Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Boring Draft Update

The next draft of my script for METLAB isn’t really a new draft at all – what it is is an iteration.

I tried to follow some initial advice from John Sweeney about the opening scene, but couldn’t make the logistics of it work (you know, who stands where, who’s watching who, who’s looking after the bazooka) – so I’ve spent a lot of time tarting about with a more coherent back story. The general pain in the arse with back story as far as I’m concerned is that very often you don’t get to see it in its entirety on the page – as long as it contributes to the internal logic of the script then I’m happy, but it’s a lot of work for something that essentially remains unseen.

I’ve also had to do some additional research into leylines and standing stones (stop chortling at the back! The appearance of Stonehenge never did Halloween III any harm). And whilst I’m on the subject, here’s Chip’s Top Screenwriting Tip of the Week: DO NOT attempt to do your research as you write (I’m very often flipping between my script and several whacked out sites on leylines). As I gathered a little while back, I have the crappiest working method ever – but at least I’m in good company. No doubt if I relied on an outline a little more, my mental state would be that much calmer, but things would certainly be a lot less entertaining.

I’ve also started to be a little more brutal with some much loved scenes – unless it’s in there for a reason (i.e., to move the story forward), it’s out. Reading through a previous draft, it was quite alarming to see how much exposition I’d somehow managed to shoehorn in, so there’s a job of work there to make this less clunky and/or obvious. And bearing in mind METLAB’s budgetary guidelines, I’m already thinking about how to shave a few quid off here and there – for instance, the Godzilla-esque dinosaur fight scenes have already been dumped (just kidding). I’ve also taken on board some more decent advice from John Sweeney to make two of my central characters a little more larger than life – i.e., a touch more obsessed, mental and vain.

Like I said, it’s an iteration – I dread to think how much more I’d have to do to call it a proper re-draft.

And with that in mind, here’s a Jane Espenson moment: breakfast this morning? Espresso and two Anadin Extra – the only way to start the day!


Tom said...

Please to be amending your post title from "Boring Draft Update" to just "Draft Update". Current title is misleading and erroneous.

Standing stones and ley-lines huh? Having just researched a little bit about those for my script-in-progress (oh yes... perhaps they're the new black!) I may be able throw a few things your way if useful.

Elinor said...

Writing is messy, incoherent and sometimes frustrating (like childcare) but that's just how it is. And you're quite right, if you have to slaughter your darlings that's fine. It's all about the story, people...

Chip Smith said...

Thanks Tom, you say the nicest things. I'm of the general opinion that listening to writers talk about writing isn't really the most exciting thing in the world, hence the reason I'm forced to blog about Katie & Peter (sorry, I can't help myself, I'm a bit of a low culture whore).

I think the whole thing about standing stones comes from my love of Halloween III - and as far as leylines are concerned, there's a rich vein of truly lunatic websites out there just waiting to be exploited for story ideas! Quite happy to pool information if you think it would be of mutual benefit...

Chip Smith said...

Hi Elinor - I'm always amazed (and a little jealous) when I read about how thoroughly 'proper' writers outline before putting pen to paper (so to speak). I seem to do both at the same time, and very often it doesn't work, which leads to prolonged viewings of Katie & Peter Unleashed (can you see a theme developing here?).

Sheesh! I need to get me one of those 'working methods' I hear so much about!

Jon Peacey said...

...apologies for long reply delay as I catch up on missed blogs!

My working method is truly appalling- so appalling that I'll not be telling you too much about it- anything about it!

I do like to have a clear idea of what's going on and when but sadly it just doesn't happen!

Chip Smith said...

Hello Jon, welcome back (was wondering where you'd gotten to!).

I'm coming rapidly to the conclusion that my third drafts are the equivalent of most other writer's first drafts - you know, proper writers who have fully fleshed ten page treatments. All this means is that I have a good idea of what's going on, but nobody else does - which I try and fix in those difficult fourth and fifth drafts!

Jon Peacey said...

It's good to be back... but only on short measures at the moment.

I fell and sprained my right wrist last week; initially it was only mildly but after a day of typing as normal I managed to aggravate it to bloody painful and near immobile. Fortunately, I had a couple of near finished postings of my own to do which prevented too big a gap happening. I then realised that reading blogs was open incitement to continue typing and so I stopped. Now, I've been trying to catch up (in short bursts) during the times when I'm unstrapping the wrist. (That was a bit long!)

Ideas come to me all the time: some come fully formed in dreams; some appear when I'm just lying back thinking of nothing; some get sweated over... and then hopefully I can herd them into one big coherent whole. I prefer the idea of having a good outline to work from, not least of all because I really hate rewriting. And treatments have helped me realise that I'm heading for over-plotted four hour horror films (or whatever). The downside of over-worked-out plots is that it doesn't give much scope for organic developments within the actual draft writing and so when something spontaneous does happen it can knock the whole thing off its orbit. Some write scene by scene outlines where they're just left having to add the actual words to essentially a fully formed draft. I find that a bit dull and cold.

Chip Smith said...

Hi Jon - hope the wrist is feeling a bit better! I promise not to mention Michael Winterbottom in the near future, which only seems to encourage you to pound on your keyboard in a fit of fury (I guess you've seen Code 46 as well)!

I veer all over the place when it comes to thinking about an outline/treatment - the scripts I've written off the back of fully fleshed out treatments are so lifeless I could scream. The ones that are like freeform jazz are enormous fun to write, but hugely frustrating as the first thing that suffers is narrative coherency. I then have to battle through several drafts trying to fix this (which is OK really, as I tend to enjoy rewriting).

I'm just finishing up a horror script for METLAB which has surprisingly well considering my totally shite working method - that said, this is about the third draft now, and it's only just now begging to look like something that sort of 'feels' like it's got something going for it.