From the archives: Guilty as charged

lardner mugshot
I did it. I’m glad I did it. And I’ll do it again. As many times as necessary.*

Got some excellent notes and pro feedback on the latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy. Some of the suggestions involved totally cutting out some scenes I loved. It was heartbreaking to do it, but it was about what was best for the script, not the writer, so away they went.

Which leads to this classic post from yesteryear – Sept 2017, to be exact. Time has passed, but the sentiment and mindset remain the same. Enjoy.

The clock’s ticking down to the final deadline for an upcoming contest, so almost all of my energies are being directed at getting the pulp sci-fi in as tip-top shape as possible. Overall, I’d say it’s coming along nicely.

As you’d expect, there have already been some big changes made, with more than a few more on the way.

A major part of some of these changes has involved cutting material that I previously considered untouchable, or at least to do so would have constituted a crime against all that is good and wholesome.

Otherwise known as “killing one’s darlings”.

As you edit/polish/rewrite your scripts, changes will (and should) occur within the context of the story, so you have to deal with the consequences and ramifications of making those changes. And that means gettin’ rid of the stuff you love.

Did I really, really like this line of dialogue or that scene? Most definitely.

Did I cut it without a moment’s hesitation because it just didn’t work anymore? Yep.

Any regrets? Not really. Why should I? It’s all about making the script better, right?

A lot of writers won’t cut something because they hold it too close. To them, their ego takes precedence over the material. If a producer or director says something doesn’t work, and says it’ll have to be cut, what are they going to do? Say no?

It’s very rare that the final draft of a screenplay is exactly like the first draft. Changes will always be necessary, whether you want to make them or not. Much as you might hate it at the moment, make those changes. Chances are you’ll barely remember what was there before anyway.

A screenplay-in-progress is the raw material, and your job as the writer is to continuously work with it and shape it in order to get it to the final version – the one that tells your story in the best way possible.

If that means discarding something for something new, so be it. Even more so if the new something is even more effective.

*that’s no random mugshot. It’s Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr. during the Red Scare.

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.

Enjoying it – while it lasts

Slight shorty today.

The latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy spec is in the hands of some beta readers.

One has already gotten back to me with some suggestions of minor fixes, but overall very positive comments.

Which is really, really nice.

And they also liked a lot of the jokes, which is definitely nice to hear.

I can’t really explain it, but there’s something about this script that’s giving me a real positive vibe.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way about a script this early in the process, so like the title of the post says, I’m riding this wave of positivity as long and as far as it’ll take me.

I’m sure it’ll require at least another pass, maybe two, until it gets to the quality I want it to be, but for now, I really like how it turned out.

Like with each of my scripts, I had fun writing it, and hope the reader has an equally great time reading it. This is something every writer should experience. It really does make a difference.

As the wait for the remaining notes continues, the focus shifts to cranking out pages for the microbudget feature, which is coming along nicely, thanks for asking.

Hope you have an exceptionally productive weekend.

AIC mode – re-activated

The past few weeks have been quite the whirlwind of activity on several fronts.

First and foremost, after much work and effort, I released my book GO AHEAD AND ASK!, VOLUME ONE. Responses have been enthusiastically supportive. Plans already in place for Volume 2, which is tentatively set for a late June/early July release.

In case you were wondering, there wasn’t any post last week due to traveling to help the inimitable Ms V wrap up her freshman year at college and transport her home. This also included my running my first in-person half-marathon since February 2020. Finish time of 1:59:06, which was much better than expected – especially considering how much it rained during the race.

But all this activity also meant I didn’t get much writing done, so now it’s time to get back into a somewhat normal routine.

As in – setting aside time to write, or using a phrase I’ve heard bandied about more than a few times:

AIC – Ass In Chair

I’ve got several projects that I’d like to work on, and the only way to make any progress on any of them is to just sit down and do the work.

However much time I can spare each day will be fine, and you can be certain I’ll do my darnedest to get the most out of that time as possible.

The results have already proven beneficial, including a drastic reworking of the latter half of Act Two for one script. This had been nagging me for a few days prior, and it felt great to work my way through to a solution that seems much stronger and more effective than what it was before.

I know all future writing sessions might not be as productive, but I’ll take whatever progress I can get.

Here’s hoping your upcoming AIC times are just as good.

Just a little introspective self-reflecting

The past few days have been all about revising the outline of my sci-fi adventure spec. My editor’s pen has been getting quite a workout as I slash scenes and sequences out of the previous draft with wild abandon.

Sometimes inspiration will strike and I’ll come up with something entirely new that not only makes the point even better, as well as open up more possibilities further along in the story. That’s always nice.

But another side effect of all this work is more occurrences of thoughts along the lines of “Is this going to be any good? Will anybody like it? Is working on this even worth it?”

There are so many labels for this sort of thing. Self-doubt. The Impostor Syndrome. Second guessing yourself.

And writers do it to themselves ALL THE TIME. Yours truly included.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Fear of rejection? We put so much work into our material and are afraid people will think it’s trash?

Been there.

Every writer deals with it in different ways. But the important thing is that you’re dealing with it.

Accepting that somebody probably won’t like it is an important first step. You can’t please everybody, nor should you try to. That faction will always be there.

On the other hand, you might be surprised how many fans you end up getting. While the negative reactions tend to stand out more, they’re usually dwarfed by the number of positive ones. And those positive ones can make quite a difference in eliminating that self-doubt.

You send out your latest draft and hope for the best. Everybody wants glowing and ecstatic reviews, but you should take a more realistic approach and prepare for a variety of reactions. Anything from ‘I loved it!” to “it’s okay” to “just didn’t do much for me”.

And all of those are okay.

There will always be different reactions to your material. It’s how you deal with them that will shape how you choose to move forward.

One option – giving up, and nobody wants that

Another option – continue writing, but not showing it to anybody. Some might take this route, but a majority won’t.

Yet another option – continue writing, and accept whatever the outcome. Probably your best bet.

I recently had an online interaction with a newer writer. They were upset that a query they’d sent got a pass. I explained that it happened all the time, and that it was all part of the process.

Their response was “I just need someone to believe in me”. I told them that the first person who had to do that was themselves, and that if they did that, others would soon follow.

You need to be your biggest fan. If you don’t believe in yourself or your writing, why would somebody else?

So circling all the way back to my current project – I’m admittedly still a bit anxious about all the usual stuff, but I will admit to having a lot of fun writing it. This is the kind of story I love to write AND see, and I need to embrace that mindset. It’s easy to spot when a writer’s love of their story and the material is one the page, which is what I’m shooting for.

Hopefully future readers will pick up on that, thereby influencing them for the better.

So to all the writers out there – may your next writing session be as fun, enjoyable, productive, and inspiring as possible.

You’re stronger and more resilient than you think, even when you don’t think you are.