Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Update: What holiday?

Did we just have a holiday?  What I had was two weeks of near all-nighters broken up by two days in bed with the stomach flu.  Nice.


As a recap - I've been working on the outline (treatment) for 13 months.  From pitch, to short audition treatment, to finally getting the outline in shape to turn into a screenplay this process has taken  13 months.  It has included a week long research trip with my producer and executive producers,  probably 130 hours worth of deep script discussions, mainly taking place in the wee hours of the night because B.H.P. was on the other side of the globe shooting a Big Hollywood Movie.  We probably burned through three trees of notes.  At last count I wrote 45 plus drafts (I lost count).   Which I was happy to do because each step made it better.  Each version we got closer and I wanted to get closer.  And finally, we got there...

Today, I am starting to write the first draft.

The good news is that I am so happy with the work, I am in fact purely happy.   Somebody once said (it might have been Dorothy Parker, but I'm not sure), "I don't enjoy writing, I enjoy having written."

Well, YES.

The outline turned out to be a very detailed, single-spaced 37 pages.  So my first step is to put in the slug lines where they need to go, keeping the description as to what is happening in the scene underneath.  Then I will start at the top and crawl into each and every scene and breathe life.

Crawling in and breathing life.  That's my job.


The writers have finished draft one and we gave it out to get notes over the holiday.  We will collect feedback at the top of the month.  I'm also contacting the film commission where we want to shoot to see about getting help with a budget, locations and breakdowns.


I have been noodling a new spec.   (I have insomnia... you can get a lot done while everyone else you know is asleep)

I've also been contacted about a couple other writing assignments and possible sales of some of my old specs (which I've had long enough to be in the in flavor of the moment again.)

That's the update.  Soon I hope to move this blog to my official website - but priorities, priorities...

Until further notice...  I'm writing!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writing Tip Of The Week: When It Has To Get Done

Here's my brief writing tip of week:  When you're on a deadline and it has to be done, don't waste anytime doing anything else (like this blog post).

I'm in crunch mode.  After waiting for a week or so to get notes back from B.H.P.  the notes arrived just before Thanksgiving on my outline.  Which I still need the B.H.P. to sign off on so I can start writing the actual first draft.  (Which is due in the beginning of January - as in RIGHT-AROUND-THE-I'M-HYPERVENTILATING- CORNER!)

And by the way if you were wondering - HOLIDAYS DON'T EXIST when you are on a deadline.  So, even though I did take a day off to nibble turkey and two days off to take my 3 year old to Disneyland, my script is still due on the same day.   Nobody cares about your life.  This is the job.  Suck it up and get it done.

So I got a little nudge from the B.H.P. - consisting of an email which said literally:  Outline  ?

I affirmed that I would be done with the revisions by Friday so he could read over the weekend.

(By the way, all reading takes place over the weekend in Hollywood.  Execs, Producers, Agents and Managers lose the ability to read Monday through Friday.  Fact!  You can look it up.   Sight is miraculously restored each and every Saturday in time for the weekend read.  I can attest to this because way back in the day when I was working in development it happened to me.)

But, to my shock and horror I heard back  that the B.H.P. is flying somewhere and needs the new draft by mid-day Thursday....  Boy did I haul my butt off the golf course!  

I'm close and in this case if I hadn't heard from him I would have continued to tweak and probably over-write myself silly.  So, he nudged.  I'm nudged.

So, instead of waxing on here I'm going to be making my third act fabulous and  I give you  a recommendation to check out a screenwriting podcast that I listen to from time to time.

Script Notes:  A podcast by Craig Mazin and John August.  Two "A-Listers" who I imagine to be the Odd Couple meet Siskel and Ebert.   (Well, I guess if they didn't like and agree with each other so much.)

Find them:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Writing Tip Of The Week: Writing When You're Tired

Here's my brief writing tip of the week.

What to do when you are tired and you feel like you are writing nonsense?  Not only nonsense, but total garbage that you hate.   You know how that feels nothing about your work is keeping you interested.  The fact that you are contractually obligated offers no motivation.  Everything is horrible.  You never had any talent anyway.  Who are you kidding?  My mother could write better dialogue.  Before you start hacking away at the good work that you've done yesterday or lose faith in the project all together...  do yourself a favor:  Take A Nap.

This is one of the big perks of our job.  We are free to nap at will.  Not too many people can say that.  Think about bank tellers, school teachers or waitresses.  They can't just plop down for a power nap.  "Ordering.  I'll just pick it up in about a half an hour."  No!

But, writers can and should.  I think it helps.  I'll go further - I believe it's part of the process and I will explain that to the IRS if they ever ask why there's a couch, a fluffy pillow and a blanket of weight to match the season in my office at all times.

And here's something that most people outside the business don't know...  If you write out the thing that you're stuck on before you nap and put it on a 3 x 5 card - when you wake up little writing elves will have solved the problem and you can move on to the next scene.  It's ab-so totes incred....

No, okay, not really.  But, more often than not when I write down a problem and then have a 20 minute power nap, a new way of dealing with the issue presents itself when I get back to work.  At the very least I'm more refreshed and I'm more present in my work.

So, happy writing and happy napping.

Next post:  Update on The Movie  and The B.H.P.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Screenwriting How To: Goals and Aspirations

I want to thank everyone who gave me their feedback about what direction our little blog should go.  The results are in and big things are around the corner.

By January (that's a deadline) we will put up the new and reworked site (that's a goal).

Taking your feedback into account, I thought long and hard about what I enjoy in other people's blogs and what I want to share.

Here's what I came up with:  Three W's.

--Writing Tip of the Week -  A section dedicated to the how-to's and tips I've learned over my writing career. (For those who love my advice on structure, pitching, taking notes, etc.)

--What's Important Now - A brief daily journal post on what I'm working on and what my goal of the day will be.  (For those curious about the day-to-day and the journey of my many projects, including the independent feature I'm directing.)

--Warble (because I love the word) - Anecdotal Blog where I can share experiences like The Worst Pitch In The World and/or the current warble in my brain.

Until we make the shift and have tested all the bugs, I will continue to post here - but 2012 is going to be an awesome year.  Stay tuned.

Now a little writing tip:

Goals and Aspirations

I get excited. I love what I do and maybe it's the Aries in me, but I always go out not to just win, but to conquer the world.  Sometimes, I get ahead of myself.   For the first five years of my career I was on an emotional roller coaster.  And I hate roller coasters.   The feeling of my stomach rising up to my tonsils as we plunge is horrifying to me.  I would rather eat black licorice.  And I hate licorice.  But let me tell you, an emotional roller coaster is even worse.  Because the end of that ride is called BURN OUT.  And a good many of my writer friends have met with this end.

I was heading that way too because I defined my success and happiness on whether a script or pitch sold, not on the work I did to create it.  I defined myself by the financial outcome of my projects. Talk about setting yourself up for heartbreak.

Here's the truth:  I don't care who you are, more times than not your projects will not sell.

That's just the facts.  And I have a pretty good track record.  After 15 years, what I know now is sometimes your best work goes unnoticed, sometimes work you don't think has a wing and a prayer finds success beyond reason.  None of it should have anything to do with how you define your personal success.

Know the difference between what you can control and what you have to let play out.

For example, my aspiration might be to sell a spec for seven figures.   (Isn't that what everybody wants? Be honest.)

But, no matter how hard I work I have no real control over whether that will happen.  Do I increase my odds by actually writing a great script?  Sure.  But, ultimately I have as much control over whether it will sell as I do over picking the lottery.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don't.

What I do have control over are the steps I take to move toward my aspirations.  That's where goals come in.  Goals should be something that I can achieve without anybody else.  

My goal would be:  Write a spec.  My aspiration is:  Sell spec for 7 figures.

That's the difference.  Aspirations are your dreams and desires.  Goals are what you set to make them possible.

In order to achieve my goals I set smaller goals within them.  Daily or weekly objectives.  Create an outline.  Write to a certain turning point by a date on a calendar.  Take it step-by-step until I'm there.

Each goal you meet will make you feel great because you are accomplishing something.  And it's essential to create this kind of reward system for yourself.  Because you have to remember something about this business -- it's not like any other work place in the world.  There is no "Holiday Bonus" for working overtime.  There isn't a promotion waiting because you managed to juggle two assignments and a spec.  You will not get a fantastic performance review by your producer for addressing the gut-wrenching notes he piled on you.  You'll be on the curb a long time if you are waiting for that parade.

Creating your own reward system goes a long way in helping you stay in the game.  Set realistic goals and acknowledge yourself for achieving them.

Take pride in your work and then let it go.   As your project meets the market place, make sure you're already working hard to meet your next goal on your next project.

This tactic helps me not get too excited about the good breaks and not get too depressed over the wash-outs.  Everybody has both.

What will sustain you and help you avoid the rollar coaster is focusing on doing the best work you can do.  It's setting goals and meeting them.   It's the day in and day out sense of accomplishment, in pining away at something you love until it's whole.  The feeling of pride in ones work when you've given it your all stays with you longer than that fat pay check.  But, it also helps you stay in the game.  And staying in the game is what actually leads to the fat paycheck.   Because I know... I know...  Everybody shares that Aspiration.

Happy writing!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Screenwriting Tip of the Week

This week I was STUCK.  Elmer's should call me up to get a new formula...

Backstory:  My third act was running out of steam.  In this project the third act has always been the issue.

Here's what I discovered:  If your problem is in your third act - you've got to look at the first two acts to solve it. 

If, like me, your third act lacks drama, simply put you have not set things up correctly.   The third act is the exciting unfurling of the cord you've twisted tighter and tighter in the first two acts.  If yours is uncoiling like a wet noodle, well...  go back, go back, go back.

I went back and traced the spot where I felt things started to go off the rails.  It was my midpoint. 

So I started to think about what the dramatic function of this beat was?  Since it was at the midpoint of the script I knew that this was when things were going to start changing, attitudes, tactics.  The main character was going to have to try something new.   Right?

But, I thought - what if the writer tried something new?

I experimented in switching who rises and who fails in the scene. 

Previously, I had the main character fall on his face, and the antagonist triumph.  But I decided to see what would happen if the roles were reversed?

Eureka!  Letting my hero succeed at the midpoint gave him the freedom to make choices in the remainder of Act Two B. 

Making choices...  Doesn't that sound like an active character?  Doesn't that sound like how every character should be as they charge toward their downfall at the end of the second act and their climatic struggle to overcome in act three? 


So in this instance, it helped the dramatic push of the second half of the story for the main character to succeed at the midpoint.  What Blake Snyder (Save The Cat!) would have called a "false victory." 

Okay, back to it.   Soon we'll be making the switch to

Lots of cool things planned, but as you know, when your writing on a deadline...  as fun as fixing your new writing blog sounds - it's really just procrastination.  So hang in there with me.  We'll be up and running soon.

Until then - Happy Writing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Writing Script

Newsflash, Blog Followers. 

Signed Contracts!  The writing can begin and...

I can finally break my silence on the new project with the Big Hollywood Producer (BHP) because I signed my contract today. 

What will follow in the upcoming weeks is another journey, hopefully from script to screen but on a 25-30 million dollar feature.  It has been quite a ride already, so hold on to your belly boys...

And in other news...

Writing For Hollywood is moving.  I have finally decided to move my little blog to a space all its own.  New website address will be forthcoming and I hope you will follow me and spread the word. 

Until we meet again - here's a little secret I want to share (under the protection of anonymity, of course) because it's a little strange:

What do writer's do after they sign their writing contracts?

Drink bubbly, pay off credit cards, buy a new car, a house, take a vacation?


Not this writer.  This writer does a "signing contracts dance."    Wow, seeing that in type makes it seem even goofier, but something behind it that I want to share.

It's something I referenced in Tips for Writers a long while ago.  But especially today it bears repeating.

A while ago a writer friend of mine ( told me, "You've got to celebrate even the smallest of good things in this business." 

This advice has stuck with me for years, because it is so true and so helpful.  Rejection is the norm in a writer's life.  Even when a studio buys a script there are ten others who didn't buy it.  For every writing assignment you land imagine the six (or more) other writers who worked just as hard and were turned down.  Most specs don't sell.  Most scripts never get made.  Success is the exception, not the rule.

So, this is why I do my little dance. 

Be it in the privacy of my own house (joined by my toddler who has no clue why Mommy is dancing or witnessed by my husband who is kind enough to not count this lunacy against my sex appeal) or in my attorney's office - I sign and then I shimmy.   There's no smugness, no ego in my little boogie.  It's just an acknowledgement that something good has happened.  A marking of a moment before the clock officially starts counting down to that first deadline.

I hope you'll all find reasons to celebrate your work in your own distinct way.  Dwell on the good and it might help you skim over the oceans of not so great.

Happy Shimmying!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Golf As A Writing Tool

Golf As A Writing Tool

Golf has helped me in my career.  I don't have the kind of career that is helped by trapping people on the course for four hours in a bonding session that will end with a hand-shake deal.  Golf has helped me in what it has taught me about myself.  In the staying focused department, for example, I'm a gnat that landed in a vat of speed.

But, playing golf and concentrating for four and a half hours has helped.  It taught me that it is impossible to concentrate for four an a half hours in a row.  To attempt it is setting yourself up for failure.  In order to do a "power stretch" in writing or anything else, you need to give your brain little breaks.  So with golf it's focus, then relax, next shot focus, partner hitting the ball, relax, etc.  In writing it's the same.  Make a plan for what you want to write next, or read a section, then relax.  Write for an hour, then stretch, get a cup of tea, check in on FB. Then, focus again. **

Golf has also told me that I'm a pretty decent person.  I'm easy going.  I like to have a good time.  I play my best golf when I'm relaxed and having fun.  I do my best writing when I'm focusing on what interests me.  When I care about what's happening to the people on the page.

But one of the most vital lesson's golf has taught me in regards to my career is:  "What's important now?"  This simple question is my tool to get through each and every hour of each and every day.  In golf it means, think about what you are doing and what needs to be done right now.  For example, today, my partner was in trouble and I assessed that what was important now was not being a hero and going for the green and a possible birdie, but to take the safe shot and keep us in play.  Staying in play was what was important in that moment. 

Being a writer means being a juggler. You have to focus on what you are contracted to do, but you also have to keep spinning the plates that will lead to your next sale or assignment.  You also have the "business of the business", the networking, the calls and emails to return, the taxes to stay on top of, etc. etc.  (And then aside from that you have your family, friends, home to maintain and of course your golf game to keep in shape...)

I used to spin out of control.  I've got pages to write, scripts to read, pitches to prepare, yada, yada, yada...

But now, I do this:   I make a 3x5 card of everything that I'm working on.  I also have a set schedule of when I write every day.  (Having a baby shoots the 'when the muse visits' in the head.  Trust me.)  When I sit down I go through my list of project cards and I pin the one I need to focus on in a big frame that I've labelled: "What's Important Now Is:"  I set a realistic stopping point for that project and a plan for switching my attention - if I'm juggling multiple deadlines.  I'm happy when I've reached my goal.  I move that project out of the "Important Frame" and pin up the next.

This all may sound painfully obvious - but it's these simple steps that allow me to take on many projects, without any of them suffering.  And juggling is the way I've been able to keep doing this for fifteen years.   Playing golf and drinking is what's kept me sane.   You think I'm kidding.

Happy Writing.

PS:    **Some friends swear by The Pomodoro Technique to help them focus and relax.  Check it out here: 

I admit that it's great when you absolutely don't want to face something, but setting a 25 or 35 minute timer just isn't enough time for Moi.   I like to work in hour stretches, but Pomodoro is a great way to build up to that.  Nobody jumps on the treadmill and runs ten miles their first time out. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

"The more you do, the more you can do." Lucille Ball

First, I want to thank the people who have been patiently waiting or not so patiently sending me email requests to update and or continue this little blog.

I had to take a hiatus for two reasons:

A)  There are times in a writer's life when life goes on fast-forward and everything that isn't work must be shoved violently aside.    So you'd better have a life-partner who understands and supports this because he/she will be doing baby-duty and cooking and cleaning.  Sometimes it gets so bad you forget to bathe until said life-partner puts his/her foot down, points to the shower and says, "You're becoming air-pollution."

There's a truism: "Work begets more work."   But in Hollywood it's more like, "People only want to work with you when you are working."  So when you have one delicious deadline, suddenly you'll have three.  Currently I have five separate projects, all with meaty little, night-sweat inspiring deadlines.

So I'll give you my favorite quote that always gets me through:  "The more you do, the more you can do."  Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball is one of my all-time idols; not only a genius comedian but an astute businesswoman and a pioneer in television.

Digression for idol worship over.

The second reason I have not updated the blog is this:

B)  I was waiting til I inked (signing the contract, code for getting paid, money in the bank) on the job I've been trying to land with the B.H.P.  (Big Hollywood Producer) to blog extensively about that project.

The entire process of working with this particular producer has been very illuminating.  He's brilliant and a true original.  He has stretched me in ways I couldn't imagine.  (Not unlike that time I wandered into that yoga class that was way above my pay-grade.)  It's been hard.  It's been painful.  But, it's exactly what I needed and it feels really great when I'm done.

That said, I'm not about to tell you the real blow-by-blow skinny until I have my contract.  I may be a screenwriter, but I'm not an idiot.  (Okay, that made me laugh.)

Until then...

Happy Writing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Juggling Projects - The Treatment, The Spec and The Pitch

Today I am turning in the treatment to the Big Hollywood Producer (from now on being referred to as B.H.P.) and I sincerely hope that he will be as happy with it as I am.

Actually, that's an understatement - I'll be crushed if he doesn't think I'm a genius.

(Okay - be honest, isn't that what we ALL want to hear?  Just once.  Right?)

But seriously - I'm really proud of the work.  And at the end of the day - that's all a writer can do.   Give it your all and then MOVE ON...

So, while I await his response (and visualize him sending me a bottle of champagne to celebrate*)  I need to get cranking on my spec.  I also need to write a pitch on an old project I have a new take for that I now have a real opportunity to sell to a production company I've worked with many times in the past.

So, a juggling I will go.

People have asked me what the difference is between a treatment and a pitch.  So, here goes:

A treatment is a synopsis of a film, written in prose.  In Hollywood the shorter the better, but in general movie treatments usually come in around ten pages.  That said the one I just finished is 20 pages.

A pitch is a synopsis of a film that you "pitch" orally.  You may write out a pitch, so that you know what you will be saying and have something to practice from, but the end result of this process is to tell the story.

I'm going to divide my time between writing out the pitch (in five pages or less) and writing out my new direction for my spec in two pages or less (the nuts and bolts of plot.)

Wish me luck and I'll keep you posted on The Treatment - when I get word.  The B.H.P. is on vacay - so it might be a couple weeks.

Happy Writing!

*Okay - that's not going to happen, even if he loves it.  But, my personal fantasies can be unrealistic as long as my writing isn't.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How Many Working Writers Are There?

I was just reading through the Writer's Guild of America's financial statement and something grabbed me.  (Okay, I was procrastinating - you caught me.)

In 2010 there were only 1,615 feature film screenwriters working in Hollywood.  That number kind of sounds big doesn't it?

There are about 700 movies made a year in the US (about half of those are released theatrically).

Still sounds kind of ample, doesn't it?

Now compare that to the roughly 6 million school teachers, 1 million plumbers and 1.2 million lawyers working in the country and a writer can start to feel pretty special or pretty freaked out.

More numbers:  Half of Half of Half...

Last time I checked, the union had about 12,000 in its ranks.

Roughly half of those are in the West.  And of that number, roughly half of those are television writers.

That means that there are about 3,000 "active" (meaning recently employed) feature film screenwriters in Hollywood.

Slightly more than half of those are employed in 2010.  1,615 of us to be exact.

What I'm trying to impress on you is this:  There are a lot easier ways of making money.

Yes, a lucky and talented few earn amounts rivaling small State Lotteries, but your odds of doing that are about the same as buying a lottery ticket.  

I'm proud to be counted in the 1,615.   But, let me assure you, like in most other businesses the top 5% of that number are making about 75% of the money.   The rest of us writers are dividing up the dregs.

Sure, there have been years where I raked it in (and I'm hoping this year is another one of those).  But, when you start down this road, make sure you're not doing it to become rich and famous.  Famous?  Quick name 10 famous actors in 30 seconds.  Easy right?  Quick name 10 famous screenwriters?   Uh-uh.  And writer-directors don't count.  Try again.

There are only two reasons to become a screenwriter.  The first is you need a script to launch your directing career. (But this website isn't geared for "means to an end" writers.)   The second (and only valid) reason to become a screenwriter is because you cannot imagine doing anything else.

That is the only way you'll stick with it.  It's just too hard of a game to play if you have any other more sane option.  Those school teachers and lawyers are bringing home a paycheck every week.  Those plumbers know they can make the house payment.

Working as a writer means working as hard as you can and having little to no control of the outcome.  It's not for the weak of heart, mind or stomach.

And if you don't have any other sane option?  If you must write movies?   If it is not possible for you to define yourself without Final Draft?    Then I say, "Welcome aboard the crazy train, it's quite a ride."

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Editing Your Movie Treatment

Sometimes it's what you don't say that says it all.

This is one of those lessons I am still trying to get the hang of myself, both in writing and in life and in my writing life.

I'm open-hearted and a blabber.  These two qualities rarely, if ever, pay off.

But, I will save you the "open mouth insert foot" story that I just experienced today and move right on to writing tips.

So, here's what I have to say about saying too much.  Don't.  Especially when writing a movie treatment let the action speak for itself.

What I found in my own treatment writing is that often I write the response to a line of necessary dialogue with a completely unnecessary answer.  Or I sometimes follow a description of action with a line of explanation about that action.

For example, if I just described the scene where the wife leaves her husband including really spicy dialogue that shows that she's given more than she ever thought she had to give, I do NOT need to add a line saying anything remotely about her physically leaving or her mental state.  It's in the scene.  They are done.  She's out.  Move on to the next beat.

We tend to do these extra and unnecessary bits because after writing two pages scenes, we just don't trust the short paragraphs of a treatment.

But adding explanations just slows your story down to a boring (I'm not going to buy you) crawl.

Instead, make sure the action and dialogue speak for themselves and leave the reader to fill in the blanks on their own.  Trust that they will draw the conclusion that you intended them to and don't explain.   That's the trick to getting someone really hooked.  You let them use their own imagination in the carefully constructed open spaces you leave by not over-writing.

If something is unclear - then work harder to make the action and dialogue clear.  Again, explaining poor writing just makes the poor writing longer.

Try this trick.  After you've finished your first draft of a treatment read the last line of each paragraph.  I bet you find some cuts that you won't even miss once they are gone.

Happy writing!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Writing Tools: Beat Sheets, Tone Guides and Alcoholic Beverages

I've got to be straight with you - I am working on the most challenging project of my whole career.  But this is the week I'm going to bring it over the finish line.

It isn't fun.   It will be, as soon as I start noting any kind of progress, but at the moment, I'm just dog-paddling in the quicksand.

I have what feels like 45,000 notes on something that is "very close."   I'm in that writer's quandary of "fix everything" but "don't change what's working."

And low and behold, after 21 screenplays and countless treatments and pitches... I am turning back to my arsenal of tools to get me through.

I assembled all the notes into one document.  I used scissors and tape to cut and paste them onto my treatment.  I rearranged the order, I cut huge passages and then transferred it all back to a master copy on the computer.

Before I can continue onwards and upwards, I need to go back to the tools I started with at the beginning.  I need to create some character bios.   Really after 15 or so drafts?  Yes.  Because I didn't take my time with this step at the beginning.  I thought I could just do "good enough" and move on, but eventually short cuts slip you up and here I am, being tripped when it hurts the most, over the pit of glass shards.  Now or never time.

I actually like to draw my characters.  I am not a good artist.  My drawings - to be blunt aren't up to a three year old's standards, but for some reason drawing my character brings that person into the part of the brain I need them to be in if I am to know who they are.

It's one of the "I don't know why this works" tools, but trial and error have taught me it does.  And right now I need to go deeper with my characters.

Secondly, I need to restructure.

I am as surprised as you are.  My ducks are in the right order - but their spacing isn't right.

Let me explain.  The third act was not won, deserved or in fact dramatic- and this turns out, is because I was stretching 2nd act action throughout the entire story.  

So yes, b was before c.  And M was two spaces before O - but I was ending the story on O instead of going the distance, taking the characters all the way down to the bottom and then building them back up.  I am third-act-less at this moment.  Which feels like going to the supermarket in nothing but sandals and a t-shirt.  (Not that I've done that, but you can imagine.)  I want to hurry up and get some pants on.

So, it's time to bring out the:  Story Grid.   I'm going to plug in my beats and see what's missing.

I'm also going to compare my script to my two tonal guides (other films that remind me of the project) and see if I can glean any inspiration there....

And if all that fails, I've got a nice Chardonnay chilling in the fridge.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day Two of a Painful Rewrite

I am standing so close to the finish line I can practically snort the chalk.

There's got to be a saying about the last yard being the longest, but I'm too fried to think of it.  I'm too fried to think of anything - and summer has arrived.

If you've followed this blog since I started it last July -And So It Begins (Day One of the Blog) you know how I feel about summer.

To encapsulate:  Summer sucks for writers.  WearEver Hi-Back Deluxe Steel Backpack Chair (Blue)Callaway Golf Men's RAZR X Irons, Set of 8 (Right-Handed, Steel Shaft Steel Shaft, Steel Uniflex, 4-AW)Margaritaville DM1000 Frozen Concoction MakerThere are no beach chairs, no golf, no frozen margaritas at noon for a Writer For Hire.  No, there's just the taunt of unending sunshine making my computer screen hard to see and sweat pooling under my boobs.

I apologize for newbies to my blog.  Please go back and read the "how to write a screenplay" posts of the Fall.  I'm usually quite perky.  Really.  But some projects, simply put, could make a bitter creep out of Snow White.  I'd like to see you whistle while you work on this one, lady.

I'm going to have to start listening to my "rain meditation" podcast while I work and it's not even June 21.   Because I must  FINISH THIS REWRITE.

Okay, so here's my plan, as always with writing - I must take the first step first.

1)  I made a duplicate copy of my treatment and placed today's date on the top.

2) I then made all the cuts suggested by the producer.

3)  I'm now printing out all of the notes I typed up from our multi-nation conference calls made while I was supposedly on vacation.

4) Next I'm going to sit down with scissors and tape and literally piece together the notes where they belong in the treatment.

5) Hopefully, during this process ideas will start spilling forth.  If not, I'll walk, I'll take bathes and most importantly I'll keep coming back to my notes document until the answers do come.

It just takes one little crack, one small gap through which I can wiggle my little finger and then pry open a space big enough to crawl through to the other side.

Sometimes you've simply got to go forth with faith - it will come.  It will.

I'll keep you posted....  In the meantime, happy writing.  (And by that, I mean - just write, you'll feel happy when you're finished.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Back To Work

Weight gained while chained to computer frantically trying to finish assignment before starting vacation:  6 lbs.

Weight gained while enjoying said vacation:  4 lb

So here I am back at my desk, sitting on my more squishy than normal ass, facing a bigger mountain of work than ever before.

And I've hit a challenge.  A big one.

A week before my big family vacation (the first one I've taken since my honeymoon ten years ago), I was happy.  I was very close to meeting my producer's expectations.  I only needed to put a few finishing touches on the treatment before we closed the deal and I had nearly a week to get ready for my vacation.  No problem.

However, four days before the vacation I receive the worst possible news.

The producer HATES it.

I have somehow managed to go from "in the ballpark" to nearly losing the game.  And, because we both thought we were so close, he's already pitched it to the money people who are financing this little beauty, and so now he needs me to fix it fast.


My empty suitcases and my to-do list for the trip are unattended while I try to fix what I actually believed to be perfect.  My manager and I get on the phone and go through beat-by-beat of this story, reigning in where I might have gone wrong.

Again, this is a situation where I'm trying to write to an idea in a producer's head.  Easier said than done.

I turn it in, leaving myself about two hours to pack for three weeks of traveling with a toddler.  Yeah, that's not stressful.  If you were wondering.

Somehow, I manage to throw everything in the case just as the car arrives to pick us up.  I am on my fifth day without sleep and looking forward to the red-eye where I hope to get some shut-eye.

But did I get any shut-eye?  No.  Because the flight to Boston has an air-conditioning problem and instead of getting some much needed rest, I felt like I spent the next five hours in a European public bathhouse (that's where the locals who don't believe in deodorant go to sweat it out for cheap.)

So the vacation was great.  Restful?  No.  Restorative?  No!  But, fun and fabulous you bet!  I even met an old friend who runs a very large international production company at a party and pitched a project to do together later in the year.  Hurrah!

Two days into Munich beergardens, I get an email from the producer saying "We're back in the game."


The bad part was that he still needed more changes and needed them done quickly.  From that point on, dodging his ever changing shooting schedule, we tried to connect on the phone nearly every morning.

That looked like this:  Me getting up at 5 AM after a late night in Munich, or Paris or London waiting for said call, only to be told a few minutes before the rest of my family woke up ready to hit another day of drinking and eating our way across Western Europe that the call would have to be made the next day.

Swill wine or lift a stein and repeat.  Family well rested and relaxed.  Writer For Hire - has officially replaced blood in veins with a combination of Espresso, Latte Machiatto and English Breakfast Tea.

The producer and I finally reconnected the day before I returned to the States.  

The notes were so enormous and I was so exhausted that it has taken me a week to work up the nerve to brave facing the computer.

Seriously, like ten pages of very detailed notes.  Some of which I have to admit I don't even understand.  I'm in uncharted waters.

The little shit that lives inside my front temporal lobe keeps taunting me, "You're just not ready for the A-list.  You're not ready for the big leagues.  This is an Academy Award nominated producer, who are you kidding?"

But, then thankfully, I remember the four movies I watched on my return flight from Europe.  Any one of which I honestly feel I could have written and potentially even improved.

More over, this man, this big-time producer believes I can do it.  Those were his last words to me, "I believe you can do this."  He's excited.

So, after a week of unpacking and organizing, of answering e-mails and catching up on bills, I am finally ready to jump back into the frying pan.

All I can do is the best I can do.  It will either be enough or it won't.  Either way I'll be a more experienced writer as a result.

Sounds awfully well adjusted doesn't it?

I'm attempting to meditate, exercise and not drink as much.  This attempt is corresponding with the biggest challenge of my career.  So naturally what I really want to do is consume my weight of Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips and pints of well-crafted Pale Ales.

I'll keep you posted....

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quick Update - Travelling

Hello faithful followers (otherwise known as:  writers who are simply coming here to procrastinate from their own writing)...

Thank you for all your emails

But, please, rest assured, I did not have a nervous breakdown and/or quit writing...  It's far, far less creative than anything you have imagined.  I've actually been too busy to blog.  

I'd love to say I was busy writing, but sometimes life just wallops you.  I've been busy with Croup (my two year old), with planning an extensive business trip to Europe, with the club championship (hey you gotta have a life), with developing the directing project (which is really coming together and I'm getting very excited) and with The Treatment. 

Oh, and I've been sick with flu and now cold for an unseemly amount of time.  But, downtime is a great time for watching movies and collecting a belly full of inspiration!   Also it's a great time for Nyquil induced comas - which is like going to a spa for a working writer with a toddler. 

So here's what's going on - so that when I get back to writing pithy prose on the belly of the beast, we'll all know what projects I'm working on, or in other words, to recap:

1)  The Assignment is complete until production polish comes in sometime around June.    They are shooting in September.  Still TBD as to where they are shooting - maybe they know, but you know like the recent NAVY SEAL mission, that information is on a need to know basis and writers aren't normally cleared for that kind of intel.

2) Spec.  You remember the spec, don't you?  The script I started this blog about way back nearly a year ago?  In July 2010 - yes, that makes me crazy....  but...

"As God is my witness..."  just imagine me clutching a dirty carrot in tattered Dior.    This will become my top objective when I return from a European trip in June.    I feel like there will be a gap between production polish of The Assignment and the Contract for The Treatment which will be just long enough for me to get this newly structured beast back on the desktop.

I have completely gone back to page one on this concept.  I've been doing lots of heavy thinking - but my upcoming business trip to Europe will also be a "research" and "inspiration" journey for the spec.   That way I can feel guilt free about chugging down wine and cheese in Paris - because it's "work" damn it!

Ideally, I wanted to have my first act done before I get on the plane - but my head cold is slowing me down to an escargot's pace and I have to prioritize.  The priority is to finish off...

3) The Treatment.  Again.  Yes.  Again.  I think I'm on draft 10 or something.  I met my previous self-imposed deadline and had several more long discussions with the producer and now here I am again about to turn in what I think must be, the very, very, very, final draft of the treatment.  It is now 22 pages long.  When and if we sell this puppy, I will simply have to put in the dialogue formatting and turn it back in.  (Okay, maybe not quite - but this thing is detailed beyond detail.)  I definitely think this what I will be writing as soon as I publish this post,  is the end of the hard part.

But the hard part has not been as hard as it has been "stretching."  Which is good.  I am working with someone who is very good.   And when you work with someone who is very good, who is in tune with what works and what rings false, someone who can be patient and prodding at the same time - well, voila, writer heaven. 

I have learned so much.  Yes, old dog, new tricks.  Learned stuff. 

I promise to blog about this once the contract is inked.  It's already been a wild journey - but it will definitely get wilder - just a little teaser - we're talking private planes and research trips involving coolers filled with something unexpected.    I don't want to spoil it.  Just trust me - material for days - once it's inked - I'll let you in on it.  Wild.

So, I'm going to be traveling for about three weeks (and not Blogging - so, no need to email me with questions of my mental status) but, when I return you're in for a treat!   

Happy Writing!  (And if you haven't guessed by now - there's no such thing - like the Holy Grail, we keep looking for it...)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Independant Contractor on Vacation

Have you ever heard the phrase, "You'll never have a tougher boss than when you work for yourself."

Well, here's a newsflash - I just took my second vacation in my entire career.

Other than my honeymoon, I haven't ever had time off unless I was too delirious from fever to sit up.   But this week, I turned in my pages to the producer, we had a great meeting and are ever closer to making a deal and instead of diving back in and finishing it off, I went the other way.

I took the week off.  Wow.  I just needed it.  After the craziness of the very short assignment deadline, followed by the flu, followed by my son getting the flu, followed by another deadline (the self-imposed) I was just done.  The stick-a-fork-in-me kind.

But after a week of playing golf and planting flowers in the garden - my mind runneth over with inspiration.  I'm fired up, I feel ten years younger (albeit not as hungover as I was ten years ago.)  So I feel good about it.  My unscheduled week off was just what I needed.

And here's what makes all of this so improvable.  I'm actually schedule to take a vacation (although some work is mixed in to this one) in a mere four weeks.

So, goals between now and then.  Goals are important. 

1) Finish the new (and hopefully) final draft of this detailed movie treatment for the great movie producer I've been developing it with.

2) Bang out at least the new first draft of my spec.  (Researching the second act is part of my next trip.)

Happy Writing!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Self Impossed Deadline

If you are a writer then chances are you are in your head.  Chances are you are pretty clever.  Chances are you combine these two traits to really screw yourself up. 

But I'm here to tell you that you can also mind*uck yourself in a positive, proactive way. 

Here's my latest example:  I wrote myself a contract to finish the treatment. 

Backstory:  I was one simple draft away from where I think I have a chance to get a real contract (as in paid) for this project.  I've been working with a produce to develop a treatment over the phone for months while he is off shooting a huge movie half way around the world.  It's been a fun and rewarding process, I've learned a lot. 

BUT minutes after our last conversation, where I was filled up and ready to bang this out.  I got slammed with a rewrite on The Assignment and the worst flu imaginable.  Bedridden with a deadline, lovely.

So here I am over a month later and am I filled up?  Am I brimming with confidence and the vision I once had of the finish line?  Nope.  I'm filled up with doubt and fear. 

Why?  I was so close.  Everyone was really excited including big-time producer, managers and myself. 

But here I am, filled with anxiety and fear, self-loathing and two pots of coffee.  The last thing I want to do is go back to this project.  What I really want to do is go back to my spec.

I bet that sounds familiar, no?  If only I could work on this other idea I wouldn't feel this way.  The other one is where the heat is, the other one is the one I'm meant to write. 

Sorry, that's Bullshit!  (Capital letter intended.)

What's really going on here is mind*uck.  (*Normally I'd just say mindfuck but my Auntie is now following my blog and you know, I'm sensitive to that.)  (I've instructed Auntie not to read anything inside parenthesises.)

So here's what's really going on:  I'm trying to remember the finish line.  I'm trying to remember the finished product, but that is impossible.  It's a sure fire way to bring on procrastination or even abandonment of a project.  Trying to see the finish line will only make you lose the race. 

What I need to do is just focus on the next step.  The first step.  Then the next.  And soon that feeling of being full and near will return. 

But how do I get to the first step?  How do I will myself back to something that I've nearly convinced myself I can't do? 

I wrote myself a contract.  I'm great with deadlines, somehow I manage to get it done.  I ask for help with chores around the house, I arrange sleepovers for my kid with the grandparents, I hang up my golf clubs, I focus, I do whatever it takes. And that's the exact type of thinking and action I need to apply to a) The Treatment and b) The Spec.

So in my best legalese, I drafted a document. 

I, writer, hereby enter into an agreement with, myself, to complete the first draft of The Treatment, on or before April 8th...

You get the idea.  And right now, after I hit post, I am taking that first step to reach my deadline.

Stay tuned...  and Happy Writing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rewriting Your Screenplay & The Five Stages of Grief

Today I finished the first rewrite on The Assignment.    And I'm very happy with it.  After I worked my way through the five stages of rewriting grief (see below) and got down to business, it was actually fun.

As is normal with assignments the schedule spelled out in my contract has no baring on reality.  In my contract I have six weeks to work on a rewrite.  I got these notes on March 3rd and because the studio needed to start budgeting the movie I was asked if I could turn it around before the end of the month. 

"Sure no, problem," should be the answer for any writer wanting to continue their relationship with their current employer.  But this time it really wasn't a problem.   The notes were pretty straight forward and didn't require much heavy lifting. 

Over the weekend, (yes, over the weekend) I had another request to see if I could possibly turn it in even sooner. 

I'm not complaining, I'm just warning you.  This is how it really is.  Just because my spec (which has now been in a holding pattern on a shelf, lingering in the first draft for many a moon) is taking forever to complete, you don't have that luxury on assignment.    I don't want to give any of you the wrong idea. 

Luckily, despite the entire family having the flu and having been bed-ridden for a week,  I was able to deliver way ahead of schedule.  I simply put in a few brutal near-round-the-clock writing sessions and passed up St. Paddy day celebrations all together.  (And let me tell you passing up socially acceptable excuses to drink is pretty tough to do.) 

So today it goes back to the studio 19 days after getting the notes.  In otherwords, less than half the time my contract gives me to pull it off.   Seven of those days were chalked up to illness (but I did brain storm and research) and three were dedicated to waiting in doctor's offices with my flu-ridden son (where I did nothing but worry and panic and didn't think about the script for one second.)

My rewriting writing process went like this:  The five stages of grief.   The Stages of Grief

For those of you following this blog like hawks, (ha, ha, ha) you may have noticed I previously alluded to rewriting and the seven stages of grief.  Well, I discovered you could do it in five. 

Ain't that what rewriting is all about?

Stage One:  Denial

This stage actually starts before you get your notes.  It happens the moment you've typed Fade Out.  You think, "It's perfect.  They are going to love it.  They aren't going to have any notes.  It's going straight to A-list actors who will also love it and have no changes, the director will send me a gift just for bringing this brilliance into the world and it will be thrown into production before I can catch my breath."

Stage Two:  Anger

This stage starts when you get your notes and realize that all the dumb ass delusions you've been harboring have just self-destructed leaving egg dripping on your face.

Stage Three:  Bargaining

This stage is when you first start getting into the notes and your immediate gut reaction is to try to talk the note giver into seeing it the way you originally wrote it.  As though, even though they didn't get it when the read it - if you only explained it a little better that would make all the difference.  This is also followed by trying to convince them of compromises that land somewhere between what you want and what they want.   This is the most dangerous stage - because you can't really listen to your gut and be open to beneficial new ideas inspired by their feedback and your knowledge of material if you simply have your dukes up.

Stage Four:  Depression

This is the stage where I usually take a night off to drink one or two more than usual, curse whomever gave the notes, curse myself for being so limited and wallow in the lazy, fat, gross feeling of "but I don't wanna....."  Imagine an obese toddler, smeared in peanut butter and lying exhausted on the ground after a spazmotic tantrum.

Stage Five:  Acceptance

This is usually when the commencement check has hit the bank.  You remember the contract you have in your file draw and that the clock is ticking on delivery.  You realize, "Hey this is my job, I've got to do this." And then you simply find that one little tiny way back into the script.  That one line, one scene, one idea that opens up a path to the next and the next and the next.  That's acceptance.

In stages one through four you are looking at the whole beast at once and that will kill you.  In stage five, you're back to taking it step-by-step.  That's always the key. 

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rewriting: How Do You Know You're Doing It Right?

I am rewriting three projects right now:  An assignment (which gets priority because I have a contract), a treatment (which I will soon land a contract for) and my spec.   

Which do you think is the most fun to work on? 

Is it the assignment because you have a clear directive?  They are paying you to write and so you simply have to do what they say? 


Because the first draft was my opportunity to tell the story I wanted to tell. Now because of shooting requirements, cast requirements, marketing requirements and various other elements that are necessary, but not exactly dramatically driven, I'm being asked to implement things that defy my internal logic. 

So, that's hard. Because I have to do what I think is not quite as strong, but make it even stronger than it was to begin with in the first draft. 

I also have to incorporate some dramatic ideas that I don't agree with, but that the producers feel strongly about.  That's what I'm paid to do.   Somehow, I have to make their ideas flow seamlessly into my own vision or guess what?  The man with the hook comes out and the next writer is given a chance to do what they asked me to do.  Not going to happen.  It's hard.  But that's the job.

So, is the most enjoyable rewriting process on the treatment where I'm trying to land a gig?  I mean that's got to be more fun because I'm more partnering with the producer and we're wrestling through it together? 


Because in this instance, I'm trying to create a story to match the inspiration in the producer's head.  It's like a mystery and I'm trying to solve the case.  But each time I write a version, I fall in love with the story and the characters, only to have another level of the mystery revealed.  We're getting closer, in fact, I think we're one draft away from finding our common ground. But each pass becomes more difficult because there are more parts of the story that we both want to keep, while adding or changing other key elements.  It's a big puzzle.  I love a challenge, but it's only fun once the puzzle has been cracked.  So you find yourself elated that you've solved it and bounced back down to the floor with the realization that you have to jump in and try again.

Okay - so the easiest, most fun, most rewarding rewrite has to be on my own spec.  Right?  I mean I'm in control, I don't have to write to other people's ideas, I don't have to make choices I disagree with - I'm my own boss.  That's it, right?  Oh the joy of freedom. 


Yes, on the spec I'm the one who said, "Gee, those notes do make sense." And I was the one that eventually saw that the script could get better.  I'm the one leading myself back to the grind stone.  But, it's also a land of infinite possibilities and your stranded there, alone with your own wildly crazed brain.  (No wonder why I loved Lost.)  It's enough to make you wish you were writing this spec on assignment - then at least you could have someone to complain about. 

The bottom line is that regardless of whether the changes are being ordered by a studio, suggested by a producer or come from my own need to make it better, the one thing they all have in common is that I don't want to do any of them.  All rewriting starts with a big pout.  It's how quickly you let that go and get down to business that makes you a professional.

So...  How do you know if you're doing your rewrite right?    It hurts. 

Next Post:  Rewriting otherwise known as The Seven Stages of Grief.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rewriting: Growing From Writing and Writing From Growing

A Tale Of Writing Draft Two After You Really Liked Draft One

Here I am at the beginning of version two of my spec.  And already I look back at the first draft and think "How could I have ever thought that was the one?" 

And I was convinced.  Believe me.  Just look back a few posts on this blog.  I had given it my all and it was the best I could ever do.  If they wanted more from me than that - well, there was nothing more to give.

This is how you should feel at the end of a draft.  You've left it all on the page.  You couldn't possibly make it any better.

Then time passes.  You get notes.  Hopefully they speak to you.  Through the denial, through the pain,  through the anger, disappointment, insecurity and fear, hopefully there's something about these notes that make the smallest little voice inside say,  "I recognize that..."

You go far away and hopefully work on other things for a while until it's time to start again. 

And then you do.  And it's painful at first.  It's slow and you think, "I'm not smart enough.  I don't know how.  This is impossible.  It cannot be done." 

Until one little idea worms its way through all those roadblocks and embeds itself in your brain.  And you think, "Ooooooh.  What's that?  Interesting."  You follow this lead.  Maybe it's a scene or a fragment of  a scene.  Sometimes it can be as small as seeing how a character turns her head.  Perhaps it's a line of dialogue that sticks with you because you know the subtext and why it was said and what came just before.  These kernels span themselves out and gather other thoughts like an infectious web.

And the next thing you know you are asking yourself, "How could I have ever thought that first draft was the best draft of this story?"

Were you delusional?  (I often am - but that's beside the point.)  Were you wrong when you felt certain that you could do no better than the last draft?

The answer is no.  You did give it your all but  now you have more to give.  You can't get to the end journey without first walking down the path.  You've learned something in the process of the first draft and now you've grown as a writer and your writing has grown.   So get to it.

In the spec I started in July (yes July people - I've written two other projects in the meantime), I am delving much deeper than I ever have before.  I'm exposing more of my own fears and shadows.  It's exhilarating and terrifying.  My screenwriting craft is pretty darn sound at this point - but what needed to catch up to tell this particular story was my personal emotional growth and my ability to write about it. 

Go deeper is what the universe (well, my agent and managers - almost the same thing) were telling me.

I'm in so deep now I feel like I'm sucking quicksand through my nose.  But, one step at a time.  I'm excited to see where I come out.  But I can pretty much bet I'll be saying, "This is the one.  I couldn't possibly give it anymore.  I've left it all on the page this time."

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How To Get Unstuck In Your Writing And Clean At the Same Time

For those of you smirking or grimacing after yesterday's post:   Throwing Out The Kitchen Sink.   Yes - there are infinite possibilities and it would be impossible to plow through them all.  I'm not just blowing Polly-Annic smoke in your direction.

I promise you won't need to test out every wrong possiblility before you can find a path to charge down.  You have a trick up your sleeve - actually you have a trick in your gut.   We all know what it feels like to be writing hot, filled with inspiration - and we know when something isn't right and we're forcing it.  We know.  So gravitate to what your gut tells you is interesting.

Since this part of the blog is about the "emotional journey" here's an example of how I got in tune with my gut just yesterday and how it led me to inspired writing today.

I'm loving my new set up, my new version of my main character (same character only more fleshed out, issues and conflicts closer to my own and therefore infinitely easier to crawl inside of), but I get half way through my new outline and I am utterly lost.

Being utterly lost in your script, especially one that you love so much in the first act, is a tortuous event.  I try very very very hard to force what I think should happen to happen - but it's all wrong.  First it doesn't feel right, next the structure is off, finally I check my guide-post movies and nope - my character is zigging when every other film is zagging at this spot.  Seriously?!  Will this ever get any easier? 

And the internal monologue goes:  I have no idea how to fix this.   I can't do this.  Think.  Think.  Maybe?  No.  What if?  Lame! But- Cliche, bad cliche, false, wrong.  Think harder.  Maybe it can't be done.  Maybe this story hasn't been told because it can't be told.  I'm too stupid.  I'm limited.  I'm fat. 

Okay - so we've been there right?   When I get really frustrated or insecure or frinsecure (which is usually the case) I take a hot bath.  It's hard to get distracted from thinking in the bathtub.  I'm too paranoid of dropping my iPhone in the water to bring Words With Friends with me - so I'm trapped in a warm, soothing environment with my thoughts.  (Also a baby-free, husband free, dog free zone - bonus.)

Worse case scenario I emerge clean and refreshed, drain the tub and go to bed.  Most times however - I get inspired, leap from the tub, bubbles sliding down my leg, carpet be damned, I slosh into my office chair with an inspiration that gets me over the current, miserable hump of stuckness.

Most times it can be something really small.  Last night, it was a scene that brought tears to my eyes.  I had to get out of that tub and write it down.  Fast.  And that little scene made me realize that the problem wasn't that I didn't know how to fill up the second half of my script  - it was that I was trying to skip steps again.

And I'm sorry - you just can't do that.  Not even after twenty-one scripts.  I needed to go back and put my 40 cards on the wall.  Once I did that, I realized that the reason why I was feeling like every idea I had for her to fill up the second half of the script was irrelevant, boring and cliched, the reason why I felt that my main character was doing the right thing way too early in the story (and therefore boring the shit out of me) was....wait for it....

What I thought was my mid-point was actually closer to the end of my second act.  She isn't making the right choice too early.  No, she's doing it right on time; near the end of the script where it should be.  It was the stupid writer who was in the wrong place.

So what happened here?  A) I thought since I was performing a rewrite (even though it was a page one rewrite) I could just jump into the writing part.  WRONG  B) I was telling the story - but not beating it out, so I didn't realize that I was already 30 beats in.  MISTAKE  C) My gut didn't let me down.  I knew something was jenky - which helped me find the fix. GREAT!

Okay - now I will enjoy a day, an hour, ten minutes of happy writing before hitting the next bump.  But that's just the way this shit works.  Get used to it and don't try to cut corners....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Throwing Out the Kitchen Sink

Okay, I'm one of those writers who consults psychics. I do. And Astrologers and anyone else who will share a glimmer of hope that the choices I'm making will pay off.

Because it's a crap shoot. There are no guarantees.

Writing comes down to choices and one false turn at the beginning can lead you down the entire wrong story. That's where I'm at with my spec.

But wait there's hope (the psychic said so)... But even if my psychic didn't predict tremendous success, there still would be hope. There's always hope.

Because even if you really, really, really screw everything up - guess what? You're that much closer to getting it right. You've learned a lot by taking that wrong path. You've learned what doesn't work. So, obviously you are narrowing down what will work.

So personally, I can say with certainty - it's time to throw out the kitchen sink, the baby and the bath water, everything must go.

I went through my draft, highlighter and Post-Its in hand, to mark all things that I could transition into the next draft. Three pages in I realized I could put my fun little tools away. I was back at the drawing board. There might be one or two moments I can save - but these are moments - moments don't need Post-Its or even highlighters.

But, it's okay. It is. Because I already know what I'm writing so well that I know what will not work. So what if that happens to be nearly everything. I'm not afraid. I've got a psychic, and an astrologer, a friend who gives super tarot readings, a Magic 8 Ball in my left hand desk drawer and last week, I got a very positive fortune cookie from Panda Express.

No worries. Happy Writing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Don't Forget to Have Fun

Maybe it's the subtle mix of coffee and Lo-Carb Monster Energy drink I've been living on for a week - but today I'm inspired to write about how fun the process can be.

You are writing a movie. You are either being paid to do so or hope to be paid to do so or even better you're just doing it because you have an idea that you love, full stop. Regardless - you've dreamed up an idea that got you excited. And now you're starting to figure out how to tell it.

Writing comes down to choices - there are infinite ways to tell the story you are telling. You are now in the very fun process of dreaming out one way of telling it. Why not start with the way that is the most fun?

A very successful producer I am working with (and when I say successful I mean with a capital "S" from box office to Oscar nods) told me that he starts a project by asking himself: "What would I be interested in seeing?"

It is just as simple as that. It really is. Because what interests you is what plugs in to the common human thread - it's what people can relate to, it's what we all want to see.

I think it's a great way to brain storm the storyline of your script. First you come up with "what interests you" in a macro way - the idea. Then you have to do some nuts and bolts and figure out your character arc and major structural beats. But then to connect those beats - asking yourself "what would be fun to see" or "what interests me" is a great way to get there.

On Version Two of my spec - I'm at that point in the process now. I have my characters (for the most part), I know where they start and what they learn and where they end. I know my big structural moments - and now there's this huge path that could go in any direction in order to connect those anchors together.

And so today I've got my index cards and my fat marker and I'm writing down experiences that would interest me.

A good exercise is to think of a film that reminds you of the film you're writing - either in tone or setting or style - and think of one of two memorable moments. Those are the moments that pulled you in - and those are the kinds of moments we are hunting for now.

Sometimes, you'll think of great scenes that end up not fitting. But don't let that concern you know. Just brainstorm. Have fun! There is nothing more exciting than coming up with a great idea for a scene. The kind you can't wait to write.

Not all ideas are going to be right or even good - but just churn them out. We'll prune later. Today is for having fun.

Next step is cobbling together - and our tether for that? Yes - you guessed it - the character's arc.... It's really so simple, isn't?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Fresh Start... Again

The reality of writing is that you are constantly going back to the drawing board. And the drawing board can suck. It can drive you to eat, drink and be mean to your significant other. But one thing it won't do is go away.

So I've snarled at my "drawing board" for months now (while writing three other projects including one entire draft of a new writing assignment) and it's time to jump back in. No matter how beautifully I want to perform this dive, it's going to end up like a belly flop, complete with belly burn. But here I go.

My agent wants me to pretty much take my script in a different direction after the act break. And scenes are starting to bubble. As they do I write them on cards and stick them on my giant corkboard. Let's check - there's two. There's only two?! UGH!

Here's what's blocking me - trying to envision the entire thing instead of just taking it one step at a time.

Here's what I'm going to do to get over myself (again). I'm going to daydream about my character - I'm going to think about what kind of person he/she is and what he/she can possibly learn. I'm going to doodle and make lists and explore. If a scene hits me that's a keeper - it goes up on the board.

I'm also going to give myself a deadline. I want to come up with a new short treatment of the story by this time next week. That should be ample time to reel in my wandering mind and make some choices. Not set in stone choices - but choices that I can then ask people about - pitch the story to and see if people are like - oh - yeah - I want to see that...

I hope that if you are stuck - you'll remember not to think about the finished movie - you're a hundred steps away from that (at least)... Just put one foot in front of the other and we'll both be there before we know it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How Bad Movies Can Be So Motivating

Okay - last night I just watched one of the worst movies I've seen in a long while. And it was just the tonic I needed to get my butt rocking on my rewrites.

Seeing big movie stars up on screen in a real stinker is a great way to relocate your confidence. I've been dealing with faltering confidence because I was given some abstract notes.

Here's a list of notes you will get in your career that are totally worthless. (Unless you want to breed panic, depression, and writer's blockage.)

1) Needs to be funnier.
2) Go Deeper
3) The characters need to be more original

I could go on - but these are vague notions that all convey the same thing: We not invested in your main character.

The movie I saw last night had an unlikable main character. Maybe it's the fact that we're in the Great Recession and she was a rich celebrity that created her own dilemmas. Maybe it was the fact that she had done something so grievous that the audience could never forgive her and therefore who are you rooting for?

Regardless, it inspired me. Because I recognized where the story had gone wrong, I immediately thought of what I would have done to make it work for me. (Hey, nobody tries to make a bad movie, and I respect anyone who accomplishes getting a film made.) But seeing something miss, reminds this writer that nobody gets it right all of the time.

Sometimes you have to go down the wrong path a few times before you find the right one.

And how to attack those darn abstract notes? Make a concrete plan and take it one step at a time.

Think about "what interests you" "what would you enjoy seeing" "what is a dilemma that engages your creative mind" and then write. Have fun with it.

Go see a bad movie and think about how you would fix it. Then see what lessons you can apply to your own work.

That's what I'm doing this week. Wish me luck and happy writing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy New Year - I love 2011 Already

I have to apologize for my last post -Deadlines Don't Wait For Santa it was uncharacteristically negative. I blame the fact that my deadline corresponded with the holidays. But it's all behind us now and we are well into a new year.

Time for resolutions. I love the new year because it is the most optimistic holiday of the year. And you get to drink champagne for 24 hours, morning, noon or night and nobody gives you that worried look.

I am setting an intention that 2011 will be a great writing year. I will stretch myself. I will complete many projects. I will meet and work with new and interesting people. I will not beat myself up so much. I will strive to keep smiling. I'm going to pray more, because it helps me get into the flow. The Flow - that good place where all ideas and inspirations come from.

I'm going to try to do more for others. I'm going to think bigger.

What's happening with all the writing projects?

Right now, I'm waiting on a conference call with a very big, A-list-y-type producer who happens to be shooting a movie in the Indian Ocean. I am also waiting on feedback from the studio on the first draft of the "assignment." I am waiting to discuss the film treatment for my indie-directing project with the fabulous cast/writer-creators. I am contemplating diving into a new draft of "the spec."

I say contemplating - but what I'm really doing is watching movies and just trying to let go a little more before I speed write a new version.

Oh - I'm also trying to write more loose and free in my first drafts and challenge myself more to go to deeper places. I might have to re-read and

Next post - seen anything great lately?