Monday, September 21, 2009

Stumbling towards completion...

Monday... Need I say more? Well, okay.
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

Treatments - A Necessary Evil

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

Does it Always Suck?

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 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


I'll continue my post tomorrow, and here it is, ten days later. And thats how it usually happens, I'll do this tomorrow, I'll get to that soon, oh I really should do that... And the days slip by like the sea, without you ever realizing. You get caught up in the tide, being pulled along with it, without ever noticing. And soon, you find yourself drowning, in work, in marriage, in kids. And that thing that you were gonna get to tomorrow, well, tomorrow just doesn't seem to come around.

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

Final Steps, courtesy of John August

About a month ago, I typed out a rewrite schedule that I've used. Today, John August has a post about the final steps to take before turning in a script.

Just thought I'd share.

Friday, September 04, 2009

This week in writing....

Well, I just finished my pages for the week. Yes. Five. Hey, it's a start. This week has been harder then the others. This is the week I usually quit, or slow right down. But I'm desperatly trying to turn that historical fact around. And finishing my pages for the week is a big boost in the right direction.
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


Or lack of. This is what's on my mind.
I need space here. And a coffee. And a life.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Un-Fun 1.2 – Making it Fun

The outline is done. Now comes the hard part… the other hard part. Making it -- forcing it -- into prose. Exciting prose. Not flowery, not literary. It’s just gotta get the story across while revealing character, but it definitely needs a voice. And I’d like the voice to be representative of the tone, and of me.

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.