Friday, July 27, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol.5 ) part 237 - The Edit Begins, and More Comic Book Talks

With the 30 Day Screenplay Challenge out of the way, I was free this past week to focus on the two other projects I have going at the moment: my sci-fi collaboration (still in the outline revision stage) and discussions about adapting my post-Apocalyptic spec into a comic book. I made some good headway in both of those this week.

First, the sci-fi project. My writing partner, W.A. and I have been going back and forth on outlines for a few months now. I write them, based on notes and discussions we have, and then he sends his comments. I revise, we meet if need be, and then we show the latest incarnation to our producer. Maybe a month and a half ago, we got some note from her that spurred on a major overhaul of the outline. The result has been a drastically new version of the script, albeit with the fundamentals still in tact, which W.A. and I are both very keen on. He got me some notes on it two weeks ago, and yesterday I was finally able to get the edited copy out to him. I know that W.A. has already mentioned the project to some industry people in general meetings, and there's been interest. He's a bit of a known commodity, so it's nice to already have a bit of an in with it. Either way, I hope to be able to start writing pages soon. Once he - and our producer - gives the thumbs up for the latest draft, it's off to the races.

The post-Apocalyptic spec, meanwhile, is still on its unending and varied ride to a (hoped-for) sale. After being on the market a couple years, it still hasn't sold, much to the bafflement of my producing team. At this point, we're looking into adapting it for the graphic novel medium as a way to generate some "source material" that might make buyers more comfortable with the big budget project. We've been in talks with an artist, who is interested in working on the project. More so, though, we've also had meetings with an editor who works for a known (though not upper echelon, DC or Marvel type) publisher. All in all, the team has managed to get some interesting ideas circulating.

One approach, and perhaps the most obvious, would be to literally convert the script as is into a graphic novel. This would be nearly a page for pag adaptation of the project. It wouldn't be very different (maybe a bit streamlined), so the work on my end would be minimal, but it would require a lot of time and commitment from an artist. We have also talked about doing a full length graphic novel, but a different version of the story all together. This, though, would essentially necessitate me writing a brand new screenplay for a project that's already been tested on the market, which I'm not so sure is a wise investment of time. My producers agree; if the script hasn't sold in two years, and I have other projects in the works, then why focus on rewriting the script for another medium without a guarantee that it would even get picked up in that industry? 

The third (though not final) option that we're starting to gravitate more and more toward is that we do a one-time short story related to the world and characters of the script. If we can produce and print, say, a ten-page story set in the post-Apocalyptic world and use that as a means to attract attention, then why not? We've already found - through that one editor - a means to do it in a way that would enable us to pay the artist (and therefore lessen the extent to which he would require some sort of creator credit). The periodical prints, publishes, and gets distributed, so it's a better bet than self publishing a story. And, we'd have something visual to put before buyers. Given that it's a short, there also wouldn't be an overwhelming time commitment on my end, which is another plus. 

We haven't locked into anything yet, and there is still a ton up in the air, but it's exciting to be exploring these alternatives. Who knows what will come of them.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 236 - Finished a Draft in 30 Days... Sort Of

The 30 Day Screenplay Challenge officially ended on Wednesday, July 18. When I woke up that morning, I essentially had a full, 114 page draft completed, with three missing scenes. All I had to do then, on that last day, was fill in the blanks.

I really hate gratuitous scenes. I don't mean ones that are overly or unnecessarily violent, but rather ones that don't have a place in the script - scenes that needlessly take up time and pages just to extend an act. When I sat down to fill in the three gaps, I seriously had to consider the relevance and importance of each scene I was adding. Sure, in terms of pacing, I needed something at the designated areas, but what content was necessary? There's little as annoying as a scene that's predominantly dialogue, which accomplishes nothing and, even worse, simply rehashes events that have already happened. I knew I did not want to write anything like that. I needed some spacing and buffer between beats already on the page, but the filler content had to be more than just filler; it had to warrant its existence. 

The first scene I wrote felt natural, which was good. It was a logical extension of something that preceded it, but it covered new ground and forwarded the plot (I think/hope). It served as an effective time out before other major events, which had to unfold soon thereafter. It was short, succinct, and achieved a small objective that I hadn't known was missing, but which proved itself important. One scene down.

The second scene veered slightly more toward plain filler. It's a fun scene involving a tertiary character, but it's very much in the spirit of the rest of the script. It handles some elements that I had touched on but glossed over earlier. Can I cut it later? Probably, if it comes to it (and probably really means certainly, since anything that doesn't have to be in the finished draft should go), but I don't think anyone will hold it against me for the time being. My only concern is that it might be too great a deviation from the main characters and too much an out of the blue focus on someone whose fate we're not really interested in. Again, that will be seen later when the League reads the pages for our August meeting. 

With the third scene, I hit a small wall. The same characters were in both scenes that bookended the gap, having nearly the same conversation. What can go between these two scenes, that doesn't involve those characters, which would organically bridge their conversations? Ultimately, it hit me - nothing. Not only was there not a single scene that truly fit between those two scenes, but there was also no reason for those two scenes to be two scenes; the solution to that problem lay in merging the scenes. I'm a firm believer in consolidating as many scenes as possible, though when I outline, it's easy to allow myself subconsciously to fall into a trap of writing out more beats than I need that all work toward the same objective. The way to solve that problem is to look at the content of the scenes and, if they're the same, merge them together. So that's what I did.

Three missing beats, replaced by two scenes and the combining of two others to eliminate the need of the third beat, and I was done. For the first time in quite a while, I have a brand new draft of a new project on my desk. It's 114 pages long, which is longer than I normally write, and I'm pretty sure I can trim 10 to 14 pages, but that's not the objective for the moment. For now, all I need to do is read through it again in a few days when the dust from writing settles and begin my edits. At the end of the day, the Challenge proved fruitful for me - I know I wouldn't have driven myself to force out a draft at this time had I not been prompted by the exercise, so despite the quality of the product, I'm pleased. Challenge met!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 235 - Stuck in the Muck

Curse you, Act Three! Two projects I'm working on this month, and on both of them I slammed head first into a very big and seemingly insurmountable wall after wrapping Act Two. The torture! Three days spent staring at a blinking cursor on the demon thriller, writing a couple lines for some throwaway description, only to follow it up with the ever-depressing...

BEAT HERE? my next slugg line. From page 90 on, my script looks like a dalmatian. Every other page is dotted with bolded question marks and stopgaps to remind me to come back and focus attention on them. On Saturday morning, I churned out 6 rapid fire, usable pages. On Sunday, I scraped together 2. Monday saw 1, which I know is going to get deleted right off, and I think I got through  3 on Tuesday. 

It's not so much the low page count that irks me, though, as it is the fact that Act Three should write itself by this point. When Act Three is on the fritz, the problem is inevitably embedded in Act One. There are three other BEAT placeholders throughout the earlier portion of the script, and I have a very good feeling that some B or C story should fill those holes. More so, I know that whatever goes into those beats will lead to a successful third act. I hate adding what I feel are gratuitous sequences or even scenes, though. "Why is this in here? It's not furthering the plot." Breaking up beats isn't a sufficient answer, but if your ending's not working, you can bet that you're missing something earlier on.

There was some good to come out of the week, though. I "finished" Act Two for the demon thriller (finished is a relative term, since I know I'll have to do rewrites), so even though I'm kind of stuck now, I'm about 10 pages out from the end and I have almost a week in which to finish it. Yay for that. Also, I finally got the revised outline to my collaborator on the sci-fi project. I kept hitting the same late Act Two into Act Three obstacles with that project, but I think I sort of came upon a solution this week. We'll see what my writing partner says. And, if nothing else, that's one project temporarily off my desk, which frees me up for undivided focus on the intractable demon thriller for the remainder of the 30 Day Screenplay Challenge. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Writing Week (Vol. 5) part 234 - Juggling Multiple Projects

We're going on our third full week of the 30 Day Screenplay Challenge, and let's just say this - they don't call it a challenge for nothing. I'm 79 pages into my demon thriller and still going pretty strong, averaging slightly better than four pages a day. At that pace, I'm right about on target to plop out a 120 page draft by day 30. Of those 120, I'm sure there are at least 10 or 15 that can be cut, and another... 100?... that will need to be rewritten.

The Challenge doesn't allow a lot of time for rewrites, but that's also not the point of it. All it is there to do is get us writing again, which is something that I personally hadn't done in a while. By July 18, less than two weeks from now, I should have a full first draft of a script that I probably wasn't going to dive into for months yet to come. There's nothing wrong with that result. 

Many of the pages are turning into fluff. The dialogue isn't great by any stretch of the imagination, which is unfortunate most in the sense that the dialogue is one of the intended big selling points of the script. It's supposed to be snappy and witty and riddled with subtext, but the pressure of a deadline has rendered it fairly prosaic and on the nose, much to my disappointment. Granted, rewriting it after the challenge ends isn't going to be a dire process, so I'm not too concerned about that. I'm also discovering a lot about the plot and characters as I write (oh, so much yet to discover about my characters), so hopefully those realizations will inform draft two.

I've had to start waking up early in order to manage my time better and get more out of my day. In addition to the demon thriller, which I work on for an hour a day (not including necessary outlining at the office so that I can complete pages at home), I've also been re-outlining the sci-fi collaboration. Originally, I intended to get the new draft to my writing partner before he left town yesterday, but that just didn't happen. Though I hate missing deadlines and dropping off the radar on a project, it wasn't until early this week that I had some big ideas for that project. I've outlined a quarter of the script a day the past two days, and hope to wrap that and send it off to him tomorrow at the latest, which would shift something off my plate. And, I'm still working with my team on possibly turning the post-Apocalyptic spec into a comic book, and that venture has required calls and meetings that have dipped into my time and concentration now and again. 

So, basically, I'm busy. And it feels good. Interestingly, though, there was a very poignant article recently about claiming busyness. If you haven'r read it, check it out here. I don't tend to include links in these Writing Weeks, but I feel like this article is particularly appropriate and relevant to all of us writers. Maybe you'll get something out of it, too.