Monday, October 06, 2008

The Writing Week part 40 - Why Did I do That?

This week, like so many recently, has been about re-writes, primarily. I actually spent the week working between three projects, which reminded me just how much I enjoy having multiple things to jump between. Working on multiple projects simultaneously offers so many important freedoms to a writer, particularly the freedom to explore multiple ideas and themes at once, as well as work with multiple characters and genres; it also allows the freedom to experience writer's block on one or even two projects. I'm often at my most productive when, if I freeze on an outline, I can jump to a separate script, and work through my writer's block on the first project that way. It really can be quite liberating.

So, this week's scoreboard featured: the post-Apocalyptic spec's final re-writes for the time being, the character background for the protagonist in my voice over experimental spec, and re-reading and editing my comic book style spec. Three projects all very much alive in my head now, all at different stages, all drawing attention last week.

I can't quite remember which night it was - I believe it was Saturday - I sat down and opened my comic book spec for the first time in nearly a year. The following are the actual first two sentences after the FADE IN: (NAME OF) CITY.

A middle-sized city on the rocky North-Eastern coast of the United States. The city is actually situated on an island, about a mile from the mainland.

I was horrified when I read this. It's not the worst writing in the world, but it is nowhere near the first thing I'd want a producer or agent's intern to read after digging the script out of the pile on his or her desk. So, with a few tweaks, that line became:

A mid-size city on an island off the rocky North-Eastern coast of the United States.

Fewer words. Big change. It just feels much more readable, more streamlined, less unnecessary. In short, I think it reads more professionally. (It might still need work, but it's oh so much better.) This is just one example of cutting back. The ScriptXRay article we linked to a while ago mentioned micro-descriptions. The original phrasing I used isn't exactly the same, but it does the same damage in a different way. It uses more words than necessary and stalls the reader from progressing. (As a whole, though, the 57/101 pages I've re-read so far have been overwhelmingly encouraging. I took my sweet time with this script, and for the most part, it shows.)

Isn't reading old scripts fun?

How does this stuff get published?

Every year, the Bulwer-Lytton Awards recognize horrible first sentences in novels. Over at io9, the sci-fi blog points out that the winner sounds strangely similar to another, painfully bad first sentence. You decide:

Joe Schulman won the Bulwer-Lytton in science fiction for this stinker:

Timothy Hanson, Commander of the 43rd Space Regiment in the 52nd Battalion on board the USAOPAC (United Space Alliance Of Planets Attack Carrier) and second in command to Admiral L. R. Morris of the USAOP Space Command, awoke early for breakfast.

Meanwhile, David Sherman & Dan Cragg's novel Starfist: Wings of Hell, forthcoming from Del Rey in December, begins with this line:

Captain Lew Conorado, the commander of Company L of the infantry battalion of Thirty-fourth Fleet Initial Strike Team, settled into the chair behind the desk in his office and sighed.
I don't know about you guys, but I'd definitely read something titled Starfist: Wings of Hell. How could you not?

The Simpsons - Beavis and Butthead Did It Already?

So, did everyone catch last night's Simpsons? Did the first act, where Bart was gathering/stealing golf balls to sell back to golfers for a profit (in a zany montage) ring familiar to anyone else?

I'm 99% sure this was already an episode of Beavis and Butthead. Further research pulled up this description of the episode I recalled (Yes, it's called "Mr. Anderson's Balls:")

While searching for a missing kid, Beavis & Butt-head stumble upon a golf game with Mr. Anderson, then follow him around the golf course to steal his golf balls and sell them to other golfers.

MTV has the full episode available for viewing on their website.

This reminds me of the South Park episode where Butters gets frustrated because The Simpsons have already used every zany plot he can come up with.

After 19 seasons, has The Simpsons exhausted its own story wells? So much that they're recylcing 14-year-old Beavis and Butthead gags?