Writing strategies for 2013


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What is the point of putting down your strategies for the year after 7 months have gone by?

-First of all, it was a conscious decision to delay this post. In the beginning of the year, I was in the middle of a relocation and change in job. So any planning without any idea about the new environment was not going to be useful. Second, I realise now that this post on strategies in the beginning of every year has been really helping me to set my priorities. Making a complete ass of yourself by declaring your goals in public definitely helps.

Now that I have eased into my current job and location, I realise that certain things have changed. Certain advantages have been irretrievably lost. The most precious one is the stability of routine. It is difficult to say before hand how many hours I would be free to write on a particular day. Writing in the weekdays is now a little bit more difficult. At the same time,  now weekend means two free days compared to one last year. The load of academic work has decreased. But being with family brings in its own set of distractions. So overall I feel the amount of time available for writing would be the same. But, the instability of routine prevents me from pursuing daily targets. So I have decided to shift to weekly targets.

The next one year is going to be very crucial in terms of meetings. My biggest weakness is that my writing occurs in a vacuum mostly divorced from external environment except for 2-3 writer friends/co-writers. I need to see where I stand and how others in film field respond to my ideas. I have realised that cultivating relationships is more important than going ‘hit and miss’ with celebrity film makers. Also I have decided to concentrate on my pitching and narration skills.

As it often crops up in my yearly assessments, my problem is not most often not working, but working too much on too little. I need to put up completed work. Despite all the writing, the amount of time I have put into writing does not reflect in the number of completed works. Instead I have half boiled treatments and concepts stuck in mid birth. So I need to improve my time management skills in writing.

I am glad that in the last few months, I have made giant strides in this aspect. I realise now that after a point, the amount of time put into outlining or treatment does not correlate with the quality of the script. Instead, more time need to be put into rewriting after the first draft of the script. You realise what you are trying to write after the first draft. So, I have decided to keep a tabs of sort regarding how much time I am spending for various stages of development on a particular script. Also I need to see how much the reality tally with my initial assessment regarding the time it is going to take.

So the targets are going are going to be-

-18 hours of writing every week. Every day, minimum of one hour of writing needs to be completed. A tally of what kind of work is being done is to be maintained.

-6 hours to be spent on networking activities per week.

-An actual meeting has to take place at least every month.

Photo by martin.trolle

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Gangs of Wasseypur- why the length doesn’t bother me

It is easy to understand a consistent concern that ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ is too long and distracted with itself.  But I have a feeling that if the script had been streamlined more and more into a ‘revenge drama’ with lesser digressions, it would have lost some of its charm. What makes it more than a ‘Raktacharitra’ is its quirkiness,  investment in the secondary characters and creation of an entire authentic universe where all these people inhabit. It gives a true ‘epic’ feel to it.

After a point, the film(s) are not about who exacts revenge against whom. It doesn’t even matter whether it is really going anywhere. Kyu ki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi. In the eternal cycle, every one changes the role of being the offender and being offended against. And that ‘worldly’ sense comes from moral ambiguity and the personal dramas of all these major and minor characters (establishing which requires time).

Also this obsession about fitting every film into 2 hours is a new one for us. Before, Indian films didn’t bother about economy and obsessed more about giving a panorama of life in 2.5 to 3 hours. Then Hollywood came along. And commercial interest of fitting in more shows within a single day also played its role.

Definitely telling a story in 2 hours requires discipline and clarity of purpose. But we also lose out a lot if we insist on that for every film. The kind of subjects that would get made into a film would be much more unipolar and monotonous. What about having all kinds of films in terms of length, subject, span and ambition? Wouldn’t it be better to live in a future world where a film maker has the courage to imagine something like a ‘100 years of solitude’ or ‘War and peace’ not as a novel, but as a film?

Why you should follow your dream…

That creepy common sense. You know, the odds and figures… The actual probability of making it after taking this lonely road that you so desperately want to follow… The fear of being embarrassed by your own stupidity when you look back after many years…

Here is why you should still follow that dream abandoning the shade of a boring but secure choice- even if the odds of making it is one in lakhs… Top five regrets of the dying-

Deadlines and scriptwriting

Putting up deadlines and following them religiously has been one of my resolutions for this year. Yeah, I have heard all the usual suspects of an argument against deadlines in writing. ‘In art, you are compromising on the quality of your work by not making it as best as it can be,’ ‘Good art is about committing yourself to something regardless of the cost of time and opportunities’ etc. But in my experience, I am compromising on the quality of my writing when I am not conscientious about the time that I am putting into various aspects of writing.

Because otherwise I would spend three months or more into outlining when I should have finished it in a month and then another couple of months into the treatment. Then finally when I come into the first draft, I would realise that there were inherent issues in the execution of the script which would make most of the work in the previous phases invalid and useless. Often mere fatigue and irritation will force me to push many issues under the carpet.

It has been my experience that to really come up with a good script, one need to go with the intensive and extensive work hand in hand. At least for me, however hard you scrutinize and work on the first round of outlining/ treatment/ drafting, there will be crucial issues that you are only going to detect in your second or third draft. So there is some truth in the saying that ‘vomit out your first draft as fast as possible.’ If some one decides to spend two month each on outlining, treatment and drafting, I would suggest that rather than doing it in blocks, one should spend one month each on each of these stages and then go back to drawing board in the next three months. That way, I feel that your script is going to be 100% better.

Photo by justmakeit

My scriptwriting strategies for 2012

It is a little late to write down a list of resolutions for 2012, I know. But this has been the way the year started for me. I was on vacation for first two weeks which was followed by a hectic apartment shift and some heavy duty academic stuff by the side. I still have not picked up all the pieces. But I am on my way.

So why bother with this post? Let me tell me, putting down in public my strategies and commitments for the year and updating about them from time to time (1,2,3,4) has been one of the smartest things that I did last year. There was a steep climb in my writing curve. Also it gave a certain direction for the whole year.

To summarise last year in writing:

The plan-

I realised that rather than spending too much time on networking, I should concentrate on building up a body of work. What is the point of talking with a stakeholder if you really have nothing worthwhile to offer him?

Output-

I increased my productivity by putting consistent checks on the net and pretty much everything else. My page count doubled compared to previous year.

My short film thriller script ‘The search’ was bought by a filmmaker friend in Canada and we developed it further together. His previous short film has been to Cannes. Hopefully ‘The search’ is going to get made this year.

Co-written adaptation of a Malayalam film for a Bollywood director who already has 2-3 credits is getting some eyeballs. Another co-written thriller script which we had set up as an indie project has covered some ground after around one year.

Failures-

Restrictions on the net and the lack of mobility due to my current work cut down my networking dramatically. Continue reading

Strategies for 2011: 4th update

After 1st update on my strategies for 2011, 2nd, 3rd and now 4th updates comes at bigger intervals because whenever there is a crunch in writing time, frequent blogging is the first one to go under the axe. But this public display of both targets and my performance in terms of achieving them has been one of the biggest brain waves I had in 2011. Now there is an extra effort to at least have some modestly defend-able outcomes. So it appears that net can be put to good use, to increase your productivity.

Total number of days: 61

Total number of days where I finished 2.5 hours of writing: 33

Total number of days where I have not done any writing at all: 16

Total number of days where I have exceeded my 2.5 hour target: 3

Total number of days where I accessed net before completing my targets: 0

Even though the number of days where I hit the target time has increased slightly, there is something ominous in the above figures. The number of days where I have not done any writing at all has increased drastically. The key to productivity is writing something every day, however little it is. Also you lose the thread of whatever work you are doing, if you don’t go back to it consequently for a few days. So a ‘zero output’ day is more damaging than not achieving the 2.5 hour target.

Another issue has been the problem of finding time to sit in front of computer and actually type a treatment or screenplay from an outline. As I mentioned earlier, I am travelling a lot nowadays due to my posting and so most of my writing occurs during this time. Naturally outlining happens more often than writing full drafts in such a scenario. So in the last leg of the year, I am having at hand a number of rough outlines still requiring a lot of fleshing out. To rectify this problem, in the next two months, I will be trying a strategy of actually converting these ‘story spines’ to full treatments rather than searching for new ideas. Even though I was planning to develop some new strategies to network and actually set up some meetings at the end of this year, I am postponing it to next year as I would rather have some treatments at hand first.

Photo by Kassch3

A distress call

Works in Progress by koalazymonkey

Stuck in a seminar preparation. Jumbled graphs, data, slides. Screenplays all hanging in half life. Can’t type anything other than bullet points now. Power point has spoiled me. Need to get back in groove after 31st. Planning to buy a tablet. Hopes to utilise bits and pieces of time more effectively. I know, I know. A tablet can be a double edged sword. Yeah, some times you gamble and you lose. Or you may win too. Hopes that Eid is on 31st itself. Then it will be holiday. And I will be saved. Over. And out.

Photo by koalazymonkey