I be a good righter.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Dead Lines

I'm working on this pilot. I've mentioned it before. I'm rewriting it in a, well, "rewrite" class. But, it's not as simple a rewrite as I'd thought it would be. When I signed up for the course, I figured, at the most, I'd have to change the mystery. All the other elements, in my mind, were cemented.

I was wrong.

This is a complete reimagining of the script. Of the idea. Of everything I'd worked hard to create. I know, without a doubt, when I finish that it'll be loads better than it previously was. But right now, I'm completely spent.

I receive incredible notes from my teacher. And they make so much sense when I'm sitting there listening to them. But something happens from that time to when I get home and face Final Draft. I've lost the plot, both literally and figuratively. The worst has been this week when teacher astutely noted that my mystery was mundane and that it read as though I wasn't having any fun writing it.

You think?

So, my task this week was to create a new mystery. A mystery that read like I was having shitloads of fun writing it. A lie, basically. I decided to get some help from an extremely talented writer I know who'd read the first iteration of this pilot. Unfortunately she wasn't able to help me because I had no idea what I was doing. I sincerely hope she doesn't find fault in herself for my failure. The fault lies solely at my doorstep.

Thursday and Friday I spent banging my head against the wall. Wondering if it's easier once one is on staff and one can sit in a room with writers more talented than, um, one. If it's easier when a group breaks the story rather than an individual desperately searching the cracks in her ceiling for the answer to the script.

It was Saturday when I had a breakthrough. I'm not sure what did it. I think it was when I talked the teaser through with the Hubby. And as I was talking, visions formed. Which turned into scenes. Which turned into thinking about it from the villain's point of view. It seems, when I'm under the gun like this, when the deadline is looming, that I do my best work. And I lament that, because the work I turn in could be so much better if I could just have that breakthrough a day or two earlier...

But, apparently, I can't. Perhaps some can. But, I guess I'm learning that this is my process.

I ended up writing 24 pages yesterday (or as I'm calling it, Breakthrough Saturday). I wish I felt elation that I've gotten to the other side. Perhaps I will when this draft is finished. I doubt it. I think, instead, I'll be hard on myself, as is my way. Berating my brain for failing to function when not worried about deadlines.

Does anyone else experience this head-exploding blanking of the brain? Does anyone else find inspiration in looming deadlines? Please, for the love of Pete, let me know I'm not alone here.

Back to staring at the ceiling for inspiration...


  • At March 16, 2008 4:25 PM, Blogger Kristen said…

    You are not alone. I mean, hell, I wasn't able to write a damn thing for almost a year (that I wasn't being paid to write) until my agent lit a fire under me.

    On the bright side, being able to write under pressure is a good trait to have when you work in TV.

    As for the question of it being easier once you get on staff, the answer is yes and no. Yes because it's no longer your sole responsibility. No because the more people you have involved in the story breaking process, the more differing opinions there are about what the story needs to be.

    I also personally think that a pilot is much harder than speccing an existing show. So my hat is off to you!

  • At March 16, 2008 6:12 PM, Blogger Shawna said…

    I've been cursed with inability to finish my pilot for three months. I had to rip out 2/3 of the script, practically start over, and rather than make my writer's group (ahem) read the damn thing over *again* in an unfinished state, I'm trying to get enough done it will be worthwhile to read...and give notes on.

    That being said, if you need any more eyes, I'm around... :)

  • At March 17, 2008 5:16 AM, Blogger m said…

    Ye gawds, I do love pilot writing. It twiss and turns and the things you think you know because it's all you, you really don't know, but once you get it down, it's so bloody rewarding.

    It is so worth all eneregy put into it, from minor rewrites to complete obliteration and reconstuction, because it's got a looooong shelf life and possibly adaptability into other mediums (if that's something you ever wanna do). And you've got all the time in the world...but if you want a deadline, maybe that's a problem, eh?

    You've got to have fun doing it though. It's one hundred percent you, there's no capturing a voice. It's your voice.

    Point is...you're not alone. A pilot is a beast and it's one that knows how to get you specifically. That blink/blast is when you realize that you knew how to get it first.

  • At March 17, 2008 7:41 AM, Blogger Shawn said…

    I'm right there with you. After months of working on my pilot, the manager read it and said, "Um, you need to rewrite this." Now I'm completely restructuring everything. Shit, I have no clue what's going to happen now in the second half.

    As for deadlines, yeah, they help, even self-imposed ones. Having other things to work on helps even more - once I hand off the outline for acts 1-3, I'll work on a short the wife wants to shoot. Then it's on to acts 4-6, then a Dexter spec.

    I'll be an extra pair of eyes, too, if you need them.

  • At March 17, 2008 11:06 AM, Blogger BooM said…

    Oh my god, y'all are awesome. It's really nice to know "one" is not alone.


    I remember seeing you go through this. Also, thanks for the insight into being on staff. Sounds like a double-edged sword. One that I'm willing to stab myself on...


    I totally get that. Believe you me, I totally totally get it. And thank you for the offer. Sadly for you, I'll be taking you up on it. Please know it's reciprocated!


    I thought I loved it. Sometimes it's so much easier when the structure is in place so all you have to do is worry about story -- as with specs of existing shows. Sometimes when speccing an existing show, "one" wants to throw structure out the window because it's not working with the story... grass is greener, always. I agree, it's worth it.


    Thanks, man. Your pilot's going to be awesome. And as with your generous offer, I'm happy to read it at any time. Sadly, for you, as with Shawna, I'll be taking you up on your offer.

    Did you get your notes from "J" by the way?


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