Thursday, December 03, 2009
This writing is getting hard. No one told me it would be hard.
Yeah, that's really what I'd like to say. Anyone who has written anything has experienced that little diatribe. It's not only getting harder to pull the story together, but its getting harder to sit down and do it. It's not a fun game anymore. It's work.
And there is the first thing that separates the writers from the talk-about-being-writers. I always listened to the established writers, to find out just how they did it. Again and again, every one of them would say, 'write'. Boy, how true that is. There is no great trick to finishing a novel. All you need to do is write. Of course, that doesn't mean that the novel will be any good. That involves a whole other skill set.
So, I keep writing. I've slowed down, but I keep writing.
This is a nonsense post. i'm really doing this to get the muscles going and get to my real work. So, if you're reading this, sorry. There is no insight here. But really, is there ever?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
There, that's better. I've been in a funkarama for the last couple of weeks. My weekly goal is ten pages, and I probably wrote about seven over the course of two weeks. Stinkaroo.
But, it's okay, this kinda thing happens. My biggest problem is that I'm suffering from Lack-Of-Outline-ism. It's a horrible malady that strikes when you start writing and you don't stop until you've got a hundred pages. Then you look at it and say, 'Okay, but how does this all fit together?' Not fun.
But this week is going well. I'm on track to hit my target ten pages, and I'm working on an outline that should pull everything into focus. And that's all I have to say, on that.
First of all, let me say that the way I've been writing this novel of mine is to start a new section each week and title the file with the topic, and the date. So, I've ended up with about 30 files for the same story. Today, I finally put everything together into a master copy and I printed it. I was surprised, happily so, to come up one page short of one hundred. Which, with what I wrote today, has been surpassed. Am I happy to have broken that 100 page mark? Sure, why not. I can't really say that it feels amazing or fabulozo. It is what it is. Actually, what feels good is holding those hundred pages in my hands. That's kinda cool.
And on and on we go, why I blog, I don't really know.
And now that I've started, I can't really stop, because then I would look like the fool. Maybe, someday this will be read by more people then Dan... Hey, thanks for reading this Dan.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Then it's vacation. Sort of.
I never seem to take all my vacation days, which is a bit of a headache for my employers. So as of tomorrow, I have a week and a half off from my "day job" and I'll be using that to get to work on my next feature length script. It's something I outlined in the summer, so the first couple of days will be dedicated to reviewing the outline, refining it, and taking a stab at a treatment. The goal is to have a comleted draft by the end of January, but I'm hoping to be done much sooner than that.
I'd cross my fingers, but that just makes typing a real pain.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Earlier this week, Denis at Dead Things on Sticks had a post rounding up the new TV season. Being a fan of a couple of shows he mentioned (and curious about a few others) I decided to chime in with something that occurred to me on the weekend.
A couple of friends of mine watched the pilot of “Flashforward” and said I’d really like it. The thing about “Flashforward” is that I already knew about the book, but never got around to reading it. The author, Rob Sawyer, is Canadian and really, I owe him a lot. My buddy/co-writer/co-blogger Mark met a mutual friend in Sawyer’s sci-fi writing class at (I believe) the University of Toronto. If it hadn’t been for that class, I would never have met Mark, thus I wouldn’t be broke after many nights spent at the pub. Thanks a lot Rob! But seriously, I forgot that David Goyer was involved with the show and he’s someone I’m a bit of a fan of. (Check out the “Dialogue Series” DVD with Goyer) Anyhow, back to my point. One of my friends, a non-writer, asked me to watch it. She also wanted to know if the beginning reminded me of the pilot for “Lost.”
So the weekend came, and I got my hands on the pilots for “Flashforward,” and another show I was looking forward to, “Stargate Universe.” And here’s the thing: They obeyed rule #1 for any kind of storytelling, be it novel, short story, film, or television. GRAB ‘EM. Hook the audience. Get their attention from the start. The interesting thing is, both pilots did in fact remind of the pilot for “Lost.”
I’m not suggesting that the writer’s of FF and SGU were ripping off Lindelof and Abrams. I’m not even suggesting they were inspired by the “Lost” pilot, though it’s a possibility, for reasons possibly exclusive to the two shows. But it makes the case for what works, particularly for the sci-fi genre. (I’m not gonna go into the Sawyer/Crichton sci-fi, but not sci-fi, debate)
Here’s why they reminded me of Lost. In a nutshell: Lots of people on screen confused, scared, screaming, hurt. And even if you didn’t know who Joseph Fienns is, or recognize any of the principal characters from the ads, you would be able to lock in on who the “heroes” are based on their action (or positive reaction) to their predicament. I’m kicking myself for the way I just spelled it out, because it sounds like formula. It’s not. It’s good writing. Because there’s a world, a plot, a story, and real characters that hold it all together.
The moment Lt. Scott stumbles through the stargate aboard the “Destiny,” we know something is wrong. He looks around, he’s out of breath, he raises his gun. Before he can finish scanning the large dark gate-room, people are being flung through the stargate and he’s trying to help them. And the situation deteriorates from there. Same thing with Flashforward.
The reason I risk the wrath of geeks everywhere by saying the writers of both shows MIGHT have been influenced by Lost is because, well, I think they’re geeks too. Us geeks don’t always see other geeks as competitors. These guys are all fans of a) good television, b) the genre, and c) storytelling.
Goyer, and especially Braga (Star Trek, Threshold and more) have worked in TV before. So why wouldn’t they look at something like “Lost.” Both shows are not episodic, and from the looks of it so far, FF will most likely have a mythology.
The guys over at Stargate are massive geeks, and I say that with the utmost respect. If you look at any past episode of either SG-1 or Atlantis, there are all sorts of nods and winks at other stories in the sci-fi genre. Look at the 200th episode of SG-1. They’re also fans of great story and have experimented within their show’s framework to stretch out a little. The two-part SG-1 episode “Heroes” is one of my favourites. (The writer’s gave Saul Rubinek a juicy part and his speech/rant in part two was brilliant) They made it clear from the moment SGU was announced that they were gonna try something different, and while some fans had doubts, I was pumped. I trust these guys based on on what I’ve seen they’re capable of with past Stargate episodes. So did they rip off “Lost?” No. Were they inspired by it? Maybe. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re fans of the show. Could they have never watched “Lost” but still come up with a great pilot for “SGU?” Absolutely. ‘Cause great minds think alike.
All these shows grabbed the audience and didn’t let go. They SHOWED us who our heroes are at a frantic pace while establishing a very strong QUESTION that will drive the characters on a journey while planting our butts in front of the TV week after week.
(Oh… it’s been a while since I’ve watched something that made me want to sit down and write a new story or overhaul an old one. SGU did just that. Even the music is awesome. I can’t get the opening out of my head)
Monday, September 21, 2009
I have things I need to do, things I don't really need to do, but should, and the things that I'm actually doing, which don't fall into either of the other two categories... How is it that we can find so much time for garbage, but there never seems to be time for important stuff.
The writing is still going. Although I had a bit of hiccup at the end of last week. I was writing a section that takes place in the middle of the book, and, well, I finished it. It came to a natural completion, and I'm happy with it. But, this left me completely confounded as to what to do next. I realized that I had no overall picture of what was happening in the book. It was mostly formed in my head, and was made up of little bits of the story here and there.
So, that Thursday, after sitting around asking myself, 'what the hell am I going to do?' I made a trip to the local Staples and bought three sheets of bristol board, and a three pack of cue cards. Now, I've started laying out a visible timeline of the things that are occuring in the story. This has allowed me to get an idea of the order of events, as well as arrange the sequences and their respective beats. Suffice it to say, I've gotten a handle on what I'm going to work on next and have already started. This is a great tool, especially if you have vague ideas about your story. When you start placing them on the board in cue cards, it shows you what you really know, or don't know about your story.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Now, the title sorta screams, “Duh!” We all know that they’re needed for marketing a story, selling it, etc. Here’s the thing that I’ve known for some time, but have failed to put into practice. They’re necessary as a writing tool. As proud as I am of the latest draft of my sci-fi spec, I’m finding little areas that need improvement as I work on this
piece of crap treatment. Little things that fell through the cracks, things that didn’t even occur to me in the heat of blasting out my action and dialogue. Little bits of missing story logic coming up in the treatment and it’s giving me the opportunity to make a quick note or two in a separate file I’ve marked down as a “to do” list before I submit the script. I’ve always known that I should try to work on a treatment before, or while writing the screenplay, but now it’s something I can appreciate. The scary thing is, I think I need to try writing more than one at different stages.
Before sitting down to write my next screenplay, I want to take a stab at a treatment. Just a quick compilation of my notes and outline in prose form. Then I want to update it as I write the script. The hope here is to be able to look at the original version, and the updated one, for a quick painless tweak and presto: marketing tool.
But after today’s brief stab at the treatment before going to work at my day job, I know it’s not going to be that simple. The reason a treatment is an invaluable revision tool AFTER I’ve written the screenplay is because I’m not “in it” as I read and write. I’ve got some distance from the script which gives me a different perspective. Now, another contributing factor could also be that I have gotten some distance from the script since I haven’t worked on it in about a month, but something about the process of writing a treatment, I suspect, forces a different perspective. And I think that’s because it’s a different way of writing.
I’m not at all suggesting that this is how the pros do it. How the hell do I know? Besides, everyone will tell you they have their own process. This is just an idea, a theory I thought I’d share. And let’s dispense with the industry jargon to further that different perspective: If you’re plugging away at your script or novel or whatever, and you want to know how the bigger picture is shaping out, try summarizing it in prose or outline as you go along and include what you’ve already written. You may be surprised at what’s there. Good or bad, you’ll definitely be ahead of the game for your first (or next) revision.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Recently, Mary over at Ruts and Grooves had something to say about not being afraid to write crap. Now, I’m paraphrasing here, going on memory as I’m in my “writing” coffee shop without internet access. The thing is, even before I read that post of hers, I was already telling myself that first drafts suck. I really did, and have done so for some time. Of course, I would always forget, and still do. I let myself have hope that the next project will be AWESOME in the first draft, thus I won’t lose any sleep during the revisions. Of course, that’s never the case. But here’s the scary thing… I might just really suck. Seriously.
I’ve been fretting over this 5 page treatment so I can upload a script to Greenwriter.org and be better prepared with material for when I (finally) start marketing myself, and (finally) send out some queries. But man, it ain’t easy. Not five minutes ago I was reading my treatment and found some common writing mistakes. Mistakes that I always make. What the hell? Have I not learned anything? Well, I know I have. In fact, I’ve learned a lot. I guess moments like this remind me that I have a ways to go. I also wonder if every writer makes the same mistakes over and over. I wonder if that’s me making excuses for myself. I wonder if I’m just in a rut, panicking, and using the panic and my stupendous gift of procrastination to write up a blog entry.
But worst of all, I wonder if I’m kidding myself with this whole writing thing.
So here’s what this little bit of therapeutic blogging has taught me today.
1. I keep coming back to the fact that I love to write. So, when I consider that, and the fact that I’ve invested too much time and energy to give up, I know I just gotta shut the hell up and chill.
2. Recognizing those mistakes for what they are on the first read through is progress in itself. So I should just shut the hell up and chill.
3. Wondering out loud in a coffee shop in the middle of the night incites strange looks from late night truckers. So I should just…..(say it with me now)
Monday, September 14, 2009
But there's another side to that coin too. When you're so afraid of losing that thing that you hold onto it so tightly, you plant yourself firmly down with it, never giving up or letting go. And sure enough, you stand firm, but the days begin to slip by without you. And those precious moments in marriage, kids, and sometimes even work. Those things that are drowning everyone else become the commodity. No matter what side of that coin faces up, you begin to question. If the choice that you made, or was made for you was the right one.
There's a delicate balance to hold. I've always railed against the first option. I've been known to call it being a 'victim of life'. But there is an opposite extreme. Never really even thought about it until I typed it out here. Maybe it's been on my mind without my even knowing it. But I'm just wandering here. Typing for the sake of typing.
As for me, I'm still writing, and have come across problems and solutions. But this time, as opposed to all the other times Ive gotten to this point, I've persisted. I push on. I like everything that is coming out, and maybe that worries me a bit. I feel there should be more garbage, but there doesn't seem to be much at all. Maybe I'm not a harsh enough critic of my own work. It will all be sorted out in the wash though.
Still on one page a day but I'm trying to get more out. I have a deadline at the end of the month for 35 pages, which is a handful more then my quota. Not really worried about reaching it, but I wanted to far exceed it. Really, I wanted to double it next month. Might still do that. Have to get this book done. For my own sanity...
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
Im starting to write about things that were never in the original idea. Things that just came out of left field. It's a great feeling. It really is like the story and the character is leading you in a direction, and you have no choice but to follow and, in effect, journalise it. I don't think that's a word, but its what i mean.
Well, my battery is running low, so I gotta go. Ill continue my post tomorrow.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Last night, after I finished my outline, I decided to skim over an unfinished novel from a few years ago. It made me cringe in some spots; the immaturity of some ideas and the writing, and made me smile in other spots. There were plot points, characters, and setups in that prologue and first two chapters that I completely forgot about.
It was never my plan to re-read some of my own prose before sitting down to hammer out these treatments and synopsis, but I’m glad I did. Writing a treatment isn’t the same as writing a novel, but they share some obvious things in common and reading that stuff last night actually has me looking forward to what I used to think of as a daunting and painful task.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Already my thoughts go haywire. Where do I begin? I've already started typing and erased the previous line about five times. This is not a good sign. So, I'm going to put some pertinent stuff here and call it done.
I'm writing. A novel. A slow, meandering process. Its a novel that I've been writing for fifteen years. It started strong, so many years ago, with a great opening paragraph. In my mind it became the paragraph that could never be topped. Then it became a few pages here, a few pages there. I turned to other stories, short ones. And completed a good handful. One of them was even published. It was a story called 'Permission'. It was published in Tesseracts 10, a Canadian anthology, which came out in 2006.
But. And this is the big, But. I never, ever could bring myself to restart that novel. It was my albatross. Lack of confidence, lack of motivation, lack of discipline. So many lacks, conspired against me. But, I've started again. Ive started at a page a day. A goal that has been mutually arranged with Hugh. As he is also fighting demons to complete his novel.
Questions and reasons and further musings will all be address in later posts. But for now, it's going well. Slowly, but well.
Currently in a bit of a rut. You see, I stress over the “un-fun” things. Writing a synopsis and treatment falls under that heading. I had hoped to get it all done in a couple of days, but here I am, two weeks later. In a bit of a rut.
I’ll be done by the end of the week.
Here are some links I found on the “un-fun.”
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
1st Draft Rewrite – Overall Structure
1. Key Questions (McKee handout) [This, I'll post if I can find it in my files]
2. What is the relationship between POA* – Crisis – Climax?
2nd Draft Rewrite – Sequencing
1. Are sequences ordered correctly?
2. Can script be broken down into sequences?
3. Are there “Qs?”
3rd Draft Rewrite - Character
1. Does each character have life off screen?
2. Are they three dimensional?
3. Is each character necessary to the plot?
4. Related to Protagonist in terms of function?
5. Does each character have a spine?
6. Is Master Antagonist as strong as Protagonist?
7. Is there a character arc?
8. Is motivation clear?
4th Draft Rewrite – Scene by Scene
1. Is each scene necessary?
2. Is each scene doing more than one thing?
3. Can talking heads scene be replaced by visuals?
4. Does opening scene “grab?”
5th Draft Rewrite – Recurring Motifs
1. Looking for motifs that contribute to Script cohesion
6th Draft Rewrite – Dialogue
1. Try a reading.
2. Try reading it to yourself out loud.
7th Draft Rewrite – Formatting + Spelling + Typos
*POA - Point of attack. I'm only clarifying it because I seem to remember Nika saying that it's what she calls it, and point in fact, most literature on three act structure I've read (including "Story" and Syd Fields "Screenplay") refer to this as the "Inciting Incident."
Monday, August 10, 2009
Got a little pumped up after some recent emails and facebook correspondence with a writer buddy currently in Trinidad, (Hugh...post something here!) so here's another attempt at a blog entry. In fact, last night I came up with some more ideas about what I'd like TWIP to be and shared them with Hugh this afternoon. Waiting on his reply....
Anywho....looking back on that last entry kind of made me laugh. But all in all, I did stick with that plan I outlined there. I did however take a long detour in March, April, and May to work on my second script which is finally in GREAT shape. Actually, I think May and part of June were spent reading and recharging my batteries. After that, I started to re-outline my 3rd screenplay. I refuse to look at the original draft, and I gotta say, this approach is really working.
I've been half assed with my market research, but it's coming along. I'm hoping to start sending queries in September or October. And though my focus has been on features, I'm still hoping to go back to that TV pilot I wrote with Mark and today I found a great entry on Dead Things on Sticks which will have me glued to my laptop this week (and inspired the beginning of this entry) Check it out here.
Hopefully I'll be back sometime this week as opposed to nine months from now.