It is what it is

They say failure is the best teacher, and boy did I learn my lesson these past few weeks.

As you might be aware, a lot of the past few months were all about the animated fantasy-comedy spec. Many drafts, revisions, and polishes have taken place. My primary objective was to have what I hoped was a quality script that might have a chance with some of the big contests.

I felt it was ready, so I sent it in, along with to a few smaller contests – just to see how it might fare.

Its track record now stands at 0-2 for those smaller ones, one of which focused on fantasy (and sci-fi). If the script couldn’t even make the quarterfinals in that, it definitely doesn’t bode well for the more high-profile contests that get thousands upon thousands of entries.

Also adding to this sad-but-likely conclusion was getting some notes back after the script had been entered in said contests. The notes were brutally honest about what worked and what didn’t.

Simply put – there were problems that I hadn’t addressed, and it just wasn’t ready.

Thus another rewrite took place, with this year’s contests already being written off. It’ll be quite surprising if anything positive happens with any of those.

I don’t think I was jumping the gun in entering it in the contests. Was I more confident than I should have been? Maybe, but I still think it’s a solid piece of work – especially after this latest rewrite.

There’s still one more set of notes on the way, so there will most likely be another draft, and I’m seriously considering getting some professional feedback for that one a few months down the road.

It bothers me that this year’s contests already seem to be wasted, but I accept that this is how it worked out and I’m pretty good about getting back up on the proverbial horse. The positive spin/silver lining is that this gives me more time to prepare for next year.

Once all the work on this script is finished – which hopefully won’t take too long, I’ll return to the rewrite of the sci-fi adventure – and based on this experience, will dedicate more time to making sure it’s REALLY ready to send out.

Heeding my own advice and encouragement to other writers, I will keep pushing forward.

-As of this writing, the WGA strike is still going on.

To quote Harlan Ellison: pay the writer


A slightly different approach

Consider this a bit of an experiment.

My usual M.O. is to work on the outline of a script multiple times until it’s where it needs to be, and then start on pages. Such was the case for when I started the rewrite of the sci-fi adventure.

Part of that rewriting includes expanding scenes from a one- to two-sentence description to something a little longer, sometimes including dialogue, etc.

With a few previous drafts at my disposal, I already had a good idea of how things were supposed to go.

But after completing the latest outline, I opted to do a quick polish, then just jump right in. Partly because I was eager to get started, and also to see how it would turn out.

So that’s what been going on.

I only have a handful of pages written, and keep wavering between “just crank ’em out and don’t look back” and “write, go back the next time and edit, then move on to the next scene”.

It’s been a good experience. One day I might get a few pages written, others might only see half a page, but it all adds up.

Not giving myself a deadline for this one; more like a vague timeframe.

Also making sure not to rush through it. If more time than expected is spent figuring out the right word or sentence, then so be it. This will also help reduce how much time is spent on the draft after this one.

Since this is totally new territory for me, I’ll be proceeding with equal parts caution, excitement, and wild abandon.

Fingers crossed as I work my way forward.

It’s all about the gradual improvement

Progress has been slow, steady, and in all honesty, somewhat faster than expected regarding the ongoing development of the animated fantasy-comedy spec.

Having learned my lesson from getting too many sets of notes per draft in the past, this time I limited myself to 2-3 writers per draft. All of the notes, as expected, were extremely helpful.

Not at the FINAL final draft yet, but gosh is it a lot closer than it was a few months ago. Pages have been cut, characters and subplots tossed, scenes revised or combined, lots of lines and pages trimmed down to what is hopefully succinct and to-the-point writing.

Currently clocking in at a respectable 102 pages. Nice. Especially considering an earlier draft was 119(!). Better to overwrite and cut than to pad and add.

(Big shoutout to Richard Walter for his invaluable advice of “Write as if ink costs $1000 an ounce.”)

While I did achieve one goal of having a workable rewrite done by the end of 2022 – at 10pm on New Year’s Eve, I was hoping to have it contest-ready soon after that.

Not the case, but that’s okay.

I’ve since received a few more sets of notes, including some helpful and encouraging comments from somebody who does coverage for the studios. Two more rounds of polishing have been completed since then. No major or drastic changes; more like a lot of effective and beneficial editing.

At this point, I’d guess there’s probably one more polish, possibly two, to go before I start warming up the credit card and check out contest deadlines.

Well worth the wait, I’d say.

Despite the still-growing number of drafts, it’s been quite satisfying to see the script slowly come together, and the next (but not the last) finish line is in sight.

Quality first and foremost

I’d finished a draft of the animated fantasy-comedy in late November and thought “Okay! This will definitely be ready for some of the contest early bird deadlines.”

Then I started getting notes on it. Which led to subsequent rewrites.

Then more notes, then another rewrite, followed by even more notes, culminating in an inspired push to complete a significant rewrite before the clock struck twelve on New Year’s Eve.

I made it with two hours to spare.

Bonus – 8 pages shorter than the previous draft.

I had a new draft of which I was particularly proud, but was it good enough to stand a chance in the big contests?

Kinda-sorta, but a decision had to be made.

On one hand, I could still make the rapidly-approaching early bird deadlines with the script as is, or get some already-scheduled professional notes and make the necessary fixes, thereby sending it regardless of the fee.

You can probably guess which option I chose.

One set of pro notes are coming in next week, and then another set in early February, so the hope is to have a contest-ready draft by the end of February or early March. Whatever the fees are around that time, that is what I will pay.

As I recently wrote to a writing colleague: I’d rather have a quality script that could do well in a high-profile contest than save a couple of bucks.

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: