Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Day eleven

I’ve had a blast up to now. But tonight has been hard. I’ve written half a page of crappy dialogue and it’s starting to feel like a real slog.

The problem, paradoxically, is that having written 56 pages, I can see the finish line and that doesn’t work for me because if I can see the line I can see what comes after, namely rewrites.

All of a sudden I find myself obsessing over my script’s weaknesses. I’ve become acutely aware of what’s wrong with it and have started questioning whether it’s worth going on at all. Dialogue is lifeless. Sub-plots haven’t played out. Characters are interchangeable. Sequences are jumbled. It’s all a load of shit.

And I find that my time is in demand this week. I don’t know if I have the resources to do everything else I have on my plate, along with another 30-40 pages.

How to get around this? One solution that comes to mind is to skip to the end. Write the climactic showdown in the lair of the beast so to neutralise any anxiety about reaching a denouement within the time-frame, and then fill in the gaps over what remains of the week.

As one of the things I’m most worried about is a propensity for meandering and woolgathering, this strikes me as a good plan. Writing without direction is a bad idea, so if I skip straight to the chase, having that climax done, ready for me, will stop me going from pillar to post to get there.

Anything to keep me going, basically.

Category: Writing


  1. 56 pages is fantastic and you've done well to forge ahead to this point. It's difficult to commit to something you know you are going to rewrite and rewrite, but that's that nature of the game. If skipping ahead helps you, go for it. Or try working on something else for a bit - it helped me to work on the Micro Short if only for the satisfaction of being able to complete something, however brief!

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence O_R. I woke up especially early this morning, and forged ahead to 61. Then my Powerbook just shut itself down for no reason at all, without saving anything, and I had to write them all over again.

    Still, it means I can go off to work, knowing I'm where I should have got to last night. So hurray for me.

  3. Try this:

    Just put in the sluglines and a one sentence description for all the scenes it will take to finish the movie.

    Then you will have completed the thing and then you can go back and rewrite it.

    You can see all the scenes and you don't have to worry about them. The whole point is to throw something down on the page - raw clay - that you can later mold into something.

  4. Genius!

    As soon as I get home I'm on it.

  5. Perfect! Americans love catching someone at a down moment. The race is on. (Sorta like Coe and Ovett.)

  6. The only thing that is a reason to stop is your statement: "characters are interchangeable".

    There's no sense in going on if your chars don't have distinct personalities. Because if they don't, what do you have? You need them to act, react, interact with others in a manner that's true to who they are. That IS the story.

    Rewriting lifeless dialogue, scratching subplots or have them play out, re-order sequences... that's all doable.

    But to basically "create" your characters after rough draft is written would mean to completely trash it, re-think it, and so forth.

    There's my 5 cents. Hey, I figured in inflation!

  7. "But to basically "create" your characters after rough draft is written would mean to completely trash it, re-think it, and so forth."


    Don't give Lee an excuse to stop.
    Shut up and let him write.

  8. Ah, it's just a little bit of friendly joshing as we approach the finish line, an amateur psyche-out to put me off my stride.

    You won't get to me, A.M. I'll show you!

  9. I second the cry of bullshit. Some characters don't get "found" until a few rewrites in, anyone who says they have all their characters down perfectly before going into the script is (a) lying, or (b) about to realise that they were horribly mistaken. Just keep going, you can do it.

    Great idea about the one line scenes to save time, by the way.

  10. It's one of those things I learned from Writer's Boot Camp - sort of an extended outline scenario, but in script form. All you need to do after is plug in the action and dialogue - you have the structure down right there on the page.

    I use it if I'm stuck. It's a good technique in that it allows you to see the architecture of the story and you can go in and 'paint and wallpaper' the scenes one at a time.

  11. Bill - very uncool. You crossed the line to being rude and I most certainly don't appreciate such rudeness.

    Lee - is that what you thought I was doing? Pa-leeze. Perhaps there are people who think this is a competition where one tops another. I don't think so. Hey, there isn't even a prize. So...

    I thought the only thing worrying about - from your laundry list of "weaknesses" you "obsess" about - were the characters.

    Others don't think so and that's fine. Do what works for YOU. Different things work for different people.

  12. Don't listen to AM - finish the damn thing.

    Niceties of character can be sorted in the next draft. Even if "niceties of" means "having a".

    PS - drinks on me if you can reach the finish line without having some kind of horrific brain haemorrhage.

    PPS - I don't have a stick, you'll have to supply your own.

  13. A.M.

    I was going to e-mail you, but you don't have an address in your profile. Thanks for dropping by, and for your comments about characterisation.

    I agree that reactions create story, and you need a firm handle on your characters to achieve this, but I also agree with James that sometimes, character takes a while to shine.

    I'm on page 70 and still making associations between my word-puppets, testing their relationships with one another, learning their motivations and so forth. By interchangeable, I meant that if I have two characters who, though distinct, nevertheless serve the same fundamental purpose, then it doesn't matter who says what, and one of them has to go.

    Bill's reply was certainly pretty beefy, but that gruff, no-nonsense attitude is why we love him round here. Also, he was posting at about 4A.M where ever he is, and I guess I'd be grouchy too if I were up that early (although only if I'd woken up. I imagine Bill partying through the nights with bevvies of wannabe starlets, and I envy deeply the sordid depravities of a pulp bastard's lifestyle.)

    And the competition thing, it's just another means of encouragement, innit? I don't want to "beat" anyone, and it saddens me to see people drop out, but often, friendly rivalries are exactly what inspire people to their greatest works. They've always worked best for me, at any rate.

    I really appreciate your visits and you taking the time to comment on my posts and offer constructive advice. Please don't be put out by the rough and tumble of the comments section, as no-one ever really gets hurt, and I am always prepared to unleash my evil glare on bullies. You should see my evil glare, it can turn a cow into a shoe in seconds.

    Anyway, I've spent ages writing this now, so I guess your wicked delaying tactic eventually worked. I've laid my script aside for too long and must get back to it.

    Twenty-six hours left!