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.
April has been a most productive month for working on the new draft of the pulpy sci-fi adventure spec. This week saw me reaching the midpoint – page 73, which is about 18 pages more than it should be. (Not to mention that a spec script of approximately 150 pages is just ludicrous to begin with.)
Part of me wants to put the writing on hold and go back to page 1 to start editing and clearing away the excess, but I sort of like the idea of just pushing forward, finishing it. and THEN going back armed with the Red Pen of Doom.
When it comes to a first draft, I always tend to put in too much. More “kitchen sink draft” than “vomit draft”. Even taking a look at some previous pages, it’s easy to see where I’ve written more than what’s needed – of practically everything.
The silver lining here is that when it comes to rewriting and editing, there’s a lot to work with. Stuff thought necessary during that initial phase might prove otherwise, and out it goes.
My storylines can be a bit complicated – too many moving parts, so to speak. A combination of “I really want to wow you with this” and “there needs to be more here”. While the first definitely rings true, the second runs the risk of overdoing it and bogging things down – something I don’t want.
It used to be a lot tougher for me to kill my darlings, but time and experience have shown me it’s all about doing what you need to to achieve the end result. As much as I might like a particular something, if it can be cut (or at least drastically shortened) without any significant impact to the rest of the story, that’s fine by me.
If I can maintain my current pace of page output, there’s no reason to think I couldn’t be done with this draft by the end of the month, or maybe the first week of May. While I usually take a little break after completing a latest draft, the always-developing ideas for potential fixes and such may cause me to forego that and just jump right back in.
In the meantime, I’m just having a good time spinning what I can only hope will be an entertainingly ripping yarn.
One of my biggest and constant issues when I engage in a rewrite is HOW MUCH ACTUALLY GETS REWRITTEN?
As much as I love the previous draft, my ability to simply discard that which has come before always gets a solid and thorough workout. I usually start out thinking “I only need to change these few items”, which naturally quickly changes to “Keep this, this, and this, and get rid of everything else.”.
The more I work on the overhaul of the pulpy sci-fi spec, that latter thought is becoming more and more prevalent. Just a handful of parts are being kept, while others fall somewhere in the range between “totally discarded” to “hold onto that for later”.
I went into this knowing it wouldn’t be a light project, which it most definitely hasn’t. It’s very safe to say it’s rapidly become a major operation, both in the medical and organizational senses of the word.
And as far as I can tell, significantly for the better all around.
The more I work on this, the more it becomes noticeably different from its predecessor. This is probably an appropriate place to say that even with all of the changes, the key story elements and plot points have remained the same. As was my intention.
Quality notes from my circle of trusted colleagues have played a major factor throughout the whole process. Many enjoyed the story, and each person had valid comments that raised some important questions and comments: could the hero’s backstory be more original and less cliched? What if the antagonist’s motivation also involved _____? And the always popular “You do realize that’s not scientifically accurate, right?”.
(Full disclosure on that last one – yep. I did. But it works within the context of the story, and this definitely isn’t the kind of story to be nitpicky about.)
With so much of the previous draft being torn down and tossed away, the rebuilding process has been slow, but steadily productive. It’ll most likely take longer than expected, but I’d rather spend the time now figuring things out than find out later that they don’t work and have to go back and do it all over again.
One of the most encouraging comments from the notes was “Words to sum up the script – Big. Fun. Action.”
That’s been my mantra for this whole process; just amped up a bit.
Bigger. Funner. Actioner.
Even though “actioner” is technically a noun, in this scenario, I’ll assume you get the gist of what it’s implying.
The early months of this year, or at least the first one – for now, are all about taking some of the scripts I worked on last year and doing what I can to make them better.
Based on some notes, a quick polish was completed on the dramedy. I like how it turned out.
Next up was the pulpy sci-fi. It was a total blast to write, so a new draft felt in order, and inevitable. This seems to fall square in the category of “genre stuff I’m good at writing”. You can imagine what a shock/surprise it was to discover the last time I’d worked on this script was late summer of 2017, so it’s had plenty of time to simmer.
I don’t know how it is for other writers, but after I complete a draft or two, the story as it reads on the page seems a bit more…maybe “cemented” is the proper word? It’s tough for me to change things up. Tough, but not impossible. If I can come up with something that does the job better and in a more creative and original way, that’s fine by me.
I wanted to really change things up for the better with this story – especially regarding the protagonist. The most prevalent comment from my readers was “more depth”. The way the hero is written now just isn’t enough.
The gears began to turn, and my self-imposed resistance against changes, especially drastic ones, began to fade. As much as I like the current draft, why shouldn’t I challenge myself to make it better – no matter what that required?
I’ve written before that you can’t force creativity, but sometimes you can at least give it a little nudge in the right direction. Start the ball rolling, so to speak. I find the best way to do this is simply by asking myself questions, such as…
-The protagonist is LIKE THIS. What would be the total opposite of that? Or something unexpected?
-Here’s an important STORY POINT, but its current form just isn’t as effective as it could be, or have the impact it should. What’s another way to present that? What would be another way from that one?
-Several readers commented how they felt the protagonist’s backstory seemed incomplete, and could really use some reinforcing. Rather than clinging to what’s there now, what if a 180 approach was taken, and THIS happened instead?
The number of possibilities continued to grow – for the better. Previously unobtainable solutions were becoming easier to find, and would then be shaped and molded to fit within the contest of the story.
A stronger, more relatable and most importantly – original – way to achieve the desired results for the protagonist’s development was forming, and the added bonus of some great opportunities to show the hero’s emotional arc!
The fuse had been lit.
More and more questions were posed, pondered, and answered, including an alarming number that could be summed up with “that’s good, but not good enough”. Combined with my willingness to jettison parts of the current draft, a totally new approach began to take form.
As expected, this will require an openness and willingness to totally jettison and replace big chunks of the current draft. Rest in peace, my darlings. (There’s a good chance a few instances of reincarnation may take place somewhere down the line)
Suffice to say, I’m absolutely thrilled about all of this.
When something really clicks for a writer – and I mean REALLY clicks – it’s as if a tidal wave of adrenaline and endorphins are flooding through your system.
That being said, my process of plotting, rewriting and revising is well underway. It’s a big job, but I’m feeling quite confident about how this rewrite is developing.
Consider me definitely ready and eager to take it all on.
Amidst all the hubbub currently surrounding my ongoing rewriting efforts, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have received some high-quality feedback on each of them.
(Incidentally, concurrently working on three scripts may be a good exercise in productivity, but it sure is an exhausting one.)
Among this trio of projects is a round of notes on the pulp sci-fi.
Some great stuff being provided by my legion of savvy readers, which includes a comment made by more than one person.
But first, a little background…
As I mentioned, I refer to this script as “pulp sci-fi”. To me, it’s reminiscent of old-timey adventure (Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, etc), which is the kind of story I enjoy reading. It’s also the filter through which I wrote it, and had a great time doing.
What’s been extremely interesting is how people interpret that phrase.
A few readers tended to share my same opinion/viewpoint, and felt the story and script reflected that. Others thought calling it a “pulp” story indicated it would be somewhat darker and grittier (which it really isn’t). And there’ve also been some who weren’t sure if what’s on the page was supposed to be taken at face value or if I was intentionally satirizing the genre.
Quite a wide variety of opinions and reactions, all of which are perfectly valid. But the responsibility falls squarely on my shoulders to provide the story with the tone I find the most applicable.
Don’t underestimate the importance of tone. This may not be the best explanation, but I see it as the story’s attitude; how it presents itself. The writing should reflect not only the components of the genre, but also the emotions the story seeks/needs to invoke in the reader.
So while I offered up what I considered to be a fun romp of a tale through the fantastic, maybe with tongue slightly pressed against cheek, that’s not what how others saw it.
Admittedly, I probably could have cleared up a lot of the confusion at the outset by adding something like “It’s pulpy sci-fi in the vein of MEN IN BLACK, HELLBOY, and THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI,” as opposed to leaving it open to interpretation. For all I know, someone saw “pulp sci-fi” and thought, “Oh, like BLADE RUNNER.” Which it most definitely is not.
Laying down that kind of foundation lets the reader know what to expect before they start, but then it’s up to the writer to consistently maintain that tone for the entirety of the script.