Friday, March 29, 2013

In Which I Find Out What It's All About

There's come several times working up the outline for my script that I've wondered about my subject material.

I believe in the premise.  I believe in the overall theme and idea I'm trying to convey.  I believe in the characters, and the story, but . . . there's nagging things.  Is what I'm writing about too silly?  Too stale?  Too broad?  Too niche?  Too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft . . . stop me before I get a little blonde-haired rugrat eating my porridge.

It's fear, to be sure.  Something about the act of writing is weirdly embarrassing.  It's like public speaking, except you usually aren't there to hear the reactions.  You don't know if they love you or if they're jeering.  The feedback is anything but immediate, and unless you're one of the rare folks writing with a partner you're all alone out there.  You have nothing but your own good sense and taste to judge what you've written.

Trust me, I'm well aware I'm at a considerable disadvantage there.

Moreover, it's wondering if it'll all work.  For me, it works in my head.  I can see most of the scenes already.  I've even cast the roles with my friends in mind, just to give me guidelines on how these people should sound, what their limits and lack thereof should be, etc.  But just because it works for me doesn't mean it'll work for you.  Oddly, that same sentiment could apply to most religious wars . . .

It's a gamble.  You're rolling the dice on the story you're telling.  Are you coming up with something people will find innovative?  I'm reminded of being at summer camp, and how many dozens of fireside variations I've heard of "the hitchhiker with a hook."  But there's always been at least one guy who knows how to tell the definitive, shit-your-pants-and-your-friend's-pants-too version.  There are no new stories, only different permutations.

That's the rub: finding a combination that's fresh.  It has to be something that works, not just for you but for just about everyone.  It's not about the grandest, the biggest, the loudest.  It's just about making it right.

Pants-shitting optional.


  1. Have you thought about finding a beta reader or writing partner?

    I've been a writer since I could write, and I've spent all my days gravitating towards other writers, both online and in real life, and one thing almost all of them do that seems to be helpful on so many levels is to find another writer whose writing you can stand and whose criticism you can take and team up to help each other out... you get their input on anything you have doubts about, you learn by GIVING input on their stuff too, and... ideally having a community of fellow authors around you keeps you motivated and gives you important insight.

    I am currently attempting to wade through the mind-rapingly complicated process of trying to figure out what I need to do to turn three files full o' text into publishable manuscripts and then... get them published. I'm fortunate in that I've been able to speak with a few actual published writers and get them to read my kids' book and critique it... I'm not even considering the idea that I'll ever find someone who gives one single shit about my poetry, and I was fortunate to have that attitude justified by Martha Freaking Grimes... but my last and, I hope, BEST of those three works isn't finished being written yet, because I'm having my own doubts about it.

    So hey... if you need another writer to bounce ideas off of, or to mercilessly critique your style and structure, I'd be down for that. As a reference, I offer Kyle -- I've been critiquing his scripts for.... jeeze, I think it's edging closer to 2 years now.

  2. For me it took time to break though that barrier of "Is what I'm saying good enough, will people accept it?" Oh that and eventually coming to the conclusion that the idiom you are writing is your own and no one else's. You could probably do it better, but doing it better is always a learning process, and doing it *right now* is usually of more importance because if you don't, you don't get the experience you need to get better.

    You eventually surpass that feeling after X amount of output and start to get a handle on how your composition works and what an audience expects out of you, but I do agree with the above that a sympathetic ear is pretty crucial. Not someone who will unreasonably nitpick you, but someone who themselves believe in what you're doing and want to see you do it the best you can. This is the trickiest part of finding beta readers--many people are ideally sympathetic and/or think it'd be cool, but are limited in their ability to analyze and extract writing, or even have the time to do so. Plus, reading something out of obligation tends to suck the fun out of it.

    But beyond that, whether or not the story itself is "innovative" is a worry that shouldn't be of too much concern. A story is rarely unique because of its plot, but because of a combination of all of its elements which create a new experience--the author is more like a stage magician, peppering the story with unique bits . . . wait that's a chef, not a magician. Um.

  3. Always remember to read it out loud to your self. If it does not make sense when read aloud, then it won't make any sense when anyone else reads it. Also recommend having someone else proof read anything you write. You're brain automatically fixes things that you read. So having someone else read whatever you write makes sure that you will catch any mistakes you make. And I firmly suggest having hard copies that you can throw against a wall whenever you get frustrated.
    Good luck in all your work. I am looking forward to the results.