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


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  

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