Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FADE OUT.

At 6:58 pm (I know because the coffee shop closed at 7, and the barista was loudly and deliberating cleaning up around me) today, I typed the two most beautiful words known to screenwriters everywhere -- FADE OUT. Draft 0 of Consideration, my script assignment for V., is done.

I have spent the evening celebrating by watching TV and not caring about the drool sliding down my chin. The last two months have been some of the most productive of my writing career but also some of the most draining. I have neglected friends, sleep, and the holiday season, and I am not all that sorry. I am just tired.

No rest of the weary, though. Tomorrow I meet with V. to discuss this week's pages, and I'm sure, since it's the end of the script, the notes will run long and deep. I will give myself the rest of the night off (off to handle other responsibilities), and then Friday comes around swinging. I promised V. a draft before Christmas, but I want it to be a readable draft, a draft we can give people for notes. So this week's goal is to do a complete pass of the script with the notes he's given me during our weekly meetings. I am basically going to attempt to rewrite the script. In 5 days.

But it's ok. This script is going into production next summer, and if it costs me a little bit of sleep and a tiny bit of sanity to make it the best story I can deliver, I'll gladly count the cost. Not many writers get the chance to see their words on screen. I already got paid for this assignment, but I'm still here to earn it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Eyes.

I don't know what working with a producer or creative exec is like on a Hollywood movie, but this is a bit of how it's worked on the script I'm writing for V.

We meet weekly (and with the exception of Thanksgiving, we've been pretty good about making this time every week). The first few weeks we did some brainstorming together, developing the characters, outlining the plot, discussing theme. Because I am not a very quick thinker (which I'll have to conquer when I move to LA, I know), I would usually just nod and take notes and go home and really flesh out the characters and story on my own time. We did character profiles and an outline and beat sheet for the first half of the script. We talked about a treatment but never did one. That was fine with me.

When we got to the actual writing, I would work on the pages during the week, email them to him the night before our meeting, and go discuss and take notes the next day. If I was surprisingly motivated, I would rework previous pages to incorporate notes and send those along as well. That happened twice. V. would give me his notes, I would argue them if I felt strongly, we'd discuss what we think happens next, and then we'd adjourn.

We started working on the story at the end of August, and as of today I'm hovering on the precipice of the Act II break. My goal is to have the script finished by next week's meeting and then do a quick run through to incorporate the notes I've gotten the past few months and have a draft 1.5 ready the following week to hand over the night before I leave for Christmas.

And then we start giving it to other people for notes.

And then we'll rewrite it.

And THEN we'll start preproduction.

It all seems very fast to me. I told V. how difficult it was to come to our meetings sometimes, nervous about what he was going to say about certain pages. I haven't shown any a 'draft zero' like this since I was in college, and then it was expected that everything we wrote was going to be rather crappy. In fact, the only people who have read any of my scripts since graduation have been family members, and none of those scripts were at 'draft zero' stage. With V. I (am beginning to) feel comfortable showing pages that are that rough, but even with a quick pass/rewrite, it goes against all my instincts to show anyone a script that's fewer than 3 or 4 drafts refined. When I personally know that there are ways I can improve and rewrite it, it's difficult to hand it over, knowing that it has problems, even just to a friend for notes.

Getting notes sometimes makes me nervous. Actually, GETTING notes doesn't make me nervous. Harsh criticism makes me nervous. Hearing that something is unfixably terrible makes me nervous. Hearing that I'm a talentless hack makes me nervous. I don't I will be receiving those "notes" this time, but there is this anxiety of hearing that, not only is the script not where it should be, but that I won't be able to be the one to get it there.

I am sharing a draft of The Exit Strategy for the first time. A film friend who's been asking to see it for about 9 months has a copy, along with a long list of questions and thoughts that I have. I was planning on rewriting it one more time before sending it to her, but then I figured it'd be nice to have someone as a sounding board for the changes I was going to implement. I love this script dearly and I know she won't be mean, but at the end of the email I asked her the big questions --

Is this story worth it? Is there any potential here?
Were you invested? Were you bored? Could you see this as an (indie) movie?

Should I spend my time rewriting and rewriting and rewriting it? Or simply move on?

I texted the Hockey Player to tell him I had sent the Exit Strategy to my friend, and he responded, "Great! Now send it to a producer! If that's the next step." I said, "Rewriting is the next step."

Because 98% of the time, rewriting is always the next step.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Snow.

We had our first real snow last night. It rained all day, and then suddenly I came out of the coffee shop to see my car covered in these gorgeous fluffy flakes as if the minivan had been part of a you-grow crystal kit. I wish I had taken some pictures, because it was truly a winter wonderland.

Then I had to drive in it. Driving in the snow at night is kind of like driving through an optical illusion. Living in Michigan has some real pro/con moments.

I have crested the midpoint in my script for V. and am now hopefully barreling down the hill into Act III. We didn't have a solid plan for the second half of the script and writing it feels a little bit like driving through a snowstorm at night. I feel like I'm holding on to my ambiguous outline with the same tense relaxation that you grip your steering wheel with in bad weather.
It's terrifying and you're thrilled that you're just staying on the road.

I'm feeling stressed and good -- stressed when I think about writing and good when I actually am writing. I have a (semi self-imposed?) deadline of finishing the first draft before Christmas. I am fully confident I can pull this off. I am also fully exhausted.

I basically replaced NaNoWriMo with Finish Script Now Month (FiScriNoMo?). I took a weekend to catch up with friends I hadn't seen since pre-Thanksgiving and then refocused. I've been using a lot of mantras to help keep me on task. Get words on page. In it to win it. The only way out is through.

I'm not incredibly competitive, but the thought that someone out there wants exactly what I want, the same jobs and assignments I want, and is prepping right now by putting in the time and the effort and the lonely frustrating hours at the keyboard motivates me. At the end of the day, I don't want to miss out on my dream career because I failed to prepare. That's not going to happen.

Overnight success is years in the making. And those who stay will be champions.

Friday, December 02, 2011

50,109

Oh hello.

The non-stop hellbent ride that is November is over. I have stopped buying sketchy sandwiches from coffee shops, feeling guilty about not working on my script, and exhaustion-based drooling. Thanksgiving was a hit (both in fun and to my word count), so I had to make up 16k words in 3 days. Basically, I'm a winner AND a baller. This novel is a hot mess, but there are some moments and/or characters that I'm fond of, and after I take a break I'm going to attack it with a highlighter, lift the three moments that actually work, and structure something new.

I mean, that's the plan so far.

In the meantime, I have some very specific goals (I outlined day-by-days goal about a week ago, in an attempt to productive to the max. I didn't write for the subsequent two days).

1. Finish the script for V. We are halfway through and I promised the script before Christmas. I'm confident that I can get it done. Every meeting I go into with him I'm expecting to get fired. I don't really know why I feel this way, but I have this mental picture of us sitting down, him looking at the pages quietly, and then saying, "Yeahhhh, this isn't going to work."

But not so! We had a great meeting yesterday, and he's even secured a DP already. Every time I think about him talking to someone about the film, I get a little hyperventilatey-nervous. It makes it super real. It also makes me feel a little bit famous.

2. Rewrite The Exit Strategy over Christmas break. This seems unreasonable when I say it, but I'm going to prep for rewriting all this month, reread the script, figure out the new elements, restructure, replot, reoutline. I have a week and a day off for the holidays, and I can knock through a prepped script that quickly. I think.

3. See some movies. There are some great indie films out that I want to catch, and the holidays are going to bring both popcorn flicks and award nominees. I'm down.

4. Blog about screenwriting more. The novel distraction is over. It's back to work.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Other Things.

1. I am still behind on my novel. But it's going to be ok. I just killed off a character, it's good.

2. I don't remember the last story I wrote where the main romantic pair got together in the end. And when I last wrote a happily married couple, I killed one of them in the end. Er. Is that a reflection of my psyche?

3. Let's keep moving.

4. I saw Mat Kearney in concert last week. Amazing. I'm a little resentful that he's got a super cute wife, but whatevs. We all move on.

5.

6. Have you been to Whole Foods lately? I went yesterday to get some chocolate covered espresso beans and I caved and bought some chocolate covered toffee almonds as well. The one in town has this cute little wine bar in the middle of the store. I'm pretty sure I'm going to make the Hockey Player take me there on date night asap.

7. I cannot wait until he and I jump in my bullet-holed minivan on Wednesday and start weaving through the Thanksgiving day traffic like the accident prone people we are. Route 80, all the way! [along with about 90,000 other people, awesome.]

8. If you had to choose between moving to LA asap or living in the middle of nowhere for a few more years and shooting your own ultra low budget mumblecore, what would you do? 'Cause I've started saving for either of those options, and it's getting to be a conundrum about which to get excited about.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Right Through.

About 5k ago I realized that I was on a dangerous road. I was leading my motley crew of four underdog characters straight into the heart of the opposition. Even if they were the most powerful, talented, amazing characters you had ever met, they were destined to lose.

It was sheer numbers.


Sometimes, in NaNoWriMo, when you've written yourself into a corner or you realize that you're going down a tangent that will never make it past the first draft, you're encouraged to write a one sentence transition --


"And then they rescued/killed/bamboozled the roommate/mob boss/Puff the Magic Dragon and found themselves back in New York City/Candy Land/a galaxy far far away."


While I was tempted to do just that, I couldn't. I've never been a writer who can jump around in her story. Even if I'm struggling for a detail, I don't just put [INSERT HENRY'S COMPANY HERE]. I pick a detail and continue. Half the time this means that I end up forgetting to go back and change the things I need to, but that's the way I do things.


I've hit a couple spots in my novel where I've thought, "This is a terrible idea. I know they say no deleting in NaNo, but clearly they had never run into an idea this abysmal. I'm about to solve the whole story/kill my main characters/introduce a dinosaur. This is really quite horrid."

But I've run with it. The only way out is through, right?

And the thing is, while running through plot points I will surely never revisit again, I've met characters and developed themes and expanded ideas that are creating the foundation of my story. When I realized I had written myself into a corner, that my ragtag band of four characters was about to storm a fortified citadel, I realized there was no way they could get in, get their friend, and get out alive. Not in a million years. I was really stressing about it, until I realized--

They don't get out. They are captured almost immediately. I mean, you'd have to be an idiot to try what they did, and it only made logical sense for them to fail. Which suddenly opened up so many questions for my characters. Was my protagonist really who she said she was? Were the other characters going to believe her anymore after this? Was she going to have any faith left in herself?

Every time I have powered through a difficult section, I have come away with useless plot but a richer story. Every time I force the story forward instead of avoiding it, I discover something new. And if that is all I get out of this month, if I have to rewrite my whole novel based on my month long investigation of these characters and their story, then I will be satisfied with NaNoWriMo, declare it a success, and then delve back in to rewriting the whole dang thing.

Friday, November 11, 2011

November?

Hey, guys.

I have so much I want to write about. So much. So little time.

I want to tell you about my script on assignment, how we're almost to the midpoint and how some days I feel like I'm writing crap and some days I start out feeling like I'm writing crap but at some obscure, undefinable moment I realize that I feel good about what I'm writing and I have for a few scenes. I want to talk about the lessons I've been learning and what it feels like when you look at a scene and realize you've implemented years of lessons and practice without even knowing it.

But we don't have time for that (but it feels good to be a gangster, that's what it feels like).

I want to tell you about the huge colossal kitchen fail I had. Guys, it was bad. And super disappointing. And yet still I managed to pull it back around to writing, because that's apparently all I think about now.

But we don't have time for that, and it's still a bit painful.

I want to tell you that if you manage your company's Twitter account, double check to make sure that you've signed back into your own before commenting on a blog or Tweeting or any such thing that can be traced back to you/them.

Really, that's a PSA I always have time for.

I want to tell you about NaNoWriMo. How I am behind because I missed a few whole days earlier this month. How I wrote a thousand words in fifteen minutes yesterday, punks, and how when I made it harder for my characters I made it a bazillion times more interesting. I want to tell you that this novel is going to need significantly more work than I expected post-November, but I think there's a pretty good chance I'll let other people read it.

But we don't have time for that, because I'm still 4,000 words behind.

I want to tell you that if you're looking for a roommate, pick someone who wears your size. It's like instantly doubling your wardrobe.

No brainer.

I want to tell you about the amazing amounts of talented people I've been meeting recently and how you should be meeting as many people as you can, even now. The other day I realized how many talented people I knew that would jump at any chance to further their career, and the amazing opportunity we have right now to do something together.

But we don't have time for that 'right now' right now, sometime after November.

I want to tell you that I haven't been this immersed in the culture and physical act of writing in so long and that I'm being immensely productive. And that the longer I do this, write ten pages of my screenplay then switch to my novel, cram as many words into fifteen minutes as I can, do nothing besides work/write/occasionally see the Hockey Player, the more I love it. Some days it sucks to be a writer. Some days it's difficult and everything comes out clunky and you're uninspired. But if I could do this all day every day, I would be over the moon.

I think I'm in love.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Word Count.

I just hit 5k. That seems very refreshing to say, and I consider it a big enough milestone that I get to take a short noveling break (even if I hit that milestone after writing in Starbucks for 10 minutes).

5k seems like a lot, except I skipped all of Wednesday to work on my script and have date night with the Hockey Player. So even if I wrap up today's word count with another 700 words, I'll still be 1,667 words behind. Have I mentioned I'm throwing a party tomorrow?

I met with my director yesterday and he asked how I was going to do it, work full time, write a screenplay, AND NaNo. I think I said something along the lines of not sleeping and stop hanging out with my friends (see above party plans). The truth is, I have no bleeding idea. I see more than one all nighter in my future, and I'm way out of practice with those.

I had high hopes for this NaNo Novel. I don't know if it's because I'm "officially" a paid writer and now I expect everything I produce to be a money maker or if because I'm just tired of writing and writing and never progressing, but I was ready to do something with this novel. And I've been telling people that too, "I'm going to e-publish this when it's done" and "Ask for a Kindle for Christmas so you can read my naaaaah-vel." (PS. I legit do what a Kindle Fire for Christmas, so whoever's paying attention to those sort of things... yeah.)

But I've been discouraged. This novel has not been shaping up. My writing is rough, awkward, and overall subpar. My characters feel unfamiliar, my world undeveloped, and my plot thinner than a high wire (the circus is in town). I'm enjoying the noveling. But I'm not sure I'm enjoying the novel.

But today we got a pep talk from Erin Morgenstern in our NaNo Mail. And she talks about ninjas and circuses and how your NaNo novel might not even be the point, but the point at which you start.

This may not be the novel I publish. It may not be good enough. But at some point along the journey, I might find myself not just writing but writing my novel, that the real story has begun and the preceding 49,000 words have just been brainstorming. Lord above, I hope it doesn't get to that, but if that's what it takes to get there, I'll do it.

And now, it's back to the novel...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Courage.

Dear writers.

We're on the precipice of an adventure. We stand outside a dark cave of uncertainty. We wait for the trumpet that rallies us to the call.

We wait on the eve of NaNoWriMo.

We are a small band of devoted storytellers, impassioned voices, slightly unbalanced characters. We feel the urge to do what few would find even rational -- 50,000 words in 30 days? During a month of a major family holiday as well? Would a normal person attempt such a thing?

The answer is no -- but we are no normal beings.

If any of you fellow NaNo-ers out there are like me, you have the mere inklings of a plot, the foggiest visions of a character, and nary an idea what to do after chapter three. But NaNo-ers depart from weather outlines and other conventional wisdom. We believe in the compulsion of artificial deadlines, the longevity of caffeine, and the power of a story. And we will sacrifice our sleep, our fun, and our sanity in order to run the race set out before us.

For those waiting for the gunshot of midnight, best of luck. God speed you through your caffeine-tripping and sleep-deprived haze to the 50,000 word finish line. It's time to sparkle, little dreamers.

Here's to your literary abandon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christmas and Comedy

1. The She & Him Christmas album is wonderful. Does this mean that I've already begun listening to Christmas music? Unconfirmed.

2. While Deadline Hollywood is proclaiming that "the spec market is as dead as disco," Scott Myers just reported the 84th spec sale of the year. Spec sales are up 84% from last year. So, um, yeah. Drop down the disco ball, 'cause I guess disco is coming back too.

3. I have three major projects rolling right now. My assignment for V., NaNoWriMo, and rewriting The Exit Strategy. My goal for this draft of The Exit Strategy is to make it funny. REAL funny. As close to Bridesmaids funny as I can get. I'm reading "Show Me the Funny!" from Peter Desberg & Jeffrey Davis to help. I've already found some nuggets of wisdom, and I'm only in chapter two.

Something I'm definitely going to keep with me while rewriting is something that came out of an interview with Walter Bennett (The Bill Cosby Show, The Steve Harvey Show, In the House, etc. and more). When asked what he does to make a story funnier, he said, "If it's not funny, it's usually because it's not the worst thing that can happen."

I've employed this strategy already, subconsciously. I bumped character relationships up to the next "awful-ness" level. I picked out dialog that could be more inflammatory. I tried to utilize the setting to get the most embarrassment out of situations that i could. I really want to push this next draft so that the worse things that can happen to my main character, do happen. Because, like Bennett says, it works. If you're working with a scene that's moderately funny and you want to know how to kick it up a notch, ask yourself -- is this truly the worst thing that could happen to my character?

This is also so helpful when writing any kind of story and figuring out the main conflict/problem. Figure out what your characters fears or faults are, and play your problem into them. If your character is a coward, require them to show courage. If they are shy, make them step out of their comfort zone. If they are proud, humble them. Find the opposites in your story and use them to create conflict.

And when you need a little serenity from all the craziness that you're instigating, listen to a little Christmas music. It soothes the soul.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bad News.

Kurt Kuenne gives advice on what to do when you get news of a sale that's similar to a script you're working on. I'm looking at you, Young Adult.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Coffee shops, my second home.

We're 17 pages into the script I'm writing for V, and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm hoping to have Act I finished in a week for next week's meeting with V. He thinks we'll have a first draft done by mid/late November. I'll be happy if it's before Christmas.

And then we're sending it out for notes.

This is where I get concerned. V and I meet (nearly) every week, and I'm sure if he had any huge concerns he would bring them up. But most of my changes so far have been cosmetic. Maybe that's because we're still pushing through Act I, where the drama is more situational instead of character driven. But I'm a little worried that we're going to drive through the first draft, and I'm going to be oblivious to any big problems, and then we're going to show it to other people (like other of my former professors) and they're going to think it's awful.

But I know I've only gotten better in the last two years. Sometimes it's just hard to remember that when you're sitting alone in a coffee shop, your tea getting cold and your page count barely inching along.

I am excited about NaNoWriMo, though. I'm trying to put some thought and planning into my novel this year. I'm hoping this year I'll come through with something more than just a self published paperback I only let blood relatives and the occasional Hockey Player read.

Want to read it? Sometime in February? Yeah? Well, we'll see.

I thought I had finished my zombie story. I'm trying to prune the list of short stories I have in their various states of disarray. The zombie story had been through two drafts and I thought only need a polish. And then I had a better idea for it. Work is never finished. You can always be improving...

It's so cold everywhere.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seasonal Fun.

I've never considered myself a horror writer, but since I'm writing a zombie story I found this apt and timely -- 25 Things You Should Know About Writing Horror.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ready? GO.

So, I just had to read my own blog to figure out where I left off. LAME. I think I'm figuring something out. I think I can either have fun in my life, football games and wedding planning (my best friend's) and concerts and hosting wine tasting dinner parties -- or I can be a writer.

Guess it's time to stop having so much fun.

I'm not even able to properly analyze the new fall shows because I can barely keep up with them [except I'm totally going to plug the ones I HAVE been keeping up with -- The New Girl and Community! I'm kinda feeling Pan Am too].

I have been making steady progress on my writing assignment for V. We've moved past prewriting and I've started writing actual pages. The only problem is that I boasted I could write 8 pages an hour if I was focused. I totally can, it's just finding that hour. I ran into another former professor while working with V. last week. He told V., "Amy Butler is fantastic." Yep, been feeling pretty stellar since then.

But I had best utilize October, because I'm doing National Novel Writing Month this year! I haven't participated in NaNo since I was a living in England, 5 years ago. But I've been feeling the siren call of fiction for the past several months, and I think NaNo's just the thing.

I've been working on other fiction projects, though. Speaking of steps I haven't taken in a while, I just submitted a short story to Glimmer Train, the first submission I've made to a market in a very long time. Glimmer Train is pretty prestigious, and the tone of my story is a bit excessively tongue in cheek, so we'll see how it goes. I'm going to pull out the other piece I wrote over the summer and clean it up too. And lastly, I've started writing a short zombie story. It's called "One Sad Zombie." I have a lot of time to think at work.

I am also ready to update the layout of this blog. Totally not a fan. However, the domain I wanted is already taken on both Blogger AND Wordpress, so I think we're stuck with the same old format for a while.

I also want to buy a leather jacket. Non writing related goal.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Get me the Laughs.

Sometimes life gets busy. Super busy. And, well, when you're having this much fun and sleeping this little, sometimes it's tricky to maintain a blog.

Luckily, today we have a guest post from Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis, authors of Show Me the Funny! I'm excited to delve into this book as I revamp the comedy in The Exit Strategy, but first, here's a snippet of what their book is like.


Dialing Up The Darkness

By Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis

In our book, Show Me The Funny!: At the Writers Table With Hollywood's Top Comedy Writers
we asked twenty-seven comedy writers to take a generic premise we created and develop it. We told them there were no limits, no rules and no boundaries. We worried that they would duplicate each other…it’d be like the famous episode where Ethel and Lucy show up to a party wearing the same dress. We worried needlessly. We were excited to discover that every writer, whether a team or an individual, attacked the premise in his or her own unique way. That’s one important definition of a professional. Show Runner for Roseanne, Bob Myer made the story into an episode of a situation comedy. He effortlessly created a network-style story. He began by casting the story in his mind so he could picture who he was writing dialogue for, and to make sure that it would be acceptable to a network…That’s another definition of a professional…he expects to be paid for his work.

Then we asked: “If you didn’t have to worry about networks and executives, how would you darken it?”

Bob gave us a choir boy’s smile. We pictured him with his hand on a dial about to turn it as he asked, “How dark do you want it?” We told him he could make it as dark as he wanted. He went to work with glee turning an average, mid-twenties corporate woman into a drug-addicted private detective. The treat for the reader is watching as he goes back-and-forth between developing the story and explaining his rationale as he builds and deepens it.

When we asked how he planned to get the audience to root for a drug addict, he said: “I think her dependency makes her likeable and she’s funny. And we like funny people…she’s pretty. You like pretty people. But she’s also got a struggle and you’re rooting for her. You want her to survive…you want her to pull out of this. And she’s good enough at what she does and entertaining enough in how she behaves…she can keep her friends strung along, her friends haven’t given up on her yet, and you don’t either. And because of her habit, she’s an underdog…and we root for underdogs.”

With great skill, Bob created a pilot episode in which his troubled detective is headed to meet her “deep throat,” a guy with information that will break her case wide open. She runs home to pick up a few things… a file…a hat…a quick fix, and as she opens her apartment door, everyone she knows is there for an intervention.

As soon as he said the word “INTERVENTION” Bob sat up straight and said, “I’m thinking of pitching it now.”

You can find out more about Show Me the Funny! at www.showmethefunnyonline.com or
www.smtfo.com. And, hey while you’re at it ‘Like’ us at www.Facebook.com/SMTFfans.

# # #


Author Bios:

One out of every 150 people in America bought a copy of a joke book that Peter Desberg has written. Unfortunately, Scholastic sold the most popular one for $1 each, so he still has to work. Counting his five joke books, he has had twenty books published. In addition to this lucrative writing career, he is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the area of stage fright. He has worked with many top stand-up comedians, who are regularly confronted with massive cases of flop sweat. He also has been moonlighting as a full professor at California State University Dominguez Hills for over thirty years.

Jeffrey Davis's earliest memories are of sitting around the writers' table at Nate & Al's Delicatessen, where his father and his comedy writer cronies gathered over corn beef and Doctor Brown's Cream Soda, told war stories, and tried to fix third acts. He began his own career writing jokes for Thicke of the Night. Among his situation comedy credits are Love Boat, House Calls with Lynn Redgrave, Give Me a Break, Diff'rent Strokes, and Night Court. He has also written for such shows as America's Funniest People, America's Funniest Home Videos, and Small Wonder, and has had film projects developed by Bette Midler's All Girl Productions, among others. His plays have been produced in New York and Los Angeles. His most recently published play is Speed Dating 101. He is the Screenwriting Department Chair and associate professor of film and TV writing at Loyola Marymount University. His one night of stand-up at the Comedy Store convinced him that he should stay permanently seated at his desk.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hot Famer's Daughter.

Boy am I tried! [EDIT: That should be tired. But I left it up there just to support my statement.]

It's been a busy life. I saw the most amazing football game of my life on Saturday and had a complete excitement hangover the next day. Literally, my voice has just recovered from the cheering.

I previewed an early sneak of Fox's new show, The New Girl with Zooey Deschanel. Don't ask me how. I'm a paid writer you know. I've been so stoked every since hearing it had been picked up. Zooey Deschanel is a favourite actress of mine, and it's sweet that she and her sister get to share a network.

But I was worried. With all the hype and adorable-ness that is Zooey Deschanel, would the first pilot show of the season disappoint?

September 20th, at 9 pm, get thyself to a TV and flip on Fox. This show wins.

Jess, Deschanel's character, is so wonderfully awkward. Like, really awkward. She's that offbeat kinda-not-cool-but-it-works-for-her character that usually appears as your female protagonist's best friend. Maybe I just love it because she reminds me of me and my girl friends.

The guys are not quite as solid as Deschanel, but I can see their personalities develop. But, so sad, the strongest character of the three in the pilot, Damon Wayans Jr., will be replaced because he already has a commitment on Happy Endings. That makes me UN-happy.

It is funny. The Hockey Player almost missed his bus home because he was trying to stay as long as possible. My only cavaet is that there seems to be a lack of complexity, but pilots usually have to cram in so much they have a unique tone. I am so looking forward to the rest of this show -- and the rest of the fall season.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Big News.

1. I still fit into my high school graduation dress, suckas!

But that's not it...

2. I am about to be a paid screenwriter.

Money. In my Pocket. For words. That I wrote. I am about to get paid. For words.

Here is the story -- I still keep in touch with my old screenwriting professors, and one of them floated an idea by me and asked if I would help develop it with him. Yes and yes. I expected we would meet a few times, spit ball ideas around, and just sort of break the monotony of writing alone by developing the idea together. I was a little nervous about having to be brilliant on the spot with a former professor, but I was excited to work with someone for a change.

It was like a small town Hollywood courtship meeting.

He bought me my drink (lemonade, but I kept it medium, no need to be flashy), and we small talked. We hadn't seen each other since he had given me notes on my TV pilot. And then it got down to business. We would develop the idea together through weekly meetings, and once we had nailed down a treatment, we'd register with the Writers' Guild with joint story credit. Then I'd take our treatment, outline, and beat sheet (yeah, way more prewriting than I ever do) and work out the screenplay. I'd register my first draft with the Guild and get sole writing credit. He'd shoot the script low budget next summer and edit it in the fall.

I was set to go, by this point. The prospect of having my words filmed was motivation enough for me. But then he flattered me even more -- he offered me money. It wasn't an extravagant amount (he's a professor, guys) and at first I waved my hand -- unnecessary, Professor -- but he was insistent. He said, he thought about what he would want in this situation and that the money was an investment in the project that he wanted to do. We reached an agreement.

Guys, I'm going to write a script, and then I'm going to stand in front of a video feed and watch those words. There's going to be a script, and then there's going to be a creative team, and then there's going to be a cast, and then there's going to be locations and sets and a shooting schedule and footage and hours and hours in the editing room.

And then there's going to be a movie.

That I wrote.

And sometime after that, there'll be another. And another. And another and another and another...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

In Deep.

The Hockey Player wasn't wrong when he said writing takes a long time. I started writing The Exit Strategy last late summer/early fall, just finished draft three, and am hoping to get through a couple more drafts before the Nicholl rolls around in May. That's nearly two years, and I have little idea if the draft I send to the Nicholl will be the final draft.

This is why I try to be careful when picking projects. If you're going to dedicate years of your life to a project, you've got to be convinced that 1. this is a project you like enough to get you through those years and 2. this is a project that will help your career. [I fully believe that faith in #2 is more difficult and uncertain than faith in #1.]

There are a lot of stories I could write. But I feel like there are a few kinds of stories I am meant to write. One kind of story that I like to explore is the redemption story. The redemption of people, the redemption of situations, how the bad becomes good. But when it comes to writing the bad before the good, I'm a little squeamish. When I write about the gray areas of life, how do I show understanding without sanction? Shouldn't I raise the stakes? How "bad" am I willing to go? Or am I afraid of the judgment on me if I write something deemed inappropriate?

The problem is, if I gloss over hard situations, if I keep things just partly cloudy, how powerful will redemption be? Isn't it the greater the fall, the greater the grace? If someone is saved from just a slightly harrowing situation, how much faith will I inspire in redemption? Isn't it true that the greater the debt forgiven, the greater love inspired?


Too bad I didn't want to become an accountant instead of a writer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Teaser.

I could have some really big news. Maybe. So I'm not going to tell you. But here's some lesser news.

I finished the third draft of The Exit Strategy! I'm going to let it ferment a little and then dive back in for a fourth draft. After that, I do believe it'll be ready to show to a few close friends. And then rewrite it more. And then I'll send it to others (Carson? I'm gunning for you). And then I'll rewrite it more. And hopefully I'll get it polished in time for next year's Nicholl.

The Hockey Player thinks writing takes too long.

I've recently gotten my hands on a copy of Show Me the Funny! edited by Peter Desberg and Jeffry Davis. Since I'm really hoping to vamp up the comedy in this next draft of The Exit Strategy, I'll be looking for some applicable tips.

Football season is about to start. That's GREAT.

You know what else comes with fall?
Pilots. There are several new shows I'm excited about (Awake, The New Girl, Once Upon a Time), and I will be reviewing. It would be a great time to pull out my own pilot.

I've also been thinking about the end of the world a lot recently. The Hockey Player and I are forming a plan. The only tips I can give you are familiarize yourself with local emergency headquarters, get a bike, and plot the sneakiest route into Canada.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Submission.

People often ask me, in the screenwriting process, what follows full completion of a script? If it's done and I know it's done and I'm ready to let it go, how do I get it to the people who have the money? And my answer always is, "There's fellowships and blind queries and contests and secret lists and really I have NO IDEA."

I don't. I don't know what the steps are from finished script to first day of production. I suppose that's something I'll figure out in the next few years (hooooopefully). In most of my imaginary scenarios, it involves moving to LA.

Screenplays, I'm shot at. But
short stories. I know what you do there.

I wanted to get back into fiction this summer. I have two stories that I'm pretty proud of, and I just got one to DONE status. It's finished. It's ready to go. This sucker is ready to sail.

So. Once I have the time. I'm going to start researching short story markets. And then I'm going to start querying. I am nervous but excited. I am savoring the anticipated rejection. I'm having trouble typing with my fingers crossed.

I haven't had a fiction piece published in at least five years. I haven't tried. But I'm tired of typing and typing and typing and stuffing the pages into my pockets. Time to bid them farewell (and good luck). This could be the beginning of my failure as a writer.

Or it could go really well.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Not so nice.

I have a problem.

I was hoping it was just restricted to the film industry, which is dominated by bull-headed adolescent man boys. But apparently it's just something about me.

People think I'm nice.

I did everything I could think of, short of actually being mean and standoffish. I thought maybe it was because I suddenly look young (seriously, I was never told I look young for my age until I graduated college). So I cut off all my hair. I got a new job where I can dress like an adult. And yet, last week, a couple of my new coworkers (literally, they're a couple. Husband and wife) told me I reminded them of their nice, who is just SO sweet and SO nice.

You think this wouldn't be a problem, people thinking I'm nice. But the problem is, people think I'm just so nice, and then they don't take me seriously. Which is an actual problem. Just because I'm pilot and reasonably courteous, I'm not timid or dumb. In the film industry, you can just give off a lot of attitude and get some balance that way. You can't give off attitude in an office setting.

Maybe I just have to wait it out, until people can believe a person can be nice AND young AND competent. Maybe I just have to wait until I get old, and people start believing I
have graduated college. The only thing I know I am going to do is bring in my fresh batch of French macarons to work tomorrow. I'm sure baked goods are just going to compound my problem, but if I didn't get rid of the things I baked, I'd have an all new personal problem.

EDIT: I'm not saying I AM nice, mind you. Just that that's how people perceive me. I'm just nominally polite and apparently young looking, and I am not responsible for how people interpret that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sometimes I say things to not look like an idiot, but instead I just prove it.

Last weekend I went to a goodbye party for a friend who was moving to China. I got to meet a lot of new people, which allowed for the always long story of where I'm from, what I'm doing, and what I want to be doing (seriously, I never think my life is complicated until I start telling this story. And usually I just skip the bit about England).

I got talking with my friend's dad about how I wanted to be a writer, and he said, "That's a tough career. A lot of people try it, and very few can make any money off it."

And I said, "That's true, which is why I think the key to having a sustainable writing career is to diversify, produce everything from screenplays to short stories so you can tap into the market from all angles."

And as he was nodding his head, all I could think was WHAT? Where did that come from? I've never said that before in my life, and I don't even really think it's true. I said it because I was to scared to admit to this person, who has relatives in the film business and legitimately knows how difficult it is, that I'm gambling a whole lot of time and energy on something that could turn out to be a big black hole. I couldn't say, "Yeah, screenwriting is more commonly a source of frustration than money but I'm going to do it anyway," because I didn't want to sound like some starry-eyed high schooler with her fingers crossed for NYU. So I made something up and just sounded dumb.

I do write more than screenplays. I write short stories and sometimes novel excerpts and these amazing blog posts, but it's not because I think I'm going to make a career out of them. It's because I enjoy all those modes of storytelling. I'm still learning not to be embarrassed about being a writer, even about being an unpublished/unproduced writer. I hope that next time someone says, in essence, "Oh you want to be a writer? That's a tough field," I'll be able to say, "You're right, it is. And I'm going to rock it out anyway."

PS. I finished that short story I've been working on. It's 18 pages of mess, but it's also 18 pages of awesome. Maybe you guys can't tell from my blogs, but I'm really not half bad.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

More Soon.

It's been a perilous past couple days.

Actually, that's not remotely true. It's rather settled at frustrating, with my room remaining stubbornly hot while the outside part of the world becomes surprisingly cool. Every season I forget how Michigan weather goes.

Also, apparently it's a thing to bring your TV camping now? I did not know. But while on a twenty-four hour camping trip with friends (which, now that I think about it, was less than safe at times), we saw several families huddled around a TV set -- in their tent! What is wrong with the world!

Can we talk about spec script sales for a minute? According to Scott Myers, spec script sales are up 84% this year to date. I honestly don't know what else a writer would do to try to break into the industry BESIDES write a spec [EDIT: Ah, I forgot, Tumblrs and Twitter Feeds], but hallelujah for the resurrection! To all the people who said the spec market was dead, eat 84% of your little heart out. Go us! [And by us I mean you real people making money off this crazy thing.]

Are you guys following ScriptShadow? Are you? Because what I'm trying to say is, he said something really great last week, and I'm trying for the life of me to figure out what it was, but I'm drawing a blank. It might have been how truly hilarious comedies always seem to need that one character who will "go there" to ridiculous lengths [a la Zack Galifinikas]. This character, interestingly enough, is rarely the main character. And in female driven/targeting rom coms, it is ALWAYS the best friend of the career driven, detail oriented, Miss Lonely Hearts protagonist. Wouldn't it be great if we had a rom com where the female lead was the ridiculous one? Kind of like Juno, at 25? Or my own script, The Exit Strategy? [Please email for read requests.]

I'm on the fourteenth page of my current short story, and I'm getting that delicious feeling of tumbling down toward the end. Any day it could happen. It's inevitable. It's set up, I'm prepared, all we need is an afternoon or two at the keyboard and away from Facebook. I've been reading old Nebula winners too. Writers should be readers if only because it inspires us to be better writers.

I'm sorry about the excessive punctuation tonight. I don't know what came over me.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finish.

I was a fiction writer once. I have four Kinko's bound volumes, two LuLu published novels, and stacks and stacks of full yellow legal pads. I used to have that half-enchanted writer quality, and I would grab paper napkins to scribble on while out to dinner with friend's families.

"She's a writer," my friends would whisper to their perplexed grandmothers.

Then, when I discovered screenwriting, I gave fiction up for a while. And I found the longer I stayed away, the more trouble I had reconciling the brevity and austerity of screenwriting with the description and mood of fiction writing.

Now a days, I like to pretend I'm a fiction writer. This summer I decided I wanted to return to my roots, crank out some fiction, and perhaps see about sending it out to magazines. I had some great ideas, and I actually made sizable dents in a few pieces. But I was collecting beginnings. I would run out of energy or have difficulty finding the right tone or start with nothing more than the opening line. It's become more difficult for me to finish fiction pieces than to finish screenplays.

Still, I could delude myself into the belief that I was making progress.

Another thing that I do to convince myself that I'm developing as a writer is to not write, but read. But what I was using as a method of procrastination was pushing me back to productivity. I have a nasty habit of taking more books out from the library than I ever have intentions of reading, but the behemoth of my last visit was a collection of short stories from one of my favourite authors, Dreamsongs by George R. R. Martin. I love this anthology because 1. it starts with some of his earliest work, making the legend a man. It's refreshing for an amateur. And 2. he prefaces each section of stories with an introduction of his life and career at the time he wrote the stories.

In one introduction Martin describes his determination to finish. "Every day after breakfast I would drag out my Smith-Corona portable electric, set it up on my mother's kitchen table, plug it in, flick on the switch that made it humm-mmm, and set to writing. Nor would I allow myself to put a story aside until I'd finished it. I wanted finished stories I could sell, not fragments and half-developed notions. That summer I finished a story every two weeks, on the average."

Sometimes a story deserves to fade. Some ideas aren't strong enough to carry a story, some don't have enough life to develop into something interesting, some are just bad. But sometimes I think the real reason my stories peter out is because I am too fickle and careless. Sometimes my follow through is just pitiful. It's the classic writer problem of getting my butt in the chair and my brain off Facebook.

So I have a new philosophy. Finish. Detours are only allowed as far as jotting down new ideas that I am guaranteed to forget. Besides that, I stick with the story I am writing. And there I plug away, day after day.

I've already finished one story and am halfway through another. It's refreshing, the world of fiction, a delicate foil to my screenplays. There's a lot more freedom in fiction writing than there is in the utilitarian world of screenwriting. It's an indulgence, I do think, but hopefully one that pays off in the end.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Things that Have Happened in the Last 6 Weeks

1. I thought my boyfriend died on vacation.

A couple weeks ago we got a chance to spend some time with my family in the mountains. It was good. I built a most awesome fire, we canoed under a bridge that we totally probably weren't allowed under, we crashed a small town Fourth of July parade comprising mostly emergency vehicles from four different towns. We also hiked seven miles along a mountain ridge over a cabin, which was pretty sweet. It's here I thought tragedy struck.

My dad, brother, the Hockey Player, and I had branched off from the main group to do the more hardcore hike (it's true). At one of the small scenic overlooks, my brother and the Hockey Player thought it'd be a good idea to throw rocks over the cliff. I did too, until it became apparent just how bad of an arm I have. When I got tired of being lame, I suggested we move on. I was barely back on the path when I heard another rock go over the cliff -- a LARGE rock. Like, a rock that somebody thought was stable enough to step on but totally wasn't and was now crashing down the mountain with its unfortunate mis-stepper to his death. I turned around -- and did not see the Hockey Player.

For about half a second, I was convinced we'd lost him. And then he wandered out from behind my dad. I was relieved. I didn't want to have to explain that to his mom. She bought me a really beautiful pair of shoes last time I went to see her.

2. I quit my job. I am pretty stoked about that.

3. I had a great idea for The Exit Strategy. It was the perfect development, the extra layer that makes this story different from the rest of its genre, the answer to so many problems. Basically, I just made things worse for my main character. That always seems to work. Truly, I was thinking about my own life, and realizing, "Oh man, I really hope THAT never happens. That would suck to the max." And when you have a thought like that, the best thing to do is make it happen to someone else. Someone made up, preferably.

The last time I wrote about The Exit Strategy, I was working on the outline for the second draft. I'm now halfway through that second draft. I'm about the kill the midpoint. In a good way.

4. I started writing fiction again too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Early Days and Years.

Today I got out of work early -- I think that's one of the best feelings in the world, getting out of work early. Even if you're still fatigued from being sick all weekend and you have to dive head first into car mechanics that you clearly have no clue about, it's still one of the best feelings. After topping off my coolant (duh duh duh da! I am so accomplished!), I stopped by my old university department to see if the screenplay library was open. It was not, but it was so very calm and peaceful and oh so quiet that I decided to stick around for a while and "write" aka keep my laptop closed on my lap while I rested my eyes.

I always feel awkward when I go back to campus. I love my alma mater and could easily pass as a student, but I always have this uneasy feeling of not belonging. It's only been two years, but I feel ancient compared to students today (seriously, the freshmen look like tweeners. I betcha they don't even know what POGs are).

I'm already in this nostalgic mood, and as I'm leaving the department, I see my reflection and realize the t-shirt I'm wearing is from 2005. That was six years ago. And as I'm thinking, "Holy cow! This t-shirt is ANCIENT" I'm also realizing how radically different my life is now as opposed to six years ago. Things were way different than, my geographic location, my goals, my university, my friendships, my plans, my knowledge of car engines, everything. Things have changed a lot.

I hope life is always like that. I hope every once in a while I wax nostalgic and get to marvel at the way I travel from point A to B to C to Q. And it's inspiring to think that in five years my life could be just as radically different as it was five years ago.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Not That I'm Counting--

--but yesterday I had my 13,000 visitor. If you subtract the 3,000 times I've read my own blog since I've started counting four years ago, that's still an impressive 10,000. That's kinda cool. Also, I've just realized I've been blogging for seven years. That's kinda... I'll let you decide.

I've been floundering in the pre-writing for my second draft of The Exit Strategy over the past few weeks. It's tough, this stage. I would so much rather be churning out pages. I felt like I wasn't making much progress in actually restructuring my story. But then yesterday I decided to plot out the emotional journey of my protag, and suddenly I had a malleable structure to work with. Now I'm halfway through my beat sheet, and once that's done, I can start writing again.

I feel like the beat sheet is almost superfulous. I know the story and I'm itching to start writing it, but having every scene plotted out will make the rewrite so much smoother and cleaner. And I do feel that everytime I've gone through my script in prepping for this rewrite, every time I've reread it or note-carded it or plotted it out, I've come up with at least one new idea or gained one new insight into the story or the characters. I hope that all the good ideas make it in to the next draft.

Also, I love this song [though pardon the fan-made music video] --

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Smart People Saying Things.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Some luminescent golden orb has popped out of the clouds here in Michigan and has inspired a sudden cult of pale sallow people to wander around outside. I hope you all have relaxing, fun-filled plans.I have a wedding tonight--not my own, obvi, though my two high school best friends always said I was most likely to elope. I suppose that's truer now than ever, since they're both on their second year of marriage.

I'm halfway through Bossypants, after a week and a half of anxiously awaiting its arrival and fearing that the infallible US postal system had laxed off just in time to lose my first book purchase since the text book years. It's wonderful and amazing. It also makes me feel wonderfully productive on a Saturday afternoon, when all I've done is relax in bed with my computer and a book. I honestly don't understand how reading feels productive, but I plan on spending more of my free time being lazy that way so I can later brag about the books I've read to my boyfriend, who doesn't understand leisure reading in the way that he doesn't understand why I don't move to LA and start work as a writer immediately or exactly how big my hair can get.

I should probably write something about movies to make this post relevant--

Memorial Day Weekend Box Office Blow Out : If you're interested in movies, you should check Nikki's blog daily for biz news. I don't really get (or read) most of it, except for the posts about writers or that give me more reasons to love-hate Lena Dunham or that have lots of updates with massively large numbers in the titles. Pirates 4, $500 mil worldwide?

But the thing I like most about this weekend box office is that Bridesmaids is projected to rake in another $20 mil. That's three weekends over $20 mil for the underdog comedy of the summer. Take that, studio fatcats! (I'm bringing back old school insults. It's part of my whole retro thing.)

Why do I love Bridesmaids so much? One, it's hilarious. Two, it's a female powerhouse. Three, it's amazingly well written, as Carson demonstrates.

And lastly, my dad forwarded me this article by Timothy Dalrymple on Christianity in the movies. With a script that gets more and more theological every time I rewrite it, I found it very interesting, especially as it talks about the general critical bias against Soul Surfer and its Christian messages. The thing is, I watched Soul Surfer in theatres too, and whenever they started to talk about God or faith, even I started to feel vaguely uncomfortable.

And I believe it's because of Dalrymple's second argument, "Hollywood has excised faith from feature films for so long that when a robust and unapologetic faith is included in a film it seems jarring and unseemly." And it does. Whenever Carrie Underwood started to talk, I thought to myself, "This is the Christian message." The problem is, however, that vagueness about a film's core theology makes for vague movies. I was so excited for The Adjustment Bureau, but I was just as disappointed when I actually saw it. The movie tries to include God without including God, and the result is simply a weak (and somewhat laughable) story. Angels wear hats for teleportation? What?

It makes me think about my own stories, not just the one has the overt theological legs The Chronicles of Narnia was accused of, but of the ones without Christian messages. When characters (especially Bible Belt dwellers) go through physical and emotional pain, of course their theological worldviews are going to crop up, even if it's just to say that their pain is their proof against the divine. Suffering draws us to God, either to defy Him or to defer to Him. It is the point of our lives where we wrestle most with the question--is this all there is?--and we have to decide if our human experience is the greatest force in the world or if our stories are told for the glory of Someone Else.

(And yes, I capitalized that to indicate God, just in case you had doubts.)

And lastly, from Scott Myer's real Saturday hot links and Candy Land screenwriters, "We envision it as Lord of The Rings, but set in a world of candy.”

And since writing this post, the sun's disappeared again. Hope springs eternal, though, that it really does exist.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thoughts versus Words.

I am not the most productive writer in the world. I can't sit down and write 10,000 words in one sitting like Amanda Hocking can do. I don't sit around my apartment all day in my pajamas plunking away. I don't have a membership to a place like The Office or whatever that private writers' club in LA is. But considering the demands of the rest of my life and the fact that I write by stealing time at coffee shops and bakeries and not in my home office, I think I do ok. I finished a new screenplay draft a couple weeks ago. I'm over 11,000 words in my novel. I sometimes update side projects I'm working on.

However, I'm most productive with my stories when I'm actually writing in them. I think it's because 1. it's easier to monitor your progress. I can know how many words I've written or how many pages I've advanced. I get closer to a defined end goal. And because 2. it's easier to make up stories than it is to analyze them.

After the requisite emotional break from The Exit Strategy, I've pulled it back up to rewrite. The difficulty with rewriting is that you usually need to know what the problems in your story are in order to rewrite them. You have to find problems, come up with a solution, and then implement it. This requires analysis, brainstorming, more clearly defining characters and choices, grappling with your theme, finessing subtext, deeping conflict, manipulating more complexity, coming up with new scenarios only to discard them, figuring out how to set up jokes, constructing set pieces--building up support for your structure at all.

Structure? I think I forgot about that in all the writing.

I can spend my typical hour or two writing just thinking... and have only a couple pages of notes to show for it. It's difficult to believe I'm making progress when I look at my scribbles and find myself just as unsure in my choices as ever. If I'm lucky enough to spot a problem, my solutions are generally vague and not implementable strategies yet.

I.E., I know my opening is weak. My notes are as follows -- "What is the BEST opening possible? What am I trying to set up? The story? The setting? Hazel's character? Hazel's current situation or the absence of her dreams? Her relationship with her family? What is the best set up for the pay off?"

See? I know what the problem is--but I don't even know what the question is.

My favourite note to myself? "This scene needs more punch." What does that even mean? And how am I supposed to make something more "punch-y"? I obviously failed at it the first time around. Did I suddenly get more clever in the past month?

Another note I starred (stars show importance. This is an important note.) -- "How does Hazel's FLAW feed into her PROBLEM?"

Not only do I have to give my protag a flaw and a problem, I have to CORRELATE them.

I'm not good at this part of rewriting, this ethereal staring off into space while I just conjure up brilliant edits to my story. I am, as a 20 year old family Christmas letter prophetically suggested, not a thinker. I am a do-er. It's very hard to believe that all this thinking is writing. It's too unsubstantial for me. And sometimes when I look at my own handwriting all I see are loops and swirls. I get very antsy and want to just go back to the actual page writing.

But I'm trying to make my rewriting process better, more efficient. I'm trying to slow myself down, take time to consider characters and motivation and conflict and set ups and payoffs and theme and subtext. I'm reading scripts in the same genre and might even watch some older classic movies to give me a good grounding in the style I'm trying to acheive. In an ideal world, after one more draft and a polish, I'd be able to start showing this script to people who are better than I am at anaylsis and who can give me real, intelligent notes.

And then I can start rewriting. Again.

Friday, May 13, 2011

'Cause the Box Office DOES Matter. [to the people I need to sell scripts to]

My best friend and I are going to see Bridesmaids tonight. Simply because of this Huffington Post article. Just saying.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Fade Out on Script 6

When I made my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days (which I was nowhere near completing at the end of 1001 days, but I am still working on), I made one of the items to have finished seven feature length first drafts. I'm one closer to my goal of 7 which--illogically so--seems like some magic number. When I hit 7 completely scripts I'll have learned something or mastered something or at least come up with one marketable idea. And in some sense it's true--I've noticed a slow but steady development of good concept and craft with each script. Nearly all of these projects have been documented in some way on this blog, but here's a recap. Cause I'm narcisstic.

1. The 4:05 -- My first script ever, I wrote it while living in England in my semester between my two universities. That sounds very romantic, and it was. I sat in pubs in the middle of the afternoon--drinking soda, mom and dad--writing on yellow legal pads, a hastily scrawled paragraph as an outline. I love this story, probably because it is my own, but it's not a fresh enough take on the coming-of-age romantic dramedy. It placed in the top ten screenplays at the University of Michigan's most prestigious writing competition, warranting some of the harshest comments I've ever received on a piece. I have a soft spot for this story but currently have little intention of revisiting it.

2. Making It -- A very terrible coming of age story. I didn't like it very much even when I was writing it, so if it's ok with you, we'll just acknowledge that this one happened in order to make it count for the tally.

3. Whatever You Ask -- 2007 Script Frenzy project. A romantic comedy with three male protagonists. Because I know so much about the male mind. While I was very excited about the idea when I was gearing up for it, I honestly don't think I've looked at it since I finished it. I have zero desire to revisit it.

4. Collapse/In Memoriam -- I wrote this script for my first screenwriting class. I wrote it for a friend. Since our second screenwriting class as a rewrite class, I took this script through a couple drafts. It might be good. I don't know. I haven't really looked at it since then. It's a story about death, and right now it's just so damn depressing. I'd need to figure out a way to make it more light-hearted without making it a Big Chill rip off (thought that would be a bit fitting). But after the flops that were Making It and Whatever You Ask, this script did good things for me. I again entered the Hopwood Awards and again placed in the top ten, where the comments were not AS mean as they were for The 4:05 [improvement!]. This script also got me into the master screenwriting class, where I wrote--

5. The Garden [Even Angels Swear] -- I can't really call it that, but I wish I could. This script is definitely my passion project script. I wrote it for my master class, had pages workshopped by Tom McCarthy and Pamela Gray, and spent many hours in my professor's office trying to make it work. I finished my third draft of it last summer. It was a shredding rewrite, and a fourth draft is definitely needed. I will get to it--I think I'll always return to this project--but I'm hesitant about how marketable it is. It'd be a big budget movie with strong religious themes and a real cliff hanger ending. I've got to make it phenomenal before anyone takes a risk on that.

6. The Exit Strategy -- Clocking in at 75 pages, this is the first feature length first draft I've completed since graduating in 2009. It's an incredibly personal project, though if I had to pitch it I'd say it's My Best Friend's Wedding meets Tiny Furniture. Meets Forgetting Sarah Marshall meets (500) Days of Summer. I wrapped it last week and am taking a break before diving back in for the rewrite. I have a couple friends who I know would be willing to look at it after I get it to the best I can by myself. And I have secret hopes for this script.

7. Found Footage Story -- My next project. Am I jumping on this bandwagon? Heck yes I am.

I remember after I wrote Whatever You Ask, I had this terrible wave of self doubt. I had written three scripts, and the last two were real bombs. But looking back I can see the gradual improvement [and this isn't counting the numerous ideas, loglines, shorts, first acts, pilots, and tv specs I've banged out]. They say it takes ten years. Or is it ten scripts? A million words?

Whatever it is, I'll get there. Eventually. Cause I just keep on typing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Holidays and Hostages.

I don't have anything to say about hostages. Let's just say it's better than the first consonance I thought up.

Since weekend holidays aren't lengthy enough to justify the trip back home, I spent Easter with the Hockey Player's family. It was nice, and I ate a lot. I did not much get writing done, but I'm pretty sure I got a pass.

There was one moment, as we were sitting around before dinner on Saturday, that I kinda felt like an idiot. I was talking with one of the other women, who was bouncing her newborn, her third son, on her knee when she started to ask me about my writing. I told her I was working on a screenplay and a novel. The trouble started when she asked me what my novel was about.

I hate. hate. hate summarizing what I'm working on. Because this is what I sound like--

"Oh, you know, it's like a fantasy."

To her credit, she continued to ask. "So are there dragons and things?"

"No, you know, it's more like a subtle fantasy." Really? Subtle fantasy? Who am I, some emo high schooler pretending my swords-and-sorcery novel is literature?

And then, because I have to divert the conversation away from my writing but keep it on me, I start to justify my choices.

"Genre novels, paranormal, fantasy, are actually doing really well on solely virtual platforms, like Kindles and e-books. So if it works well, I'd really like to look into self publishing through the internet. People actually make livings that way."

If I had been that articulate, at least I only would have come across sounding like a pompous big-headed nerd. Since I sorta stumbled all over my words, I came across sounding like a dumb pompous big-headed nerd [the Hockey Player insists this wasn't so, but I'm pretty sure he was sleeping on the couch at that point].

And this woman, bless her heart, was nodding along like what I was saying actually made sense, all while I felt like a fourteen year old blathering on about my first novel attempt and how it was going to be brilliant enough that I'd actually make MONEY off of it.

But you know what? I really like this story. The more I think about it, the more excited I get. And whenever I figure out how to talk about it, I for sure WILL be talking about it.

Speaking of fantasy, while we were away for the holidays, George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, based on his Song of Fire and Ice books, some of my favourite books, premiered on HBO. Since one of the reasons I'm dating the Hockey Player is because he has HBO, I asked him to record it for us to watch when we got back.

I've literally been waiting for this series for over a year.

Needless to say, when we sat down to watch it, I was stocked. I broke the bank and bought name brand ice cream for the event. But when he pulled it up on the DVR, I was suddenly alarmed--

"Why is the description in Spanish?"

There was this silence, and then a very quiet, "Uh oh."

The Hockey Player doesn't just have HBO. He has HBO Latino. And guess which one he recorded.

Let's just say, lucky for our relationship, the episode was being offered on demand too. And the Hockey Player changed his DVR settings so that he'd record it in English. And it was pretty funny, too, watching the first five minutes, which has no dialog, and then to hear that dramatic first line--in Spanish.

I'm loving the series and wishing more and more that I had beyond basic cable [we don't even get TBS anymore]. Game of Thrones has already been picked up for a second season, so I told the Hockey Player that as long as he keeps his cable subscription around, he's got pretty good insurance on keeping me around too.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sunshine and Sunburn.

I have not been writing.

I also have not been trying to wrangle a dozen babies, dodging rainy Michigan weather, or sleeping.

But I can tell you what I have been doing--

I've been bike riding on a palm tree-ed island. I've been paddling on a Yolo board in the Gulf. I've been renting a car for the very first time ever. I've been kicking it in to die for gold heels. And I've been eating insane amounts of ice cream, cinnamon roll french toast, and other delicious foods that are not seafood. Because I don't give in to peer pressure.

The Hockey Player planned a trip to Florida to visit his family, and I was invited to tag along. And I have to say, I don't feel guilty about not writing this belated spring break weekend, not even a little bit, not even at all.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Nerves and Nerve.

Apparently, someone recently found my blog by Googling "single unmarried childless Christian."

Welcome, friend. You've...come to the right place.

So a couple months back my dad forwarded me this article about a young writer named Amanda Hocking who's sold nearly a million copies of her novels, largely through e-publishing. Like any decent writer of our generation, she has a blog, which I spend time reading through when I'm procrastinating on writing. She says some interesting things about indie publishing, about traditional publishing, and about writing in general. But here's what impresses me most about her--

She's got straight up nerve.

This is part of writing that I just can't comprehend anymore. The ability to let go of a piece, to say, "this is ready to share with someone else," to summon the guts to pursue publishing--and success. Amanda pursued traditional publishing but finally decided to take control of her career by e-publishing. And now she's a full time writer.

I am timid when it comes to sharing with others. I believe I'm a decent writer, but I know that nothing I've written is in the best possible shape it can be yet. I haven't even shared anything with the Hockey Player yet, though he persistently asks to read something I've written.

I'm not saying e-publishing is the way to be a career writer. I believe that anyone who's pursuing a career in the arts can find success a myriad of ways. Or, that they may never find financial success at all. But, as someone who's retreated to "work on her craft" for the past several years, I find the drive required to declare your work ready for others inspiring. Whenever I reach that point, however I pursue publication and success, I hope I have the sheer moxie needed to seize the opportunities when they come along.

Also, Amanda Hocking links this website that analyzes your writing and compares it to famous authors. Here's what I found out--

Novel: Edgar Allan Poe (um. I will definitely take THAT)
Blog: Douglas Adams and HP Lovecraft (are you freaking kidding me?! That would be the highlight of my life)
Anthology Fiction: James Joyce (no way. He's like a serious writer, and...these pieces are not)
The Exit Strategy: David Foster Wallace (I don't know who that is, but I also don't think the website can really handle scripts, 'cause, you know, it was designed to compare you to novelists)

PS. Amanda Hocking's made 2 MILLION dollars from sales. In the very best scenario, who doesn't want to be a twenty-something author with 2 mil in the bank? That is all.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tightropes and Acrobatics.

"People of the sidewalk! We can't give up on the written word! We need stories--because I don't have a Plan B!" - Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

When I was an undergrad, I had a few problems with time management. Or, as I like to think about it, I knew what my priorities were. Sleep was never a high one. Dorm living, while delightfully appealing to my social side, is probably not the most ideal situation for me. There were definitely nights where I'd hang out with my friends--building relationships, I like to call it--until they went to bed around, oh 1 AM, and then I'd go back to my room to work on my homework.

Before anyone judges me, I graduated with honors. I think I did ok.

Since becoming a REAL person, I find myself with an abundance of free time. Probably because I'm unmarried and childless. I'm not saying I do nothing. But after I come back from work... I have no obligations. I have plans, friends to see, activities, but... no homework.

It's probably the thing I like best about being a grownup.

But in the last couple months, my schedule has exploded. And without the painfully delightful confinement of syllabus deadlines, I have to make sure things get done on my own. And I do get the things I need to get done. It's the extra stuff, baking, finishing books, phone calls, etc. that I have a problem finishing. Or just doing.

When I get off work I'm exhausted, and I still have to make sure I'm juggling keeping in touch with friends and family back home, seeing friends here, church activities, doing dumb grown up stuff like my taxes, baking for birthdays and bridal showers, and--occasionally, when our conflicting work schedules allow it--going out with the Hockey Player.

Oh, and writing.

Back when I wasn't working, I eventually developed amazing discipline. I'd write 8 pages a day. I could FLY through a draft. Now I consider it a victory if I can write a full page of fiction or three screenplay pages. And sometimes it's stressful, like today, when I finally finished a page, and I realized that with my current pace, to finish the first draft of a novel it'll take me a year. At least. And whenever I think about screenwriting, my mind balks at the amount of craft I know that I don't know. I just keep plugging away, hoping that this time personal passion will help me get a lot of things right just
naturally.

And it's not just making sure I have the time to write--it's what I'm writing. I currently have a screenplay and a couple fiction pieces I'm working on. I don't usually get to work on more than one piece a day. I have to split my writing time among them, as well as any research I need to do on the business side of things.

To be honest, it'd be a lot easier
not to write. Not only would I have hours of my life back to read, bake, or enjoy the slowly brightening weather out here in Michigan, but I could finally stop fighting the tiny voice of discouragement that I have to confront every time I sit down and open a story. I could stop trying to power a dream with my laptop extension cord. I could stop supporting a dubious hope with black tea and sugar cookies. I'd have less weight if I could stop carrying my laptop with me everywhere.

But I don't see that happening anytime soon. I may not have the most amazing discipline, but there is something definitely ingrained in me when it comes to writing. Maybe it's the conviction that comes when you don't have a Plan B.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm Back.

Well, maybe. We'll see how it goes. Blogging should probably be the least of my priorities...and yet it always seems to be the thing that gets done. Probably because it's pretty narcissistic.

How are you? What's going on? Things have been changing a lot out here. I don't think I realized it at first. Here's the run down--it involves a lot of cake--


I interned on a film called The Giant Mechanical Man in December. The film stars Topher Grace, Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, and Malin Ackerman. It was rather surreal, seeing Jenna Fischer walking and talking in our production office. All the actors that I interacted with were so nice. But, over all, it was a very educational experience. Being an office intern, I got to observe a lot of the inner workings of the production office. The office staff was great at their jobs and willing to answer any of my questions. I did a lot of menial work, running errands, ordering lunch, data entry, and yes, getting coffee. Perhaps my favourite story is the time I had to take a producer's cat to the vet to get his health certificate for their flight home.

But when the film wrapped, I was broke and burnt out. It was an EDUCATIONAL experience. And, while I love working on set, I was no longer sure it was a career path that I wanted to pursue. When you're working on production, it's all consuming. I was interning, and I was still working 8-10 hour days, 6 days a week, doing airport runs at 4 AM. The other things that were important to me, my friends, writing, church activities, were pretty much cut from my schedule. I have a strong desire to live a balanced life, and maybe I'm in the wrong industry entirely for that, but I know at least working production doesn't allow for real, day to day balance.

One of my friends is working on Ides of March, George Clooney's movie that's in town. I asked her if she was having fun. Her face tightened up and she said, "It's stressful." I don't think I want my work to make my life stressful like that or at least not to be the first comment I make on it.

So, since I had gotten a small taste of (indie) film production from the two films I worked on, I decided to try the other route and take a non film job. I have a job in my fall-back career, childcare, and have (barely) enough time for writing, friends, church, and everything else I just enjoy doing.


I don't think I'll do any more production work for a while. Mostly because our new governor is adamant about shutting down the tax incentives (too bad about all those studios that are just opening here). But I am glad I got a chance to work in production. And when The Giant Mechanical Man comes out, look for my name in the credits.

Part of the reason I took a non-film job was to get more time to write. I definitely don't have the discipline I had this fall when I wasn't working (what a blissful time that was), but I'm slowly getting back into the groove. My writing focus has shifted a little. While I'm still plugging away on my current draft of The Exit Strategy (which, if I ever mentioned this story before, now has a completely different articulation), I'm starting to spend some time back in fiction. The goal of this year is publication, even if it's a tiny e-zine or an online newspaper. Baby steps. I think I'm just tired of being a writer who's always writing and revising and never seeing the end of any work. Also, I keep talking about how I can't wait until I can write for a living, but I spend all my time in a specific field of writing that is the most unstable for a real career. I'm not saying I'm going to be making my income solely off writing, or that fiction writing is more lucrative than screenwriting. Basically none of it's lucrative. But I've spent the last couple years focusing on my craft, not on business. Now that I'm supposed to be a real person with a real job and a real life, it's time to think about how this really pans out into a career. IF it really pans out into a career.


And the rest of life is going pretty great too. Winter is (supposedly) over, my roommie and I are talking about staying in Michigan another year together, and I'm dating a super great guy. He's in school and working at the ice rink driving the zamboni, which means when apocalypse is upon us and climate change causes Michigan to freeze over for real, we'll still be able to get around.

I'm not where I thought I would be six months ago. But I'm finding out, it's not so bad here either.