all the details. Maybe there’s too much focus on this part, and not enough on that one. Again, take your time to figure it out.  Besides, you’ll be able to make the necessary fixes in the next batch of rewrites.

It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers right now, but there are lot of details you’re going to need to fill in as you move forward. And always keep asking “Is this the best way to have this happen?”

The journey through Act Two can definitely be a challenge, but it can be a little less daunting if you go into it prepared and knowing where you want to go.