Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 182 - Working from Home

This marks the second official week that my employer has allowed me to work from home. I had to sign a contract agreeing to meet certain benchmarks, but the short of it is that I do not have to reappear in the office until August 29 (or whatever that Monday is). My boss and supervisor and I have an understanding that this (incredible) offer is also supposed to be a boon to my writing. 

To be honest, I wouldn't say I've managed to do a whole lot more on my script than I would have had I been working 10-6 each day in the office. I've made consistent (and sometimes consistently slow) progress reworking my Medieval revenge spec. If all goes well, I should have the revised first act about done today. But I need to get cracking more, pushing out those pages so that I can meet my earlier goal of completing two scripts this summer. I got a one page revised outline of Act Two done (which felt pretty stellar) and reworked the first act outline prior to doing the new and tweaked pages. Act Three is still a bit shady, but it's going to be short and to the point, so I'm not very concerned.

Having extra time has enable me to watch more movies, which I guess is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I have a lot more "study" time. On the other, that's time that could be spent writing. I'm heading down to my parents' place in Arlington, Virginia for about a week, and ideally will be able to crank out a lot of pages there (and on the bus ride down, which would be a first). 

In the meantime, I have a lot of waiting to do. I entered Nicholl this year - waiting on that. I applied for an October screenwriters retreat - waiting on that. Waiting, also, to hear back regarding a playwright program I submitted an application for. Finally, I'm still waiting to hear back about what - if anything - is happening with my post-Apocalyptic noir script. We're out to a few companies, but the longer the silence is, the more grim the picture. 

At least I can wait in the comfort of my and my parents' house.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 181 - The Idea Race, or How My Idea Wasn't Stolen

We're in a race, you and I. But it's not just between us. It's one that all other writers are competing in, too. What's the race, you ask? It's the race to get our ideas developed into scripts that sell before another writer does.

All - or at least many - writers harbor some degree of fear about their ideas getting stolen or leaked. That's natural. The truth of the matter, though, is that there are thousands if not more writers all working on scripts at the same time. Some are doing it for money. Some, like us here at the League, have yet to earn much or anything from our scripts. We're working comparatively off the map. But we're working. And I'd probably put money on the notion that someone out there has an idea for a script that's very similar to one I have and am working on/have worked on. It's just a race to see which of us can produce pages and get them into the right hands first. 

Does the fact that so many of us are working now mean that all similar ideas are stolen? Nope, it means the opposite - simply put, there are a lot of writers writing, and because many of us are trying to write based on an existing market's tastes, we're going to wind up with overlapping ideas. That said, idea stealing can and does happen. It's just not necessarily as common as some might make it out to be. Also, for us off-the-mappers, it's pretty unlikely.

Take, for example, a script entitled ABDUCTED, which just got logged on Done Deal. By John Heffernan, it's described as "'Die Hard' on an alien spaceship." I pitched something semi-similar to my manager a while ago. I hadn't started working on it yet, nor had I really developed it. But the intent was an action movie set in space, mostly aboard a ship. Common threads abound. However, there was no stealing. There was nothing I can concretely claim as having been mine. none of the (few) industry people I pitched it to are involved in this project that I can tell. It's just a fact of this game that there are a lot of people working on a lot of scripts out there, and we're all each other's competition. All I can do is accept that something related sounding got picked up and move onto the next project in the idea bank when it's time. Better I learn about ABDUCTED now, rather than when I have a draft in hand and am trying to circulate it. 

I lost this race. Hopefully, I'll win the next.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's the Greenest Way to Watch a Movie?

Brian Palmer tries to figure out the more eco-friendly approach to watching movies in this Slate article. If you're an environmentalist like I am, the notion that seeing a movie negatively impacts the environment might be a bit troubling. However, we live in an age where, unfortunately, even sending emails or conducting a web search releases carbon and other nasty stuff into the atmosphere. At least Palmer's research sheds some light on what the least harmful way to enjoy a flick might be. Worth a read!

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 180 - Best Approach to a Writers Group Meeting

At its core, the League is a writers group. Sure, we have this blog and other outreach efforts. When all is said and done, though, our primary focus is to serve each other as writers.

To that end, we meet once a month in a set place (Jen's apartment) on a set date (second Tuesday of the month). Anyone who plans on submitting something for feedback gives a two week notice (this is informal, but appreciated) so that we can coordinate how many things we'll have to cover. Pages should be in hand ideally a week before the meeting, but certainly no later than the Friday morning before we gather. We read. We take notes. And on that Tuesday, we meet. 

A writers group meeting can be all business, part fun, or any combination that works best for the people involved. Recently, we've been eating and sipping beer or wine during the meeting. None of this detracts from the ideas and comments; rather, it makes the evening a bit more casual, a bit more informal, and allows for an open discussion of the work. Before meeting at the apartment, we used to take over the conference room in my office. That worked to a degree, but on nights when there was a lot of material, people would get a bit restless. The less formal approach has served to keep our attention when there are numerous projects on the table.

Last night, we met for the first time in abut a month. My Medieval revenge spec was the only discussion item. I had prepped the group via an email that the script was a very obvious work in progress. The character relationships and dialogue were (and still are) in need of great work. But I refrained from giving specifics or highlighting my other concerns. I wanted to hear what they had to say and see if they picked up on anything I hadn't, or if some of the areas I found problematic were not too bothersome to them. They touched on everything I thought they would.

In a meeting, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the small details. "This line of dialogue doesn't work" or "I don't think they would say it this way." These smaller edits and points are all valid, but when a script isn't really working, they can detract from the attention the larger picture needs. Luckily, last night, everyone was prepared to help me look at the forest, and ignore the individual trees for the most part. That's what I needed, and that's what the group gave me.

The discussion quickly revealed a key device - which leads to a third act battle - and a supporting character that were both not working. Other scenes and arcs were falling flat, and the titular character wasn't holding her own. What else happened during the talk? A solution presented itself to me. I threw it out there for the group, and everyone took to it pretty readily. Implementing it will mean a major rewrite, nearly a page one new draft, but that's fine. I'll lose a lot, but I'll gain even more. The group showed me that the above mentioned device and character were getting in the way of the more important elements, and I ave no problems about losing them in favor of something much, much stronger.

There's no right way to run a meeting. It should be what you and your group members need it to be. Some groups are massive and meet whenever a few people are free. Some are smaller (we are now six) and meet regularly. Some meet only when there are pages (we just stick to our schedule, regardless). Some have food and drink; some cut right to business then cut loose. Whatever works for you is fine, but I believe that the writer whose work is up for discussion must lead the session by determining and clarifying what kind of feedback he or she wants. If you're curious as to what is working and what isn't, maybe consider refraining from stating specifically the beats you're worried about. If you know something is wrong and you want to figure out how to address that, then open with that - or better yet, mention it in the email that contains your pages. Either way, remember that the focus of the meeting, or at least that portion of it, is on your work and helping make it as strong as it can be. Come prepared with questions, but be ready to listen to all feedback, whether you agree with it or not. The time is yours; use it well.

Do any of you have suggestions for how to best manage a writers group meeting?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Logline Central - Tips from ScriptShadow

We're going to change up Logline Central a bit this time. Typically, these posts feature a logline posted to Done Deal Pro, which I then analyze (for better or for worse). Many of them are not actually loglines.

Today, though, I ask you to take a look at a recent ScriptShadow special post, which features examples of both good and bad loglines, as well as some helpful instructions on how to craft a successful logline for your script.

As it's said in the post, a logline is the key to getting your script read by a producer or agent or manager. If you don't craft a strong and coherent one (or two) sentence logline, then good luck proving that you've written a 100 page script worth their time.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 179 - Editing your Script

Fade Out. The first draft of your script is done. All printed out. Look at it. So pretty... Now what?

For a lot of writers, that first draft is a prized possession not to be messed with. It's been a labor of love, and now it's perfect. Only, it's not really. It takes a lot of time (and a lot of scripts) to realize that the first draft is usually far from ready to see the light of day. Unless you're William Goldman, pre-planning your entire script to the point that you can churn out three perfect pages per day, you will most likely face a rewrite of that draft. And of the draft after that. And the one after that. The real trick is setting your game plan for those rewrites.

About a week ago, I finished the first pass at my Medieval spec. Even as I was writing, I knew that it required some major attention in a few key places. I pushed through, though, and printed the sucker out a week ago Saturday. Typically, I'll spend the next three days after printing reading over the script, marking edits and places where I need to come back for more extensive rewrites. Smaller edits don't require marking pages; but for instances where I need to revise dialogue, cut a scene, or invest more time and effort, I'll jot the page number down on the title page. Some title pages will wind up with 30 to 50 page numbers recorded. Of course, the level of further attention per page will vary, but none of those are considered simple, quick edits. (Depending on what I know needs attention, I'll also scribble notes to myself on the title page; "Look at the relationship between [characters] X and Y," or, "Is his motivation consistent throughout?")

Once I've completed the read-through, I'll spend the following day doing the small edits. Mostly, these are word cuts or changes, dialogue tweaking where I already know what I want to change the line to, and other simple fixes. (This is also the stage I just finished yesterday.) Then, the real work begins. Scenes need to be reworked or rejiggered. Characters are removed or added. Backstories are fleshed out. In short, this is a larger rewrite. And that's what I'm embarking upon now.

We have a League meeting a week from tomorrow. I want to give the gang ample time to read the full script, but I also do not want to send them pages until I've ironed out some of the larger issues. I'm focusing on about 9 key things right now - many interwoven - that I want to address before doling out the script. It'll still be imperfect, but implementing those changes will at least shed more light on what I'm trying to do in the script. And after all that's done... Another rewrite!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Site Alert - Various Grants and Writing Opportunities

As I troll around the interwebs, I periodically come across sites that I think you, dear readers, might benefit from. Not all these will be relevant to you, but perhaps at least a few will be helpful or interesting.

Today's links are all about work and getting funded.


Freelance Writing Gigs


George Mason University creative writing grants and resources

Funds for Writers

The Awesome Foundation

The Poetry Resource Page

American Journalism Review

Happy hunting!