Seeing as how I’ve designated this latest go-round with the comedy spec as an “overhaul”, it’s only fitting that that’s what actually happens.
I’d decided I was absolutely not going to use the previous draft as reference material. This approach was going to be more than just the slapping on a new coat of paint and rearranging the furniture.
Granted, there were some select parts that survived the trip from the previous draft to the new one, but only because they’re vital components of the story, which makes them still relevant. Everything else, however, would be fresh and new.
And as you’d expect, that’s been slightly tougher. Tough, but not impossible.
Developing changes in a rewrite can really test one’s mettle and determination. Sometimes I’ll feel stuck and think “How’d I do it before?”, but then I fight the temptation to dig up the previous outline, reminding myself I’m in overhaul mode. Looking at the previous draft would counteract what I’m working towards now – to try something new.
There’s always a different path to where you’re trying to go.
I suppose part of it is the occasional lazy writer approach of considering what’s come before as “good enough” and not really changing it that much, but if it were “good enough” to begin with, I wouldn’t be working so hard on changing it this time, right?
Some days I’ll produce a wonderfully long sequence in no time flat, while some will yield a meager handful of bullet points of important moments that need to happen within the context of that scene or sequence, and took a dreadfully slow hour just to come up with.
Despite all of this, the results so far have proven encouraging, with work about to begin on a totally-from-scratch sequence. Forward progress is slow, but steady – as it should be.
I suspect the end result will be significantly and pleasingly different from its previous incarnation. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
-two new items posted to the Maximum Z Bulletin Board!
-Screenwriter Kay Tuxford, director Prathana Mohan, and producer Edward Timpe have launched the crowdfunding project for The MisEducation of Bindu, a new and original take on the typical high school film. The script was a Nicholl semifinalist, so you know it must be some high-quality stuff. Donate if you can!
-Starting today and running until September 30th, screenwriter Max Adams is offering up a limited time half-off special on script consultations. Go to the contact link on the website to email her for details.
Thanks to a big, determined push, I managed to wrap up the initial edit of the pulp spec last night. Amazingly, it’s still 116 pages. Much as I’d love to take another pass on it, a better option is to gently nudge it aside and let it simmer for a few months.
In the meantime, my attention now turns to a few other items, including providing some script notes and a major overhaul of one of the low-budget comedies.
To some, it might seem I’m taking on too much. Others might think it’s great to be so busy. No matter which opinion you have, it all comes down to how the individual (i.e. yours truly) sees it.
Me, I enjoy the diversity and variety. I like to work on my own material AND read other people’s stuff. All that mental stimulation helps me in the long run; the equivalent of maintaining a regular workout schedule at the gym. Or in my case, a steady regiment of training runs.
Always working on something, or even adding some reading and watching into the mix, not only helps your creativeness, but your actual output. Wouldn’t you say your writing skills are significantly better today than they were, say, a year ago? How about compared to when you just started out? I know mine are. Especially in terms of the latter.
All that being said, I think there’s a big difference between being a productive writer and just being a non-stop writing machine. A productive writer definitely produces material, but they also take the time to have a life outside of writing. The machine is just full speed ahead and don’t let up. Granted, there are some who can do both, and kudos to them. I prefer to be the former.
I also don’t have any problem with transitioning to a new project once one is completed. Even though I haven’t directed all attention on the new one, it’s always been in the back of my mind. Maybe an idea about it would pop, which would then be added to an always-handy list, then brought back out later. You might have a different approach, but this is what works for me. Everybody writes in their own way.
In the meantime, my nimble little fingers will now get a bit of a rest while I dive into the aforementioned giving of notes. And once all of those are done, the dust gets blown off the keyboard and the cycle repeats.
In years gone by, when I was seeking feedback on a script, I would ask just about any writer I knew if they’d be interested (along with an offer to reciprocate, of course).
At first that number was in single-digit territory, but eventually crossed into low double-digits.
Definitely way too many. But I was still learning and trying to get as much feedback as I could.
That in itself soon became a double-edged sword. As much as I appreciated everybody’s notes, the amount of conflicting opinions (Person A: Do this! Person B: Don’t do this!) kept getting bigger and bigger.
It got to the point where I couldn’t stop second-guessing myself, which was definitely not helping.
So after the last set of notes came in on the latest draft, I decided on taking a different approach next time. For my own sake.
Taking a look at my list of names, I evaluated each person on it. How were their notes? Insightful? Just okay? Even if I didn’t agree with everything they said, did their notes have merit?
Doing all those reciprocal reads also played a big factor. Does their writing indicate they have a solid grasp on the craft? Simply put – do they know what they’re talking about?
The number of names was soon whittled down to a respectable half-dozen; six writers I think are very talented and who have each made good headway developing their own careers. The notes each one has provided me have been extremely helpful in improving both my writing skills and my material.
It’s also gotten to the point where it’s not an uncommon thing for one of them to ask me for notes on their latest project before they send it out.
When I wrapped up the first draft of the pulp spec this past weekend, my first instinct was to immediately contact the group. But time and experience has taught me that patience pays off. I opted to go through it again, editing and making appropriate fixes. This way, I’m sending them a better draft, which means less work for them. Their time is valuable, and I want to respect that.
I’ve seen writers on forum groups asking the community if anybody would be interested in reading their latest draft. That’s fine, but I think it’s a little too risky. Without knowing how much experience the other person has, you might end up hindering your progress, rather than advancing it.
I can’t stress it enough: take the time to build up you network. Establish your own core group of writers you think are exceptionally good. Be more than willing to read their stuff. Take their notes to heart. In turn, both of you will be better writers for it, each creating better material.
Well, it took a little longer than I’d wanted, but I’m happy to announce that the first draft of the pulp spec is complete; 116 pages of potential cinematic goodness.
So what now?
The usual. Take a little time off, then jump right back in with my trusty red pen, ready to have at it and let loose the dogs of editing. The script itself has already been printed out, along with a change to a line of dialogue.
Even though I kinda-sorta edit as I go along, once I initially write a scene, it’s done and I push forward. Sometimes there’s something about it that’ll nag at me afterward, so I go back and do the necessary touch-up work.
I was tempted to send the script as-is to some of my trusted readers, but at this point, I want to see what I can do to improve it before reaching out.
Also pretty important – it was fun to write. This definitely falls within the realm of “stuff I like to write”. Hopefully others will be as enthusiastic about it when they read it. In a recent email correspondence conversation with another writer, I’d expressed my anticipation about how the script would be received. Their response: “You’re a great writer. Don’t worry so much.” Their kindness was much appreciated.
So for the time being, I’ll be fighting the urge to jump into editing in order to put some space between “just finished it” and “round two underway”. I actually do have a few other projects standing by, so I might redirect my focus on one of those, and then come back to this one in a couple of days.
It was a good and productive couple of months, and I’m quite happy with how this one turned out. I stuck to around 90 percent of what was already in the outline, but as usual, would occasionally come up with a different idea for a scene or sequence. I’d say the changes were definitely for the better.
The hardest part is out of the way, so now begins the next-hardest part: making it better.
Here is the second of a two-part panel discussion with professional proofreaders Tammy Gross of proofmyspec.com and Bill Donovan of screenwritingcommunity.net about proofreading and its connection with screenwriting, along with some info about the proofreaders themselves.
When you proofread a screenplay, do you also take on the role of story analyst?
Tammy Gross (TG): Not as a primary service, but yes. Since I’m reading it anyway, I do offer inexpensive add-ons if a writer wants some basic “coverage.” And even with proofreading, there are some story issues which may be addressed during the edit if there’s a problem with consistency and/or continuity.
Before I started my proofreading service, I took a course on story analysis and offered a coverage service. I soon learned how bad formatting and text were too distracting for my left brain. It’s agony for me to look past multiple errors/issues.
Bill Donovan (BD): To a limited degree, yes. However, I put these and other words at the top of every set of notes I give back with the proofread copy:
“These are not the words of an expert script analyst … I strongly hope not to hurt your feelings … To the extent that you find my comments on your story to be wrong-headed, pointless, or insensitive, you are hereby counseled and, with regret for any hurt feelings, encouraged to ignore them.”
What’s your writing background?
TG: The agony of trying to look past typos sent me down an editing path in my 20s. I read a book published through a major publishing house that had multiple errors in the soft-cover version. I sent my corrections to the publisher, and the author contacted me personally to thank me. Ever since, I’ve honed my editing skills.
My life plan was “sing while I’m young and write when I’m old.” I did write a couple of novels in my 20s and managed to have some sort of writing or editing responsibility in every “real” job I ever worked, whether at a church, a bank or Fortune 500 company.
In 2008, while taking a break from singing, I learned about a couple of female pirates. These historical swashbuckling stories fascinated me. I traveled the world researching pirates (including falling victim to real ones in the Bahamas) and learning about writing screenplays. I haven’t looked back.
So far, every script I’ve entered in contests has placed or won. In fact, my first script won the first contest I ever entered. Since then, I’ve realized that my ability to write in “the language of screenplay” was getting me further than better storytellers due to their weaker technical skills.
I’m currently writing an adventure story for a producer who found me because of one of my scripts (which I also turned into a YA book).
BD: -Screenplay contest judge (three contests)
-Screenplay contest executive (11 screenplay contests, 5 scene-writing contests, two logline contests)
-Two of my own screenplays won three first prizes equaling $30,104 in prize money in today’s dollars.
-Former Editor of Creative Screenwriting Magazine
-Author of three e-books for screenwriters to date; a fourth is upcoming
-USC Master of Fine Arts, Screenwriting and Filmmaking
-Copy desk chief at a daily newspaper, the Morristown, N.J., Daily Record
-Copy editor at the Associated Press
-Copy editor at another daily newspaper, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.
-Copy editor for several business-to-business trade publications
-11,200+ published pages and screenplays edited/proofread over the years
-News stories I wrote and/or edited won five national journalism awards.
How’d you get into proofreading?
TG: Totally by accident. I started a screenwriting group where we would table-read 10 pages of each writer’s script. I found myself making lots of corrections on everybody’s pages, and many of them asked me to proofread their entire scripts. It was a little overwhelming, due to also running a thriving music-arranging business at the time, so I put up a website to help me prioritize and charged a low but fair fee.
And it’s good that I did, because after the 2007 writers’ strike, followed by the recession, the spec-writing business boomed while music arranging fizzled.
BD: For an upcoming book, I surveyed and interviewed producers, agents, screenplay readers, directors, contest judges, and contest executives, asking them for their comments on the most common and the worst mistakes they see. Within the screenplay, proofreading and editing mistakes were named both the most common and most disliked by people in the industry.
How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?