Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself. – Doris Lessing

Go forth into the unknown, explore the caves of your unconscious, fear not your “dark side,” find the gold.

— Robin Hoffman (@AuthorAlchemy)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Choices, Choices!

This may be a formality, because I think I've already made my decision. But it doesn't hurt to explore the possibilities in writing.

It's time to start script #2. Script #1 has been revised nine times, been through coverage and put to the test by Your Screenplay Sucks! My treatment for script #1 is with a producer's reader—who may or may not like it and may or may not want to see the actual script.

Exciting though that is, script #1 is no longer my baby. Script #1 has grown up enough to be out in the world showing its pimples. Empty nest syndrome? Not really. I've been too busy having a treatment blitz.

This afternoon I finished writing another treatment. I'm now in the glorious position of having five treatments to choose from. Five stories. And all of great interest to me. Here are the genres:
Coming-of-age/romantic comedy
Social drama/romance/maybe a thriller
Romance/dramedy (such an ugly word)
I'm leaning toward #5 on the list, the one I just finished. Partly because I'm really into that story right now, and partly because I think it would be the easiest to write. By far. I have abundant material for it staring me in the face, with new material being created every day. It's a fun subject and one I know intimately from personal experience. It's a story I believe many couples will relate to, so that will help me feel I'm writing it for myself (as a movie I'd love to see) as well as friends I can visualize watching it while they laugh and cry in recognition.

#1 on the list would also be relatively easy to write. Easy is good right now. I'm looking to capitalize on things I learned and proved to myself as I wrote the first draft for script #1. I wrote that one in 29 days, including a week spent on writer's block because I was inexperienced about how to get through Act III. (That dreaded moment when you realize Act III AND your ending will be wimpy unless you can pull off something a bit juicier than what you first thunk up.) This time around, I'll know exactly what to do if I hit a bout of writer's block in Act III.

(See Related Topics at the end if you want to know how I worked through it.)

#2 from the list above comes with some mental blocks. For this one I'll be adapting one of my own short stories. I already had a go at starting this script and it didn't feel right. I need a strategy or some extra knowledge about how to handle an adaptation. #2 gets ruled out as being a little too complex right now. I'd like to build confidence writing several more scripts first.

#3 is complicated, too, because of the perceived need to stretch it into a thriller. Thriller is not my favorite genre but, given the nature of this story (based on true events), I'm not sure I'd be doing it justice if I don't take it all the way to thriller. Again, that one goes on the list of things to tackle when I have more experience.

#4 is another subject I'm intimately familiar with and it would be relatively easy to write. However, the story is a little dark and I'd like to start the New Year with something really fun.

Which brings me back to #5. Guaranteed fun! Plus I already have an audience in my head that I can write for. This amounts to a variety of married friends, in particular one friend who recently shared an anecdote that would be perfect in the movie. I like the idea of having an audience of familiar faces laughing and crying and reciting their favorite lines as I write.

So there you go. This was doomed from the beginning to be a foregone conclusion. But it never hurts to double-check yourself in writing.

I'll be starting script #2 during the 10K day at Fear of Writing this Saturday 1/22/11. It feels good to have a plan!



How I Broke Through My Stalled Story in Act III


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Friday, January 7, 2011

STOP Listening

I've been helping other writers for 10 years. I'm accustomed to being in the role of mentor. During that time, I rarely read advice books about creative writing. I was too busy living my own method and course and book for how writers can break out of their old wounds or blocks and feel the adventure of writing.

When I recommitted to screenwriting in November, I brought my screenwriting books up from the basement. I started reading screenwriting blogs again. I also said to myself, “I need mentoring.” I started purposely looking for mentors, in whatever form.

And with that came advice. Only some of it was direct—from friends or a coach. A lot of it was from books and blogs. But today that has to come to a screeching halt. Not forever. But until I'm ready.

It's not that the advice was bad. For the most part, it was all good advice. Some of it was really excellent advice. There were a couple of times when I hit the exit button on a blog where I knew the advice was wrong for me (at least, at this time). But mostly, I feel enriched.

I also feel saturated. And even bored. I first noticed this when I was reading my copy of Riding the Alligator by Pen Densham. Now, this was a book I couldn't wait to read. And it's a fantastic book. But not right now. I was snuggled on the sofa, reading it and feeling stale. STALE. On a topic I love so much I could bore you silly talking about screenwriting for hours on end. (Ask my husband ;~)

So I closed the book. I thought all I needed was a good night's sleep. But I just didn't get the message. I continued reading advice online. And now it's to the point where I have to yell at myself to STOP listening.

Milli, I hear you.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Treatment Blitz

I believe in treatments. Writing treatments got me started as a screenwriter. Ages ago, I read a book called Writing Treatments That Sell
by Kenneth Atchity and Chi-Li Wong and this was where I started, before ever attempting a script.
Definition: A treatment tells the story. As opposed to a synopsis that describes the story.
For creative writing in general, I'm not big on outlining. I'd rather write the cliffhanger way, where I'm always sweating because I don't know what's going to happen next. But I would not like to attempt a screenplay without a roadmap.

Who wouldn't love to have the legendary experience of Sylvester Stallone writing Rocky, where he locked himself in a room and wrote the script in three days? I always assume he wrote from gut-level passion for that one, with no treatment in sight. Maybe I'll try it once like that. But later, after I've finished more scripts.

The story for my first script came to me out of nowhere when I looked at the painting on the cover of a book my husband bought. Not knowing the first thing about screenplay formatting, writing the story first was the most accessible way for me to get started. And though much of the marketing advice in Writing Treatments That Sell was years premature for me, the template for writing a three-act treatment was not.

I'm not normally a template person. The only other time I've tried to use a template was to write a pitch for my first script based on a template from Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge. I followed the Hauge process faithfully but felt scummier and scummier as I did so. It all felt so fake, I couldn't go through with it.

From that, I learned a valuable lesson. Take what works for me, what feels right for me, and ignore the rest.

So far, the Atchity & Wong three-act template has helped me finish five treatments—including one blitz where I wrote three in a row in a short timeframe. The object of that exercise was to have a variety of genres to show when a friend offered to share the treatment for my finished script with his producer friend. (see Writer Discovered While Waitressing)

I'm about to start my sixth treatment today. It's not that I need a mountain of treatments before attempting my second script. It was a process of figuring out which story I want to commit to next. Murphy's Law! It turned out to be the one I'd written notes for in December but not the treatment.

My intuition is telling me this is the story to go with next. But if I'm listening to the wrong voices, writing the treatment will let me know.

Today's treatment will start with the usual fear: the one whispering that I won't know how to execute my story. But that's just part of the terrain. If I falter, I can look at a Tweet I made on @fearofwriting yesterday:
“Stop waiting for permission. Stop looking for a magic formula, a special book, an inspiring moment. Just do it!” ~ FoW student @janesedixon

Monday, January 3, 2011

Who Am I?

I am a screenwriter.

To start 2011 from my creative heart, it was imperative to post those four words. Even though saying it brings up fears. “I haven't proven myself yet. I only have one finished script. I haven't pitched to a real producer/ executive/gofer at a studio yet.”


None of that matters. Because to be who I want to be in 2011—to feel how I want to feel creatively—I must now state those words in public. I must emblazon them on my blog, whether anyone reads it or not.

I've already done it privately. I cleared a page in my planner just for screenwriting. I called it I Am a Screenwriter. I love looking at that page. I love the feeling that I've already done some of the things listed on the plan.

Next, I rearranged my office to reflect screenwriting as my #1 writing focus this year. I put all my screenwriting books together on one shelf and gave them the prime position. I cleared all unrelated stuff off my creativity work table and spread it with screenwriting-related projects. I decluttered my desk to symbolize someone who knows what she wants.

But all that was too safe. I can still hide here in my office without changing my outward identity.

So the next thing I did was start a Twitter account (@boonieschick) just for my screenwriting. I have one for Fear of Writing, of course, and I'd been using it for screenwriting Tweets occasionally—but that felt like a big compromise. Like mixing the wrong colors together to get a blander shade of paint. I needed my own place to express myself about screenwriting. To build my identity as a screenwriter. And right now that doesn't mean platform. It means identity. The way I see myself. The way I feel about myself.

The next step was to resurrect this blog. And to determine what it's for right now.

The purpose of this blog right now is to express myself as a screenwriter. Whether anyone reads it or not.

Next, I switched from using fearofwriting as an ID when I comment on other people's blogs to using Boonies Chick. It's not that I'm ditching FoW. It's the identity thing again. I've been the Fear of Writing lady for the past 10 years . . . but that is not my own, personal identity as a writer.

Who am I?

I'm a screenwriter.

There. It was easier that time.

P.S. I feel excited about who I am.