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.

A nice wrap-up

2022 is starting to wind down, and the general consensus around Maximum Z HQ is:

It’s been a pretty good year.

-First and foremost, I finally managed to publish my books. Took a while to put it all together, but thanks to a heaven-sent editor/advisor, they became a reality.

Also nice is that they’ve been very positively received. And they make a great gift for any screenwriter (plug, plug).

-A lot of the year was also spent writing. I completed a few drafts of the animated fantasy-comedy spec – huge shoutout to the readers who provided some excellent notes that helped improve each draft. Hoping the end result achieves what I set out to do.

I’m also wrapping up the script for the microbudget feature. The producer who brought me onto the project really likes what I’ve come up with so far, which is always nice to hear. They’re hoping to start production in the spring, so fingers remain firmly crossed that becomes a reality.

Bonus – the producer also asked me to write a short, which I did. It’s a completed project and is already being submitted to festivals. Keeping any other details under wraps for the time being.

-Wasn’t able to make my horror-comedy short film, but I did connect with a local director who’s open to helping out. This whole “make it yourself” thing is quite a learning experience.

-Speaking of connecting, I got to meet a whole new bunch of local writers. I always enjoy that.

-I once again took part in the screenwriting track for the San Francisco Writers Conference, which included being on panels and offering advice to writers one-on-one. Had a great time with that, and I’ll get to do it again in February.

-Being part of the conference also led to doing a lecture about screenwriting for the California Writers Club, which it looks like I might get to do again sometime soon.

-Didn’t do so well on the contest front, but as evidenced in everything else I just talked about, I think I’ve done okay.

Here’s hoping for more good news and positive vibes for all of us in 2023.

Keep pushing forward, chums. I’m rootin’ for ya.

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: https://wp.me/prjnO-8yJ

The next mountain awaits

Wrapped up the latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy earlier this week and sent it to a few readers.

Notes have begun trickling in.

Overall responses: very positive, but could still use some tweaking. Points were awarded for creativity, originality, dialogue, and the jokes.

I appreciate all of those very much.

But…it can still be better.

I’d estimate it’s maybe one to two drafts away from being where it needs to. Waiting for a few more notes to come in before diving into that.

What’s also helped is that a lot of the changes don’t seem to be of a major overhaul type, but I suspect it won’t be a few minor changes here and there either. Somewhere in that nebulous middle.

It’s been quite encouraging how fast and effectively things are playing out for this one. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but all the time spent writing, rewriting and constantly trying to make previous scripts better are yielding the desired results for this one in a more timely manner.

Another thing that’s different about this time around is that confidence levels were already pretty high about the script, and getting comments about what still needs work hasn’t diminished them. Many times in the past I would get notes and think what a terrible writer I must have been, which was not the case.

I’m quite psyched about this one, and can’t wait to get back to work on it.

**SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION!!**

I was the featured guest on some recent podcasts:

What Are You Watching? with Chris Mancini (who has a q&a on this blog)

The Successful Screenwriter with Geoffrey Calhoun (a 2-time q&a on this blog – here & here)