Let the simmering commence!

Not the current focus of my attention, but always lurking about somewhere in my noggin

Well, here’s the good news: the first draft of the horror-comedy spec is done. Clocking in at a somewhat respectable 89 pages. Not too shabby, but I honestly expected it would be closer to 95.

Which, combined with the notion that there really isn’t any bad news in this scenario, which is nice, leads me to the whole point of today’s post.

Time for a little post-game analysis and strategizing.

Am I thrilled that I got this draft done in something like 4-5 weeks? Most definitely. I wanted to be able to say I typed FADE OUT by the end of the calendar year, and I did exactly that.

Am I happy with how it turned out? Mostly, but more on that in a minute.

Even after my “thorough” plotting and planning of the outline, the script simply isn’t where I want it to be. For now. After all, this WAS a first draft, which will usually be vastly different from each and every one that follows.

I imagine that mindset also applies here.

Even as the pages were being churned out, I kept realizing there were story elements and developments I’d wanted to include, but they’d inadvertently fallen by the wayside. My “thoroughness” had only gone so far.

But there’s hope for me yet. I devised a handy-dandy set of guidelines and questions to use for each scene, so all the things I’d missed this time around won’t suffer the same fate in draft number two.

My younger self would do a fast 180 and dive right back into the rewrite. Current self? Not so much.

Instead, I’m opting to put this draft into the proverbial desk drawer and just let it sit there for a few weeks. The next time I give it a good look-see will probably be in early January.

Full disclosure – some new ideas and fixes for this script came to be while it was being written, but trying to incorporate them would have complicated things more than I wanted, so I simply created a list and kept adding to it when applicable. No doubt it will be extremely helpful when the rewrite begins.

There’s also a strong suspicion that all those changes will result in the next draft being closer to the more-desired 95-100-page range.

In the meantime, I’ve got quite a bit of a backlog of material to work through, ranging from working on some of my other scripts to reading and giving notes. The hope is to shrink that backlog to the point of non-existence, or at least mighty darned close to it, by the time 2019 rolls around, thereby enabling me to jump right into this rewrite.

Exciting times are just ahead, chums. And coming up fast.

Bursting at the seams – part 2

Image result for MARK RUFFALO HULK GIF

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.

Mountain today, speedbump tomorrow

Yeah, it kind of felt like that
Yeah, it kind of felt like that

Well, the first round of Nicholl emails went out yesterday to inform everybody as to whether or not they were among the 372 (out of 7,251) who made it to the quarterfinals.

Regrettably, I wasn’t one of them. But there was a bit of a silver lining, too.

“A little bit of good news: your script scored well, placing among the top 15% of all entries. Possibly read three times, your script was appreciated by two readers. Its numerical placement was within script 728 to 1106 out of 7,251 entries.”

Not too shabby. Best of luck to those continuing on!

So things didn’t work out for me this time. It stings a little right now, but it ain’t the end of the world. I’m not about to stop trying and dive into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to drown my sorrows.

There was a great tweet from 2003 finalist Ronson Page later in the day: “Hollywood has many, many, many doors. Only one has to open.”  There are other contests, next year’s Nicholl, etc.

This script got me a manager, so I’ve got nothing to complain about.

If anything, it makes me want to work harder and write even more. Finish the first draft of the western spec. Jump into the rewrite of my mystery.

We’re writers. It’s what we do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see my work advance in the Nicholl, but it’s not the only way in.

And I definitely plan on getting in.

Still undecided about the ice cream, though.

And how did YOU do with your Nicholl script(s)?

Sticking to a bare-bones minimum

Start with this, add all the messy complicated stuff later
Start with this, add all the messy complicated stuff later

The semi-regular routine of working my way through the first draft has resumed, with some slight readjustments.

The original practice of fine-tuning the story in the outline stage still stands, and is one I heartily recommend.  But there’s only so much you can do here, and then it’s onto typing actual pages. This is where things start to get more complicated, and you have to be ready to handle it.

A lot of scenes in my outline are very basic in describing what happens, almost to the point of just saying what the purpose of the scene is. Then when it’s time to write the scene in the script, I have to figure out the best way to present it.

It’s a given the scene has to be fleshed out. There are always going to be necessary details to take care of, and it’s easy to lose your focus and concentration. Then you get frustrated, which is totally counter-productive.

So rather than worry about whether what you’re writing is perfect, remind yourself this is just a first (or early) draft. Nothing is written in stone. It doesn’t have to be perfect; just written.

It’s all about being patient and working your way through the stages. First there was the outline. Then the first draft. When that’s done, the next draft, then the next and so on and so on.

Besides, writing is rewriting, remember?

What I’ve tried to do is be very basic about what transpires in the scene based on how it’s described in the outline. As much as I’d like to spend time making it absolutely perfect, once I have something that works for now, I move on, knowing I’ll be back again soon for another try.

Subtle tweaks

I would totally use this
I would totally use this

Had a really good phone call with my manager and his assistant yesterday (still getting used to being able to say that) about what changes need to be made to the script before it’s ready to go out.

Fortunately, there aren’t that many.

Most of them are small details that will add a little depth to the story and flesh out some of the characters. Looking over the notes doesn’t make it seem like it’ll be too big to tackle.

It’s always nice to hear somebody be as enthusiastic about your work as you feel when you’re working on it. A little validation goes a long way.

I was really impressed with Chris the assistant’s knowledge about crafting a script and what makes for a good story.  He definitely knows his stuff.  It didn’t hurt that he seemed especially interested in some of my other story ideas.

So for now the focus is on the rewrite. The first draft of the western is on hold (54 pages as of yesterday), and the podcast gets pushed back again.

It’s highly doubtful all my potential script meetings/discussions in the future will go this smoothly, but it was definitely a great way to start.