Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 7 – Sunday, 6/27/11 – 11pm And then the Re-writing began…

Crashed, woke up in a panic, then ran to post this. I finished about mid-afternoon today. My third act wrapped up with the Antagonist offing himself (that’s a little dark, I may go back and change that). It was always very important to me to give my antagonist a reason to be moral dubious. He was just trying to do what he thought was right, just like my Protagonist. I wanted the audience to hate him, but also hate themselves for hating him. A one note character would kill this. Maybe I succeeded, maybe I didn’t. I’ll have to reread this and see if I actually managed to pull it off (and of course, now that you know my intention I’ve ruined your perception of the material as well. It’ll have to do, I suppose).
I end with relatively good health, just super sleepy. I’m going to go back and crash again after I upload the pages. Maybe I’ll edit this post, but I’ll more than likely have a retrospective about the entire experience later.

Thank you all for reading these few blog posts that at times must sound like the ravings of a mad man. Thank you for reading any pages if you have done so. I will see you on the other side (of sleeeeeeep). Let the caffeine detox begin!

Pages: 92
Scenes: 72
Words: 14008

Mountain Dew (12oz): 7
AMP Energy(16oz): 10
Red Bull (8.4oz): 8

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 6 – Sunday, 6/26/11 – 11pm

“I haven’t written anything particularly clever in the last few pages.” “Oh, s***! You’re right.” This is the worst line of thinking that can descend onto the writer. Especially in the first draft. It can become a feedback loop of constant re-reading and rewriting and correcting and reading before bothering (should the writer ever get around to it at all, which is doubtful) typing the final word and a satisfying “The End.” Or just “End” if you’re feeling post-modern (read: thick (read: moronic)). To combat this one could simply just be clever all the time, but this is a lot harder than it sounds. However, the easiest way to get around this, I’ve found, is have only a handful of clever characters. This isn’t to say that everyone else is an utter buffoon, quiet the opposite. Characters, much like people in the real world, are specialist. You have the friend that can run a mile in only a few minutes, the gamer nerd (who should be good at math, but isn’t) who is a quick thinker, the sad sap who reminds everyone to be empathetic, etc (insert your own friends here for maximum effect). Again, I think it was Joseph Campbell who first noticed several repeating specialties, and used them to create a long list of character archetypes. However, I think in writing we should go one step away from the commonly referred to archetypes, and create our own. Of course, coming up with a list of qualities needed for the story and then placing them on the least likely characters for contrast work best. Some of the greatest contrasts have become clich├ęs (Hooker with a heart of gold, cultured crime lord/cannibal etc.). I suppose at some level it at least shows us what we should be doing and gives back to the old quote, “give me the same, but different!” (I forget who said it, please forgive. I will look into this later).

I’m well into my third act. I honestly might just go ahead and wrap it up. All I have left is a last reversal, a story climax, and the conclusion. The last twenty or so pages have been much more action filled than I had anticipated. It is an adventure film for kids, so that’s probably the best.

It’s nice to be so near the end. I’m no longer unfocused. It took waaaay too long this time around, but I finally know exactly what I must do for the character, when they should do it, and to whom. Hopefully that makes some kind of sense. As I’ve said before, I do work with an outline, but I leave it as barebones as possible so that things such as character and such can really shine through. We’ll see how well that works.

I might just crash after writing this, then take up to writing again. It will still be day seven when I finish, so I won’t have finished early like I wanted to, but at least it will be done.

Then the rewrites begin. :)

Pages: 77 (Goal: 77) – 85% complete
Scenes: 69
Words: 12008

Mountain Dew (12oz): 7
AMP Energy(16oz): 9
Red Bull (8.4oz): 7

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 5- 11pm 6/25/11, Saturday

I woke up today with the thought, “Oh good, it’s my ‘time to die alarm!’ Wait…that’s not…wait…”. For some reason whatever I was dreaming about decided to leech into the real world. Not one to believe in/heed bad omens, I note it merely as an aside and continue writing.

Today’s writing saw me through to the end of Act 2A, and well into ending Act 2B. There is some discussion as to whether or not Act 2 should end at page sixty or seventy. I really believe this depends on the genre, and how long you plan on your third act panning out. It’s beginning to look like my second act will conclude at around seventy (if not just before it) and then begin the third at a short time later. I’m reminded of the quote from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (a television show, which if you haven’t seen, shame on you! Go find a few episodes and watch right away!), where one character remarks, “Love pads the film”. The entire cast then embarks on a song and clip segment from the film they’re watching (Sidehakers I believe it is), and how said love will pad the length of the film. Sadly, due to my genre I can’t rely on this idea of love padding to really benefit the story in any way shape or form.

So I’ve asked myself a question while I was working; is it easier to work when I have a page limit set, or a time limit? I’d been working all week with a set number of pages to get done a day, and I seem to drag a bit. This could have been just lack of sleep, procrastination, or whatever. It seemed to me, however, when I sat down and simply set a timer for an hour that the pages seemed to fly by. I would look up and think, “Holy Snap self! Look at all the pages that got done!” To which I would reply, “Why are you cursing like a five year old? Your mom’s not here to bother you.” Then the trade of insults would begin, followed by the thrown fists, before finally ending in a forced apology and resuming of work. My self is a bit of a dick stupid face.

My morale continues to be high. Thankfully the concoction of music and video has kept me working. I’m starting to grow tired of TMBG. As much as I like them, one can only listen to them so many times a day. I’ve diluted the music by mixed in some classic rock to keep the tempo up. My health is a bit better. I think my voice is back. I blame the brush fires outside of town for losing it. The sleep is definitely helping me keep sane. Or at least, that’s what the voices keep telling me. Onward with pages, go I!

Pages: 64 (Goal: 64) – 71% complete
Scenes: 60
Words: 10666

Mountain Dew (12oz): 7
AMP Energy(16oz): 7
Red Bull (8.4oz): 6

PAGES FROM DAY 5. Full of spelling/grammar errors. I will correct these after I finish the draft. Until then, my apologies. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 4- 11:25pm - 6/24/11, Friday

I’m sick of seeing the sun rise. That’s not a phrase that is uttered too often. The rising of our local star is one of the most brilliant and inspiring views one can have of our planet. It can sod right off.

The end of the first half of the second act (act 2A, as some call it), is well on it’s way. The idea to give my protagonist a literal series of challenges has carried me through the bit of most scripts that are usually dull. For some reason, when most of the script’s I’ve read at the amateur and/or student level, the writer will get to the end of the first act and of laying out the world of his/her story, explaining everything clearly, then they just never stop. They continue on to page fifty or sixty, just explaining and setting up and explaining and setting up, and then they just stop writing. It doesn’t make for a very compelling story and it ends up an unfinished screenplay on a forgotten dusty shelf. Glad to see I’ve gotten past this bit. Not trying to brag, although I suppose I sort of am. Just feels good, man. I’ve retro-scripted a bit of my outline to include newer elements that I’ve introduced. If this is a lesson in anything, it’s that while an outline should be required, it doesn’t have to be set in stone.

My health is continuing on the decline. My voice is the next to go, strangely enough. I’m not sure if that’s the poor sleeping habits, or if it’s from a bush fire outside of town. We’ll see what becomes of this. Hopefully I can stave off the worst of it with a well earned sleep tonight.

If I could only write for a few hours a day and I had to pick a time to write, it would be right after lunch, or in the afternoon between meals. It would keep me from being hungry (a constant annoyance. Up to two meals today. Wahoo!), and I would be further enough away from having woken up that I wouldn’t necessarily be tired. I also find that large amounts of caffeine, for me at least, work best in the afternoon. Night is a bit depressing (especially when writing a children’s film), and the morning is listless and groggy. Afternoon is definitely the way to go.

Tomorrow I begin to wrap up act 2. The plan is to half it start off with an act reversal, a bit of character building, a plot twist, and a chase. I believe it was David Mamet who made the comment that events in a story should be “Surprising, yet inevitable”. Not really a law that I follow in the strictest sense, but a good rule of thumb to half none the less.

Pages: 51 (Goal: 51) – 57% complete
Words: 8623

Mountain Dew (12oz): 6
AMP Energy(16oz): 7
Red Bull (8.4oz): 3

PAGES FROM DAY 4. Full of spelling/grammar errors. I will correct these after I finish the draft. Until then, my apologies. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

DAY 3- 11pm, 6/23/11, Thursday

Finally, back on track with my sleep. I crashed about 8am, and woke up about noon. Not the perfect day, but at least I’m up before most people start to get off their jobs.

Reached my page goal for the day. I’ve given up trying to write more than my goal everyday. For most of this project I’ve tried to force myself to get in twenty-five or thirty pages a day. At this point in the project, I just can’t see that happening. Oh, sure, it’s relatively easy to do that amount of work, just not when I’ve got this general malaise. I’ll break out of this funk in a few more pages, I’m sure of it. I blame the rain.

One of the main problems I think I’m coming up against at this point is keeping the steaks high. If there is no danger, or no chance of failure, than an audience has no reason to care. I have two act reversals coming up that will really accelerate the story, I just have to hold onto an element of danger for my protagonist until that time. Currently, I have my protagonist going through a few trials to ‘prove his worth’. The moment he seems to succeed and grow as a character I plan on kicking the floor out from under him (metaphorically speaking) with an act reversal. Most writers seem to have problems with doing dreadful things to their characters. I can’t say that I mind it. Rewrites have never bothered me, thankfully. There’s something cathartic about making one’s work better than it was. Or maybe I have no soul to put on paper, I have no idea. I’m just a guy with a computer and a scriptwriting program. What do I know?

My body is starting to break down from the stress, poor sleep, and horrible eating. I’ve cut down to a meal a day (when I remember to eat) to save time. Not really a conscious thing, it just sort of happened. I’ll have to watch out for this. No need to kill myself over a first draft. Honestly, I expected this to happen sooner. I usually come out of a writing binge with a cold or horrible heath. I’m sure there’s a medical reason as to why this is, but at the current moment, I really can’t be bothered with learning what it is. Later, however. Later.

Pandora Radio is beginning to annoy me. At night it tends to play soft music. I’ve resorted back to my TMBG library of music, as well as playlists on the internet. Jeremy Clarkson seems to be my constant companion. I’ve watched through his “Jeremy Clarkson Meets the Neighbors” series today. Fantastic word play through out the entire series.

Tomorrow I shall be looking at finishing the first half of the second act. It’s in this general area (between 40 and 60 pages) that most writers give up. I’ll look into that a little bit more tomorrow. Moving forward!

Pages: 38 (Goal: 38) – 42% complete
Scenes: 35
Words: 6237

Mountain Dew (12oz): 5
AMP Energy(16oz): 6
Red Bull (8.4oz): 1

PAGES FROM DAY 3. Full of spelling/grammar errors. I will correct these after I finish the draft. Until then, my apologies.

Day 2 – 7am, 6/23/11

Technically it’s day three. I’m still counting it as two as I haven’t gone to sleep in the mean time. Hopefully that still works in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve taken to reading Douglas Adam’s “Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul” whenever I have a break, or stop to eat rather than watch a video as is my usual routine. I’m reminded of Stephen King’s often quoted line, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” I suppose that’s the logic of reading a book while writing a screenplay in a week. There is something to be said of Adam’s word play as well. I’ve always adored his work as it has always been, if nothing else, clever.

If I hated myself yesterday, I’m repulsed by myself today. I meant to wake up at 8am. Instead I wake up at 4:30pm. There’s no excuse for it. I’ll have to be better from now on. No more slip ups.

Bach’s minuet in G major has become my way into writing today. I try to stay away from classical when writing as it has a habit of putting it to sleep and I have a habit of scolding it for doing so, however, this particular song is different. It stirs inspiration within me for whatever reason and helps me to begin the day. I’m sure tomorrow will be different, but for today, it is Bach.

Today I finished up the first act and started working towards getting well into the second. Unlike yesterday where I simply kept a log, I have decided to actually write about writing a little bit more while I venture on this fantastic enterprise, so here goes. When crafting my first act, I like to set it up thusly: Establish tone and setting in first paragraph. Finish setting up world by page five. Have the first inciting incident (Plot point, reversal, what have you), by page eight to ten. By page fifteen have your point of no return (Campbell’s “Writer’s Journey” talks about the point of no return as the point at which your protagonist must venture on this adventure (read: story) or else). I like to end my act one with another reversal by page twenty-two to twenty-five, then the second act soon follows. Tomorrow I’ll get into a little more of how I handle my ‘second act slump’, as that’s what I’ll be dealing with. I realize not a lot of people actually use the three act structure, or any structure at all when writing. I find for first drafts at least, three act structure provides an easy road map. Roads, much like everything else in existence, are easier to destroy once they exist. For now, the first draft is my concern.

I’ve just managed to reach my page goal today and no further. I may have to finally give in and start drinking coffee. I’m averaging around 300mg of caffeine. More will be needed since I’ve built up a tolerance long ago. I’m having trouble focusing. The pace is killing me. I used to be much faster than this. The problem is I’ve gone too long without really sitting down and writing every day like I used to. Never again, say I!

Pages: 26 (Goal: 25) – 29% complete
Scenes: 29
Words: 4347

Mountain Dew (12oz): 5
AMP Energy(16oz): 4
Red Bull (8.4oz): 1

PAGES FROM DAY 2. Full of spelling/grammar errors. I will correct these after I finish the draft. Until then, my apologies.

Day 1: 9:40pm – 6/21/11, Tuesday

Day one is coming to a close. I keep trying to push myself, but I think I’ve gotten all the words on the page I can for one day. I may take a nap and keep trying. I’ve completed a lot with script, however. I’ve gotten past my first inciting incident (page 8), and arrived in the middle of my first reversal (p.g. 15). My morale is high, yet I am still tired. I wanted to have at least the first act finished by now and hit at least page thirty before passing out. It goes without saying that I hate myself for falling short. The pace will just have to be quicker tomorrow.

Way too much time was wasted today. I’m trying to limit my internet interactions but I get distracted so easily. A lot of the problem is that I outlined this script months ago and finally got around to putting it on paper. Huge mistake. A lot of my enthusiasm for the project is gone. I’m slowly finding it again, thankfully. Luckily I still like the concept enough, otherwise I may have just let it go and it would be a different script I’d be working on now (so many ideas, so little time!).

While writing this project, new ideas for scripts are constantly bouncing around inside my head. I’ve been writing them down on post-its, if for no other reason than to get them out of my head. It’s as if when I have a physical copy of an idea my brain lets it go so that I can focus again.

Another way that I am saved is through music. Music helps me focus while working. TMBG and access to Pandora internet radio have become my saviors. Songs with a quick tempo are, obviously, preferred. Interestingly enough there are a few videos that I’m able to let play in the background. Chief among these is anything by Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame. Currently I’m watching/writing through his “Inventions that Changed the World” Series. I suspect I will be watching through them again tomorrow. Strangely, all of the works of Carl Sagan, though I adore the man’s work, seem to put me to sleep, or make me stop and watch.

Anything to help me tune out the outside world. The cats (Two of them, a seven year long hair and a chubby three year grey tabby) have been no help at all, and always make a habit of begging for attention the moment I hit my most focused. I indulge them though. Small bursts of writing rather than prolonged marathons may be the reason I’m behind, however it has kept me sane, and I predict will help me in the long run.

The two keyboard setup I have going is helping as well. Right now I have an extra keyboard connected via USB to my laptop. I’ll type on my laptop, but if my wrists get tired, I’ll drop my hands to the external keyboard. It sits on a movable shelf in the desk, and is much closer to my lap. Easier the better. I spend the day alternating between the two. Keeps things from being boring.

I will try to rise before eight and try to pick up some of the slack.

Pages: 14 (Goal: 13) – 17% complete
Scenes: 21
Words: 2509

Mountain Dew (12oz): 4
AMP Energy(16oz): 2
Red Bull (8.4oz): ½

PAGES FROM DAY 1. Full of spelling/grammar errors. I will proof read at the end of draft one. In the mean time, my apologies.

Introduction and Explanation

Hello Interwebs.

My name is Josh. I’m a screenwriter currently in grad school at a small arts college in a corner of the American Southeast. It’s summer break for those of us still lucky enough to be in university, and I have a week of free time on my hands. So, what better thing to do, than write a screenplay in that time?

There are a lot of stories out there of people writing large bits of material in absurdly short periods of time. I myself have done a feature in a few days. However, no one (at least, no one that I have been able to find on the net) has documented the experience as they go. I aim to change that.

This is not meant as a ‘how to’ of screenwriting. I am a student. While I try and be professional, in all honesty I am not a pro. I can’t pretend to teach anyone anything that they can’t learn from a book or from first hand experience. The purpose of this fun little experiment is A) to see if I can do it again, and B) to keep a log of the thought process of someone who goes through an experience like this. If anyone can learn something from this or can become inspired to work harder on their own writing than fantastic. That’s awesome, but not really the point.

A bit of a disclaimer as well. A lot of this Seven Day Journal will contain massive typos, spelling and grammar errors. I will be writing these at the end of each day, and will be too tired to think straight, let alone be bothered to proof read. I do apologize. As someone who does a lot of reading, as well as writing, I can understand if someone would become frustrated by this. Again, my humblest of apologies.

Each night I will post the day’s writings, should anyone be interested in my progress. The writings will also contain spelling errors etc. It’s a first draft, and I will be going back and making corrections.

I’m also taping a video log that I will upload at a later date. My camera and computer are at war, so I’ll edit the video and post it at some point in the near future.


Now that I’ve bored you with the overwritten details to the experiment, let’s get to the story.

Logline: A young sheep dresses as a wolf to prank his flock, but things turn sour when the real wolves show up.

A bit weak, I know. It’s a work in progress. It has one of the things I hate about most loglines: it reads like an advert. I have a better written one somewhere in my notes. I’ll post it later and take this bit out.
This is the second time I’ve approached a story that is intended for children. It’s not my usual target audience, so we’ll see where this goes.