Here’s what you need to know

July 22, 2014
Not THAT kind of exposition

Not THAT kind of exposition

As the rewrite/polish of the mystery-comedy continues, it suddenly hit me that while I knew the backstory of what came before, somebody reading it for the first time would have no idea what was going on, or at least how we got here.

A little exposition was in order.

But among the many problems with writing exposition is when it’s out-and-out obvious.

“You mean your brother John, who went through a terrible divorce, ran off to join the circus and became a cross-dressing serial killer?”

Sometimes it’s done very effectively, but unfortunately, a lot of the time it isn’t, resulting in a blast of information crammed into one scene.

No thanks.

Rather than go down that road, I’m exploring the potential of doling out the details over several scenes. A sentence or two casually placed here and there so as to not draw attention to itself, all for the purpose of helping you learn where everything is coming from and how we got here.

It’s a work in progress, so we’ll see how it goes.


Not done just yet

July 18, 2014
Made one of these to ease my pain. Ate one piece, gave the rest to coworkers

Made one of these to ease my pain. Ate one piece, gave the rest to coworkers

No matter what level of success a writer has achieved, they are always learning.

Or at least they should be.

So far, my western is 0 for 2 in the competitions I’ve entered, at least in terms of making it past the first round.

Once I got past the initial shock and heartbreak, I took a more analytical approach – why was I not getting the results I was hoping for?

The most logical and practical explanation – the script isn’t as perfect as I thought. It needed fixing.

But what to fix?

(I’ve no inflated sense of ability. I know what I’m good and not-so good at, and expertly analyzing a script falls into the latter category)

So I did what any sensible writer would do – I sought out help from those in the know.  People who write for a living, or advise other writers on how to improve their material.

I asked if they’d take a look at the script at their convenience, let me know what they thought about it, what worked and what needed work. Constructive criticism, not praise, was my objective.

Let’s not say the results were eye-opening, but more like “oh, I see.”

The two most frequent comments were to trim the page count down (many conceded the current 132, while a very fast read, would initially be off-putting to potentially interested parties) and to flesh out the main character a little bit more.

As I said to one person, tough but not impossible assignments.

My biggest mistake was thinking the script was good to go, when what I should have done at that point was get this kind of advice, make the fixes and then do the whole contest and query circuits.  Something to remember for next time.

So for now, another rewrite is in store, which is totally fine.  Anything to make it better.

Sometimes it’s too tempting to finish a project and declare it ready. That’s when your internal editor/critic needs to stand up and ask “Are you absolutely sure about that?”

Make sure you listen to them.


Just call me Dante, because this sure feels hellish

July 15, 2014
Seems pretty appropriate at times

Seems pretty appropriate at times

I wanted to rework the logline for my mystery-comedy spec, so, never one to totally learn from previous experience and hoping for best possible results, I took the plunge and posted it on a few forums, seeking potentially helpful feedback.

Thus did the floodgates open.

It’s me and my story out there in the open, waiting for the world to let itself be heard.

And it did. Oh boy, did it.

One response was a literal interpretation of the words, and why it didn’t work. My assumption that certain details were implied was apparently incorrect.

Several focused on presenting the story in a way I repeatedly explained just didn’t apply. No matter how much I emphasized it was THIS kind of story, they just could not get away from thinking it was THAT kind of story.

Then there’s the omnipresent “I can’t see this being a story” and “It doesn’t sound solid enough.”

Well, I can and think it does.

My words, meet deaf ears. I got similar responses when I was starting the western, and that turned out pretty well.

It’s my sincere belief that everybody’s intentions are good, and they probably don’t mean for their comments to come across in such a “why don’t you know better?” and “THIS is the right (read: only) way to do it” manner.

Even if I totally disagree with somebody, I still appreciate the fact they made the effort to read it, analyze it and create what both of us hope is a helpful response. That doesn’t mean I have to take their word as gospel.

And unless I’ve actually met the person, I have no idea how much legitimate experience or expertise they have. For all I know, everything they say stems from reading SAVE THE CAT a couple of times.

Putting together a logline is an exhausting process. Some people are better at it than others.

As it so happens, I’m not one of them.


Semi-regular post with a joke in it

July 11, 2014
Don't forget to tip your wait staff

Don’t forget to tip your wait staff

The past few days have been all about sending out a disproportionately large amount of query letters, so I’m a little tired and not exactly motivated to write something of an inspirational nature.

So instead, here’s one of my favorite jokes. You’ve probably heard it, but bear with me.

-Three morons were getting ready to hike across the desert.

The first one said, “I’m going to bring a canteen full of water.”

“How come?” asked the other two.

“In case I get thirsty, I can drink it.”

The second one said, “I’m going to bring a bag of food.”

“How come?”

“In case I get hungry, I can eat it.”

The third one said, “I’m going to bring a car door.”

“How come?”

“In case I get too hot, I can roll down the window.”

Thanks. You’ve been a great audience. I’m here all week.


Here’s the windup…

July 8, 2014
lincecum

I admit it. Local bias.

Interesting discussion the other day with a professional hyphen (writer HYPHEN director HYPHEN script consultant) about my western.

They wanted me to pitch them the story, but without notes. Pretty much without any preparation whatsoever.

This way, they explained, it comes across as “more natural” and “less rehearsed”. I don’t necessarily agree, especially because I despise those momentary pauses which make you rely on saying “um” while your brain races to come up with the next words out of your mouth.

Despite not really having thought about the story that much over the past few months, I did my best to work my way through it and think I did okay. Maybe B-plus/A minus territory. Not fantastic, but not bad operating with pretty much no prep time whatsoever.

I made sure to include key story points and not go into too much detail, and tried to sound excited and upbeat while describing the high-octane action.

After I’d finished, there was a dread-inducing silence that grew with each passing second (maybe 3 in total, but felt more like neverending).

“Hmm,” came the reply. “Not bad.”

Not exactly a standing ovation, but I’ll take what I can get.

They listed what they liked and what could use a little work. Surprisingly, they felt the ending was a little ‘soft’ and their explanations why, to which I calmly disagreed and gave my explanation why.

Even more surprisingly, they then revealed they’d only read up to page 15 and wanted to hear my pitch to see if the rest of the story warranted continuing.

(Just to set things up, this person claims to have given 3 pages of notes just on the first page alone for other scripts. Apart from a few comments about the dialogue, they didn’t really have any for mine, and that when they usually get to around page 10, they jump ahead to the middle, then to the end. But mine they wanted to keep reading. Make of that what you will.)

After hearing my rationalization for the ending, they admitted that they should “probably read it to see if they agree.” In theory that will be happening this week, but we’ll see.

Our discussion then turned to my experience and some of my other scripts, 2 of which they requested to read. A victory, no matter how you slice it.

Looking back, I could have done a much better job at pitching my story – if I’d known I was going to have to do it. Still, if I’m going to be sending out queries about it, I should be prepared to talk about it in a moment’s notice.

So while I while away upcoming hours engaged in the rewrite of the mystery-comedy spec, I’ll try to make the most of potential down-time and re-read the western and maybe put together some kind of FAQ/cheat sheet in case this kind of situation arises again.

And it probably wouldn’t hurt to do the same for those other two – just for good measure.


The me business – a 24/7 operation

July 4, 2014

 

The friendliest staff in town!

We’ve got the friendliest staff in town!

What may have been my biggest mistake with my old manager was not doing enough.

I’d toil away on the new script, and send him an occasional email asking if there had been any responses to the first one. They were minimal, which is putting the best positive spin on it.

Why weren’t we getting the results we’d expected? Mostly, I blame myself.

Looking back, I realize now that it was me who wasn’t being the more proactive one. He was a busy guy with other clients to handle. Instead of handing off the material with the instruction of “I’ve got a script to write. You do what you have to,” I should have been making his job easier by doing the research, finding the names and providing the contact info so all he had to was send off an email.

Lesson learned. Behavior modified. Jump to the present.

Now being representation-free, I’ve no choice but to be the proactive one. Nobody’s coming to me, so I’m exploring numerous avenues to get to them.

-query letters. A few managers have requested the script, with more being targeted.

-researching producers and production companies who’ve made films similar to my scripts

-expanding my network and connecting with writers on community sites, which includes face-to-face meetings with those in the immediate vicinity when applicable

-publicizing my scripts and their loglines on said sites and public forums, which has resulted in not only more connections, but offers to read the scripts. Feedback is always invaluable, and somebody’s status in the industry can change overnight, so any connection is a potential good one.

My former m.o. was to devote as much time as possible to writing, rewriting and polishing. But for now, that’s just not an option anymore.

Time for a little diversification.

It’s just as important now to set aside some time each day to find some potential recipients for my material. Even if it’s only 20-30 minutes of researching names on IMDBPro, that’s still a few small steps in the right direction.

Even if something may feel like the longest of shots, I remind myself I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose, and the worst that can happen is somebody says no.  If that happens, I shrug it off, move on to the next name and try again.


Reduce heat; let simmer for 2-3 months

July 1, 2014
I look exactly like that after finishing each draft, flour and all

Exactly how I look after finishing a draft, even though the flour wreaks havoc with my keyboard

It took a little longer than expected, but the revamped outline for the pulpy adventure spec is finally done.

As is my usual practice, I won’t take another stab at it for at least a couple of months partly because I’m feeling a little burned-out on it. This has been my primary focus for the past couple of months, and I just need a short break from it.

The other reason is I’m getting ready to jump into rewriting the Christmas-themed mystery-comedy. Notes are in place, so hopefully it won’t take too long.

But getting back to the outline, my original thought upon finishing it was the standard “It’s better than it was, but still needs a lot of work,” but experience has taught me that this may not necessarily be the case anymore.

I like to think I’m a stronger writer compared to a few years ago, so while I would never consider the material as it reads now as perfect, it may surprise me when I return to it as to how much better it is than I remember.

At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

On the other hand, I could read it and think “Where did that come from?”, “Well, that’s not going to work,” or even “Hmm. How much wine did I have that day?”

Taking it another step further, taking this break will enable me to pretty much forget a lot about the story, so I’ll be able to read it with fresh eyes and potentially come up with fresh ideas about how to improve it.

All things being equal, I like the way it turned out and am looking forward to getting back to it.

But first things first. Time to shift from the fight against monsters wreaking havoc to seeking out answers behind seedy goings-on in a holiday metropolis.

As always, watch this space for updates.


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