At least 11 choice “re-” words

teacher
No, class. “Relapse” is not one of them.

Progress on the latest draft of the comedy spec is coming along. Slowly, but still coming along.

Among the highlights:

repairing the script. Previous drafts had some notable and sizable problems on several fronts, so this is all about fixing them, or at least figuring stuff out to make it better overall. This is the main priority.

revising the story. Some of the scenes still work. The ones that don’t are out, with variations and totally new ones being developed and considered. A work in progress is a beautiful thing.

reviving older ideas. I keep all the notes and items jotted down over the course of working out the story, so there’s always a few items worthy of dusting off. This time around is no exception.

reorganizing the tone. Notes on a previous draft stated how uneven the story felt; like it was a few opposing ideas competing for attention. Currently working on streamlining things to make it all mesh better.

refurbishing characters and/or their traits. From the protagonist and antagonist to supporting characters to those appearing in one scene, everybody gets some kind of modification. Some big, some not-so-big.

reinvigorating the jokes. With comedy already being a subjective topic, I’m trying to come up with stuff I think is funny. Influences abound, and I want my sense of humor to be what runs that particular engine.

remaining calm. Finishing this draft won’t happen overnight, and trying to force creativeness or rush progress is the absolute wrong approach. Preferred method – taking it one step at a time.

resuscitating self-confidence. Writing a comedy’s tough enough to begin with. I’ve done it before, and despite a few missteps along the way, feel pretty solid about my chances this time around.

relinquishing the self-imposed pressure. Naturally, I want to have a good, solid script when I’m done (hopefully it won’t take many more drafts). Stressing about getting to that point won’t do me any good, which leads to the final point…

relaxing and recharging the writer. A good portion of my available time is spent writing or at least thinking about it. Working on it too much runs the risk of burnout, which would be completely counterproductive. Therefore, I allow myself time to simply step away and do something totally non-writing-oriented.

And when the time is right, I return to the rewrite.

Whew! Took me a while to refine this, but I don’t recall being so resplendently relieved to be done. Even better, none of it had to be redacted.

Good or fast? Pick one.

hurdles
Careful! All too easy to end up flat on your face.

As some of you may recall, earlier this year I had to get a script done in order to send it to somebody who’d requested to read it. Seeing as how I had all of eight pages written, I wanted to finish it and sent it out as soon as possible.

It took a grueling 10-day writing marathon, but somehow I managed to do it. I got a draft written, polished it up and sent it out.

It was quite an experience, and the end result could best be described as…adequate. I’ll be the first to admit the script still needs a ton of work.

My sole objective was simply to get it done to the best of my ability in as short a time as possible. Would I have benefited from more time? Of course, but at the time, it wasn’t an option.

Fast forward to the beginning of November. My goal: have a completed draft of the latest project by the end of the month. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get as much writing done as I’d hoped, so I’m heading into December with a script that’s right at the halfway point and the intention to have the whole thing done by the end of the year.

Sure, I could push myself through that exhausting process of cranking it out just to get it done, but by working with a slightly longer timeframe, I can take it slow and spend more time fine-tuning the script. In theory, this increases the likelihood the end result will be more acceptable and not require as much extensive follow-up (i.e. rewrites).

Would I love to be done with this draft sooner rather than later? Again, of course. But I’m also willing to be patient and focus on a few pages at a time. If that means it takes me until the end of the month/year to have a quality script ready to go, so be it.

Everybody writes at their own pace. Some are extremely prolific, some aren’t. It doesn’t matter how many pages you write. The important thing is that you’re actually writing.

This whole process can seem excruciatingly long at times, and we all want to produce lots and lots of quality work. But it already takes time to learn how to do it properly, let alone effectively. Patience is one of those things that gets easier the more you work on it.

There’s nothing wrong with churning out a draft in record time, but be aware that focusing on quantity rather than quality will definitely be reflected in those pages. I went through this firsthand, and definitely see it as a positive learning experience. I know I can write something quickly, but also know it’ll require a lot of cleanup work.

But given my druthers, I prefer to take my time. It’s less exhausting.

Cole Porter had it right*

 

Way back when I was first starting out and learning the basics of writing a script, one of the initial lessons was all about what went into a slugline.

I was told the following:

INT. or EXT. LOCATION – DAY or NIGHT

And that’s it. Pretty straightforward. While the first two are pretty much set in stone, some writers opt to modify the last one a bit. “AFTERNOON” or “EVENING”. Seems alright.

Some, myself included, take it one step further – “LATER” or “MOMENTS LATER”. I’ve encountered a few writers who have issue with these. “How MUCH later?” “How many moments?” Understandable.

All that being said, lately I’ve seen more than a few scripts that have a mix of the standards as listed above, along with an assortment of the totally unexpected. Such as “20 MINUTES LATER” or “SAME”.

Oh, come on. Really?

I’m sure these writers have their reasons for doing this, but to me it says “Rules be damned! I’m doing it my way! No matter how wrong it looks!” Maybe they’re planning on filming it themselves? Even if that’s the case, wouldn’t you want the script to look as professional as possible?

To me, this is just wrong.

I don’t see how they think this can possibly work. If you want to intentionally show the passage of time, then it needs to be SHOWN within the context of the scene. A clock face, Xs on a calendar, a cavalcade of holiday decorations.

The way I understand it, the slugline is all about WHERE and WHEN a scene takes place. It involves setting the scene as part of telling the story, along with what the production crew needs to help show it. I don’t believe the WHEN has to be that specific. But again, it’s all about showing.

I’m very intrigued to see if other writers have seen this, and your thoughts about it. Yes? No? It’s their script, so they can do what they want?

*If you actually understand this, I suspect you’re of a certain age, or at least appreciate certain types of music.

 

A support staff of one

multitasking
At least you’re a shoo-in for Employee of the Month

When it all comes down to it, you know who’s going to do the most to help you and your career?

That’s right. You. Nobody else.

Sure, there will be others who might be able to give you a helping hand now and then, but the responsibility of getting stuff done falls squarely on your shoulders.

This goes beyond just writing and honing your craft. You need to build up your network. Establish connections. Get to know people. Chances are a majority of these will be online and via social media.

Seeking representation or someone who might be receptive to your script? Do your research. Find out who’s looking for what. (And for crying out loud, DO NOT take the “Does somebody have a list I could use?” route.)

“But I’ve got no time to do all that!” you might protest.

Of course you do.

The key element here is time management. You already set aside time to write, don’t you? Well, you have to do the same for everything else. If you can devote part of your day to work on your script, then there’s no reason you can’t dedicate a few minutes to focus on your career.

A surefire way to give yourself more time – stay away from casual websurfing, or at least ration it. So much online material is nothing but a big time-sucking rabbit hole. “Just five more minutes” can easily turn into “Where’d that hour go?” Funny videos are all well and good, but probably won’t do much to help you get your career going.

On Twitter? Connect with 5 people a day. Interact with them. Ask about their projects. Make it about them, not you. If they ask about you and yours, keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm them with details.

Part of some online community forums? Take part. Ask questions. Start discussions. Get to know the other members. A lot of these folks will probably have more experience than you, so learn as much as you can. Very important – don’t be a troll.

Is there a professional writer out there whose work you admire? Send them a note saying just that. DO NOT ask for any favors right out of the gate. Establish a relationship. You’ll eventually know if they’re open to helping you. Sometimes they might even offer it without you asking. It happens.

All of these are going to take time to not only accomplish, but also to develop. Be patient. It will take time. You wouldn’t rush through getting your script done, so apply that same logic to developing and advancing your career.

It’s all on you, so make the most of it.

 

Working in a timely manner

train conductors
“Now that’s something you don’t see every day, Chauncey.” “What’s that, Edgar?” “A writer setting a schedule and sticking to it.”

Following the lead of some of my writing colleagues, I’m making more of an effort to establish a sense of order and structure when it comes to my writing and all things connected with it.

It used to be “Write when you can!,” which in a way it still is, but more layers and categories have been added to the mix.

-First and foremost, the setting aside of at least an hour a day to work on one of my own projects continues, be it outlining, writing, editing, rewriting, or polishing. This remains the primary objective.

-Networking. While connecting with people is easy, maintaining those relationships takes effort, and can quickly become time-consuming. As much as I enjoy conversing (albeit online) with people, I try to keep it to a minimum – unless it’s relevant to the project of the moment.

-Related to that is the reading and note-giving for other writers, especially those who were equally as generous with their time to do the same for me. I may not always be on schedule about it (something I’m trying to improve), but I make a point of getting it done.

-Career-building. This mostly involves researching potential recipients for pitching and queries, which means diving head-first into the scavenger hunt that is IMDB Pro. While most of the time the contact info is accurate, sometimes it’s out of date (people move on), or there’s no contact info whatsoever, or the person or company in question hasn’t existed for years.

*True story – researching an agent, I’d discovered they’d apparently died several years before but the email was still in operation. I opted not to query them.

-Overall stayin’ organized. I’ve started jotting down each day’s objectives and “must do’s” in a little notebook, and checking off items as they are accomplished. It’s been very helpful in making me stay focused on what needs to get done, rather than hoping I remember later on.

All of this is still somewhat early in the process, but so far, so good. That feeling of being in control helps make the whole thing seem a little easier, as well as feeling like stuff is actually getting done.

How about you? What steps are you taking to be more organized with your writing?