keeping faith

The script is done, and off for evaluation by discerning people.

I’m conflicted about this screenplay. It wasn’t the story I was expecting to write. Once I cut out the horror element an entirely different tale emerged, and in an unusual fashion. I think if I had not been under deadline I would not have pursued it.

I’m very conscious that this script is not commercial. It’s drama, with a very slight supernatural touch (which I’m expecting to be told to excise). Yet, for some reason, it was the script I needed to write at this time.

It came out pretty easily, and I enjoyed it a lot of the time (even the tough scenes). Sure, I had to do some yanking and pulling, but I wrote it in a week. I hit my top pace of 22 pages in one day – I’ve yet to exceed that record, but I’m sure I will one day. It’s also the shortest first draft I’ve ever written – 91 pages – which is the industry sweet spot. I’m not sure if that’s such a good thing for a first draft, though.

I did not have an outline of any kind. However, I had a very concrete sense of what I was trying to say, and that dictated the structure of the film. I had scenes that I knew had to be in the script. Some of them I knew needed to be placed at specific points in the story to lend it a semblance of an arc, and yet because of the narrative I played around with that a little. It’s good to experiment I guess.

Once I was a third of the way into the story I began to panic, because the long middle section is always the hardest part to get right in a script, and I was writing without a guideline. So, I realised I had to trust myself. That sounds like simple advice, but it’s not easy. So often you’re second-guessing the work, and it becomes hard to pay attention to the original creative impulse because another part of your mind is raising objections.

Ultimately, I decided to relax into the story, ignore the voices of doom, write what came, trust that the scenes would arrive when they were needed, and that it would make some kind of sense in the end. Plus, it’s a first draft, so the signal to noise ratio tends to be middling. I’m allowed to make mistakes. They can be corrected later.

I suppose my act of faith was proven correct.

When I finished last night I expected to be elated, but really I was mainly depressed, with a dollop of relief. It’s hard to write something and expect that people will not like it or that it will not sell. The toughest part about writing good drama is to keep it emotionally effective without allowing it to veer into outright melodrama, and that is a really tricky balance to get right in the first draft.

Now, I plan to get back to a number of short stories that need revision before I submit them, and I might dive into the straight-out horror script.

There is always something else that needs to be written.