Saturday, January 10, 2009

Writing bits and bobs

So I've been wrestling with a new draft of something (not the secret spec, it's a TV script for a new in-development show), and there came a point where I thought it was going to defeat me. It had a major change of location, which meant lots of scenes and plot stuff didn't quite make sense anymore, but still needed to be there, in some form. So I had to rewrite, figuring out what I could keep, what had to change, what had to vanish, and what had to be added. When I got to page 16, it suddenly started getting out of control. Scenes had to be relocated, both in the story, and on the page. Some scenes had to be split in two and put in separate places. Some needed to be combined, but moved to a different day. I was losing track of where I was, my mind was stuck in the old version, and it was falling apart. So I immediately put it off for several days and faffed around on the web. As you do.

Getting back into it, there was no magic solution - I just had to keep going, slogging through it, making shitloads of notes to keep track of everything. Sometimes, it comes down to an endurance run, and you have to suck it up and keep going. As you know from the previous post, I keep my TextEdit notes open next to the screenwriting software. On this occasion, I had the notes open, with a skeletal new outline to keep track of the new plot line, and a separate file open with all the characters, who they are, where they are, and what they do. Here's a screenshot, to demonstrate my full use of screen space:

From left to right: script, outline notes, character notes. Text is blurred to keep my dirty secrets. Some characters had to change, due to the new location. Some were dropped. Some became completely different people. But the overall plot had to stay the same. Probably would have been easier to just start writing from scratch, but everyone liked the old draft, and I didn't want to lose all the good work I'd one. So I fought through it. And finally, today, on page 37, I'm past the worst of it. I have beaten it, and know where I am, what's going on, and the finish line is in sight. Beat you, you fucker. Days like this, after wrestling with something, you feel like you can do anything.

Yesterday, while trying to figure out what I was up to, I was chatting to Jo on iChat. She suggested a new location for the story, to help out: "what about if it was a space school, with ghosts and vampires? and a friendly monkey called 'vagina'?" We agreed that he'd be a gentleman monkey - a gentlemonkey - who wears a monocle and a top hat. He solves crimes, and helps people out when they are upset. Obviously, things swiftly descended into the gutter:

Jo: and sometimes, he can't help wanking a little bit when he gets too excited about solving things
Me: don't we all?
Jo: of course. in a way, we're all vagina the gentlemonkey

And just in case you have rationalised any of this: we were on iChat in the same house together. In the same room. We were tired, and silly.

I'm delighted to see that the long awaited, unfinished novel by Jack Torrance has finally been published. See for yourself what all the fuss is about, and wonder what might have been if he'd had a chance to complete it.

While I'm doing funny links, check out this sneak peek at the new version of Windows.

Next post: Gallifrey report! From Feb 2008. Yes, I know. Shut up.


Anonymous said...

I take it this is the script you were beating to death into the floor. Surprised the poor thing is still breathing. So do you send that script off to whoever or will you go over it again before you do?

Nice use of screen space there. I've only ever managed two windows - the story/script/main piece and whatever notes on the other, and I'm working with a wide screen computer. I think you deserve an award for that screen space use. So, three documents onscreen and one on the desk?

As for iChat - the same house is fine, but the same room? Really? I thought me and my partner were bad... no, wait. We've chatted on MSN sitting on the bed next to each other. Okay, I can't really say anything.

Can't wait for the Gallifrey report. Better late then never.

Good Dog said...

If you get a chance, watch The Amazing Screw-on Head. That has a very naughty monkey with a Tommy gun in it. Not gentlemanly at all, but a darn good laugh.

rob said...

Interesting, I usually have my script and breakdown sharing screen space but thought I was being a bit odd. Good to see I'm not the only one.

Why do I want the Jack Torrance book so much?

0tralala said...

There's an episode of SpongeBob in which Sandy the Squirrel's employers turn up to check over the scientific research they've been paying for.

They are top-hatted, overly British chimpanzees, voiced by - who else? - the Young Ones.

Jon Peacey said...

I just do all the notes on paper, type them up, print, write over the print-out; type up, etc. Clumsy and old-fashioned but I do always have a paper copy of the latest drafts. (And a house full of paper.)

And that new sneak peek at new version of Windows is so accurate.

Dim said...

Heh heh heh! Congrats on Fucking the Monster. Writing is HARD (I know 'cos a read a book about it and Russell T Someone or other said it was...)
Oh, and thanks for the mental imagery of a wanking monkey coupled with a new website to waste more time in. I shall dedicate the work I'll never finish to you, sir.

Stevie From The TV said...

Wowser! Ever tried writing comedy?

Salina said...

If you get the Gally post out before this Feb. I will buy you a drink.

(word verification: brizere- a bra for cheese)

Dozeymagz said...

Yay! Show that pesky scripty blighter just who's in charge!

Doesn't everyone IM their partners from sofa to sofa? Hmmm - come to think of it, I haven't actually spoken to Hubby for ages...

Just a few more years and Evolution will sort it all out - get rid of the vocal chords and grow a few extra typing fingers! Huzzah!

Lee said...

Pah, you people with your partners. I have two computers, but only one of me, so I use them to IM myself.

James Moran said...

Clarrisani: I'll go over it again, and then see what Bruce the Shark, er, I mean my agent, makes of it. It'll go out when he thinks it's ready, he's firm but fair. Yep, three docs on screen, one on the desk. I'm like a contortionist or something.

GoodDog: I like it already, purely from that description...

Rob: You want it because it feels right. I think I'm going to get one.

Steve: Nope, but probably wrote some unintentionally in various first drafts.

Salina: PWNED! I claim my drink!

Lee: Stop that, you'll go blind.

Nicole said...

Three windows open on one screen, impressive. I would have printed it all out and cut things up and rearranged them. Then typed it up.

I've talked on AIM at the same time with people in the same room. My co-workers and I do it all the time if there is a co-worker that is being obnoxiously loud.

Isobel L said...

"So I immediately put it off for several days and faffed around on the web. As you do." I loved this line. I am faffing around on your blog at this moment. But this observation might just be enough to send me back to my rewrites... Cheers!