Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Joy Of Page Count

Yesterday I wrote 5 pages. That’s my quota. My goal. I can write more pages than that, but if I manage to turn out 5 pages every day, six days a week, I am a script machine.

The day before yesterday, I wrote 5 pages.

The day before that I wrote 5 pages.

The day before that... well, it was just too damned hot to do anything. In fact, there were a few days where I did almost nothing.

Now, I am a human being. I would rather goof off than actually have to do something. Work is a four letter word (and I have seen the David Warner movie). Given the choice between working and spending the day in a cinema watching awful movies? Get me some Red Vines and a Sprite! Sitting around the (air conditioned) house watching a stack of DVDs? Sounds great! I’m an addict, and I have a huge stack of of DVDs I bought and haven’t seen, yet. Probably *months* of unwatched DVDs. I’d better put off work and watch some of them!

But when I get into the groove and start turning out pages, not only do I have that great feeling of accomplishment, I realize how much I really love writing. My problem is inertia. It’s tough to get started, but once I get going, I get going. When I’m working on an assignment, I *have to* turn out pages - and I can do my 5 a day and turn out a pretty good first draft in a month. I can also adjust my quota for really crazy deadlines if someone needs a script in 2 weeks. I’m good with deadlines.

But specs? Well, no deadline, no producer waiting for the draft, no pressure. Inertia can take control. I’d rather watch a DVD, I’d rather go online and argue with someone. I’d rather read other people’s blogs. It’s hard for me to get started. I’m like a car that needs to be push started... and how the hell do you push start the car *and* sit in the driver’s seat? Easier just to pop in a DVD.

But once I get going, like I have been, I realize how much I really love writing screenplays. The spec I’m working on, SLEEPER AGENT, is an action script. My theory on this one is to Always Be Moving. After a couple of set up scenes, there will not be any scenes that are not moving. You know those scenes where people are sitting somewhere having a conversation? Not in this script. If people are talking, either they will be running or in a speeding vehicle. And the more they talk, the faster the vehicle.

So, yesterday I had a talk scene... on a speeding hydrofoil ferry going 42 knots. This was a “catch your breath scene” after some action, but even on the speeding ferry I wanted to have something else happening... so I added some suspense. Now, the joy for me was figuring out what little things happened in the scene - I already knew what the big things would be (the conversation). Creating the details - not just the way the characters say what they say, but the suspense “scene subplot” and the cool way a suddenly violent fight scene turned out (I came up with a weird shock moment that actually gives us a bunch of information about the villains - and the *how* was created on the spot and was exciting to write)... but my favorite thing I came up with yesterday was the very end of the sequence - which left our heroes alone with a pair of crying Greek girls. You know when you come up with a little moment that turns an okay scene into a much better scene?

I love that stuff. I love writing that stuff. I love when some little thing that I wrote that had no meaning suddenly has a meaning. You create something that seems too good for you to have come up with. It’s like God, or maybe Steve Zaillian, was working through you. It’s that amazing moment of creation where a scene comes alive, or a moment seems real, or a scene has some original element and you have no idea where it came from... and you realize you are a freakin’ writer after all. That all of those days where you sat around avoiding writing were a huge mistake, because when you’re really in the groove, writing is *fun*. Writing is cool.

And the pages keep piling up, and you realize you will have a NEW finished screenplay in just a few weeks. A new baby.

Hey, this is why I go through all of the crap that comes with this job... I really like writing.

- Bill

9 comments:

Ingrid said...

This is such a recognizable post! Putting off writing is too easy indeed when things like the cinema seem such tempting alternatives. The internet is another popular time waster. But you are right, once you get to the point where you are actually writing, and things start to appear on paper - it's better than icecream. Which reminds me, I better get started on my 5 pages.

mernitman said...

Hey Bill: 5 pages a day is GREAT.
Meanwhile, a query -- my journalist girlfriend is looking for a horror genre maven who might have insights into the work of Larry Fessenden (WENDIGO etc.) -- any suggestions?

Christian M. Howell said...

Isn't that such a great feeling. That's why I write. I love building sequences that grow as you write. I long to be in the position to not have a day job.

Kick starting after a long day is hard. Sometimes I get to write at work when I'm not learning from folks like you but lately things have been hectic.

I'm at two pages for today on a new crime short and I hope to get a few on a fantasy comedy. That has given me some moments.

Keep writing as writing is the revealing of the soul.

crossword said...

inertia...

so true... :(

Iain Gibson said...

I think I've agreed with you on the whole inertia thing in the past, which is why spending two hours every day commuting works perfectly for me - no TV, no video games, only me, my notebook and my pen.

And on the loving writing thing, when it's working for me I get as wrapped up in my own worlds as I do when I'm reading a good novel. There are times I can't wait to write so that I can find out what happens next (even though I've already got the main story points planned). It baffles me that there are writers who complain about how painful writing can be because I just don't get that.

Anonymous said...

The Brethren all agree: writing and writing good is the only relief from the tedium of existence. I've been stuck in Limbo for about a year, unable to concentrate enough to write anything more than an occasional note, and it's wearing me down. Soon, we complete a major move (to Martha's Vineyard from NJ) and then, I hope, I can write again.
-ObiDon

The Moviequill said...

to quote my friend Matt "writers write" it really is in the blood eh? watch out for vampires

English Dave said...

love that stuff. I love writing that stuff. I love when some little thing that I wrote that had no meaning suddenly has a meaning. You create something that seems too good for you to have come up with. It’s like God, or maybe Steve Zaillian, was working through you. It’s that amazing moment of creation where a scene comes alive, or a moment seems real, or a scene has some original element and you have no idea where it came from... and you realize you are a freakin’ writer after all.



Best. Post. Ever.

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