Script Frenzy Aftermath — Things I learned about myself.

May 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

Script Frenzy is over. And I have a finished “script”. How do I feel? Modestly content. There is more work to be done for this baby of mine. It’s a little on the Frankenstein side but I’m sure it will go on a rampage soon enough.

What’s more important is not the finished product. Hell, it’s barely considered a first draft. I rather refer to it as “The Vomit Draft” or “The Shit Draft” or even “A Verbal Diarrhea Delight” (something an estranged relative would find pleasing). If bodily fluids or scatological imagery is too much, I guess you can call it: “The Terrible Draft”.

Here are five things I learned about myself after Script Frenzy:

One.

All it takes is three to four pages a day and you’ll finish a script within 30 days. So having a strict writing routine is essential to keep this habit alive. I found having a visual reminder is great for “seeing” your progress and keeping motivated. You can make a spreadsheet to input your daily quota (pages for screenplays or word count for novels) and from there have a graph to see your writing trend. Or take Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret as another idea: http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret.

Two.

I figured out the best time to write is around four or five in the morning. And by best, I mean when everything seems perfect: ambiance, writing flow, and mental concentration. I discovered it when I stayed up all night or woke up early.

At first it felt odd to feel good to write during this time. Then I loaned a book from the public library called “Ask the Pros: Screenwriting” and read the section called “Talk about your daily writing schedule” (p. 34). What did I find out? Yes, I know everyone has a different schedule. That’s a given. But the interesting thing was a lot of these screenwriters enjoyed starting their day early (4 A.M., 5 A.M., 6 A.M., 7:30 A.M., 8 A.M., 10 A.M., etc.).Then there are others who are unsure of a schedule and wrote whenever possible. But, most of the time, a strict regiment was something to strive for.

Here’s a side video from TED Talks that asks the question: Is 4 a.m. the new midnight?

I also remember watching an interview with Sheldon Turner from The Dialogue series. He explains how he wakes up at 3:57 A.M. (he says it’s something to do with being pretentious and the gun) (he also sleeps around midnight) and writes for an hour. After that he’ll work out for an hour and half or two hours. This schedule was the result of his self-loathing and his motivation by guilt and fear. He also explains that he’ll wake up at 3:57 A.M. or he’ll wake up at 1 P.M..

Three.

I need to modified and refine my current writing process with some minimal outline/step sheet/beat sheet. I’m an instinctive or stream-of-consciousness writer. I also got some decent touch-typing skills that let me go balls to the wall fast. The only problem with this style is that you can easily paint yourself in a corner and get stuck for a bit.

For the first eleven days I managed to muscle approximately 50 pages with three off days here and there. But after that I started to have some brain farts that slowed things down. Slowing down equaled to other problems like reflection periods that sprouted self-doubts. Or going back to rewrite previous sections that ended up slowing things further because it was very easy to get obsessed with the words.

To fix this I reminded myself of this quote that I often share to writer friends:

“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” — Stephen King

(source: http://www.productivegrad.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/stephenking.jpg)

A trick I sometimes used to push forward was called the POMODORO TECHNIQUE. Basically you set a timer for 25 minutes and write until the timer goes off. Then you take a five minute break. Repeat three more times and after the fourth session, take a longer break. The best way to do this is by using a kitchen timer but I sometimes use the timer on my phone or a program called Focus Booster from: http://www.focusboosterapp.com/.

For the next project, I’m going to try and physically writing down an outline. Not a detail one but have the main spine or skeleton planned out. My instincts and internal pre-planning has helped me over the years but I fear the day that it will fail me completely. Therefore, I need a better process that can help me produce more complete drafts consistently.

Four.

Tread carefully during the period of writing out the first complete draft. The process is delicate and depending how sensitive you are to criticism, best not to reveal too many cards to people. Premature criticism can really hurt you and sometimes feel discouraging.

Five.

Doing some quick exercises before a writing session can help a lot. Things like dumbbell/kettle bell swings or performing some burpees (the perfect prison workout). Or even going out for a long walk.

BURPEES! F*CK YEAH!

Now for some final thoughts before I end this post.

Are your eyeballs dried out yet?

First another quote that sums up my goal for every time I have a new goal involving writing (again from Mr. King):

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”— Stephen King

Since I’m not making shorts any time soon (or so I think), I’m going to focus more on my screenplay output and writing speed to practice the format. With some discipline, I think I can push out a script in 20 to 30 days and have like a week or two in between to prepare the next one. Taking a lesson from Sheldon Turner again, I’m going to focus more on output rather than editing. He finished twelve screenplays before he was comfortable showing people his thirteenth. The more I write in the screenplay format, the better I will get use to it.

If only…

To supplement this, I would need to read more screenplays too. Or I guess reading in general. Turner has a reading habit of five newspapers a day, a book a week, and a script a day (if that’s too much, there is also this interesting system from one of my favourite sites on screenwriting, Go Into The Story: http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2012/01/1-2-7-14.html).

I’ll probably not do exactly what Sheldon Turner does but I’ll definitely try to finish novels faster and continue with reading online articles.

I know scripts are getting tough to find these days (take for instance what happened to my favourite hot spot: http://www.mypdfscripts.com/concerning-mediafire-and-the-current-lack-of-scripts/), but read whatever you can get your hands on. Understand the language and see what works and doesn’t work.

You have reached the end of this post. Thanks for reading and stay lovely as always.

Cheers.

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