story

I’m Doing This Backwards

I’ve been working for several weeks on an idea for a novella. It started with an idea that wasn’t very “high-concept”, which I usually try to avoid. Before long I realized that all my favorite parts of the idea were the character bits—the parts that got me choked up just thinking about them.

This is not how I operate. I do hook first—always the hook first, so I know why anyone would even think about reading the story. I do not do character bits first.

Now I’m trying to retrofit this character arc onto an actual concept that can hold together a fantasy storyline people actually want to read. It’s brutal. I keep sitting down with my spiral and my 3x5s and cranking on mind maps and outlines every weekend until I think, “Yeah, that’s it, right?” But some tiny part of my brain always knows that’s not it. So I spend the work week mulling over the story, then sit down on Saturday determined to nail the outline for good this time.

And by the end of the weekend I think, “Yeah, that’s it, right?”

Nope.

Building a plot around character beats. Not the way I do things.

Ah, Truisms.

I’m really starting to realize the validity of the idea that you should only write what you’re passionate about.

Plunk me down in the middle of a draft, two months into writing (since I have the discipline of a kitten), and I won’t have the faintest idea what the career implications of this project are.

I won’t remember why I started this stupid script. I won’t be able to think straight about whether I could use it to whip up any interest from an agent. Or a producer. Or anyone who matters.

The only thing I’ll be able to tell you is whether I’m enjoying what I’m doing. So it better be something I enjoy, or most of the motivation goes straight out the window.

There is the odd exception. Like that rom-com that I kept working on (and will continue to work on later) simply because it was such a beautiful, golden, commercial idea (with a correspondingly golden title) that I couldn’t justify not finishing it. But ordinarily, I’m going to have to be really stoked about what I’m doing, or despair quickly sets it.

Which is why this book adaptation is so great. In addition to being easy to write, as I’ve mentioned over and over and over, it’s just the kind of story I really like. It’s a movie I would race to the theater to see: dark, compelling, and full of veiled metaphysical ponderings.

My only regret about writing it is that I won’t be able to take any credit if it turns out to be great. All that credit will have to go straight to the author. *Sigh*

But if by some wild chance it got made, I would be so excited to see it. And that’s the kind of thing to write.

I Blame My Wife

Marriage kills your discipline. Well, that’s not true. It just gives you a million additional things to think about, so you never think about writing ever again. At least, not enough to do any.

So I blame my wife. :) *

But actually, I do have 23 pages of the Nightmare book adaptation done. It’s going quite well, when it’s going. I loves me my adaptation. It’s like Michaelangelo and sculpting: I just cut away anything that isn’t the movie.

In other news, David gave me some notes on my rom-com, so once I’m done with the adaptation, I have somewhere else to go. I’m not going there yet, because I’m still a little sick of that script, but eventually I will have to give it some final attention.

And finally, I have made my first dollar as a screenwriter. Really. $1.00.

I’ve had a short script on inktip.com for almost a year now, and after many other dead-end inquiries, these guys finally liked it enough to at least plan to produce it. There’s no money in shorts, so they were only willing to part with a dollar for it.

But I don’t care. It’s a production credit (hopefully). And it’s at least a tiny bit of validation. Writers need validation.

I’ve also noticed that adding an option (albeit a free one) to my profile on Inktip actually results in more hits for my other scripts. Thus, a “halo effect,” if you will.

That’s right: Shorts are the iPod of screenwriting, baby.

I’m such a geek.

Anyway, things are moving, if a little slowly. And also, despite my above complaint, marriage is great.

And yes, Greg, I know I’m supposed to do that 10-item list for which you tagged me. But you can’t jump back into blogging after a two-month-long absence with something like that. You just can’t.

* It’s okay. She knows I love her.

And Just a Few Weeks Later ...

So I still exist, and I still write things down, and I still blog with the diligence of a baby goldfish, but the main difference, the really essential thing that separates the me who last posted from the current me is that one of us is wearing a ring to match the one pictured below.

In short: got married.

If I’m feeling really nice about it and if my attention doesn’t wander, sometime later you might see an image or so from the happy event and subsequent vacation, but right now, I have more important things to talk about.

I don’t blog to talk about my personal life. It’s not how I roll.

No, the real news here, my friends, is that bare days before being linked up to the beautiful blonde of recent mention, I posted a feature script on Inktip.com.

That’s right, with complete disregard for whatever my fellow scribes may eventually say about this script whenever they have a chance to read it, I surged ahead and sent it out into the world all on its own.

It was only the free Inktip 10-day trial, which since expired. But it seemed to be garnering at least a little attention, so I just now this night shelled out the cash to put it back on for the full term of six months.

We’ll see what happens.

If I can get some feedback on it, and make what will hopefully be relatively small corresponding adjustments, I will later start querying it out. That’s a hint to some of you. *Insert Winning Smile Here*

But until that happens, we are moving on.

If you will look to the right, Ladies and Gentlemen, you will see that the “Polygamy Rewrite” has been pushed down in favor of a new spec adaptation, which I am going to refer to for the moment as “The Nightmare.”

Feel thrilled.

I’m excited about this adaptation. I’ve never done one of those, and I really love this source material. And I’m excited about starting my first new script in (I think) eight months.

So scamper off and let me work.

Note for my Xanga-using friends: surprising as it may seem, I am one of the last Blogger bloggers to allow non-Bloggers to comment. So you can keep commenting at my Xanga blog, but you don’t have to.

Other Eyes

All the cutting is done on my rom-com. I think. It’s six pages longer than I wanted, but I think that might be okay.

While I was at it, I worked in some character development and dialogue adjustments. I could probably keep tweaking this thing indefinitely, but I really feel like it’s very close to finished, so it’s time to get some Other Eyes on it.

Other Eyes are good. They’re fresh, and they can look at things with perspective, whereas I am mired in my own work and may be currently incapable of honest evaluation.

It’s a great feeling.

I did the same thing when I was a graphic design student. In an early 2-D design class, I had to produce a work incorporating (I think) seven different tricks for creating the three-dimensional illusion.

I spent days just thinking about what I was going to do before I ever started drawing. I figured out how I was going to use each and every one of these tools, and also how in the process I was going to paint something totally kick-ass.

I worked it hard, and felt pretty good about my watercolor masterpiece when it was done. The instructor critiqued everyone’s project in class those days, and when he got to mine -

I got 3 out of the 7. Four, if he was being nice. And he probably wasn’t.

If only I’d asked someone else whether they thought the piece was complete, instead of just making an assumption.

You know what happens when you make an assumption?

I’d rather not make an ass out of you and umption when it comes to sending out this script. So hopefully some cat like Greg will be able to help me decide if it’s ready for the world or needs some more TLC.

It better be ready soon. I’m sick of writing comedy.

Cut, Cut, Cut

So when last heard from, I was trying to cut 148 pages down to 100ish pages. Special thanks to Emily Blake for the progress bar info, which adds some snazziness (oh yeah, it’s a word).

I thought at first that I was going to have to cut huge chunks out of some of my favorite scenes, which kind of run a little long. However, I discovered that I can probably just go through and tighten them all up and still come out significantly shorter. The real cutting is in my connecting scenes between the set-pieces, which tend to be horribly extended by pleasant but irrelevant dialogue.

So I had all kinds of fun last night writing an eight-page replacement for a 20-page sequence. In the process I got to take it out of the realm of People Talking In Rooms and make it fun, with snappier dialogue and physical abuse. Great stuff.

So that’s all. Nothing else too exciting, just working away. I hope to be done with all of this rewrite by February 28, when I go see this girl

Polishing the Jet Engine

At 5:08 a.m. EST, I finally finished this damn draft. Absolutely unbelievable, how much that thing grew in the writing. I already wrote it once! And it still wanted to get bigger when I wrote it the second time.

I sound bitter, but I’m not. I’m just not as excited as probably some people (including me) are when they finish a rough draft, because this rough draft is actually also a second draft. It should have been smoother and quicker and resulted in something much more finished-looking than this.

Now, there are good reasons why this is not the case. The first draft had kind of a pathetic plot, necessitating pretty much a page one rewrite. So as noted in my previous post, the is the jet engine to the first draft’s steam engine.

But still. It took a long freakin’ time. This is the kind of script that should be 100 pages. It’s 148 pages. I have to cut a third of this thing. And most of it feels important.

I know, I know, everyone thinks all of his material is important. I get that. But unlike some other writers (the ones I call “bad”), I actually try to make all my scenes mean something, not just be fun or funny or exciting. Probably that’s because without some sort of character development, I wouldn’t be able to make most of it fun or funny or exciting.

So I now have to cut probably at least 30 pages of story that I think actually matters.

Plus, I kind of have the feeling that one reason it’s so long is my paragraph structures. I break paragraphs often. My action is all diced up into little manageable chunks, often one sentence long.

This makes for some really long scenes, purely from a page-count standpoint.

I’m not sure what to do about that. I have a feeling if you actually shot this movie, it would come in closer to 120 minutes than 148 minutes.

But readers and managers and agents and producers like thin scripts. Thus, I must keep the pages down.

So my rewrite now commences. I need a progress bar like Emily, so I can show how I reach my goal of being done with major rewrites by February 22.

How do I find one of those? Anyone know?