In a recent Twitter exchange, the person with whom I was conversing mentioned, “You’ve covered a lot of ground with your blog.”
I never really thought of it that way. I just try to write about stuff I consider both appealing and applicable for writers. Sounds like others might share the same opinions, which is always nice to hear.
Since I’ve been doing this for a good number of years, the catalog of posts goes back quite a ways, covering a wide spectrum of topics. Despite their age and the occasional outdated writing update, the intended content of many of them remains relevant.
With that being said, here are a few posts from the past couple of years I think still make for informative and entertaining reads.
The busy times never stop around Maximum Z HQ. Among the latest tasks being undertaken:
-Rewrite/overhaul of the low-budget comedy
-Sporadic rewrite work on the pulp sci-fi spec, with initial sets of notes being carefully scrutinized
-Crafting together some pretty solid query letters, along with researching the best places to send them
-Jotting down notes for several future projects, including a comedic take on one of my favorite genres
-Providing scriptnotes to patient writer colleagues
You’d think with all of this going on, plus the non-writing normal life, I’d be exhausted.
Actually, I am, but it’s cool.
The way I see it, keeping busy like this helps me be a better writer; continuously working on something helps me be productive and further develop my skills.
Sure, somtimes the amount of actual writing is bare minimum, or maybe even not at all, but that’s okay too. All work and no play and all that.
Most importantly, I’m just getting a real kick out of doing it. If I wasn’t, I’d be a lot less likely to want to keep going.
And there are also days where it all gets so frustrating that I want to just walk away from it all. But I like doing it to much to even consider that.
Some recent interactions I’ve had with other writers have included more than a few of them expressing frustration about their diminishing hopes of making headway with breaking in and getting a writing career going.
I feel for them. I really do. As just about any writer will attest, this is not an easy undertaking. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” right?
Even though all of our chances are somewhat slim, I suggested they keep at it, if only for the sheer joy of writing. Isn’t that what got us all started?
When I asked one writer how their latest project was going, the response was “Really enjoying working on this, even though I know nobody else will ever see it.”
I totally get that. We all have our reasons for deciding whether or not to put our work out there, but the important thing was that they were having a good time with it. And you can tell if they were by what’s there on the page. It it was a chore for you to write, it’ll be that much more of a chore for us to read. Is that really the route you want to take?
So no matter what it is you’re working on right now, I sincerely hope that it’s bringing you as much joy and pleasure as you’re hoping to provide to your reader/audience.
A good number of years ago, I came up with an idea for a script.
“Write something you would want to see.” This definitely fell into that category.
There were so many angles and aspects to it I found appealing. The concept kept drawing me in, compelling me to tell the story in the most entertaining way possible.
To say I’ve really thrown myself into it during all this time would be an absolute understatement.
I couldn’t even tell you how many iterations and drafts this story has gone through; let’s just say a whole freakin’ lot.
Notes? I’ve probably received enough to make two books, or at least a really long pdf. Some were good, some weren’t, and some seemed to exist in an alternate dimension where opposites are the norm.
I’d finish a draft, thinking, “Okay. This is IT.” And if you’ve been following this saga, you know how it turned out each time.
There were lots of times of feeling totally burned out, thinking there was nothing else to do. Or receiving comments like “Why keep messing with it? It’s good enough as it is.”
But something kept nagging at me, saying “This can still be better. Keep going.”
So I did. My faith in the story was still strong. I knew I could make this work.
The tweaking/fine-tuning continued, aided by a few more sets of notes courtesy of very qualified readers. My red pen was working on overdrive. Cut this. Move this. Switch these around. Expand on this. Changes and fixes were made, until…
“The End” had once again been reached. But this time it felt different. I won’t say “complete”, but you get the idea.
I’ve been extremely fortunate in connecting with a lot of exceptionally talented writers over the years, and there’s one whose critiquing ability I hold in very high regard. I asked them to look over the script, adding that this was for the most prestigious screenwriting contest of them all.
The last time they read it was two years ago, so there was some extra intrigue regarding what they’d think of this draft. Approval from one’s peers plays a bigger-than-expected part in helping a writer develop.
They liked it.
I’ve been writing screenplays for quite a while, always striving to improve both my skills and the quality of my material, all as part of the effort to become a working writer. Reading their notes helped solidify my belief that this could actually happen.
Final preparations are being made to submit the script to the aforementioned prestigious screenwriting contest. Is this draft better than previous ones? Definitely. Has its chances for this contest improved? God, I hope so.
Even if nothing happens with this or the other high-profile contests, I still have a script I consider well-written and exceptionally entertaining. At this point in time, I don’t think there’s any reason to do any more work on it. So now it enters into that category of “calling card scripts”, ready to be sent out at a moment’s notice.
In the meantime, my attention is currently being split between several other projects in various stages of development. And based on how much my writing improved working on this script, I’ll speculate that the quality of these newer ones might just end up being pretty darned good.
Let’s pause now for your humble blogger-in-residence to proudly proclaim that Act One of the first draft of the pulpy adventure spec is complete.
But you know what that also means.
Yep. Time to buckle down even more, strap myself in, and jump feet-first into the intimidating arena commonly known as Act Two.
I’ll also admit it’s a little thrilling, too. There was a particular charge in working out the action sequences and story set-ups in Act One, so I’ve a strong suspicion the continuing build-ups for the former and the gradual development of the latter will be equally, if not more so, fun to write.
(and believe me when I say this is the kind of story that automatically requires a sense of fun)
Maybe it’s from continuously trying to improve as I go, but working on Act Two doesn’t seem as intimidating as it used to. Not to say that it comes easily; just slightly less insurmountable. I spent a lot of time on the outline, so confidence in that is pretty solid.
I read a lot about how a spec script might have a phenomenal Act One, but then things fall apart in Act Two for a myriad of possible reasons: the characters don’t do much/nothing really happens, or the overall story’s too thin, so a lot of Act Two is empty filler, and so on.
The only writing process I know is my own, and I always strive to make sure the story feels…complete? Full? It comes down to “I know what has to happen to tell this story,”, and while the first act is all about setting it all up, the second act is about fleshing everything out.
We get a closer look at the characters and how they’re progressing through the events of the story. We can see how they’re changing from when they were first introduced. Plot threads of all sizes get further developed. The central question is continuously asked (oh-so-subtly, of course).
It also involves steadily-mounting complications for your protagonist. They’ve got a goal, and it’s our job to throw all kinds of obstacles in their way that just keep making it harder for them to reach it. Again, a lot of it happens during our second act.
Act Two really is where the meat of the story takes place, so stuff needs to happen that not only holds our interest, but makes us want/need to know what happens next, and even that better be that much more intriguing.
As you’d expect, our work is cut out for us.
So off I go. Dispatches from this formidable excursion as they develop.
I admit it. I was weak. I couldn’t resist. The urge was just too overwhelming.
So I accepted the reality of the situation, and just went ahead and did it.
I went back and revised the pages I’d already written for the pulpy adventure spec.
The character that shouldn’t have been in there was cleanly removed, but in the process of doing so, a new idea emerged with a way to further weave some of the subplots together. Always nice when that happens.
Engaging in this mini-rewrite also provided me with the opportunity to take a step back and just read. Was it still working? Were my aspirations of producing a ripping yarn being achieved?
Seems that way so far. Then again, I’m slightly biased.
Some notes I got on an earlier draft of the western were along the lines of “it’s good, but the writing’s a little dry.” With this script, there’s more of an effort to avoid repeating that by really punching things up.
I’m getting a real kick out of seeing what I can do to make this an exciting read for anybody, including myself. Many’s the time I’ve heard that you should be able to see the writer’s love for the material on the page. That’s something I’ve always tried to do, and working on this script is no exception.
So after this temporary pause, things are back on track. Momentum will be regained, and progress shall continue.
Exciting times all around, chums.
-Friend of the blog/consultant Jim Mercurio is running a crowdfunding project for his latest film project American Neorealism. It’s VERY close to being funded, and there are just a few days left, so donate if you can to help him reach (or even surpass) that goal.