A Few Rewriting Tips

EditingIn a recent post, I mentioned the brain dead side effect of rewriting.  I am happy to relay that I have at least kept up the momentum, for a whole three days now.  My goal is 15 pgs. a day and I have made it to page 50 in my script, but I am nearing the corner towards that dastardly Act III, so the ambitious page count may falter in the coming days.  And of course, I’ve had another idea for the third act.  Maybe I should write a novel, then I could use all the story ideas I’ve had and propose them as “if you turned left instead of right, this could’ve happened” story lines.

I went to film school, but many of the tools I have learned for screenwriting have come from my own research and interest in bettering my writing; books, articles, and teleconferences.  If you’ve read some of my other posts in regards to the differences between screenwriting and novel writing, you’ll understand what a different mindset screenwriting requires, but I’m not going to go into those details here.  This one is meant for rewriting.

I thought I’d share a few tips, some good ones, or those that I think are good because I found they made the biggest direct impact.  These tips are more inclined for screenwriters, but some of them should be helpful to writers of all forms.  Most of us know about cutting scenes that don’t move story, creating subtext in dialogue, and making sure there’s conflict, etc. but here are a few others I’ve been keeping in mind during this final (please let this be my final) rewrite.  Also, thanks to irscriptwriter who encouraged me to stick with my two spaces after a period rule because it was causing aneurysms. 🙂

1. Wordsmithing – more meaning with fewer words.  For screenwriters this is key as a page count limits us.  It also means to take generic words like “walks” and replace it with saunters, struts, or lumbers which immediately gives the reader a visual and negates further description.

2.  Imagine the location or setting and try to describe it in three vivid and evocative terms.  Do the same with your characters.  As with wordsmithing, the right word can have multiple meanings, and immediately stir the reader’s imagination.

3.  Make the script fun to read.  Screenplays have a specific format, but you can build momentum and action by the style on the page.  We create the story and how the reader will follow it, so in that we have freedom.  There’s also an unspoken rule of making blocks of action only four lines a piece so the reader doesn’t skip through larger blocks of text, just FYI.

4.  Make it a silent film.  Read only the action.  Would a reader still understand what’s happening?  This helps solve the “talking head” problem where exposition is given via dialogue.

I have pages upon pages of rewriting tips, so if anyone is interested in more, I will share them in another post.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Open to Suggestion

Hi all!

suggestion_box_icon

I am calling on my fellow bloggers – Who or what blogs do you recommend?  Offer up to me some of your favorite writing, screenwriting, geek culture, sci-fi/fantasy, history, something for an Anglophile, or anything that piques your interest blogs…I am open to suggestion.

Feel free to promote yourself! 😉

Thanks!
xx, Rach

A Writer’s Life

EditingVictory!  Last night I had a small breakthrough on the rewrite, and I am starting to fall in love again.  I know I’m not alone in feeling a little love loss when a story you’ve poured yourself into stops loving you back; the hours invested, the sleep lost, the tears, the borderline mental breakdown…I’ve complained about this one long enough, and I don’t like the feeling that a story and characters that once brought me such pleasure could turn out to be the bane of my current writing existence, especially when people, whose opinion I trust, tell me how much they like the story.  It makes me wonder if I’m thinking too much, trying too hard, or am afraid?

I know for a fact that I think too much.  I over-think everything.  But as writers, we all want our stories to be the best they can be.  So trying to think of every possible story thread or outcome is just part of the trade.  Wondering about every facet of the story is just what we do.  And I know I have to get out of my head, more often than I do.

As for trying too hard in relation to my writing, I don’t think such a thing exists.  In regards to becoming a writer, is there any other way?  I’m a new writer, and a woman, trying to make it in Hollywood, so what else am I going to do?  The Writers Guild recently released this article about the state of women in the industry, and it’s a little bleak.  In an already tough business, the uphill battle just got a little rockier it seems.  I need my stories to be compelling.  I want them to be recognized for what they are.  And I want the fact that I’m a woman to be irrelevant when looking at my scripts, although it will be clearly evident because I’m a bit of a feminist and I write for women primarily, but you know what I mean.  I am trying too hard because I want to succeed.

Then there’s the possibility of fear.  Fear is an enormous detriment to a writer.  If I’m honest, which I will be here, I don’t feel fear in regards to my writing.  I relish the blank page.  It’s an opportunity to create new worlds and escape into adventure.  I don’t fear endings.  Some times, after spending so long with certain characters, it’s hard to say goodbye, but I like the idea of moving forward and creating a body of work.  But there is one thing, the fear of success.  The unknown.  We get comfortable in the daily struggle, the routines we’ve created, and lives we’ve built around this dream.  This may seem strange, but all the years building up to the next stage in the journey makes me nervous at times.  Am I prepared?  I think, not just as writers, but as people, when we dream about something for so long, the idea of actually getting what we want can cause fear.

So, back to the breakthrough.  I decided to take a different approach to my writing and use some of the tools I’ve discovered along the way.  Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat (this is the link to the website and information, but there is a book too) is a great resource for screenwriters, but I think all writers could use some of the techniques to help their story.  Blake designed a checklist, all the components needed in a screenplay.  As my rewrite is an entire perspective shift, I’m changing protagonists, I needed to get into the head of the new lead character.  This is someone I know well, but until I sat down and started writing out her journey, all that time spent in my head was time wasted.  I can think on it all I want, that over-thinking thing I do, but until I sat down and physically worked out the details, I was never going to move forward.

Maybe there was a little fear, actually fear might be the wrong word, perhaps anxiety is better to refer to my feelings about this script and its necessary rewrite.  The love had slowly melted away under the constant scrutiny and struggle to get the third act right.  This is a story I have been working on for a long time, and when I had that light bulb moment to change the perspective, it was almost like I was writing a new story and I was afraid of what it might do to the original idea.  Maybe this is why I’ve been reluctant and dragging my feet to actually attempt the rewrite.  But like I said above, “fear is a detriment”, and I can’t let that hold me back from moving forward.  So, as I sat in my writer’s group last night working out the details, I had a glimmer of the love that drew me to write this story in the first place.  I made a mental decision to look at this new rewrite with a positive attitude, and I think that worked.  As I discussed the idea with a fellow writer later, I felt better and more hopeful with the idea.

So I throw this out to you my fellow writers…what obstacles do you have in your writer’s life?  How do you overcome them?  Or are they what drive you to succeed?

I wish you all the best in your endeavors!

The Business of Rewriting

EditingAs I embark on yet another rewrite, and hopefully the last, on my first screenplay, I’ve been reviewing all the notes I’ve taken on rewriting (from books, articles, webinars) and thought I’d share a few things that should be relevant for all writers.  We’ve all heard it, and I’ve said it a time or two here, that all writing is rewriting.

First off, there should be a distinction made between editing and rewriting.  Editing is working with that final draft to make it great (and ready).  Rewriting is improving each element within your story; characters, dialogue, scenes, using the right words for impact, etc.  According to Dictionary.com – Editing means:

1. to supervise or direct the preparation of (a newspaper, magazine, book, etc.)
2. to collect, prepare, and arrange materials for publication
3. to revise or correct

Whereas Rewriting means:

1. to write in a different form or manner
2. to write again

So we will first rewrite, then edit.  Unless you’re like me, who loves to edit while they write.  Don’t follow my lead.  The first draft should be all the things you hope your story will be.  You should write it from the heart, because the subsequent drafts will be from the head.  The first draft should be free of restrictions, over-thinking, and self-censorship.  You should be carefree and wide-eyed, because it might be the last time you feel that way for the rest of this story.

One of the first lessons I learned in regards to rewriting is to remember “your vision”.  Sometimes while writing our vision gets lost.  Rewriting is the time to get reacquainted with it.  Remember why you wanted to tell this story.  Look for holes, problems with story or structure, forgotten characters (I did this once.  I had a character in the first half of a screenplay who I forgot to use later.  Oh yea, they must have been really interesting.), and logic.  Logic is one of my favorite rewriting techniques, “What would really happen?”  Trying to force a situation to get our characters where we want may make it read false.  How our characters (and people in general) would really respond in any situation is a great way to judge if our story is reading true, and might actually solve some problems we’ve run into.

I primarily write screenplays, so I have a lot of rewriting tips specifically designed for screenwriting which I can share in another post.  I wanted to keep this one a little more broad and offer some sites with helpful tips.  Many I’ve referred to myself.  LitReactor is great.  If you haven’t discovered them yet, take a look.  Use the search bar for editing or rewriting tips and you’ll come across articles like, How To Break Up With Your First DraftWriting Sentences With Impact, or 5 Steps to a Successful Digital Rewrite, in addition to a great many other articles.  The Write Life has articles about 25 Editing Tips, or Write Better Stories By Asking These Questions.  This may be part one in a series, because there is a lot of information out there.

So, if I find anything else, I’ll pass it along.  I hope you’re all having a great and productive week!

It’s Always All About “The Work”

So I (finally) decided to take my own advice and work on something else.  One can only bang their head against the same wall for so long.  In my last blog about rewriting madness, I mentioned how we, as writers, feel guilty when we leave our unfinished beloved behind.  I think for my part, I was just so desperate to make it work, because I wanted it to be ready in time for submission season, that I lost the love.  It was quickly becoming a burden, one that I wanted to relieve my self of, and move on.  But how could I after all the effort I had put into it?  All the time, the worry, the stress, could not be for nothing.  It had to be completed.  And until a few days ago, I couldn’t take my own advice, because of this desperation.  I was so sure it was almost ready.  I couldn’t deny myself the next important step of sending it out for consideration, but that is exactly what I have decided to do.  On Monday night at my writer’s group I felt I had made some progress, by Tuesday I had shelved it.

IdeaLightBulb(jeffbullassite)

I moved on to my fifth script, which is currently in its first draft.  It was refreshing to see these other characters I had created, to visit their world, and remember why I had started this story to begin with.  Ideas were coming easily and I was happy with the progress.  Then it happened…I had an idea for the script I’ve been struggling with.  Literally, only three days had passed.  I wasn’t even writing when the light bulb flickered.  I was listening in on a teleconference about selling to Hollywood.  An hour or so in, I’m not even sure what was being discussed, it happened.  I wrote it down quickly in case it tried to escape me.  I had a new idea that could possibly change the whole story; tell it from someone else’s perspective.  I can’t believe I hadn’t come up with this before.  We have to know which relationship is the most important, who is the true lead character, and then it seems everything else will fall into place.  Or so I’m theorizing (is that a even a word?) / speculating / hoping.

We have to be diligent, but also know when to take a break.  Trying to force a story to work for our own vanity doesn’t do our story or characters any justice.  I’m thrilled to know my advice evidently works, and maybe I should’ve listened to it earlier, then I wouldn’t have wasted so much time…So here I am at another crossroad, trying to decide whether to let this new idea simmer for a few days and continue on in the other story where I’ve found myself invigorated, or carry on and get the job done…If I am to ever be a professional, I’m guessing that completing the problematic one first might be my best option.  I think I’ll touch base with my writer’s group, spitball, and see how I feel about it after.  I’ll let you know if this works.

I came across this blog post by fellow writer, Myke Cole, and really enjoyed it, because it really is all about the work and our passion for it.  Even when we feel beaten down, it is our passion that carries us forward.

Have a wonderful, passion-filled, productive weekend!

*image from Jeff Bullas’ site

Rewriting Madness

EditingI’m finding that most writers have a hard time moving onto something new when there’s still work to be done on the piece they just completed.  Take me, for example.  I am so determined to get my first script right, that I can’t move onto anything else (I have tried), and what’s worse, more ideas keep popping up for other stories or new ones, so that I feel like my brain is running in every direction possible without really going anywhere, not with any real progress anyway.  I should learn from this, go work on something else, and then maybe the answers I seek would come to me…but I can’t.  I am compelled, driven, possessed…Last night at my writer’s group, we discussed this very topic.  When you’re so close to a piece, it’s hard to gain any perspective.  Sometimes you need  little break.  I’ve written about this before and it was reiterated to me last night.  It’s the “forest through the trees” scenario.  It’s hard to leave something unfinished.  We tend to feel guilty that we aren’t working on it.  Why would we spend all this time without seeing it through to the end?

This particular script has always been my baby (but is quickly becoming the redheaded stepchild – sorry redheads, no offense intended, as I’m sure you’ve noticed my love of ginger boys 😉 ).  The one I thought would do good things.  And yet every pass I make at it makes me feel further away from its original purpose.  This is why it would be a very good idea to separate myself for a little while.  There are a few impending deadlines, but getting some distance is probably best for everyone involved, because I’m not sure if the new ideas are any better at this point.  *If anyone has any resources to utilize to solve this dilemma, PLEASE share them!

When I talked with another writer, a novelist, last night, about the rewriting process, we agreed that being a novelist is better because of ownership.  You work with an editor who helps suggest ways of improving your work, but you are the author of that piece.  Your name will be the only one on it.  Whereas a screenwriter works alone for months or years honing that script into a viable, sellable work, only to be replaced.  It makes me cringe every time I think of it.  And this is where the crazy begins…

Okay, I realize I’m rambling.  Probably because I’m going crazy.  This is all madness.  Rewriting madness.  I believe it’s a state of mind that happens to all writers driven to finalize their work.  And then I heard this –

“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated. Neurotic. Caffeine-addled. Crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.” — Robert DeNiro

I’m not quite sure how to respond to this except to say that now maybe people will understand what we go through on a regular basis.  If you’re also struggling with the “madness” here are a couple of links I shared before about editing.  One from The Write Life and the other is a list of essays regarding rewriting from LitReactor so you can decide on the topic that might work best for you.

Here’s to regaining some sanity!  Wishing you all the best!

Do Your Homework

Let me be an example to all.  Heed my warning.  Do your research thoroughly before you start writing.

I was polishing my first screenplay, getting it all pretty for submission season, when I discovered I had made a rather large error.  In trying to create a more compelling version of my female protagonist, I did a little research into women’s roles in Ancient Rome and learned something that would change everything.  Ancient Rome was not what I thought.  I allowed my ignorant assumptions, probably based on remnant memories of movies/tv/fiction past to create a world that was a bit on the inaccurate side.  As I have commented (numerous times) before, I have always struggled with the third act.  I have rewritten it so many times, and I’m still sort of displeased with it.  I thought if I could change a few character details, maybe that would give me a different perspective on how to alter the finale.  So I went into research mode.  I’m not sure if I should kick myself now, for not having done this sooner, but nonetheless, here I am…again: major rewrite in progress…*Sigh

Desert

Oh, writing.  Why are you so painful some days.  On Monday at my writer’s group, I did some “reworking” and deleted everything I wrote.  Two hours had passed and I was no closer to solving my dilemma.  I’m going on two weeks with no new developments, and I have a week and a half before I want to start submitting it.  Tick tock.  Tick tock.

There’s this idea that in order to get the story out, you just write.  You don’t worry about it being good or bad, you just get it on paper.  We discussed this on Monday, and I agree, but this isn’t currently where I am on this piece.  It had its days of being “bad”.  Until a few days ago, I loved the first two acts (and I still do).  I just wanted a way to wrap it up nicely.  Stupid period piece and your historical inaccuracy.

My tip of the day: Do your homework.  Seriously.  Don’t follow in my footsteps.  Unless you really know what you’re talking about, don’t rely on fictionalized accounts and a faulty memory, do a little research.  I love doing research, so I’m quite surprised to learn I was not more thorough.  Create special folders on your computer of sites you visit for information as a quick reference tool for each story.  Read up on different aspects (time period, male/female roles, political climate, cultural influences, scientific advancements, etc.) of the story you’re telling, and you may be surprised to learn something that changes your story for the better (or worse, for your characters anyway, depending on your tale).

Now I must go and stare blankly at my script in the hopes “M” will come to life by some sheer force of will.  That picture above is the equivalent of my mind at the moment…

I hope your day goes better.  Wishing you all the best!

Pushing Through the Wall

Writing-Clip-ArtThere’s this thing that happens with writers, like with runners, that once you break through that wall, you can just go and go.  I don’t know the running thing from personal experience, as I’ve made it abundantly clear that I hate to run, but it’s something I’ve heard.  But as a writer, I definitely hit my stride last night.  Today I feel almost hung over from the sheer mental exhaustion, but it’s a good feeling.  With the exception of a few minor tweaks, the script rewrite is done!  Success!  What I thought would take a few more days, at the least, wrapped itself up in the wee hours of the morning after a very long stint.

Of course after such a marathon, my mind would not stop racing.  It still took a while to block out the ideas, that continued to come, long enough to succumb to sleep.  And today, I don’t even want to look at it.  And I’m not sure I should.  A little distance would probably do us both some good.  (*This is something I’ve discussed before, like with any relationship, sometimes a little separation is healthy.)  Yes, I have a deadline, a partially self-imposed one, but my eyes and brain need the down time.

This particular rewrite had been lingering for some time.  I had the entire third act to rewrite.  That pesky act had always been problematic.  It was like a kid who didn’t want to play with the friends he had invited over.  They were all in a room together, but it was awkward, and I had no idea had to get them to play nice.  They didn’t agree on anything I put forward to obtain a happy ending.  An outside source, an established writer, and one of the few friends I’ve made since moving here, offered me some insightful and invaluable feedback.  When you’re too close to something, some times you can’t see what the problems are because in your head, it reads differently.  My friend’s advice caused me to look at the entire script through different eyes, I saw the holes, knew how to fix most of them, but each time I attempted the rewrite, something was  holding me back.  I just didn’t want to do it.  Maybe it was because, faults and all, I thought it was done.  Or very close to.  (And in writing that, I realize that I have been lying to myself for a while.)

Screenwriting is not the same as novel writing.  Once you sell your script, unless they keep you around (which is rare), you only have the opportunity to do one more rewrite to the big wigs specifications and then they’ll bring in a slew of other writers to alter all those hours of hard work, sweat, sleepless nights, and tears.  They will destroy your beloved and if you’re lucky, once it’s been mutilated past recognition, they’ll ask you to come back and fix it, probably exactly to the point to which you originally sold it.  Or so I’ve heard.  It’s kind of depressing.  I’m not sure if this was the thought that was bouncing around as I stared at my baby, knowing it needed doctoring, and yet couldn’t bring myself to do it…knowing it was going to require at least another rewrite once it went out into the world, it’s just exhausting.  But it needed it in order to start the whole process.  Catch-22.

But I was still faced with the hard truth that I didn’t know how to fix Act 3.  Then I listened to my characters.  They knew what to do.  And the marathon began.  The script is now 20 pages shorter, the third act reads completely different from where it began, and the kids seem to be playing well together.  I’ll give it a good read tomorrow and see how I feel about it then.  As for now, I’m off to enjoy a celebratory beverage.

Best of luck in your writing efforts!!

*I’d like to apologize for any errors…I can barely see straight, let alone think clearly right now.  *I’d also like to say I looked this poised last night, but no…image from megrosoff.co.uk  

Editing Tips

EditingAll writing is rewriting.  So editing is something we writers must be good at (well, good might not be the best word for the ninja like precision we must hack away at our beloveds).  We must be swift and merciless when it comes to cutting down description, dialogue, and the stuff I like to call “fluff” (the extra things you might like and want to add but aren’t truly necessary to tell the story).  Sometimes we have to cut whole, beautiful, emotional scenes or likable characters…there’s that pang in my chest just thinking about it…because it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t drive the story.  As a screenwriter, I think it’s worse.  You only have 120 pages (or less) and there’s so much blank page (and then there are so many more hands in that pot as it moves forward).  As creatives, placing limitations on our process is a contradiction.  That’s why you write from the heart in the first draft and from the head in the inevitable numerous following drafts.  *And this is why you don’t need to read the following articles until you are ready to edit.  Don’t let them sway you.

Yes, we create something out of nothing.  But.  That first draft is never as good as it seemed in our heads.  Sometimes to get our character from point A to point B they have to take a few detours and that changes the story on the page from where we originally imagined it.  So, there has to be finessing, finding different ways to say the same thing, and the inevitable (just in time for Halloween) horror movie style slashing.

I, myself, am in the midst of yet another rewrite on one of my scripts, my baby, and am really having a difficult time separating my emotions from the story I’m trying to tell and the best way to tell it.  I’ve had this story in the works for quite some time and every time I go in for a rewrite, it changes dramatically.  This time around, I’m cutting the entire third act and reworking the earlier scenes and it’s starting to morph into something else entirely, yet again, which at this point, I’m not even sure I like yet.  And what’s worse, I’m on a deadline.

So today I offer up two sites with some tips.  The first is an article by one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk, on LitReactor about “thought” verbs.  The other is a checklist by The Write Life — 25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy.

I wish you all the best in your writing efforts!  Have a great week!

*Image found on professionalnoveleditors.com