Monday, March 24, 2008

The Writing Week part 12

Another week bites the dust. It's amazing how quickly time seems to be passing. I remember "just" thinking to myself how February was on the horizon and would most likely fly by. Now, we're almost at April. With nearly a quarter of the year gone already, I feel it's time I evaluate my progress in my resolution to make something happen with my writing this year.

To barely skim the surface, I first look at this past week. After coming off a nearly ten day stretch where I did very little actual writing, I have to take some solace in the fact that I have started re-writing my latest script again. It feels good to sit before a challenge each night. Not that I know the pages I'm re-reading are perfect -- obviously, they're not; I'm re-writing them. But it is always a little difficult for me to make large-scale changes during a rewrite. No matter how flawed a first (or second or third or etc.) draft might be, the fact that it is a full draft intimidates me. By changing any part of a draft, I'm inevitably risking causing the rest of it to crumble. Though I know what reinforcements have to be made to make the structure stronger, there's always that voice reminding me that I could screw up something that, while not perfect, is at least whole.

But I am happy with the changes I've made thus far. Some are larger than others. Some are riskier. Some are more noticeable. But they feel good, and smart.

As far as the year goes, that is a little less easy to judge. Yes, along with the majority of the rest of the League, I have screenplays in two competitions at the moment. The waiting game is actually not as bad as it could be, considering we have over four whole months before we hear a single peep out of either competition. Beyond those two, though, I feel like there's not much I'm doing. The dreams, the notion that something might be creeping up over the horizon are starting to reach me, but when I try to process that logically, I am inevitably forced to ask myself the obvious: where would they be coming from?

One opportunity we as a group had sort of fizzled out, though through no fault of our own. In truth, that was not to be our break. We have accepted that and moved on from it. But I cannot just wait for a break. I must seek it out. I must rope it in and drag it to me. More than anything, I know I will have to fight my way into this industry if I truly want to make my mark in it -- and I do. I have to roll up my sleeves and barge into melees fists up. Query letters, calls to contacts, a whole new slew of competition entries; these must be my weapons. I have to build my arsenal of material, finish drafts, attack the rewrites, and be ready at a moment's notice to charge.

I can no longer be Mister Nice Guy. Not if I want this to work.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Writing Week part 11

As far as weeks go, this one has been relatively uneventful - writing wise - and relatively eventful - non-writing wise. For one, this was probably the longest week I have worked since I've been employed by the company I am at now. Over the course of six days, I wound up working nearly 60 hours. I know there are a lot of people out there who do that on a regular basis, so I'm not asking for any sympathy on that front. But, I am unused to that, and found that my more hectic than usual work schedule, in addition to other things I had going on, made writing difficult this week. Top that off with a case of food poisoning on my only day off, and I didn't get much down on the page this week.

However, that's not to say that nothing was accomplished. For one, I thought long and hard about the graphic novel I want to start writing, and got some good, tangible ideas down on the page. Now, I know in the past we've been somewhat hard (if not in this blog, then I assure you, we have been in person) on people who merely talk about writing and talk about their ideas and never put anything to paper. But, sometimes, it will hold that in order for an idea to breath, it must first be developed off of the page. My idea was really boundless at first; it had no direction, no walls, no real notion of where it was going. But this week, I was able to tell myself: this is what it is about; these are the (kinds of) characters that will be in it; these are the scenarios that will be explored; this is my idea. Though no black ink was laid to rest upon white paper, I am light years ahead of where I had been in terms of this idea when the week began.

Likewise, I did start writing something else, a short story, believe it or not. I've attempted short stories in the past, mainly because, as I'm sure you can tell from some of my entries here, I like using words. Short stories allow me the freedom to use more words than perhaps my ideas entitle me to.

I had begun to feel that drought, that antsyness that comes with not writing; only this time, my head was filled with ideas, with wants and desires. I had a lot to put to page; I just wasn't doing it. The short story was the temporary fix; I could write a bit here or a bit there, claim to have written that night (since in fact, I had), and still have stayed away from my script. Mind you: I'm not afraid of the pages I have to re-write. On the contrary, I'm eager to get to them. Sometimes, thought, I feel the need - whether consciously or not - to step back from them for a time. This is one of those times. By this time next week, I hope to be back in the swing of them. But for now, I'll allow my other ideas the time they need to ferment, to bubble, to pop.

Is every writing week a writing week? Perhaps not. Some might disagree with me and claim that one must, and under no circumstances stray from this, write every day. I feel it is important. But, I also think it can be beneficial to let ideas materialize first. I am at a point where I want to continue with the project I finished in the past ten weeks, but at the same time, I want to build upon a second project that I can work on at the same time. I know that in a previous entry I wrote about hoe important it was for me to keep writing. Perhaps I've failed that. Then again, perhaps I've seen that not all writing has to be of a pen to the page, or fingers to a keyboard. Writing is a muscle, and there are many ways to strengthen it.

Stark Realizations

I won't rob long time readers of a proper reflection, but for the here and now, be it known that the grad school application process is just about wrapped up. To date, I applied to six schools for a MFA in creative writing, received four official rejections, one unofficial rejection, and am waiting on my last, long shot, school.

This happens to people, and I'm not unrealistic about my writing ability, especially in prose, but I don't think I can go through this process again. Next December I'll turn 26. I have no marketable skills, no career prospects, and a writing ability that is strong but unfocused from the years I've spent dabbling in so many different mediums (cyberspace, I guess, included).

At one point in my life, if there was something I wanted to do, no matter how unlikely it was, it happened. It could have been any number of things, but through a combination of determination, talent, work, and what was probably quite a bit of luck, things just worked out for me. I think it's easy to fly high while in the confines of college and walls and rules and it is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

There are a lot of talented people out there, and I honestly do think that I'm among them, but I don't think I want "it" enough. I don't want crappy jobs while I write mediocre things and chip away at a block of talent until it becomes a polished, godly tool of literary destruction because I don't have faith or confidence in the fact that after all the work has been done there will be something there worth toting. I am only twenty-five now, but what happens if in ten years I'm still struggling to make ends meet and I realize that maybe this writing thing isn't taking me anywhere? Then I'm thirty-five. There's a chance I'll pull through and be the working, influential writer that I aspire to be, but the numbers indicate - just like the grad schools that receive 835 applications for 25 slots - that it just won't happen.

At 16, while in the midst of a pretty serious depression, I made the choice to drop everything and study my ass off so I could get into schools outside Kentucky, my home state. I didn't know just then what I wanted to be (I would gravitate toward acting a year later), but I knew where I didn't want to be, and I knew my brain was the ticket out of it.

For as much as I love writing, I don't know if it's what I want to do with my life, but I sure as hell know that in ten years, I don't want to have screwed myself out of more opportunities by following a pipe dream. It frightens me, and whether or not you believe fear is something that should dictate action, well, sometimes, I think that it's perfectly okay.

I don't want to say I'm hanging it up because I'm not. Writers write, and no matter what you do for a living, no matter how old you get, no one can ever take that away from you. But there are a lot of other things that I'm interested in, roads down which I need to travel. If a letter shows up on my doorstep from the University of Virginia and says I'm in for creative writing, this will be moot and silly and completely ridiculous, but for now, and for a long time, there are other things I need to take care of.

I hate that I can't take myself seriously. I hate feeling like I have no control over my life and that I don't have the power to affect change in this world.

So that's what I'm going to do.

And no one is more surprised to hear me talk this way than I am.

--LoKor out

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bye, Onyx


See you in a few days!

And so was invented the reverse post-card, where, upon going on vacation, travelers receive picturesque well-wishes from those back at home.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Random Thoughts of a Rambling Writer Trying to Clear His Head Before Sitting Down to Write

Every time I read that someone is leaving New York, it makes me consider the concept of lateral motion. And how I'm lacking it. Why am I so bummed? Why is my mind so cloudy? What do I want, and how do I get it? I don't know what I'm working toward. I write these stories, these little stories, and now, for example, I've finished one and am utterly terrified by the thought of trying to go back and clean it up. Why? Because it's definitely very dirty. It's a mess. It's drafts away from being finished. But why does this frighten me? Because it could take a while for it to be finished. It will be hard work. And maybe I'm lazy. I don't like to commit to things for extended periods of time because I miss out on other things and maybe because after all that time what if I still fail? What if?

Whenever someone I know leaves New York, I get simultaneously motivated and dejected. I think, well damnit, this place keeps breaking people. It's time to get working! Meanwhile, I can't help but acknowledge a feeling of sheer, unbridled envy, the kind that ruins people and cripples nations, and causes any number of crazy biblical shit. I wonder where I would go if I left. I wonder if I had made choices a bit differently earlier in life if things would make more sense now. I'm all for discovering the answers, but why do I get the sense that the questions are becoming more vague the more I search?

I don't believe that I'm "searching" in light of experience, that I can't function because I'm so wrapped up in making sense of things. But thoughts are thoughts and time is time and one takes the other (though not vice versa, I think).

Oddly enough, writing, even this - this little excursion into the subconscious (which is a joke, considering how precisely chosen 80% of these words happen to be) - brings about that clarity and I get to a point where I'd like to do this for an extended period of time, where it can be something I can focus on, where it can be the only thing I have to worry about.

But then where is the balance? The embeddedness that I feel in my job and in my life consume so much time and energy (the later of which frightens me most), and if I was to, say, get another job, would that make me more confident in my ability to write stories? I wonder, even then, where is this all going? Would I find it acceptable if in ten years I write from time to time, story to story until...what? Plays, scripts...can we write for years and submit to festivals and find companies and directors and publications to get our work published and if we don't make anything off of it, is that okay? If a tree falls in a forest...

Chicken or egg? Did we write and then love it? Or did we love it and then write?

And what does it matter, if anything?

Questions, questions, questions. I'd like to say I don't stress out about these things, but the acne on my forehead (at 25?!) would quickly give me away as a liar. And I have no idea why I'm sharing these thoughts with the public.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Writing Week part 10

I read through my first draft again. It took me long enough (about four days). All in all, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't as painful as I was sure it was going to be.

Thursday came and went far more comfortably than I had anticipated. Like a band-aid that needs to be ripped off, I was not looking forward to our meeting, because I had it in my mind that the notes were going to be hard to swallow. This was only the second (maybe third) time I'd shown pages to the League, and was the first time since I wrote Act One. The notes I got at that last meeting didn't prevent me from making headway, but they sure gave me a lot to think about. I was sure going into Thursday that I was going to be told the project simply wasn't working.

Zombie, who couldn't make the meeting, got to me first. He called it a really solid draft, which I sort of made him say another six times before I began to feel comfortable with that thought. At that point, I hadn't yet re-read it for myself, so I wasn't sure I could believe him. Then the meeting came, and DOA told me that she hadn't thought my idea was workable, but the draft made her re-consider that opinion. The rest of the notes were just as supportive, critical where necessary, and, more than anything else, helpful.

It wasn't until I read the pages again that I saw just how right everyone was. Act Two was and is the biggest problem with the script, but that's not uncommon. Backer had a suggestion, which LoKor and the others elaborated upon, which will really help to tie the episodic format of Act Two together and raise the stakes for something that happens at the beginning of Act Three. It was a very solid note. Onyx suggested something, which the others helped shed insight upon, which will clarify a lot about the world and the time frame in which the characters are operating.

All told, I came away from the meeting unburdened and excited. I had planned on setting this project aside (I was worried of the work I thought I'd have to do on it and had come up with a new project, a comedy for a change, that I wanted to begin on). After the meeting, though, I was ready to get back to work on the script. I wasn't as far off as I had imagined, and the ideas would be easy yet strong enough to rapidly turn the script into something much more marketable. It's true, I would like to begin work on the comedy soon, but I think it can wait. Or, I can work on it simultaneously.

Last night, after finishing reading the final FADE OUT, I got to thinking. Five years ago, three years even, the draft I turned out would have been an entire semester or year's worth of work at school. Now, though, I did it in just under two months, and I was quite pleased with the outcome. Likewise, the notes are incredibly insightful. They targeted the obvious and more hidden problems within the pages and addressed how to fix them in quite effective ways. It's incredible to me how far we as individual writers have come through practice and sticking with it.
I wonder where we'll be in another five years...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Taking its toll...

I had an idea for my current screenplay that was drastically different than my original idea of where it was going, which actually seemed like a pretty good idea at the time.

I sat down this afternoon to try to work out how I'd incorporate it into my script, charting out all of the various logic holes I'd have to fill before the new idea would actually make any sense.

And it gave me a painful, splitting headache.

My lesson for the day: if an idea leaves me lying in bed for 20 minutes clutching my forehead and gritting my teeth just from thinking about it, it's probably best I leave it out of the script.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

And For My Next Trick...

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about where this year is going. I know, I know; we’re only two months and a few days into the year. But it will go quickly.

For the first time since its inception, the League has banded together as a group on the screenplay competition front. In the past, Onyx and DOA have attempted—with a moderate degree os success, by the way—the competition circuit. However, I’m both pleased and proud to say that virtually all of us have taken a shot at it this go around.

Much due to Onyx’s insistence, those of us who had not yet given it a shot took a chance this past week. Over half of us who are currently working on scripts submitted to the Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition by the regular March 5th deadline, opting to forego the bonus month to submit (for slightly more money) by April 15th. Beyond that, though, four or five out of the six of us (with number six not currently working in screenplays) are or are going to submit to the PAGE International Screenplay Competition.

Why two contests? Why now? Well, for one, two competitions gives us a better chance of placing. Beyond that, we followed Onyx’s logic. Scriptapalooza, a well known and respectable competition offers prizes to a handful of finalists. It is a big deal to place in that. PAGE, on the other hand, while also well known and great to place in, divvies up its contest into genres. As a group, we submitted to at least four different categories. If we each manage to place in the genre we’re competing in, we will emerge as quite the remarkable group. It’s basic logic, but it works. And as for the now: we’re ready, we have the drafts that are good to go, and the competitions are right for us. I was originally weary of entering two that run as simultaneously as these do, but that has since passed.

It’s great to finally have done this, to have taken the leap and tried my hand at competitions. On the other hand, I won’t hear from these regarding even the first round of eliminations until August. With PAGE, the finalists aren’t announced until October 1st. That’s a long ways away. I indicated at the start of the year that I had resolved to do everything I could in 2008 to get my work out there and seen by people who can get something done with it. Waiting to see what if anything happens between August and October seems to contradict that. Yes, it’s great to have submitted, but I have almost five whole months between now and August first, and I need to fill that time productively. What that means, I’m not entirely sure. Yes, more writing, obviously. But soon, I feel, I will need to work on query letters and other approaches. I can’t wait for results in the second half of 2008 before I get myself in gear. That would be a lot of wasted time.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Writing Week part 9

Draft done!

The feeling of finishing a draft, an elaborate recipe of triumph, accomplishment, empowerment, wonder, and even loss never gets old. Since the inception of the League, I have: re-written one script, written the first drafts of two screenplays, written one (and a half) drafts of a stage play, and written the first (unsuccessful) act of another play. Yet, with each project’s “completion” comes reason to celebrate. Every project is both an adventure and a test. The reward of typing that final “Fade Out,” be it for the first or the umpteenth time, is always gratifying.

Since this is a first draft, I’m not sure of its strength. Our next meeting is sometime within the next week, so I wanted to give the group as much time to read my 113 pages as possible. Therefore, which I do not recommend people do, other, perhaps, on rare occasions with a writers group, I haven’t re-read the pages yet. I will do that this week as the rest of the League will.

In nine weeks, though, I did what it took me years to learn; I wrote a feature-length (draft) script. No matter what notes I receive when we next meet, that is something I can be proud of. I had trouble with this script, and I bet that will show. But at Backer and Onyx said, the group is there to iron out the problems. Hopefully, in another nine weeks, I’ll have something much more solid, something that proves less difficult, yet just as fun to write (if not more so).

Now, though, comes another kind of decision. Rather than trying to decide what happens next in the script, or finding out what happens next as my characters’ actions determine it, I have to decide what’s next for me. Do I wait for notes—granted, I have a few days of re-writing and editing before we even meet—or do I move on to something else? My New Year’s resolution was to keep as actively writing as possible. Just because I finished a draft does not mean I will allow myself to forego the hour of writing each night. I either need to choose a new project to turn my attention to, or dive back into this script and embark immediately upon the re-writes.

I feel as though I’ve been working in the same genre a lot recently, which I have enjoyed. However, at the same time, I feel compelled to change that, to go a new direction. That’s not so much because I don’t have more action/adventure ideas; I do, a lot of them. But I don’t want to ideas to blend on the page before me. I feel that if I began another similar project, I would feel compelled to incorporate similar aspects from the previous two projects into it. It will be more of a challenge to me, and a refresher period for my action inclinations, to work on something different next.

What that is, though, I don’t know.