Making it not what it was before

Well-known material, executed in an entirely new and original way

The key word for this overhaul of the pulpy sci-fi spec is exactly that: an overhaul.

And a really big one at that.

One of the notes I got on the previous draft was “It’s a fun story, but there’s still a feeling of ‘we’ve seen this before'”.

What a powerful motivator to really shake things up. The last thing a writer wants to hear is that their work is predictable or just filling in the blanks for a template with this kind of story. Readers and audiences want originality, so that’s what we need to give them.

Regarding this story, while the overall concept and primary plotline are still the same, a good majority of the rest of the details have changed in some way or another, with no doubt more to come.

Even though I’ll jot down ideas for particular moments, scenes or sequences occurring throughout the story, I gather them up and then write/develop them in a linear manner – working my way through the story from start to finish. A leads to B, which leads to C, and so on and so on. Not everybody’s style, but it work for me.

It’s probably safe to say I worked my way through at least four or five versions of Act One before arriving at its current version – the one I felt was the strongest. And even that’s been tweaked here and there since then.

Despite having a hard copy of the previous draft readily available – more as reference material than anything, a key part of this process has been for me to NOT look at it – especially when I was feeling stuck. My objective is to keep trying something really different, and sneaking a peek at what I’m trying to avoid won’t help. If anything, it would probably point me in a wrong direction.

I’ve written before about a writer should do what they can to avoid having the reader/audience know what’s going to come next. Such is the case for this rewrite.

As I work my way through, it’s with a mindset that looks at a scene or sequence as a whole, along with “what’s the most likely thing to happen here?”

That’s followed immediately by “what would be the total opposite of that?” or “what would be completely and totally unexpected here, but still works within the context of the story?” Really striving towards taking a new approach is yielding some positive results. It’s quite a thrill when an idea pops out of nowhere, and it works even better than expected.

Added bonus – by forcing myself to come up with new ideas, there’s less need for me to keep the hard copy of the previous draft nearby. The more I avoid looking at it along with figuring things out for this draft, the more changes it produces. All that being said, I’ll still hold onto it, since there’s always a chance I might need something in there, but with the story constantly changing, even that’s becoming less likely.

The whole point of overhauling this story is to take what I had before and put an entirely new spin on the initial concept. I have a pretty good idea of what needs to happen, what I’d like to happen, and that big nebulous category of what could potentially happen (still working out the kinks on that one).

The road between what I started with and what the end result will be is without a doubt one that’s going to be very long, very twisted, fraught with hazards of numerous kinds, and might, at times, seem to go on forever.

Sounds like quite a hellish journey. And I’m loving every step of the way.

Time for a much-needed distraction or two

I was originally going to write about getting notes from a writer (whose bio & accomplishments remain unknown) who made quite an effort to point out everything that’s wrong with my work.

No doubt what they’re saying is exactly what I need to hear, so if I want to make it in this business, I should heed every priceless word of advice they offer.

You get the idea.

But they’re not worth worrying about, and I don’t feel like dealing with this kind of idiotic nonsense right now.

So here’s some much better idiotic nonsense.

Like this.




And this.

-for those dying to know, my time for the half-marathon this past Sunday was 1:58:21, for a pace of 9:03/mile. Not too bad. Next one is March 22nd. Taking this weekend off, then back at it.

An extraordinarily jam-packed couple of days

The mind reels at what could possibly happen next
Who knows what could possibly happen next? (but it’s fun to guess)

It’s been quite an exciting time ’round these parts, my friends.

-Wednesday. As has been previously chronicled, my script was in the top 15 percent for the Nicholl. Not enough to be a quarterfinalist, but that’s okay. There are so many other avenues to explore, and I’m already mentally rewriting the script I’d enter next year.

-Friday. I won a pair of tickets to a Giants game, which includes a pre-game VIP party where Stan Lee will be in attendance. With any luck, I’ll be able to get my ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN VOL 1 signed, and maybe a picture with him.

-Sunday. Ran the Giant Race half-marathon. Perfect conditions – cold, foggy, windy and a mostly flat course. Steady pace, positive attitude. Finally achieved the until-now impossible and broke the 1:55 barrier – 1:53:07 (a pace of 8:38, which I’ve never done before either). Next race is another half-marathon in October. Highly doubtful I can duplicate this kind of time, but still looking forward to it.

-Sunday, part 2. While I was recovering from the race, DREAMSHIP got its second Black List review. 8/10 overall (yay!), including 9/10 for character and setting (double yay!). That was enough to place the script on some of the top lists, including uploaded for action/adventure, family and sci-fi/fantasy.

-Monday. Because of my scores on the Black List, DREAMSHIP will be included in this week’s ‘industry member highlight email,’ which goes out on Friday to around 1900 industry pros.

You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if you tried.

It’s probably safe to say there may not be a week like this ever again, so I’m definitely enjoying the positive vibes while I can.

My mettle is being tested, and then some

Some days can feel like this...
We’ve all been there, Spidey.  Metaphorically speaking, of course.

A week after receiving my query letter, an agent responded, asking for a one-page synopsis.  Fortunately, I had one ready to go and sent it, trying hard to not get my hopes up.

The response came just under an hour later, including this:

“Sorry to say it doesn’t promise a unique storyline with surprises that would appeal to the young audience.”


Not sure I would necessarily agree with most of that, but then again, I’m slightly biased.

What could have made them say this? Was my synopsis bad? Did the gist of the story not come across? Is this just another way of saying “Thanks, but not what we’re looking for?”

Hard to say.  Oh well.  Nothing else I can do about it.

So with my hopes temporarily dashed on the rocks below, onward I continue.  (Don’t worry. My hopes are pretty resilient, and should be back on their feet relatively soon.)

Probably like a lot of writers, there’s always going to be that dreaded feeling of second-guessing myself. Did I do enough? Is this right?

I could (and do) ask myself these questions, but the more time I spend worrying about them, the less productive I am.

It all comes down to doing the best I can, putting it out there and seeing what happens. Hopefully, it’ll yield positive results. If not, I’ve got no choice but to fix the problem where I can and see if that works.

They don’t call it a never-ending process for nothing, you know.

I’ve been working at this for quite a while, getting a little closer to success each time. The goal is obtainable, and I can do this. This long, drawn-out part can be pretty frustrating, but I’ve made it this far. A little longer won’t be that bad.

-Movie of the Moment: CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)  I don’t really care for horror, but this was fun. If Joss Whedon is involved, you know it’s going to be written smart. I’d heard there was a unique twist to it, and there was (no spoilers here).

What was most impressive was how they took a lot of horror movie tropes and made them integral parts of the plot, including the all-important setting up and paying off.

Mistake. Not learning. Doomed. (repeat)

You’d think I’d get it by now

Sometimes I do things that are counterproductive. Almost even stupid in their execution.  Practically on a level of “what the hell was I thinking?” And apparently I’ve done it again.

I went to the internet seeking somebody’s opinion on my work. Yeah, I know.

I posted my logline on a few message boards, curious to know if it works. Some comments have been positive, while others…  Let’s not call them negative, but there does seem to be a strong critical-without-guidance vibe. Do some of them realize they’re coming across as snobbish?

It’s also important to remember that these are public forums, which means the public is responding, which means there are varying degrees of experience out there.  Probably some with even less than me, of which I suspect there are more than a few. Curious to know if any of them are actual working screenwriters.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate every single comment (albeit to a certain degree), but don’t like feeling like I have to keep changing my stuff to make them happy.  I also have to remind myself it’s my script, and it ultimately comes down to what I think works best.

And at this point, it’s probably time to stop using the message boards as much and start seeking professional feedback. Guidance from somebody with actual industry experience seems like it would be a little more reliable.

*side note – it’s fascinating to see how people interpret what they read. Some of the revamped loglines focus on key words and take a sharp turn from there.

-Movie of the Moment: It’s been a while, but I’ve seen three new releases in the past week.

BRAVE – beautiful to look at, but haven’t we heard this story before? I was really expecting something a little more different from the folks across the Bay in Emeryville, although the bear subplot was unexpected.

MADAGASCAR 3 – surprisingly funnier than I thought it would be.  Especially nice how they wove subplot threads throughout and wrapped them all up in the end.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN –  okay, but not as fun as THE AVENGERS, but I did like the Spidey POV shots while he’s swinging around New York. Also impressed with how they made the Lizard an actual formidable bad guy, but really felt they could have done more with it. No great desire to see it again or own it. Hope they use Raimi’s Spidey #2 as a guide in terms of fun and quality for the sequel, but please: stop taking off the mask, and NO VENOM.

Regarding THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: the trailers are doing a phenomenal job in increasing my desire to see this. I may even be so bold as to consider seeing it in IMAX.