Back In The Saddle

Posted Sunday, February 6, 2011, 4:27 PM

My life has been something of an unholy mess lately, and I'm not out of the hole yet, not by a long shot. If anything it's getting deeper. But I need to get out of these doldrums somehow, and I have found solace in getting back into writing again.

Having been thinking about a story idea that had been around for a long time, and making the graphic image a few weeks ago for fun, I went back to the story outline I had written a year ago and rethought some of the elements that didn't sit right.

For one thing the overall story was too reminiscent of an existing film. Unconsciously I was emulating it, and had come too close to the line too often to get away with it. So I have considered this off-and-on since realising it, and tried to figure out ways to distance it more. So as I rewrote the outline, keeping some elements and adjusting the rest, it came together a lot better, and faster, and in the end is stronger for it. There's still a lot of influence, but only broadly and is now more inspiration than straight out copying.

I have begun writing the actual script. It's a slow process. I've often wondered how it can be that professionals can take months, sometimes a year or more, to write a screenplay, when they're only 90 pages long and have around 200 words per page. Why does that take so long? Well, I still don't know. I've been working on it for less than a week, and am up to 25 pages and nearly 6000 words, and that's only working for about three hours a day. If I doubled my efforts to a full working day, I'd have the entire first draft done in two weeks. As it is it will probably take me four.

This is including the fact that I rewrote an entire scene again, twice, because I forgot to include a crucial character introduction, and had to go back and slot it in seamlessly, and that took some effort and rejiggering. Two days were spent on one scene that, while normally would be addressed in a subsequent draft, had to be done this time so that the rest of the story made sense (everything that needs to be there should be in the first draft, and it's up to subsequent drafts to rearrange and tidy up the dodgy bits).

Now that's how long a first draft takes, something that wouldn't ever be submitted. A third or seventh or fifteenth draft is not uncommon, and only then will it get shown around. That might be where they're using their extended time.

I find writing to be an entertaining pastime, even though it can be a effort. Most writers do it because they enjoy it, but some find it difficult. After all, deadlines and expectation can be quite stressful and interfere in getting the best work done. For me, I don't have any deadlines, I'm doing this as a hobby on my own schedule. So I can extract the fun and eliminate the stress. But I also am not getting paid.

Like many creative pursuits, the final script can all depend on how the day went. If I was given the same story to write a year previously, or in the future, I may end up writing a completely different finished product. How good it is can be determined by random factors and could fail so easily. In order to clarify my thoughts I need to take some time out each day to think about where the story is headed and what happens in the next scene I write. During those moments anything might influence me; something as random as the weather, what TV I watched this week, or if I had cheese for lunch, can make my thoughts turn one direction or another and lead to quite a different finished product.

So as this story plays out, it is exciting to see it develop, as it will rarely turn out quite the way I plan, and with luck be even better than I hope it to be.

Now onto the next scene...

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