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!