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

An accidental reunion

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When I think about it, I would have been more happy if they didn’t see me while I was passing by. Then I could have wallowed in self pity after he had gone back to Japan that he didn’t meet me.

He had dyed his hair. I made fun of my own graying hair. ‘I have painted it white.’ Everyone laughed. It amused me that he didn’t say anything. I knew he had turned all gray. But he didn’t know I knew. Another friend in Japan had told me.

He tried to introduce his fiance. ‘Probably you two would have met each other.’ Yeah. We would have. If you didn’t fail to mention about her for 2 years while you and me were literally living in the same room.

We talked about work. I asked about his office like an interviewer asking about work experience. Staff? Problems? Work hours? Job satisfaction? Two other friends came. They wanted to buy some wine. We all got up.

There was a party at the place of a mutual friend. ‘Will you come?’ ‘Sure. Call me when you reach there.’ He wanted to say something more. May be shake my hands or something like that too. But I just nodded walking away. ‘Call me.’ I was thinking, ‘this accidental encounter ruined a chance for me to say that he didn’t even meet me.’

That call never came. I was a little happy. He forgot me. I can hate him. It was only a few days later it suddenly occurred to me the meaning of that searching look on his face when that accidental meeting ended. Probably we may never meet each other in our lives again. He was trying for a farewell.

And then there was a rush of grief. For a lost friend.

Photo by Monkey Traffic

How do you know you have it in you to be a scriptwriter?

I have a friend who is a mechanical engineering graduate. Now he is planning to move to Mumbai to become a scriptwriter. Naturally, when the countdown has begun for the shift, the self doubt is creeping in. On one of such moments, he asked me- How do you know you have the talent to become a screenplay writer or for that matter, any kind of creative writing?

The truth is, you never know until have made your first sale or your first film. And often, your script getting produced is not an enough validation of your actual writing talent. Especially in our film industry. But still the question caught me. We make drastic and risky career choices based on the conviction that we can write. We spend a lion share of our spare time writing, shutting ourselves off from our family and day job. Often a little bit of objective perspective can save us a lot of loss and despair.

So, below are certain points that I could think of, which may help. But the standard disclaimer is, these points could be indicators of talent, but not necessarily that of success. More than that, these are points which should guide some one to understand how important writing is to himself.

The motive talks for itself

Are you into scriptwriting because you believe it is the easiest and least expensive way to break into film industry? Or because you absolutely love writing? Most of the other aspects of film making requires technical expertise. Expertise in screenplay writing can be acquired by sitting at home and writing. If that is why you turned into writing, be careful. Writing is learnable but the progress is much slower than learning to edit or capture a shot. And there are much less objective measures for your improvement (if any).

Have you written anything in the last 3 years?

Writers write. Talking and debating about writing, reading script gurus, analysing the scripts of recent films, writing blogs about scriptwriting- all these don’t amount to writing. Writers have this itch to punch out things- even if they are not on a grand scale. It doesn’t have any logic. But they go on doing it in some form or other. If you have not written anything for a long time, it is much more likely that it is a dispensable habit for you. Then why all this trouble because writer as a career is one of the most volatile, insecure, stress inducing and unpredictable professions.

 Is your writing appreciated by strangers?

Friends and family members don’t count. Also if the appreciation comes from a stranger even without your seeking for an opinion from this particular person, it counts more. Someone buying your script is the best and honest form of appreciation. Unless it is your parents.

 How much does success matter to you?

Imagine this. Your guardian angel appears in front of you and tell you that if you pursue writing as a career, you are not going to succeed at least for the next 10 years. Now be completely honest with yourself. Would you still continue to write now? If answer is an emphatic ‘no,’ one needs to reevaluate one’s options. Because the truth is, even if you are talented, probably you are going to take that much time. If you can’t the enjoy the process in the mean time, then what’s the need for the suffering?

Can you survive the scissors?

What makes script writing different from so many other forms of writing is that, unless the you are the writer-director-producer kind, your script will go through changes many of which you are not going to like. If you want to be the autocrat hermit, it is better to write a novel where the interference is much less. Producing scripts is about being good in the room, articulating your position and being willing for compromises. It may sound easy. But it is not. Because everyone involved with a film loves to give opinion on the script. But sometimes the writer has to sacrifice the pawns to save the king.

Some indicators of your flexibility are- 1)Does your script undergo drastic changes after first draft, based on feedback? I mean a page 1 re-write with complete restructuring because you liked someone’s advice? 2) Have you got into heated arguments with the person who gave feedback on your script?3) Is your co-writer still in talking terms with you?

 Ability to give intelligent feedback is not equal to talent.

Many of us are very good in breaking down and analysing films/screenplays. It doesn’t mean the scripts that we write are going to be good. A good script is not only about getting ‘things right’ and ‘avoiding mistakes.’ It is also about consistently good execution in every page and line. In a good script and film, good writing may appear deceptively easy and simple. Don’t get fooled by thinking that ‘it should not be that difficult to write something better than that film that got released last week.’ Because our judgement about a script is heavily coloured by the quality of the final film.

 Do you finish your projects?

Occasionally losing faith in a project is normal. But if the pattern is persistent, say out of the last 5 scripts none were completed, you need to be careful. A possibility is, your ‘shit detector’ is decent enough but your writing is very bad. Sometimes our mind knows even though we don’t want to openly accept it. Also it is possible that you are not able to sustain enthusiasm on a project for long. Writing a tweet and a script are different. There is no instant gratification while developing a script. You have to hammer on without any guarantees or encouragement. Is your temperament suited for such a process?

Photo by It’s a Keeper

The messenger

We shook hands. ‘It has been a long time,’ I said. It was a little weird. A decade ago, we had ate and drank together, cut classes together,  fought others together, proposed to the girls for each other… Now we were shaking hands. If we could forsee this scene 10 years back, we would have died of laughter.

In the restaurant, he breached on the subject. ‘She is in town,’ he said.

You fool. You thought he had come to see you for old times sake. You idiot.

‘She called me after so many years. She was crying,’ he continued. ‘It appears she has got into some problems with her husband.’

I stared through him. 

‘I need your help. I can’t involve directly. I need you to go and test the waters.’ 

Don’t you see? I don’t want any of this. 10 years back, your request would have made me happy like any other kid who has been asked to pass a love letter for his friend. Right now, I am only bothered about the mistake in tax return that my accountant made yesterday. Of course… I am also bothered about my potbelly. And also my receding hair line.

‘What do you exactly have in mind?,’ I asked. ‘Couples fight. They patch up. Don’t jump your guns here.’

Obviously he had already played out that one many times in his mind. He shook his head. ‘Don’t think so. And I thought it is a risk worth taking.’

For your information, I am the one taking the risk here you bastard.

‘You are going to get really embarrassed at the end of this.’ What I meant was, I am going to get really embarrassed at the end of this.

I will have to say yes I guess. Otherwise I am going to miss my ten o’clock tv show.

Photo by jurek d.

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-

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

The man vs the govt: the Anna Hazare redux

‘A great antagonist is some one who believes in the inherent goodness of his own intentions and a great drama is where everyone is an antagonist.’—Goldman

Some how I am getting a hang about the times of our freedom struggle (doesn’t mean that I think this is the ‘second freedom struggle’). All the hard facts about our freedom struggle aside, there are certain nuances and things about the atmosphere that becomes revealed to you in unique occasions like this… A politically shrewd person raising the right kind of issue with an immaculate sense of timing… The government which is exasperated by ‘this weird man’ with ‘eccentric ideas’ rigid in his own way… The other Indian parties and stake holders who don’t agree with him in most issues but still put up with him because he is effective… The public dictated more by pure emotions rather than nuances and subtext, ready to sacrifice for this total stranger… History does repeat in its own mysterious ways.