I’m traveling today, so this update will be brief. Last week I told you I had moved on to a new script after hitting a wall with the first one. Well, after a weekend away from it and most of Monday spent running errands and listening to music, I got some new ideas. So I’m back in the old script!
I bet you’re not surprised. I think everyone has a related experience, when all you needed was a little break to refresh your mind. That’s not to say I have it all figured out, but at least I have a direction.
I can’t remember where I read it, but recently I saw a passage from Julia Cameron about filling your well. Creative work drains your “well” so you must take time to fill it with more images, and I think, sounds, smells, stories, tastes, and feelings.
As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them– to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.
– Julia Cameron
I think I will read some of her books.
New outline/timeline and 13 pages into version 3.
Figuring out what the hell I’m doing.
There’s a feeling you get when you think something you’ve written is good. I like that feeling but I don’t trust it. This story came from my brain, of course it would strike a chord with me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see flaws in my work. That’s what this week has been about: correcting flaws, filling in gaps, and trying to create a cohesive story.
A lot of what I’ve done this week has been what I’ve called “punching up.” Comedians are often hired to do this for comedy scripts. They add jokes and make existing gags funnier. My script is not a comedy, but I’ve been trying to apply that concept to each scene; up the conflict, enrich the characters, obscure the exposition. In a perfect world I imagine all those things would flow out of you and into the script, eliminating the need for drafts. Maybe that’s how the Charlie Kaufmans and the Paul Thomas Andersons do it.
The funny thing is, I’ve come to a point where the flaws are not jumping out at me. Last week and the week before, they were glaringly obvious. I don’t have illusions that my script is perfect. I suspect I’ve reached the limit of my knowledge, or awareness. For this reason, I reached out to a trusted friend to read the script and offer feedback. It helps to have fresh eyes read it and react to it. But I know from experience that not all feedback is helpful. I think a good rule of thumb is to reach out to someone with at least your level of expertise (or higher). I’m also considering reaching out to a professional screenwriting consultant for feedback. Given the cost of consultants, I’m not sure I want to put that much money into this particular script. It’s something I’ll have to mull over.
This week I finished the second draft, did two read-throughs, and a couple rounds of revisions based on my own notes.
Fighting fatigue and loss of momentum. Knowing when something is good enough.
Forget Charlie Kaufman. I give you Charlie Mauldin.
Today I reread Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work. His book is the reason I’m blogging about my screenwriting efforts. He makes a simple and logical case for doing something I’ve always found difficult: letting people see behind the curtain. For a person with perfectionist tendencies, it’s much more comfortable to keep your work hidden until you’ve finessed and approved every detail. But Kleon makes the case that a lot can be gained from sharing online throughout your process. Through sharing I could find a community, get feedback, acquire an audience, and potentially deepen my understanding of what I’m working on.
Kleon pulled this quote from Harmon’s 2011 interview with Wired magazine. (Click to go to the article.)
But even if I gain none of that, if I keep sharing on a regular basis I will eventually have a nice record of what I’ve been up to.
This morning I finished my first draft! It feels a bit premature to drop the confetti and balloons. It will no doubt be the first of many, many drafts. But it feels good to have accomplished something.
The story I’m writing now deals with more everyday aspects of life, like work and relationships. Things I’ve written in the past dealt with more extreme behavior and emotions. My challenge right now is to find conflict in each scene (or create it) and raise the stakes enough to keep it interesting.