a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Thursday, September 08, 2005

So I'm Trying To Work On My Own Screenplays

Which sucks when you are a reader, because just when I get rolling on something, I'll get a pile of work that will bog me down for 4 days, and then I'll have no idea what I was writing about.

And I know, the answer is to carve out a little bit of time every day. But I have the wrong job for that. Because reading too much makes the same parts of my brain hurt that I write with.

It was easier when I was a theater manager. I could sit in the office while the movie was on, and knock out some notes and pages. That part of my brain wasn't being taxed.

But writing in general was easier back then, because I was innocent about the whole process. When you are just knocking out stuff, thinking it's good, it's a lot more enjoyable. I used to be prolific as hell, churning out screenplays. Bad screenplays, but at least I was putting words on paper.

I've written 10 screenplays, plus parts of a few others that I jettisoned along the way. Generally I gravitate toward character stories hinging on a fantasy premise (think Groundhog Day, or 13 Going on 30), mostly because I'm afraid that if I wrote a romantic comedy or a dysfunctional family drama, I'd wind up inadvertently ripping off one of the many such scripts that I have read over the years. But if I can come up with an unique (or at least under-explored) premise, I can have fun exploring it without worrying that I'm stealing someone else's idea.

The best script I ever wrote was a frozen-time fantasy/romance/thriller, which about 5 years ago got me a few meetings with agents and even a couple of chances to pitch my take on writing assignments (which I failed miserably at). But a bad teen frozen-time movie called "Clockstoppers" came out and pretty much made my script unsellable, and since none of my other scripts were great, no agent saw any particular need to take me on. If my buzz meter was at 1 (on the scale of 100), it quickly ticked back down to 0.

I think at least half my scripts have some real potential, if I ever get around to rewriting them. I'm going to try. But I also sympathize with the whole process, which probably makes me a more sympathetic (and yet tougher) reader as well. Writing is easy. Writing when you develop a feel for what is good or not is hard, and it is frustrating. And my feel for what works has in some ways outstripped my ability to actually write that well. Which explains why sometimes I'd rather Sudoku. Or read your blog.

But I'm trying. And feel free to nag my ass about it.


At 3:23 PM, Anonymous kas said...

Ha! I was working on a rockin' frozen time thriller when 'Clockstoppers' came out. Luckily I was only at early treatment stage so there wasn't too much pain in dropping it. I also wrote a short along the same lines which I think is my best short, but it'd cost a fortune to make...

Anyway, I feel it.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My feel for what works has in some ways outstripped my ability to actually write that well. Which explains why sometimes I'd rather Sudoku."

Good God, if this isn't my problem... Someone needs to explore how to overcome this obstacle.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Webs said...

I write too much and don't have the energy to read....

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Hey Scott,

Recently found the site and trying to catch up. Do you feel reading scripts has made your writing better or more formulaic?

Thanks for the insights.

Mark's Screenwriting Page

At 11:50 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I think it has made my writing better, just because I know what to avoid -- and I know what I'm aiming for. I think the trick is to know the formulas, and why they work -- and then try to spin them. And when I re-read my stuff, I'm able to analyze it with an experienced eye.

Reading has been a great education. Now I just have to put that education to use more.

At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

about reading, I find I can't read fiction whilst in the middle of Act 2 of something...I need to be thinking of my own story and not someone else's fantasy ya know?

At 11:32 PM, Blogger Kira said...

I hear you. When I was reading, I pingponged between being depressed that I was reading someone else's dreck with a William Morris cover and being inspired that I was reading someone else's gold with a William Morris cover.

Hang in there, Scott, and keep the faith! Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. :)


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