Must Find Hook

Last night at work I treated myself to a night of watching movies on the couch (I love my job). Why did I do this? Well, I’m glad you asked that, O jealous fellow writers.

Because I finished a script.

Okay, fine! I didn’t finish the script. I finished the first draft. But it sounds so much cooler to say you finished a script.

The 14-day Screenwriting Contest worked out well for me. I banged that thing out at an average of almost 6 pages an hour, baby. That’s pretty good for me—I don’t know about the rest of you.

I think that’s the glorious thing about having an idea that you can really see as a movie: you keep seeing it the whole time you’re writing; you just have to keep letting the fingers translate so everyone else can also see.

The 14-day script was good for me in another way, besides just getting a draft knocked over. It reminded me how much I love writing a script.

I was pumped when I got the Lifeline job, because it meant I would be able to write for several hours every night while getting paid. True, I wasn’t getting paid much, but it was enough to stay alive and not have to stress out trying to find other hours during the day in which to pursue the craft. So I entered the job excited, ready to go.

Then I didn’t write for a month.

This is the problem with ideas that you can’t “see.” You can’t see them. I had this “Hero” idea. The most famous heroes of the great stories and myths are actually all the same person. What a great idea, right?

That’s not a hook. It’s too broad to be a hook. So I went off in search of the hook. Night after night at work I would labor to find the plot for the movie this idea wanted to be. I did one. It sucked. I did another one. It sucked. But it had elements of not sucking. I took another pass at it. It still sucked.

I kept falling asleep at the desk. Outlining a hookless movie has to be the worst thing in the world for someone awake at 4 a.m.

So, worn out from all this story-breaking and not having written in longer than I wanted to admit to anyone, I went off to Sicily. And danged if my second-to-last day there, I didn’t get myself a hook. And I don’t mean a hook in the “what a great concept to explore” sense, but in the “This is so good I need to check to make sure it hasn’t already been done” sense. (Note: this is my big, biased ego talking).

Come home, back to work. First night: outlining.

Check.

I kicked that outline’s ass.

Second night: writing.
Third night: writing.
Fourth night: lack of sleep, but still some writing.
Fifth night: hella writing (40 pages, baby)
Sixth night: insane work problems and distractions galore. No writing.
Seventh night: Fade to Black. Draft complete.

I think I calculated around 27 hours of writing to produce 129 pages. Not once in all those hours or pages did I get bored. Not once did I wish I was doing something else (okay, maybe sleeping). It was a thrill from start to finish.

Because I had a hook.

New screenwriting lesson: Don’t write a hookless movie. Not just because you won’t sell it. Because it’s not nearly as much fun.

Next week: a new hook, a new outline, a new script. Rewrites on the most recent draft await the perusal of my fellow scribes. Get on that, y'all. Don’t leave me hanging.

Ryan Elainska