So I haven't been doing any real writing the last couple of weeks, because I've been so swamped with reading.
That's not such a bad thing -- I need the money, and it's nice to get away from my writing for a while, so that when I get back to it, it's fresher.
At least I keep telling myself that.
Meanwhile, I've been giving a ton of notes to people, inside my screenwriting group and out, and what has become even my clear to me is this:
It's all about the story.
It's really basic stuff, but too many writers don't take it to heart enough. It's amazing how many scripts I read that are polished, which have well-written scenes that are funny or dramatic, but which just don't work as a whole because the story doesn't hang together well.
And then the only way to fix them is to tear them apart, polished scenes rendered into flailing verbs and lost adjectives, as the structure gets the major overhaul that it should have had from the start.
I used to be the kind of guy who would come up with a loose idea and just start pounding out scenes, and I'm not the kind of guy who believes you should overthink the story at the beginning; I find that I come up with things that surprise me when I'm writing a scene I haven't over-pondered, and I think the best blend is to give yourself this freedom.
But the basics still need to be there. A main character, a solid dramatic need, a real conflict, and a plot that moves forward with every scene/sequence, and doesn't dawdle around. A sense of where the story needs to be at various points in the actual screenplay, so you know, when you are writing a scene, what the scene needs to accomplish to best serve the overall tale.
If you don't have that, stop polishing. If you start with 100 pages of scenes and later try to tease a solid plot out of them, it's a lot harder than simply starting with a solid plot and then coming up with scenes for it. Then it's easy to sharpen and polish those scenes until they shine.
I have to bring in 25 pages to my script group on Monday, and I'm wrestling with what to do.
I did a rewrite of my low budget thriller that still needs some real polishing, and I don't have a chunk of that I really want to bring in.
I could bring in pages 26-50 of the romantic comedy/fantasy thing I've been working on, but I haven't touched it in a couple of months, and it's still not really working.
Because I never got the story to work before I wrote the damn thing. Bad on me.
I have this other idea, that I loosely plotted last year, including writing the first 13 pages before setting it aside. It's a high-concept comedy, the kind of thing that is good to bring into group because you can get some real feedback on whether the humor is working.
I made a lot of notes on that in the last few days, and I've gotten it to the point where the overall story is coming into shape, and it's clear exactly what needs to happen in the first act, so maybe I'll polish what I have and bang out the first 25.
Last weekend, NIM'S ISLAND did a pretty solid $13.2 million. LEATHERHEADS did an okay $12.7 million. THE RUINS wandered in with only $8.0 million.
21 led the way with $15.3 in its second week. Not bad, since gambling movies have a history of not doing all that well.