What Do I Want?

Class homework

Part of my homework for my spec class is my general letter to an agent. Michael is a big believer in learning both the art side, how to write a spec, and the commerce side, how to get a job. I appreciate that.

This letter will be the framework I use when I start writing agents. It’s hard. Damn hard. Which is sort’a the point. If it were easy then a good one wouldn’t stand out. I’m to write three paragraphs, three sentences each. In the first I’m to state who I am, in the second More

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Nelli Clark

I WAS only eight years old; And before I grew up and knew what it meant I had no words for it, except That I was frightened and told my Mother; And that my Father got a pistol And would have killed Charlie, who was a big boy, Fifteen years old, except for his Mother. Nevertheless the story clung to me. But the man who married me, a widower of thirty-five, Was a newcomer and never heard it OTill two years after we were married. Then he considered himself cheated, And the village agreed that I was not really a virgin. Well, he deserted me, and I died The following winter.

          – Spoon River Anthology

This is the part I’m learning for Meisner 4. It’s a stretching piece for me. Much more vulnerable than I normally let myself be on stage. Or ever.

First Half of a First Draft

This is my phone lock screen. A constant reminder. (Credit- Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist)

My spec is coming along. I finished the first half of the first draft on Saturday. Which was right on schedule- a feat I accomplished by using my normal brain dump method of writing. I got to class and Michael said we each needed to read our first five pages out loud. Talk about locking up. I write quickly and freely because I have trained myself to do so. Part of that is assuring myself that NO ONE gets to see first drafts. Even if I want someone to see a first draft I do at least a little editing, as a way of keeping that promise to my sub-conscience so that it’ll cooperate when I sit down to write.

The sudden knowledge that I had to read five pages of a first draft out loud to a roomful of people who at least some of which of far more experience (and one of whom is a professional tv writer), and the fact that mine isn’t a sitcom so I don’t get that fast feedback of laughs, made me want to hide. More

Page by Page

Finished my first page-by-page of my spec! It has a LONG way to go but it feels good to get this far. I’ve always goofed around at scriptwriting but having the structure and deadlines of a class is helping me get through the slumps. I have to write it, because I have to turn it in or look lazy. That’s a stronger motivation.

The DNA chain I wrote for the pilot of Grimm.

The DNA chain I wrote for the pilot of Grimm.

I’m taking the spec writing class at iO with Michael McCartney. Who, by the way, is such a great teacher.  He really cares about us and what we’re doing, he isn’t all burned-out and cynical like some of the teachers I’ve met in Chicago. Michael gives us “art” homework, related to out scripts. He also gives us “commerce” homework, which relates to turning this into a career. Another thing I appreciate. It’s one thing to teach me how to write a script. It’s another to help me learn how to talk to agents and what to do once I have one. The goal of the class is that at the end of the 8 weeks I’ll have the 2nd draft of a spec script, as well as have started reaching out to targeted agents to build a relationship. More

Starting Again

 

I think I’m in the mood to blog again.

I think I’ve thought about it too much. I tried so hard to follow all the advice about posting regularly and finding a theme and getting a niche- blah blah blah- in doing it right, that I took every bit of me out. OK, not every bit. Still, while the words may have sometimes been mine the style and the method were not.

That was fine when I was writing up a storm and trying to get my 1,000,000 words. I had things to post all the time in a race to get my word count up. When that ended I was left with no idea what to put on here.

Actually, when that ended I basically quit writing for awhile. I kept up my Morning Pages, my journal stayed close at hand, I did some editing, but I didn’t write the way I had been. Even before the challenge. Even now I’m just slipping back into the discipline of writing even when I don’t want to do it. It’s hard. Without an outside driving force to push me along I find myself drifting. Even now I’m doing this to avoid working on my spec script. I’ve been planning to start posting here again for awhile but only actually wrote this when I was forced into a corner to avoid my script.

The way I fight the script is terrible. As if it is my enemy. I’ve had several well-meaning people suggest that if I like writing novels and short stories, and they are much easier for me (which they are- I can sit down and knock out a novel for three hours with little difficulty), that perhaps that’s a sign that I should focus on being a novelist. Which is an utterly logical supposition.

Just, it’s not accurate. Even if it was, I want to write movies and TV shows. That has always been my goal but, in my habit of not admitting what I want in case I can’t have it, I took that desire and used it to write everything except movies and TV shows. If I didn’t write them then I couldn’t be rejected so I could hold onto my hope. Stupid, but there is it.

Still, not accurate. My writing style is much more suited to screenplay format than it is novels. I like things happening and people talking. I do not like description, back story, long narration, an abundance of details, lots of introspection, emotional angst, or really anything that slows down the pace of people doing things. My personality is better suited to writing screenplays. I’ve got so many ideas I’ll never get to them all even if I never have another one. In basically all genres. Piles of ideas that I am genuinely excited about.

Writing a quality script can and does take time, I’m not knocking it, but it’s not nearly as long as a novel. One story I have in mind is set in near future, a scifi piece. I’m saying a script will take less than a year, including editing and polishing. A novel to cover the same territory? I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing at least two, easily more. Especially since my stuff requires heavy editing. So the idea of being able to get more done, more stories out there, is appealing.

I’m stuck because I haven’t done it before. My first novel didn’t happen for years, I started and quit a pile of them before I finally forced myself to finish one. Which felt like the hardest thing. But when it was over (it was a NaNo novel) I sat back and realized that it really hadn’t been that hard. I mean, it was. In a way. Yet most of the trouble was in my head. It wasn’t finding time, it wasn’t plot points or running out of ideas. I thought it was, at the time. But it was actually not believing it was possible. And as soon as that barrier was gone I was free to write more. I’ve written three additional novels (all 70,000 – 110,000 words) and started a couple of others.

That’s where I’m at with scripts. I’ve started a lot of them in the past. I have a ton of ideas. I keep picking up story books and outline books and books on how to format. I read blogs and emails lists. I do everything except actually finish a damn script. The sad part is that I know. I know that if I finish one the next one will be easier. I know that it’s Resistance in my head and it’s self-protecting and it’s an unwillingness to be vulnerable (in the sense of allowing myself to fail and write a sucky script). I know all that and yet I still hold the pen and stare at the page and write ten words in an hour.

But I’m not stopping. This script is getting done come hell or high water.

Oh yeahs, the blog. I have decided to make it whatever I want it to be and if no one reads it that’s OK. A place to talk about projects I’ve got in the works, creativity in general, and also my life as I want. No more trying to follow a formula or convince people to click on my posts or making sure all my posts fit my niche audience. I’m going to write out things that interest me and put them here in case they interest someone else. That’s all. And if they don’t it’s OK. And if they do, that’s OK too.

 

Recap: Week 36

One Million Words Challenge

Week 36

This week was an overall bad week, but it ended on a great note. Bad, because I barely wrote. And when I say that I did still make a gain, I got out of the hole a little. Just not much. Not enough to catch up on time. It is good to remind myself that a few months ago just breaking even was a big win. However, it’s also good to remind myself that, due to letting myself get so far behind, that isn’t going to cut it.

I have to write regardless of what’s going on. Having said that- I’ve been sick. I’ve felt horrible, completely drained and just wanting to sleep. Coughing hard enough that my roommates can hear me through the walls. Plus I went onto regular hours at Target so I’m getting used to having a job again and writing around that has been difficult. And it’s not helping how tired I feel. It was far too easy this week to curl up and watch Netflix while dozing instead of writing.

However, there was a bright spot at the end. Monday I, for the first time ever, had a 10,000+ word day! In fact, it ended up being 11,000+ when it was all said and done. Which when you look at the numbers below will let you see how weak the rest of the days were.

Still! I did it. It as more a mental block than anything. I’m capable of doing it, I kept saying I was going to, but never actually making it. And I hate to say this because it only reveals how easily I could have kept up but- it really wasn’t that hard. Time consuming, sure. I wrote a total of five and a half hours. I did nine, thirty minute blocks on Avon and then about an hour to hand write my MPs and journal (baby journal entry). Not including the very much needed breaks. But not hard. Not physically difficult, not torturous. It just took a commitment to sitting still and doing it.

That’s what it comes back to- doing it. Just sitting down and writing. Even when I’m sick. Even when I’m tired. Even when I have nothing to say. That’s been one thing that improv has done to help my writing more than any other thing. It has taught me to keep going in the face of having no idea where I’m headed. I can’t stop in a scene and try to figure it out. There is an audience watching. I have to go on as if I know exactly where things are headed, as if I have secret knowledge.

It’s the same with writing. If I want high word counts, if you want high word counts, the secret is to write. Ha! There it is. I’m a genius. Really though, just write even when there is no story coming out. It will show up. Humans are made to tell stories, to make connections, to seek and find patterns. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just written words that technically went together but I had no point for that ended up being vital to the story. By that I mean, don’t write random words like “dog hard noise love lion” (unless that’s your thing (And I think I can find a story in that, actually)). But just write words that would normally do together “She saw a tree. It was green. It was tall”. Does it sound like a preschool book? Yeah. But you have no idea what it will lead to, and there is always editing later if it doesn’t go anywhere.

Anne Lamott says it better than I can-

The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,” you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be some thing great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go–but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 375
  • MPs 6,804
  • Blog 747
  • Avon 18,750
  • Total 26,676
  • YTD 552,149
  • Where I should be 690,480

Recap: Week 35

One Million Words Challenge

Week 35

This week I crossed the halfway mark. Since the middle of March I have written over a half million words. That’s… yeah.

It’s been hard. Really, really hard. I toy so often with the idea of quitting. Yet this is something I truly want to do. It’s not impossible, it’s only insane.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 646
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 1,660
  • Blog 536
  • Avon 19,856
  • Total 29,505
  • YTD 525,473
  • Where I should be 671,300

Unexpected Rewards

Yesterday was one of those days where I forced myself to go to the drop-in class at iO even though all I wanted to do was sleep. I was rewarded with an experience I’ve never had on stage before.

Several of the students wanted to work on acting/realism so that was our focus. I had this moment where I was squared off with a guy and we were just looking at each other, trying to let whatever was already there bubble up and build something from the natural feelings without judging them or trying to categorize them.

So anyway, we are doing that and Lyndsay was giving us a lot of side-coaching. Telling my partner to breath and to quit fidgeting, that he was defusing all the energy that needed to come out as an emotion through moving around. The same note she gave me several times when I had her during the intensive. So I took it as a note for me as well and doubled-down. Forced myself to stand perfectly still. Both feet flat on the floor, both hands flat on the sides of my legs, no swaying or nodding or chewing on my lip or anything else that would let me move around.

It was freakin’ hard! But I had the chance to work on it because she was talking to him. So I kept staring, and kept forcing myself to be perfectly still. As we finally started talking I wanted to move. Very much. Then I opened my mouth to say something and the urge to move was so intense I felt like I simply couldn’t hold still another second. So I blurted out something instead.

I just opened my mouth and words came out that I didn’t expect, that I would never have said because they didn’t make any sense. But it was that or move and I’d already decided I was NOT going to move. I couldn’t say what I’d planned, to further the story, because that would have meant moving. I think Lyndsay would say that it was because what I planned to say wasn’t honest to the scene, so I wanted to shift around to defuse that dishonesty. Like a little kid.

He blinked. I think I surprised him too. But as soon as I said the unexpected words I felt this rush of energy sweep through me. In that moment, when I chose to not let it out any other way, the reward was stunning. I’ve never like that on stage. The rush lasted the rest of the scene. I was buzzy, electric, with energy. I felt dizzy with it. I kept going with what we’d already started, I didn’t have to think about my answers. I felt like I had control, in a good way. Like, even if he had flipped and done something unexpected I could have held onto my own stuff. Something I tend to not do.

I’m not sure where the balance is in this. I can’t simply stare down everyone on stage without moving. And I tend to come off as nervous quite often, that’s where my energy seems to come from. So I need to figure out how to get that sense of power even when I’m moving or gesturing.

100

My 100th Post.

Thank you. Anyone reading this- I appreciate it.

I’m shocked to realize I’m at 100 already. This is the fifth or sixth blog I’ve started and none of them have gotten anywhere near to this point. It’s… crazy.

Here’s to the next 100!

How did this happen?

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Last night I sat down and wrote up an “outline” for a story. I put outline in quotes because I don’t typically plot books ahead of time so compared to the average book outline this one is sorely lacking. It’s just over one legal pad in length and it hit all the main ideas I have for the story. I wanted to jot down the high points before I forgot them, I wasn’t trying to create a plot.

This morning I was looking at it and noticed something. I grabbed a pen and five minutes later I was staring at the page in shock. I’d written a perfect story arc. Without trying.

Let me explain. When I divided what I’d written into sections (chunks of story, building blocks) I noticed each paragraph was a section. I don’t have two sections in one paragraph, or a section that stretches over two paragraphs. All total, seven of them. Then I labeled each one by what was happening- by the role that section would play in the story. Look at the labels I ended up with:

  1. Opening/Hook
  2. Inciting incident/end act 1
  3. And then
  4. And then
  5. Until finally/end act 2
  6. Act 3/ triumph
  7. Wrap-up/happily ever after

Upon further inspection I found that Act 1 has a positive ending, Act 2 has a negative ending, and Act 3 has a positive ending, which is much higher than the positive end to Act 1. Which is also textbook (by which I mean Story, by McGee).

Somehow, somewhere, without me noticing, structure has slipped into my brain!

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