Although not an officially recognized holiday, or even one the general public is aware of, January 5th is still considered National Screenwriters Day; a day to celebrate us hard-working folks who crank out the pages containing the stories of what you’re seeing and hearing in all that content on all those screens.
No doubt you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, aka November.
Well, since we’re just over a month away from National Screenwriters Day, why not make December be the month you write and finish a script?
It’s not a class, or a competition, or even a clever scheme to part screenwriters from their hard-earned money. Instead, it’s just a writer-friendly Facebook page where people can come for inspiration, motivation, encouragement and conversation.
But mostly, they’ll come where they can proclaim to the public regarding their plans and process as part of the Thirty Day Screenplay challenge.
(Yes, we know there are 31 days in December, plus the first four days of January, but seeing as how December is more likely to be chock-full of holiday activities, you’re more likely to have some time to write during at least 30 of those days.)
This is entirely a personal choice. If you want to do it, go ahead. If not, that’s cool too. But you have to admit it would be pretty cool to start off 2019 with a brand spanking-new script.
Apologies for the lack of a post last week. We had to travel to a different time zone for a family function, and the jet lag really took its toll on me. It’s tough to compose something when you can barely stay awake.
But I’m back, rested, and ready to get back to work.
Among the items on the “list of stuff that needs attention”:
-continue working on the horror-comedy outline
-work with latest batch of notes on the comedy spec. Hoping to have that latest draft done sooner than expected.
-research potential representation firms to query
-look into setting up at least one networking event for SF/Bay Area writers. Previous ones were pretty successful, and are great for establishing connections.
-Among the comments that came in for the comedy spec was how it might benefit from a table read. Never did one before, so investigating setting one up. Anybody out there who’s done it?
There are a few other items going on, but those are the dominant ones for now. At first glance, it might seem like a lot, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. They’re all just parts of the machine that is me working on making a career out of this.
I think the biggest factor here is time management. I do what I can to allot a certain amount of time per task. Work on my own stuff for an hour or two. Spend some downtime at work researching reps and prodcos, then send out some queries. If an idea hits when I’m not actually writing, I jot it down immediately – mostly because I don’t trust myself to remember it a few hours later.
One caveat – If I have to do notes on a friend’s script, all attention is diverted to that. If they were reading mine, I’d want them to be just as focused on my script, so the least I can do is return the favor.
Now, I totally get that no two writers have the same schedule, so everybody will tackle things their own way and at their own pace. Maybe you can only spare an hour a day for anything writing-related, or you get up earlier than you need to because that’s your designated writing time. Any and all of it’s fine. You do what works for you.
The important thing is to be doing something. Anything that helps you along.
Also remember, and I can’t stress this enough – everybody’s path is different. What works for that other person might not work for you, and vice versa. Don’t stress out over feeling like you’re running behind. The only person you’re competing against is you.
Not sure where to start? Easy. Be a writer and write down what you’d like to accomplish. I suggest starting small – list three things you could do today to help yourself out. Write three scenes (or three pages). Send out five query emails. Contact the writer of that logline you liked in that online forum.
Get into the habit of giving yourself stuff to do, and there’s a good chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much stuff is actually getting done.
“Writing a screenplay is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Bet you’ve heard that one before, right?
It’s true. Learning how to write a screenplay takes time, let alone how to do it well. It might come easier for some, but no matter what your skill level is, it always remains a struggle.
And that feeling when you’re done (at least with the latest draft)? Euphoric sums it up quite nicely.
So that whole running metaphor is pretty apropros. Especially for me.
For those not in the know, I enjoy running half-marathons. Seriously.
I’ve run about a dozen or so the past few years. Like with the writing, it’s a self-imposed challenge and pushes you to keep moving forward. Believe me, there are definitely times during those races I just want to stop and catch my breath, but I don’t because I want to keep going and see what I’m capable of.
I usually finish somewhere just under 2 hours, which isn’t bad.
A few weeks ago, I ran a race in San Francisco and finished with a time of 2:02:56, which some might think is great, but I still considered a little disappointing.
This past weekend was another race – across the Bay in Oakland. The results of the previous race really shook me up. Was I once again going to fall short of my goal?
Only one way to find out.
I did my best to maintain a steady pace and continuously reminded myself that even though it was a challenge, I felt I had a pretty good handle on it. Oakland’s also a lot flatter than San Francisco, which probably helped.
The home stretch for this race is an 8-block-long straight line through downtown Oakland. At the finish line, there’s always a big digital timer. As I got closer, the numbers came into view.
1:54:30? Wow! And just a handful of blocks to go!
You know that feeling when you’re writing the last page of your script and FADE OUT is coming up fast and you get that sudden rush of adrenaline and you can’t believe the end is finally in sight?
Even though you’re exhausted and feeling totally spent, you can always find that hidden reserve of energy, which is just enough to get you to that goal.
Giving it everything I had, I poured on the speed (or at least as much as I could muster) and ran like a madman to that finish line.
End result – 1:54:59. Not only did I break the 2-hour mark, but I just squeaked by my other personal objective of breaking 1:55.
All that self-doubt from before had been erased. I had given myself a goal and set out to accomplish it.
Notice all those comparisons to screenwriting that could be made?
Every script is your own personal challenge. Sometimes it’ll be easy, and sometimes it’ll feel like nothing is happening, but the important thing is for you to keep at it and not stop trying to reach that finish line.
Like with training for these runs, it requires a lot of work. You find the time to do it when you can, hoping each session yields a slightly better result than the previous one.
My current work on the comedy spec coincides with this latest round of training for my next race – early November, and again in San Francisco. Both script and race will be a little more on the challenging side, but by engaging in regular training, I’m fairly confident I can achieve the results I seek.
A little stretching, a few deep breaths, and off I go.
A most pleasant update to report regarding progress on the pulp spec: the point of no return has been reached (and even slightly surpassed).
Something incredibly significant has just happened to my protagonist, and everything between here and the end of the story is not only about answering the central question and everything connected to it, but also dealing with this important new development, which is also tied in to the main storyline.
From here on in, the stakes are consistently rising and my protagonist’s situation will continue to get more and more difficult.
As it should be.
Fortunately, a lot of these details were mapped out during the outlining process, which has once again proven to be extremely helpful. But even that’s not written in stone; one big sequence was deemed too similar to another, so the relevant elements of both were combined, which actually helped tighten things up on several levels.
To be perfectly honest, there’s not much I can gripe about regarding working on this script. It’s in a genre I love; this was always “something I would want to see.” I’ve made a real effort to make this an exciting read, both in terms of story and how it actually reads.
Like with some of my previous projects, I’m continuing to have a fantastic time writing it, and hopefully that excitement and enthusiasm will be evident on the page.
Sure, the ongoing plan of 2-3 pages a day has been slightly off, so it’s taking a bit longer than originally anticipated, but that’s par for the course for me. But every writing session, no matter how long or short, gets me a little more further along.
Today, the midpoint. Next up – pushing my way forward to the next plot point, which is about halfway through the second act of Act Two.
On one hand, progress for the pulpy adventure spec is moving along nicely. Still maintaining a daily output of about 3 pages.
But on the other hand, this thing feels like it’s growing exponentially, continuously getting bigger than I originally anticipated.
A lot bigger.
Like “rise out of the bay, tower over the skyline, ready to wreak havoc and terrorize the populace. Call the military!” big.
That’s pretty big.
Part of this stems from me having a one-sentence description of a scene in the outline, not really taking into consideration I’ll need at least a page, maybe two, to execute it. Hence the feeling of overstuffedness.
There have been times where I’d be in the middle of a scene, but then think “Too much!”. This would be followed by the immediate deleting of what I’d written so far and starting anew, but with a mindset of “Same, but a lot less this time.” It happens; just not all the time.
No problem whatsoever if you start with a scene that’s initially three pages long, because you know the next pass will involve whittling down to one (or a little more). Getting it written in the first place is the hard part; everything after that – much easier (for some, anyway).
I freely admit I tend to overwrite, but that’s usually limited to the first draft. Once that’s out of the way, the red pens are produced and much killing of darlings commences.
Sometimes it’s very frustrating that my initial effort isn’t what I want it to be, but isn’t that the point of a first draft? There’s a reason it’s also known as “the vomit draft”. You just throw everything on the page, and then go back for ongoing cleanup work. The guiding principle here – you do what’s necessary to get it to that desired end result.
Will there most likely be some drastic changes somewhere down the line? Undoubtedly. If that means starting with a first draft that’s way too big, so be it. It’s not like this is what the final finished project is going to look like. Better to have an oversized script ripe for editing than a scrawny one that needs to be bulked up.
So for now, the slog continues. Scenes may go on too long, but it’s cool. This is a fun story and I’m enjoying writing it. I know it’ll take a while to get it to where I want to be, and that’s fine by me. All part of the process.
But better have the military on standby, just in case.