Friday, June 29, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 233 - The Challenge Continues

June 18 marked the start of our 30 day screenplay challenge over here at the League. As of Monday, I was 30 pages into my demon thriller script, just having crossed the bridge between Acts One and Two. Today, I'm on 49, cresting toward the midpoint and realizing a few pivotal things about the script. 

For one, though I understood his comment months ago, I don't think I quite saw it the way he did. When I showed my manager an earlier version of the outline, he told me that thought the demon  portions of the script were really engaging and unique, the sections that dealt with humans were a little more hackneyed and thus slowed the momentum. I could see where he was coming from theoretically, but it wasn't until I began writing twelve days ago that I actually saw that in practice. I won't lie - the human scenes strike even me as more dull than the rest, but because Im not quite half way through the script yet and the days are counting down, I don't have time to go back and address that yet.

Also, while I normally like to write as compactly as possible, I'm noticing that this draft is already shaping up to be one of the longer ones I've produced in a while. Granted, that's not a problem, especially given that it's a first draft, but I'd be surprised if it weighs in anywhere under 115 pages. On the one hand, it's great to know that I'll be able to cut a lot upon the first read-through of it. On the other, it makes me wonder if maybe I've stacked too much in the first half, particularly in the first part of Act Two. I've written it so that there's a lot that needs to happen and I'm discovering more as I go. Though I generally love to have a tight outline before I begin writing, I didn't have that luxury with this script, so perhaps that's partly to account for the longer draft. THen again, I also don't have time to censure myself too much as I fly through the draft, so I'm putting a ton of crap down on the page that I know will have to go - especially dialogue. 

The final and somewhat expected, though not to this degree, result of the challenge has been that I haven't had time for my other projects at all really. We're talking about turning the post-Apocalyptic spec into a graphic novel, which will require me to change a few things and get some edits going. I've had time to be on the calls and do some minor research, but I have yet to really begin thinking about the story changes. Same with the sci-fi collaboration I'm working on. I'm disappointed with how much I've set that aside and I need to get back on it, since my partner is going out of town toward the end o next week and I want to get him a new outline before he leaves. 

So, lots to do, but it's great to be busy. Now if only I had 30 hours in my day...

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 232 - The 30 Day Screenplay Challenge

Something unusual and unexpected occurred at last week's writers group meeting. No one had any pages to present, so we had decided to meet for dinner and just talk about our current projects and anything else that was on our minds. Toward the end of the meal, Austin (aka Zombie) mentioned that he had decided to do a 30 day screenplay challenge, and he was wondering if any of us wanted in. The goal: write the first draft of a new script in the next 30 days. 

I jumped on board before he was even done pitching it.

For months now, it seems, I've been stymied when it comes to fleshing out new material. After a couple comprehensive yet flawed outlines, I've gone back to the drawing board to work on character backstories and development for the sci-fi collaboration I'm working on. My demon thriller is basically the Swiss cheese of outlines. And let's not even touch the potential page-one (as a comic book) rewrite of the post-Apocalyptic spec I'm looking at. I felt as though I was mired in the world of endlessly blinking cursors and text pages offering little plot advancement to speak of, and I needed a kick in the pants. Austin's drop of the gauntlet was exactly the elixir I thirsted for.

Last week, after the meeting, the four of us who decided to embark on the challenge shot messages back and forth to one another in an attempt to settle on the rules. Beginning today, June 18, we would have until end of the day July 18 to write a full - or as much of a - first draft of a project. Unless we feel the overwhelming need to, we won't meet too regularly about our work. We'll check in once a week to note progress and talk through any story issues any of us is experiencing, but since we're in a time crunch, we're not going to devote our evenings to  lengthy meetings and psychiatry sessions. 

I've decided to push ahead on the demon thriller for my project. I had a pretty thorough outline until I received feedback from my manager on it. I agreed with his note, and I'm excited about the possibilities for change that come from it, but at the moment, I'm going into this month-long experiment with a fairly coherent understanding of act one, and not a whole lot beyond that. My fear is that the fist draft is going to be one of the more poorly written pieces I've turned out in a long time. On the flip side of that is the fact that it will also be the fist new draft I've produced in a long time, so I can't argue with it too much. 

I generally prefer to have the backdrop of a much more solid outline before I begin on pages, but the time crunch doesn't allow for that now. My nights will be spent producing actual pages (fingers crossed), while I'll pretty much have my outline and notes open all day long at the office, and any down time at the day job will go to working out that night's beats and story problems. 

I'm excited to see where this takes me. Mainly, I'm just eager to be writing again. I feel as though the grey matter between my ears has been a bit dammed up as of late, so hopefully this will open the floodgates, and I'll come out of it with both material and a surge of creative juices to pour into the other projects on my desk.

Let the challenge... begin!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Writing Roundup

A selection of articles and postings from Leaguers that have appeared in other corners of the internet recently.

Alex (aka king suckerman)

Faulkner Detectives release The Modern Handshake

Austin (aka Zombie)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 231 - Decision Time

There comes a time when you might have to make some big decisions about one of your scripts, one of your babies. The hope, as always, is that you have to decide how much more money you're going to push for before you decide on a sale amount. I wish you all the best of luck in that. However, if things aren't quite working out that way, you might need to sit down and do some serious thinking about what's next for your material. 

A couple years ago, when I got an agent, it thought that my first sale and introduction tot he industry were moments away. I just knew that something big was in the works. The reality of the situation, though, fell far short of expectations. I received one email from my agent with a potential project he had in mind from me, and then nothing else back from him. What happened, I wondered. A producer was supposed to read my post-Apocalyptic spec and, if he liked it, I would write something on spec with him. Maybe he didn't like it. Maybe another writer came on board first. Maybe the project fell through. Who knows?

It's easy to allow myself to wonder what went wrong and why nothing came of that. Out of curiosity, I re-read the email yesterday. If the producer liked the script and liked me, then my agent was "going to recommend [I] write it on spec." Looking back, I'm not even sure that means there would have been money involved. Because he's an agent, I doubt he would have wanted me to do any work for free. But who knows, given the reality of the writing world at this point. Had I done it, and done it well - even for no money - my career could be in a whole different place now. Should I have followed up with my agent about that deal? Probably, actually. And I kick myself now for not doing so, because even if that fell through, then maybe something else would have come up. Rather than wallow in those thoughts though, I've decided to remind myself that something similar recently came about; a producer put me on a project, that I am writing on spec with my partner, the more firmly established W.A. It's not for money yet, but W.A.'s connections will hopefully land us a sale. Two years later, it seems I'm sort of on the same path as I thought I was on back then.

But I digress. The post-Apocalyptic spec that I first landed the agent for is still out there in the Hollywood ether, but it's not gaining any traction. I had a long chat with my producing team last week to discuss the possibilities of adapting the material as a graphic novel in hopes that doing so would get the film picked up. It would be a long process. Aside from securing a writer and getting the thing drawn, I'll probably have to re-write the material from page one to make it more suitable to that format. My team is excited about the possibilities, as am I, but I can't help but think that maybe the project is done for now. Maybe we should take the hint - Hollywood doesn't want it. Instead of re-writing it again, perhaps my time will be better used by working on something new, something fresh. Or, maybe I do the re-write simultaneously with a new script. Or... so many things to consider.

Decision time, indeed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 230 - Pitching a Graphic Novel?

Well, something moderately interesting happened this week. I got an email from Gretchen, one of the producers working on trying to set up my post-Apocalyptic spec - working diligently, I should add, for going on 3 years now. She and the other producer working with her have been talking back and forth about maybe trying to set my project up as a graphic novel, in hopes that doing so would create source material necessary to get the script sold. The theory is pretty simple (and if I thought about it, could be aggravating, so I won't think on it too much): we are having a hard time selling the material as a spec screenplay, but since Hollywood is enamored of existing material, no matter how well known it is, we might have a better shot at selling it if we make it a graphic novel first.

The comic book industry is a whole different beast compared to the film world. It might be easy to assume that writing and publishing a comic book is a simple task, but thanks to the careers and gained and shared insight of fellow Leaguers King Suckerman and Zombie, both of whom work in that industry, I know that's not the case. The fact of it is, comics are rarely a lucrative business. Many professional writers and artists have to attach themselves to numerous titles each month just to pay the bills. Unless they're A-list in that field, it can be hard to make a decent living making comic books. Many comics fail to make back their publishing and printing costs, and of those that do, it's never a guarantee that the talent involved will see much more than a break even point of their investment. By that, I mean that an independent writer with little to no artistic ability will probably have to hire a writer if he or she is pitching a book, unless there's already a collaborator on board in the form of an artist. And because many writers will get paid a percentage of sales after a certain earning goal is set, the profits really only come in after the artist's fees have also been recouped. (Forgive the brevity of the generalizations, but you probably won't be rolling in dough if you sell on graphic novel.)

Comics are also a timely endeavor. If you have a script, you might have to adapt it to the medium; even if the story is perfect for comics, the format of your script might not be. Though there isn't one industry standard format for comics kind of like there is for screenplays (I know, people write differently, but the page generally looks the same once you take away underlines and bold face, etc.), many professional artists are familiar with certain layouts. If your screenplay doesn't match that, then you'll probably want to go about reformatting it. And after all that is said and done, you still have to give the artist time to draw it all. 

My producers and I are very excited about the potential of the script as a graphic novel, but we also know that we have some serious discussion ahead of us. Do we have the time to adapt the material? Probably, to be honest, since no one's banging at our door for the screenplay at the moment. And it's not like we won't sell the script if someone comes asking for it while the comic is being developed - worst case scenario is that we have a comic in a year and can begin our push again. We have to discuss finding an artist and what that relationship will be. Will he or she come on as a "creator" or will it be a flat fee, commission style? Then, we have to decide where and when to pitch. Some paces are better for creator owned material than others. Some will require more work up front. Some will do more of the legwork and require less of a complete package from us. There's no guarantee that we would get the comic picked up, but we feel that the material is commercial and visual enough that it at least has a solid chance.

Either way, the possibilities are numerous. As I write this, I can't help but catch myself thinking of the "what ifs" - what if I have a comic book I wrote that's published in a year or a bit more? What if before it even hits shelves, Hollywood is hot for it? What if that launches things for me? On the other hand, what if I spend money on an artist an our pitch doesn't get picked up, or the trade hits shelves only to collect cobwebs and disappear? I cant focus on that now. Not that last part. No, my job is to confab with my producer and talk strategy. This could be the winning one.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

(Friday) Writing Roundup

A selection of articles and postings from Leaguers that have appeared in other corners of the internet recently.

Austin (aka Zombie)

Ranked: Beck

Album Review: Marissa Nadler – The Sister