Writing Progress Wednesday: Turning Old Drafts Into a New Screenplay, Part One: Bits and Pieces

Lately I’ve been going through some drafts of some older work, including all of the bits and pieces. By that I mean I have several drafts that sometimes didn’t even make it past one page, and if they did, they sort of meander and peter off. I always thought that I would someday go back to each and every one of them to finally “finish” the story. After years of improving my writing (I hope) I went back to these files and came to one overall conclusion: they’re shit. Some of them are less shit than others, but aside from some general ideas of plot and so on, the writing is shit. So, does it mean that it’s time to let them go, to abandon these stories (if you can even call them that) and move on with my life?

Oh, if it was only that easy. But I can’t let anything go. Still, I can’t really do much with these drafts as they are. There may be a few passages that are worthy of inclusion into something else, but nothing to build off of by themselves. There’s some interesting plot or character ideas. Some of them even might work together in one larger piece. What to do? Well, why not a new screenplay?

I know, I know: I have a tendency to complete a first draft and before I can progress with it I start a new one, leaving the other one to dust. I’m not abandoning the latest screenplay. I’m just waiting for some feedback from other people on it. And of course, I’ll return to edit it while I wait for them. But there’s nothing wrong with starting a new writing project, even if the sole purpose of that project is to keep myself busy writing. I can’t spend all my writing time on this blog.

I pulled some ideas from various drafts that I would classify under the “bits and pieces” description above. Do any of them work coherently together? Therein lies the beauty of this project: none of the bits and pieces work coherently within themselves. I’m going to experiment with the surreal here. Besides, there’s plenty of room to maneuver. When I write an outline for a screenplay or novel, I typically have thirty plot points to work with. I have less than half of that with these drafts. I left some out that I may want to include, but they won’t bring the total up that much. I can certainly invent a thread to run though the whole story.

If this doesn’t work, that’s fine, too. Not every experiment produces desirable results. At the same time, if it doesn’t work now I could probably get it to work in a few years. It’s not mean to be my next big screenplay project—unless it turns out so well that I have to see it through. I’m not shooting for that goal. This time, the writing of the piece is the reward in of itself.

There are other drafts in my “Fiction” folder that I may want to work into screenplays as well. This time I’m referring to completed short stories and even early drafts of novels. I decided to split this topic into two blog posts, with the more realized works being the focus of the second post.


Writing Progress Thursday: Computer woes.

I thought that yesterday I was going to have at least something to report in regards to converting my old MS Works files into Rich Text format so I could review them in Final Draft. For reasons that I’d rather not go into I didn’t get around to that project yesterday. No big deal, I thought. I’ll just get to that project today instead. I slacked off a little and got around to starting a little late this evening but that’s fine, I can get something done. I’m not sure if the power supply for my new computer is compatible with the old one, but somehow I’ll turn the old computer on, open up Works, and start converting these files on my USB drive.

I can’t find the damn computer. I cleaned out this apartment of a lot of stuff so there’s not a lot of places for it to hide on me. But I must have stuck in a box and packed it in the attic. I’m not going through that minefield this late in the day. If I want to go that route I’ll try again tomorrow.

But I do have the MS Works disc that came with one of my older computers. Surely I can install that on this new one without any legal implications, right? I must have the right to make a copy for “archival” purposes. I’ll just count that as the copy that’s on whichever old computer that came with. I have one laptop that’s pretty much dead, and it might have been on that one. So I’m home-free, right?

Probably, as far as legal problems are concerned, but it’s going to take a while to set that program work, as long as Vista will operate it anyway. Even then, I might have to wait forever for updates to install afterwards. And it really is getting too late in the day for me to start something like that now.

Tomorrow I’ll do this. I really want to be able to access these files. I wrote them, damn it. I might have been lazy the past few months but I want to be able to access my creations, even if I’m not going to touch them again. I had the crazy idea to take all of my old stories, no matter how bad, and use them as inspirations for new screenplay outlines. Even if this new screenplay that I wrote doesn’t go anywhere I’ll have others to write. But damn it, I have to access the files first. I’m also anxiously waiting to hear feedback from the people that agreed to help me. Hell, all of this is taking so long that maybe it’s enough of a break for me to go back to the script with a fresh perspective of my own. My first run-through with a red pen wasn’t as critical as it probably should be.

I have a busy weekend ahead but I have at least tomorrow night to get started on the files. Is my subconscious purposefully coming up with setbacks to keep me from finishing anything?

Writing Progress: Thinking about peer review on my screenplay.

I finished this stage of the revision process where I took the notes I made and changed the screenplay accordingly in Final Draft. Now it’s time I seek out peer review. It may seem like it’s too soon to have other people look at it. I only wrote one draft and then made some changes and corrections based on some notes that I made. But if one counts the outline that I made before writing the screenplay, one could argue that I already wrote the second draft. Either that, or I have no clue what I’m doing. Either way, it’s time I look for outside help.

Yet I don’t want to let just anybody look at it. I don’t want to submit my complete script to strangers for fear that they could steal it. Maybe that’s something I should just get over and take my chances. I also had the idea that if I could get interest from people online, perhaps I could pass out different sections to different people. The only problem then is that I would get different types of feedback that could conflict. That would be a good idea if each person responded to complete scripts, but it could get confusing when it comes to different parts.

I also don’t want to pass it to all of my friends. I’ve had bad luck with getting feedback that way. Even when they do make it all the way through I usually only get “I liked it” as feedback. That certainly feeds my ego but I want to take this thing more seriously and get constructive feedback. I have a couple of writer friends, one of which already said she’d be willing to look at what I’ve got. I e-mailed her, so now I’m just waiting to hear back. I helped review another friend’s work before, so maybe he would return the favor. He might do that already, though. I hope so. I don’t want to play that card, considering I only spell and grammar checked a short story of his. I have a whole screenplay this time.

At what point do I get an agent? Or should I bother? I know it would help selling the screenplay, but would the agent help with proofreading? For that matter, when it comes to paying other people for this, are there people that would be willing to do this for money, and do nothing else with this? I would hope that there was some sort of contract that they would have to sign to protect me from plagiarism.

Or I could just be thinking this all through too much, based on a combination of paranoia and desire to fulfill my daily word count on this blog. That’s certainly part of it. But I still have to ask myself these questions. I’m unsure of myself as a writer sometimes, and sometimes it feels like it might be too late in what should be my writing career for me to not go into this cautiously.

Writing Progress Wednesday: Editing early in the morning.

I got very little sleep last night. No, it had nothing to do with the election—I had left the heat in my apartment on too high and it woke me up around three-thirty. I got up at four as a result, an hour and a half earlier than usual. Why is this my lead for this week’s writing update? I managed to get quite a few edits in with my screenplay before work. Even though I had less sleep I was more productive than I usually am. Maybe it had something to do with the promise to myself to have some leisure time after getting home. I also recently listened to a podcast where a writer talked about a study that suggests we’re more productive when we wake up. Either way, I’m back to making progress on this thing.

I’m still making notes on a printout with a red pen. My next step is to not only make changes based on those notes but to do a little bit of research here and there to address some of the potential mistakes I have made. After that I’m going to have to open this screenplay up to peer review.

This is where I might not make it as far as getting the screenplay ready to shop around by the end of the year. But if it’s because I genuinely miscalculated the time it would take to get help from others, I would gladly accept that mistake instead of laziness hold me back a few times. The latter issue probably had something to do with it, but the former makes me feel better.

I have had bad luck with getting friends to review my work. I have one friend that I reconnected with recently who’s a published writer, so she might be better at it than my usual experience of people saying “Yeah, I liked it” and very little, if anything, more. I also need to get over my social awkwardness and perhaps join a group for screenwriters to share their work. It’s not my first script but my first in over a decade, and I’m not sure it’s good enough to share with others. But I’ll probably feel that way no matter what.

Once I have it ready, then what? I know, there’s plenty of published material out there regarding what to do with a finished screenplay. But I’ve always pushed that to the back of my mind, telling myself that I’ll look into it when the time comes. I’m sure the business is different than when I took screenwriting in college. But I should start looking into what I’m supposed to do with a finished script. Do I still need to join the Writers Guild of America in order to sell it to a studio? Do I still need to sell a script to join the Writers Guild of America? For that matter, should I try to join Writers Guild of America West so I could try to sell to Hollywood, or do I join Writers Guild of America East because I live on the east coast, or both?

I’ll probably need to get an agent first. Not only do they help sell work one might be able to help me with all of my questions. For now, I think I will focus on the work first after all.

Writing progress: new story while I’m revising the screenplay.

Between fatigue from work and Halloween festivities, I didn’t get much of a chance to work on my screenplay. I made a few edits but nothing really to report about. However, I still wanted to write a blog post with some sort of writing progress this week. Plus, whenever I get deep into editing something I miss “actual writing.” In other words, I want the magic of working on a rough draft again. No, I’m not abandoning the screenplay. I like to think that I haven’t abandoned any of my other writing projects by starting new ones instead of editing them. I really set out this evening writing a new draft of something as more of a writing exercise than anything else. Besides, I wanted to see how the other templates in Final Draft worked.

I ended up with the beginning of a vampire story. And then it hit me. I got stuck on what to write for Friday night blog posts. Why not Fiction Friday? So from now on I’m going to work on this story until it’s done. Or, I’ll abandon it if it’s not going well. After all, it’s only a writing exercise while I’m working on other things. If it turns into something else, that’s great. But either way, I figured that I’ll share what I have.

Yes, I know it’s not Friday. That’s why the first one is going to be part two. Because I’m annoying like that.  Quick note on the formatting: I didn’t bother setting up indents or anything so far. I think I picked the wrong template for that. I’m still trying to figure out this software. But for now, you’ll just have to deal with the weird looking paragraphs.

The first thing I remember upon my Reawakening was the light in front of my eyes. It looked distant and couldn’t maintain a consistent shape. The next thing was a constant, almost deafening rumbling coming from every direction. The sound entered not only my ears but spread throughout my entire body. It’s as if I could feel the sound. It was then I noticed that there movement all around me. After a few moments my brain became able to connect the motion I felt with that of the sound and the light. I finally realized that I was underwater.
Something in the back of my mind told me that this was wrong. I shouldn’t be there. But I felt no discomfort. There was something quite relaxing about the whole ordeal. But then that voice in my head grew louder, telling me that I shouldn’t be able to live in this state. I couldn’t figure out why. Aside from a slight stinging sensation in my neck, it felt quite pleasant underwater. It was as if the water embraced me, like a lover holding me close.
I should need to breathe, the voice said.
What is breathe?
Then the motion all came back to me. I felt a moment of panic as I somehow realized that the water would prevent me from breathing. But it finally occurred to me that I felt no need to breathe. I tried opening my mouth to see what would happen. Water rushed in, but nothing else happened. I knew that the water entering my body in such an amount should cause a problem for me, yet I felt no such pain. I did, however, notice that despite the pleasant feeling of the water around me, it tasted horrid. I needed to get it out of my mouth. I felt that I knew that the light was likely outside of the water, so I had to make my way for it. I held out my hands toward it. They remained underwater. The light was still some distance ahead. I managed to make my way onto my feet, constantly keeping my eyes on that light. I reached up again. My hands now just barely got out of the water. I felt a coldness of the air. Something about it also felt comforting. The voice in my head told me again that it should feel wrong. I chose to ignore this voice and make my way out of the water. But how?
I remembered how to jump. But the water slowed my body down so much I didn’t think that I would be able to jump from the ground. Alas, I was still able to push my self up a ways. It was still not far enough, however, and in my frustration I wiggled my legs about. I discovered that this kept me in place for a moment. Suddenly a rush of memory of maneuvering in the water came back to me. I didn’t remember any particular moments of swimming in my past life, but I suddenly recalled the knowledge of how to move my legs to propel myself upward. Finally I got my head above water.
I spit the water out of my mouth and looked around me. It was still pretty dark but I could make out that there was a large wooden structure beside me, with a ladder going down the side of it. I looked up and saw that the light was on a post sticking out from the top of the structure. I decided to make my way towards that light still, hoping that I could get a should of my bearings and my situation. More and more knowledge of the ways of the world were coming back to me, no longer a mere voice in the back of my head. Yet I still could remember no specific details about my past life.
I grabbed hold of the ladder and made my way up. I swung my legs over the railing and stood underneath the lamp post. Looking around, I found that I was on a sidewalk on the side of some town or small city, with docks protruding from the structure every dozen yards or so. There was nobody else around that I could see, for which I felt relieved. I didn’t know how strange I appeared at that moment. I didn’t want to attract unwanted attention.
I looked down at myself. My clothes were dark and damp from the water, but I could tell that I wasn’t down there for too long from the lack of decay. My jeans clung to my legs rather uncomfortably, and the water in my boots made it quite difficult to walk. My t-shirt also clung to my body but didn’t feel quite so bad. Still, I noticed a tear down the side of it. A flash entered my mind just then, a memory of some sort of struggle with another being, but nothing more. In an instant the memory was gone. I suddenly had knowledge of the event, albeit very little, but could not conjure up the image in my mind anymore.
I shook my head quickly as if to shake the thought out of my mind. My long hair brushed against my neck, reminding me of the stinging sensation there. I held my hand to my neck and could cause discomfort but when I looked at my fingertips there was nothing. It could be that if I had bled there the water washed the blood away and I had time to heal before I regained consciousness (or, as I would come to think of it later, gained my new consciousness).
There were several buildings across the wooden walkway so I made my way to one closest to the lamppost in order to see my reflection. It was rather dim and I could just barely make out my own face. Still, I managed to get a good angle to look at the spot on my neck where I had indeed cut myself somehow. I saw two small pricks in my skin about an inch or so apart. Another flash of memory came and went about as quickly as the first. It seemed to me that something may have bit me. Could a dog have attacked me, causing me to lose control and fall into the water?
As I contemplated what could have happened I heard a slow creaking noise to my right. A door opened a few buildings down. A man stepped out, turned around, and locked the door behind him. He looked up at me and considered me for a moment. He looked me up and down as I was an odd sight for anyone to see. However, he seemed to give my state little consideration as he soon smiled and nodded. I returned the gesture and he turned back to the door. He removed his key and started walking away from me.
It was then that I started feeling the hunger.

Writing Progress: I started revising my new screenplay.

I once again have to report that I don’t have much to report for a writing progress blog post this week. However, my lack of information isn’t because I’ve been lazy or too busy (or saying that I’m too busy to mask my laziness… but when does that ever happen?). I have started the process of revising the screenplay. As a result I just really don’t have anything to say about what I’ve been doing. I made some notes in red on a printout. There—that’s about it.

Final Draft probably has a better, more ecological method than me using paper to work on but as I got the paper for free when a former employer went out of business I won’t worry too much about it. Besides, there’s one point in the third act that an entire section of writing got copied and pasted in a weird place, and for whatever reason I couldn’t figure out what the fix is. I’m hoping that by looking at it on a printed page in front of me I’ll be able to figure it out. I may even have to spread multiple pages out onto my dining-room table to see it more coherently.

That, and having a binder and red pen at a coffee shop just somehow makes me feel more scholarly. I don’t think anybody else in the room picked up on it but if it somehow feeds my ego and gives me more confidence, can it really be counted as a total loss?

I have noticed that in some cases the scene descriptions include too much exposition, so I had to do some cutting. I also think I need to spell out exactly what characters are in a scene right from the beginning of that scene. I just noticed a moment when I described a bunch of “GUESTS” gathering in the main hall of one of the character’s mansion, only to name them throughout the scene right before they have any dialogue. I have to remember that a screenplay isn’t just a work of writing but a set of instructions as well.

There’s one potential problem in the story that I have to research and possibly fix. It isn’t a major issue but it’s one that’s going to bug me if I don’t look into it. The mansion where the bulk of the story takes place is in Maine, and clearly in the northern part of the state. However, the main characters are on their way from Boston to a ski lodge for a week’s vacation when they have to stop during a blizzard. My problem is that I’ve been throughout most of this state, at least as far as the roads will go, and I think this might be wrong. The location that I have in mind takes place north of any of the mountains that I know of in Maine, and subsequently and ski lodges. Putting the story south of those mountains may not make any sense, either as I don’t think those wide stretches of road with one or two houses that I’m thinking of don’t exist (at least, not with the characters’ excuse that they can’t make it to the next town over in time). So I may have to change the destination to a log cabin or something. It’s a minor fix, but one that I need to address.

As usual with these Writing Progress blog posts, I have a couple of short stories for sale. Links can be found at the top of this page.

Writing Progress: I finished the first draft of my screenplay.

I know, my update is a day late. But isn’t this a good point to post an update, seeing as I finished the first draft of my screenplay today? It’s amazing what taking a few days off from work will accomplish. I think I am going to take a guilt-free break for the rest of the time off before I start working on revisions.

Alas, that’s the part that always seems to be my weakness. I have this nasty habit of starting the next project when I should be revising the next one. I am pleased that I managed to revise the two short stories I have for sale on Amazon (links at the top of the page) but I have numerous other ones sitting on USB sticks that need a lot of work. That’s not to mention a couple of novels that I need to revisit at some point. But I really wanted to push ahead with this screenplay first, as that was the main reason I picked the Media Studies major in college in the first place.

Like I said before, I want to have something that I feel comfortable submitting by the end of the year. I suppose I won’t always feel totally comfortable with whatever I have, but I guess the idea would be “good enough to show others.” I also need to figure out how to get into the screenwriters guild so I can even get the film made, should any studio like my script. For that matter, I should start looking into agents. (It’s just as well, then, that I wait until next year to actually shop the thing around, for financial reasons alone.)

I don’t know when exactly I’m going to shop the screenplay around next year. It would be nice to say that I will start right as soon as I have something ready. But I still want to take part in the RPM Challenge in February. It’s not like I have a deadline to meet. I can wait a little bit longer.

As I wrote quite a bit before starting this blog post today I think I’m just going to cut it short. Time to relax for the rest of the day, I think.