Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lost Marbles

So I recently suffered a personal setback and, in an effort to distract myself, I poured myself into the new novel. I had already begun chipping back at it, but found (with the amount of distraction I needed) that I was able to increase my output dramatically. I now have a rough first draft and am planning to jump right into the rewrite.

The thing that struck me (as it has with every completed project) was the question: "Why didn't I do this sooner?"

The answers are numerous, but the main point of it is distraction. Distracted by life, television, work, money, fb, hanging-out/"liming", family, etc. etc... All the distractions are there for entertainment and necessity. The necessities must be dealt with. There's just no way around that. But the entertainment... well that's where you can sit down and write. Write for the joy of it and remember what it is that really fuels the desire, which is the love of the craft.
I hope I'm finally learning to let the writing become the distraction (at least until it can become "the work").

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I lost my way, but I would sit and churn out a page here and there like it was my duty, a promise I had made to some old former-self to never give up on this dream, to put in the time until the windfall. Because, you see, you reach a point where you feel, "I need to do this," and forget how much you really WANT to do it.

For the first time in a long time I think I feel that old desire again. Not just the desire driven by the knowledge that I AM a writer. That nowhere else do I feel as at home, as relevant, or as satisfied. That this is what I have to do. But the desire also driven by the fun of it, of losing myself in a world of my own creation, of chasing my shadow through widows and refusing to let the real world catch me, age and reason be damned - at least for a little while, at least for a moment...

Life will surely come beckoning. Right now though, I'm writing for me again. Because I want to.

And I like it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Aftermath ver. 1.1

The holidays came and went and I took the time to relax.  I read a couple of books (The Dream of Perpetual Motion and Coppermine) and at some point, I went over my short story.  Unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I decided to shelve it for now and stay focused on screenwriting as things are “looking up.”

I got feedback from Blue Cat in early January and it was very positive.  WOOT!  The one thing they suggested I work on was some of my conversational dialogue, and that didn’t come as a surprise as I had rushed to meet the early deadline and neglected doing a proper dialogue revision.  So the past couple of weeks have been spent on reading, and re-reading, the script and trying to tweak it here and there.  I thought I was done marking it up tonight, but when I got home I got to thinking that I need to look at the bigger picture.  I’ve been so focused on the words and changing them around that I haven’t sat back and looked at each scene from the perspective of the character.  That is to say, I’ve been shying away from overhauling complete scenes.

The scenes themselves and their placement within the sequences and screenplay aren’t the problem.  It’s the characters’ voices that’s bugging me.  I just feel like I should be sitting down and brainstorming more on how the characters would express themselves because right now, in some cases, it feels as though they’re just taking instructions from me.  And that blows.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s some dialogue that I’m happy with, even proud of.  The feedback from Blue Cat didn’t indicate that all the dialogue sucks.  They just recommended that I pay closer attention to some of the conversational dialogue as sometimes it’s a little too conveniently plot heavy.  (They were nice enough to point out that I tend to “show” more than I “tell,” which is good. )

So I think I’ll be giving it another read before typing up my revisions and passing it off to friends for feedback.  In the meantime, I’ve already started reworking my logline and one pager, and I’ll be giving another screenplay the revision treatment as well.  Research into agents and managers who accept unsolicited queries is progressing and there have been not one, but TWO recent issues of Creative Screenwriting containing articles that express cautious optimism for the spec market.  Online research into the spec market seems to confirm that 2011 could be a better year than 2009 and 2010. 

Now’s the time to learn how to type when fingers are crossed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Aftermath ver. 1.0

I’ve been neglecting this here blog with good reason: The Screenplay.

October was divided between typing the screenplay and a vacation in Florida. The warm weather and rest was perfect. Upon my return, I resumed typing the screenplay and began my revisions in earnest. After all the hair pulling I did this past year, it was extremely gratifying to see all the pieces fall into place. Plot, character, theme. Cause and effect. Action. Emotion. Everything came together. I submitted it to the Blue Cat Screenplay competition in early December and should have some feedback from them in early January.

Now, word on the blogosphere is that competitions are a waste of time and money, but I disagree to a point. You have to do your research. If it’s clout you’re looking for when your screenplay makes the finals or even wins, there’s nothing that compares to the Nicholl Fellowship. I’m not sure where Blue Cat is on the list of prestigious competitions, but they’re the best bang for your buck in the feedback department. My two previous scripts are better for the feedback I received from them.

The one thing that ALL screenplay competitions offer that writers benefit from is deadlines. It’s been said before all over the net (and books and classes and seminars) but I’m saying it again ‘cause us writers need deadlines. The thing is you got to be smart about deadlines so you can submit your best work. This means you have to be smarter than me.

What I submitted to Blue Cat was not my best work. As proud as I was of that draft, I discovered some small things that needed improvement in the days that followed my submission. You need to look at the year ahead in regards to competitions. Pick the ones you want to submit to and make note of their deadlines.

Then meet those deadlines.

I allowed myself a week or two to revise before submitting. I should’ve given myself at least a month.

That said, I truly feel the current draft of the screenplay is some of my best work. It’s a scary feeling because I know I need outside feedback. So I’m not looking at this thing again until the feedback from Blue Cat comes in.

Thus, I enter the Aftermath of being focused on a screenplay for so long.

My home office was a mess and I’ve begun to clean it up. There are stacks of books I want to read that I’m going to get to, as well as stacks of magazines. And there’s a short story that I rewrote a year ago that I need to revise. Slowly.

Taking my time with this short story will allow me to keep those muscles in shape while reading those books will help me recharge. There’s also a slew of emails to catch up on, most of which are screenwriting newsletters with great articles that have been filed away for future consumption. Many of those articles will assist in the post revision-post aftermath phase; a phase I’ve never entered before.

Query letter phase. (Or rather, query email)

In the new year, once that short story is done and submitted, I’ll begin researching production companies, agents, and managers who accept unsolicited queries. Creative Screenwriting Magazine and Script Magazine have great articles and listings, as does Inktip. I’ll probably put this latest screenplay on Inktip and sign up for the Hollywood Creative Directory Online which has (the last time I checked) options for yearly or monthly subscriptions. All this research and query writing will be interspersed with revisions on the previous two scripts, then with brainstorming on the next screenplay. And given the whining (and preaching) I’ve done on this blog about running out of steam, I know I need to plan a short break in April or May.

So here’s to 2011. The aftermath of 2010.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Hugh's Cherry Post

I'm entering this mostly blind. I'm a cautious person by nature, but I'm neither very good at research, nor at taking advice. And so I'm just wading in. How does one start a blog? Do I tell you a little about myself? Or is that something you're meant to discover along the way - the scattered crumbs for cyber-Hansel-&-Gretel(2.0) to follow to some half-baked idea? Anyway, it's not about me, it's about writing...

I'm spilling the contents of my head.

Here's the thing: I refuse to believe there is one way to write. There isn't. But most writers know this and that's one of the reasons the community builds. When it comes to unlocking creative energy, to harnessing it, making it yours, making it universal, wrestling it to the page and then whittling away the excess (or in reverse order) to something more refined, there are so many variables that one can consider that you could almost become overwhelmed before you'd begun. But as a writer you wade into that mire. And as a writer, even as you curse and shake your fist, you love it. A million-and-one set-backs, but each with its own potential for a minor victory. As a writer you are a receptor for it all, and every method, every little piece of advice can help - even the pieces you don't take.

They say there are no original stories left to tell. Maybe that's true. But there are an infinite number of ways in which to tell them. So, just as we patch together our own stories (novels, screenplays, etc.) and try to create something original, something our own, from every and anything - perhaps, so too, we can create our own technicoloured-dreamcoat-method, gathered from anything and everything... even if it's what not to do...

I know I'm already learning. Hopefully it'll be better next time.

Welcome to my scrap of cloth.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Progress ver 1.3

Just over two weeks past my deadline, and I’m done.  I finished the first draft of this sucker last night, but of course I’m a wee bit behind on typing it.  Structurally, the script is working.  I’ve got some issues to deal, with and my third act has some elements that are making me rethink how I approached it.  All in all, I’ve still got a ton of work to do and I’m really looking forward to it.  Once I address these issues, I’ll start the list of revisions I mentioned way back when.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


John August has a post about music while writing that everyone should check out.  The thing I find interesting is using these playlists as a tool when you’re stuck or when you’re ping-ponging between projects.  (I find that’s more applicable to working writers.  I feel the rest of us should try hard to focus on one thing at a time)

I’ve dabbled a bit with playlists for writing, but the intent was for something to start off with in the search for inspiration.  Using it as a tool to compliment, let’s say an outline, is something new to me.  Outlines tend to detail plot points, and lately I’ve been making little notes about the impact of those beats on the character, and vice versa.  The thing that interests me about setting up a playlist (and perhaps being act/sequence/scene specific) is that it could remind me of the emotion I feel should underline the scene.  It’s details like that that sometimes get lost in all that plot and structure thinking that occupies a lot of the writing process.

The only problem I’m faced with is the fact that music with lyrics can be a distraction.  Well, unless it’s the crap that plays at the coffee shop I write at.  I tend to tune out that stuff, but with music I like… I tend to get sucked into it.  In the past, I’ve reached for instrumental music, some of which are soundtracks for films I’ve enjoyed.

585-1 Heat has got some great music, some composed for the film (Heat, Coffee Shop) and some tracks from a variety of artists ranging from Moby to Michael Brook.  (I discovered Terje Rypdal through this soundtrack and have collected a number of his albums since)

Lately, I’ve been listening to David Julyan’s score for Insomnia, and Elliot Goldenthal’s score for Public Enemies.  Micahel Nyman’s scores for Gattaca and The End of the Affair are old favourites, too.

insomniaFor music that hasn’t necessarily been written for film, there’s always guys like Moby, Synaesthesia, Future Sound of London, Dead Voices on Air, and the list goes on…

I’m thinking my new playlist will need some of Nine Inch Nails “Ghosts,” selections from the soundtracks I mentioned above, and a good serving of Mogwai.

I love the idea that a playlist can be used as a tool and look forward to giving it a try.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Procrastinate Efficiently

photo My September 22 deadline is approaching and I’m a little behind. I’m only a little worried ‘cause I figure if I’m gonna procrastinate, I gotta do a thorough job of it. So I’m gonna procrastinate on worrying about the looming deadline. What the hell. I’ll start worrying about it on September 1st or later. Keep in mind that this isn’t the same as procrastinating on writing. Just the worrying part.

I decided to take it easy this summer. I’ve got a good routine writing on weeknights so I figured it wouldn’t kill me to enjoy my Friday afternoons instead of labouring away at the library. (I’ve got Friday’s off from my part-time day job) And besides, them libraries gots bed bugs.

The thing that’s been on my mind is this feeling that at some point, I‘m going to have to work a little harder at this script. I’m going to have to start going back to the library (or a bug free location, if they exist in this city) and crank out more pages. The funny thing is it’s getting easier as the script progresses. I seemed to have struggled with the setup of this one, and as I ironed out the wrinkles there, everything else has started to fall into place. It’s far from perfect (already started a list of things I want to look at closely in the first revision) but it feels like it’s coming together. And that’s key.

Staying positive will help make the writing go smoother. So in order to stay positive, I’m going to put off the worrying. At least for a couple of weeks.