Script writing strategies for 2014

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So how was my last writing year?

Less regular writing. But more output. Strange, isn’t it?

Less internet. Got a bit distant from my friends. I should blame it on my insistence to finish my writing first.

More outlining and brainstorming. Less writing screenplays. Good or bad? Not very sure.

Less co-writing projects. More solo adventures. Less speed. Less protection.

To be honest, it does surprise me that I am still here after 7 years. I am still doing this. I have a day job. I have a family. And still I am hanging in here with the skin of my teeth. I realise that I should be an obstinate bloke to be writing even now.

I would not have continued writing if not for the tidbits of validation I had from different quarters. Thank God for those.

So what changed this year?

The single most important change is that I focused more on outlining rather than on writing full scripts.

It has worked at least on an experiential level. I feel that I have got more work done last one year than most other years. By forcing myself to disengage from a project and focus on something else after a reasonable amount of time, I have improved my time efficiency. Most importantly, by postponing the ‘rush’ into the first draft, the ideas change and gets more mature.

Time will tell how much I am losing out by not writing full scripts. I don’t inherently like this method. But this came out of sheer compulsion from the ‘ticking clock.’

The setbacks?

Networking. What really suffered last one year is not writing. But time spent on finding like minded people and cultivating relationships.

The scarcity of actual meetings. But that was intentional. Because it occurred to me that I am not yet ready. Be that spider. Make sure your web is strong enough. And wide enough.

So what are the plans for 2014?

At least 15 hours of writing every week.

To keep time on writing targets and to monitor my own ability to set ‘reasonable’ targets.

To be ready for meetings by April.

To start meetings in May- at least one every month.

To spent at least 7 hours every week on networking.

At least a blog post per week. Even if it is two lines.

To plan reasonable incentives/punishments for meeting/failing my targets.

Photo by deiz92

Scriptwriting redux

Redux 012/365 by ☆   Tabrel
 

This is an interesting phase in terms of writing for me. Probably the most productive phase I have ever been through. I mean in a strict output-time efficiency sense. There have been periods where I spent more time per day on writing. But it was more in a ‘savour the process and the page count be damned’ mode. Really what it amounted to was more obsessive detailing mostly an hindrance and distraction to the stories that I was trying to write. Now I can tolerate more the imperfections of what I have put down on page. I am much more ruthless in pulling the plug when a project does not appear viable from a practical sense.

So what has changed? Probably what helped are some deadlines looming over the horizon. Planned meetings, scheduled narrations, other commitments heading my way. Until this point, these meetings were a abstract possibility far far away.

My eyes were opened because despite all these years of writing, I am still not in a perfect situation where I am all prepared for a meeting. So I guess, I will have to learn on the fly and move on.

Photo by ☆ Tabrel

A letter to the 18 year old myself

My dear son, let me tell you... by Funny Fish
 

Hi there,

While looking for something, I happened to stumble upon those diaries that you are so religiously writing right now. Quotations, long handwritten book extracts, poems, fears, joy and frustrations spanning around 7 years- man, I think I am not half that methodical after all these years. It made me a bit sad to know how miserable I was those days.

Nostalgia plays strange illusions. Human memory has the ability to strip off all the unpleasantness from our past and embellish it in a beauty that really never existed. While reading your diaries I realised that probably I am much more self assured and socially confidant and happy now than you, my 18 year old self.

I am glad that you are writing those diaries. They gave me some perspective. And I am sorry to inform you that I stopped regular diary writing in around 2006 just before starting my post graduation. Interestingly I started a blog in 2007. But it never comes close to those diaries. Because the honesty when you write something for just yourself cannot be surpassed by anything else. I think that the biggest challenge as a writer is, how much you are willing to reveal about yourself as a person. Honesty is king. A reader can palpate the courage of the writer in his words.

I am glad that you are holding on to writing despite all the rejection slips, peer pressure and your own insecurities about the rationality of what you are doing. Probably writing is the only thing that you are doing right. But that will do. Everyone needs something to hold on to, in the storm of chance events that is coming his way. A narrative that will color every random event in life with a meaning.

You seem to be asking me, would I have done anything differently then if I had known what would happen 15 years from now? Probably not. I don’t think so. Like my post graduate career choice. Like not giving up on the dream of being a writer. Of course I would have written more. Would have knocked on all those doors much more furiously. And I would have reached out to my friends more. Would not have allowed them to drift away in the currents of life. I realise their emotional worth much more now. And I would have allowed myself to make more mistakes.

You want to know whether you would be successful after 15 years? Would you regret your actions and decisions? I just want to tell you- Don’t worry about the future. It is not going to do you any good. Because no matter what, your success depends on your definition of success. So it doesn’t matter. 15 years down the line, you may look with disdain at the greed or shallowness of many of your peers which is only surpassed by their contempt for your choices. So everything depends on the perspective. And you are making enough money to live decently. And you still love your day job.

And I saved the biggest news for you till the end. Despite all your indecisions and flip flops and jitteriness about ‘what you want,’ and ‘what you are going to do,’ ‘Regretting foolish fantasies,’ I am proud about you. You know why? You are the among the rare few among your peers (I can count them in my fingers), who would take some bold choices in future. You ignored what others did when it mattered. It was tougher for you because you took a detour while others were just following a long procession. I never expected that much courage from you. Would those choices pay off? Or would you regret them? I can tell you only this much. I am still standing here. And I am not banging my head on the wall. In fact the only regrets I am having right now is that I didn’t follow through those decisions with enough conviction later on. And I am having this nagging feeling that another 15 years from now, if I am going to regret anything, that is going to be that lack of conviction rather than those bold choices.

So don’t worry. Just continue what you are trying to do. Only thing is- be a little more happy and relaxed. Don’t read too much into everything. Do what you like and enjoy what you do. Love life. Rest of it is just useless interpretation.

With lots of empathy,

Your senior self.

Photo by Funny Fish

Deadlines and scriptwriting

scissors by danielgrenell
photo by danielgrenell

The question is- should one really self impose deadlines in creative writing? Can it harm the quality of the writing?

Often great ideas come when you are least expecting it. If you are mechanical about the various stages (‘After 10 hours of outlining, I am just going to write it’), you may often miss on some great breakthroughs. Writing in itself is a process that cannot be fitted into boxes and flowcharts. Often the associations you make are bizarre and counterintuitive.

But the issue that adds counterweight is the problem of productivity. Writing is not the kind of job where at the end of the day, you can count the number of words and decide whether you have worked well or not. And when it is compounded by writers’ eternal problem of procrastination, it becomes very difficult not to fool yourself. I can just daydream for months lying on the sofa and pretend to myself that ‘I am outlining.’ And if that ‘brilliant idea that burst out of nowhere’ is the criteria of good work, it may also turn out to be damp squib the next day.

So is it a good idea to restrict the time you use for outlining or writing a treatment? Probably not. But what if your outlining goes on for months? How do you know for sure that just because you have spent 2 months for developing something, it is going to be better than spending 2 weeks on initial development and then taking more time on rewriting?

Advantage of spending more time on outlining is that you save a lot of time while actually writing the script. Also most of my unfinished scripts happened because I didn’t outline. On the flip side, often you realise what you really want with the story after you write a complete draft. If you have spent too much time on outlining initially, you lose some of the mental flexibility to revamp the theme and plot of your first draft if it is required. Anyway I have decided to try out the second option- jump into the first drafts after a fixed amount of time in outlining. I need to try all methods to see which one really works.

Writing screenplays on android tablets

The widgets

First things first.

I have not done a comprehensive review of all the screenwriting widgets available on net. In fact, I have not tried any screenplay widget which is not free. What I believe is that if you can’t find a free widget for doing something, probably that function is not either relevant or important. I don’t want to buy things that I don’t really need.

But if it is any consolation (to myself included), all the screenwriting widgets I have not tried mostly have very poor rating. So the untested ones are screenwriter, celtx, fade in (paid version).

And my vote is for MyScreenplays free version.

MyScreenplays has a very different format which needs a little getting used to. It is different from other screenplay programs that we use routinely. It treats every segment of dialogue or action as a different unit. You have to open these separate units individually and edit. But after some use, you get used to the structure.

Its biggest strength is import and export. MyScreenplays is one of those few android screenwriting programs that get this one right.

It can import and export to celtx and final draft. Export function has been smooth. But my experience with importing has not been that good.

The only difference between free and paid version is absence of ads. I am seriously thinking of buying the paid version for honoring their decision not to restrict certain functions in the free version.

Fade In free which is very good in other aspects lost out here. I couldn’t export my work in any meaningful way. It is possible that this problem with Fade In Free is very tablet specific (I have a samsung 750 (10.1)) and it would work well in other tablets.

The weakness of MyScreenplays is definitely its unconventional structure and interface. But I assure you, it will grow on you. It needs some getting used to.

I should also mention dubscript here which is a final draft reader. It is a useful widget to read all those finished final draft scripts.

The experience

As I have mentioned earlier, I bought a tablet for productive rather than recreational purposes. Writing screenplay on a tablet is not going to be as smooth as in a desktop, but you can do almost as good as a job once you get used to the keyboard on a tablet. Having a bigger tablet definitely helps for smoother typing.

I thought I would be doing more outlining than actual script writing on tablet. But I was wrong. I found it difficult to outline on tablet. Outlining is the heavy lifting part of the writing and I found the tablet and the interface too distracting. Nothing beats pen and paper for jotting down random incoherent ideas while you are trying to solve a specific problem.