It was quite an undertaking, involving lots of rewriting, editing and reorganizing, including plenty of self-imposed stress, but the latest draft of the pulp sci-fi is complete.
It could definitely benefit from a little more work – another draft or two would make it that much better, but it’s exactly the kind of fun thrill ride I set out to write, and I really like how it turned out. One of my guidelines has always been “Write something you would want to see.” Man oh man, would I want to see this. And based on some of the notes I received from my squadron of trusted colleagues, so would they. Such an encouraging thing to hear.
Quick side note – I absolutely could not have gotten this script to this point of development without those exceptionally helpful notes. Thanks, chums! Each and every one of you has once again proven yourselves invaluable!
Networking. Worth it like you wouldn’t believe.
So for now, I’ll be taking a little break to let that script simmer for a bit as my focus is redirected towards revamping the outline of the comedy spec. Thrilled to say that even that seems to be coming along nicely, including a most productive writing sprint that got me to the next plot point. Always a good thing.
As much as I hate setting up deadlines for myself, I’m really hoping to have a decent first draft done by the end of the year – at the very latest. If I can maintain a pace like I have over the past few days, no reason I wouldn’t be able to type FADE OUT by Thanksgiving.
My projects over the next couple of months are shaping up nicely.
-Finish overhauling the outline for the comedy spec and convert it into pages
-Some more fine-tuning on the pulp sci-fi (courtesy of a steady influx of good notes)
-Maybe one more pass on the western. Yeah, I know. But I recently got some keen insight on a few parts which could do with a little improvement.
The potential is still strong for all three, both in terms of contests and queries.
I have to say that this time around, my analytical and editing/proofreading abilities feel a bit stronger. Not that they’re the pinnacle of perfection, but at least slightly more developed than, say, a few years ago. That’s a definite plus. Nor would I hesitate to take full advantage of the sage advice of my squadron of savvy readers.
I feel a bit more prepared now, as well as a little more confident about ending up with a triad of really solid scripts.
That’s the hope, anyway.
Another part of my enthusiasm comes from seeing the results of some of the major screenwriting contests, some of which I entered and didn’t fare as well as I’d hoped. I’ll work on these scripts, send ’em out and hope for the best.
On a brief side note, I recently read the comment on an online forum – “Waiting for notes. What should I do to occupy my time?”
I suggested “Start working on your next project.” It’s what I would do. Can’t think of a better way to get your mind off a finished script than starting a new one or digging into the archives and touching up an older one. Gets the creativeness pumped up and really does help pass the time.
Anything that lets you flex your writing muscles while adding to your arsenal of material can only be seen as a good thing.
Work on the outline of the comedy spec continues – with a most interesting development.
But first, a little backstory…
When I first approached this rewrite, I knew it needed a lot of work. A LOT. So I decided not to call it a rewrite, because it was much more than that.
“Overhaul” seemed perfectly appropriate. So that’s what I was calling it.
Problem was, that even with some quality notes, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. When I take on a rewrite, I’ll usually refer to the previous outline and see what I can do to change things around.
But that wasn’t working this time. Quite the opposite, actually. I was feeling stuck, making zero progress, which in turn was making me feel annoyed and frustrated. I was more and more in desperate need of some kind of solution.
I had a solid concept, but it was the execution that was giving me trouble. I knew where I wanted to go, but was having trouble getting there.
When I provide notes on a script, if I read something that feels flat or unoriginal, I’ll suggest “Try a totally different approach that gets us to the same point. Do a 180, or make a hard left – anything to really shake it up!”
It’s worked for other writers, so why not apply that sage wisdom to myself?
So I did.
It’s a lot easier to suggest “Wipe the slate clean and start over!” than it is to do the wiping and starting over.
But so far it appears to be just the solution I was seeking.
Although somewhat intimidating at first, the blank page soon became filled with new ideas and variations on old ones. Certain details remain the same, plus a few odds and ends, but for the most part, it’s become a much different journey to the original destination.
It was also surprising how easily the new material popped up. By not keeping myself chained to the previous draft, I was allowing myself the freedom to just try new stuff.
There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s a most satisfying start.
“Writing a screenplay is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Bet you’ve heard that one before, right?
It’s true. Learning how to write a screenplay takes time, let alone how to do it well. It might come easier for some, but no matter what your skill level is, it always remains a struggle.
And that feeling when you’re done (at least with the latest draft)? Euphoric sums it up quite nicely.
So that whole running metaphor is pretty apropros. Especially for me.
For those not in the know, I enjoy running half-marathons. Seriously.
I’ve run about a dozen or so the past few years. Like with the writing, it’s a self-imposed challenge and pushes you to keep moving forward. Believe me, there are definitely times during those races I just want to stop and catch my breath, but I don’t because I want to keep going and see what I’m capable of.
I usually finish somewhere just under 2 hours, which isn’t bad.
A few weeks ago, I ran a race in San Francisco and finished with a time of 2:02:56, which some might think is great, but I still considered a little disappointing.
This past weekend was another race – across the Bay in Oakland. The results of the previous race really shook me up. Was I once again going to fall short of my goal?
Only one way to find out.
I did my best to maintain a steady pace and continuously reminded myself that even though it was a challenge, I felt I had a pretty good handle on it. Oakland’s also a lot flatter than San Francisco, which probably helped.
The home stretch for this race is an 8-block-long straight line through downtown Oakland. At the finish line, there’s always a big digital timer. As I got closer, the numbers came into view.
1:54:30? Wow! And just a handful of blocks to go!
You know that feeling when you’re writing the last page of your script and FADE OUT is coming up fast and you get that sudden rush of adrenaline and you can’t believe the end is finally in sight?
Even though you’re exhausted and feeling totally spent, you can always find that hidden reserve of energy, which is just enough to get you to that goal.
Giving it everything I had, I poured on the speed (or at least as much as I could muster) and ran like a madman to that finish line.
End result – 1:54:59. Not only did I break the 2-hour mark, but I just squeaked by my other personal objective of breaking 1:55.
All that self-doubt from before had been erased. I had given myself a goal and set out to accomplish it.
Notice all those comparisons to screenwriting that could be made?
Every script is your own personal challenge. Sometimes it’ll be easy, and sometimes it’ll feel like nothing is happening, but the important thing is for you to keep at it and not stop trying to reach that finish line.
Like with training for these runs, it requires a lot of work. You find the time to do it when you can, hoping each session yields a slightly better result than the previous one.
My current work on the comedy spec coincides with this latest round of training for my next race – early November, and again in San Francisco. Both script and race will be a little more on the challenging side, but by engaging in regular training, I’m fairly confident I can achieve the results I seek.
A little stretching, a few deep breaths, and off I go.
First-round results for two of the biggest, high-profile screenwriting contests have been released within the past week, and the pattern for my western’s performance in both has once again repeated itself.
Total whiff for PAGE, and top 20 percent for the Nicholl. (I’m not doing Austin this year)
I didn’t get notes from the former, and based on the ones I got last year for the latter, am not that curious as to why it placed where it did.
My initial reaction was, naturally, disappointment, but this year is markedly different in what came immediately after.
There’ve been days where the agony, frustration and just plain shittiness of things not working out was so strong I’d seriously contemplate just walking away. After all, that would be one less member of the competition, right?
But that’s simply not an option – for any of us. Our desire to succeed as writers burns too bright.
I may not have done as well as I’d hoped with these contests, so instead of shrugging my shoulders and saying “Oh well. Better luck next year,” I plan on doing whatever I can to increase my chances. With a vengeance.
Gone is the wallowing in a blessedly brief mindset of “poor, poor pitiful me”.
In its place – a reinvigorated drive to buckle down, work even harder and write scripts so fucking amazing those readers won’t know what hit them.
I don’t think I can. I KNOW I CAN.
Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead, chums.
-A new addition and a return appearance on the bulletin board this week:
-Filmmakers Caitlin Stedman and Kayla Ditlefsen have launched a crowdfunding project for their short film Unattainable. They’re around the 60 percent mark, so donate if you can!
-The crowdfunding for filmmaker Steve Davis’s No Glory continues, with about a month to go. Steve’s a talented guy, and this sounds like a fantastic project. Donate if you can!