Screenwriting

First Drafts

First drafts are never fun.

Not to put a blanket statement over it or anything, there are fun moments, but generally, first drafts are akin to pulling your own teeth. You don’t yet know what your characters sound like, the exact actions they’ll take, or even their defining motivations.

It’s like they’re on the other side of the wall and you’re trying to draw their picture. You can’t see them, you can barely hear them, so hopefully you do your best, but already you know it’s not even going to be close to accurate.

And that’s okay. You can only do so much figuring out on a whiteboard. Until you type it out, it’s not real. You can have every beat of every little moment planned to the T, but once you sit down at that typer none of it will help. Because you haven’t learned them yet, and the only way they’ll speak to you is if you work with them.

They’re going to be difficult at first. You might not trust them. Well, they don’t trust you either. Can you blame them? After all, you’re bringing them to life and you don’t even know what to do with them!

But you start to learn each other, and you to start to figure out their tics.

The further you go, the more of a grasp you begin to feel – on the voice, the motivations, it all becomes just a little bit easier.

Once you’re done, you don’t have a script. You have a map.

Because now that you know you’re characters – their voices – and you go back and begin to read your first draft, you now know what’s wrong with what you’ve written. You may not have the exact answer yet, but you’ve got something much closer to what it should be.

Every draft is like that. It all becomes shaping and molding the giant piece of authored clay you forced out of yourself.

Really, it’s never-ending. Every draft is the first draft in a sense. But that first one is the hardest, and the worst. Like a difficult shit: It feels good getting it out, but boy does it stink.

7.29.16 – What Next?

So I’ve finished the fourth draft of my latest screenplay, LP (think Clerks meets High Fidelity), and I’m fairly happy with the outcome. I fixed a couple of glaringly problematic scenes and switched some gender roles, and while I’m sure the script could still use a punch-up in terms of comedy-per-page ratio, I’m happy with where all the pieces land. It’s also interesting to note that the page count jumped from 85 to 96 between the first and fourth drafts. I’m happy it didn’t go past 100. I wanted to keep this script lean, and while I’m sad it went over 90 pages, I consider it an accomplishment as every feature I’ve written has consistently clocked in around 120 pages. Still, I don’t think it’s as neat and tight as my first script, Red Valley (but honestly, nothing I’ve written since has measured up to that in terms of sheer character motivation and arcs), nor nearly as deep or interesting like High Fidelity, but I think it lands for what it is.

Anyway, while I’m seriously trying to figure out how I can get LP made independantly, the other half of my brain is desparately trying to figure out what to write next. This is the scary time.

For months now, I’ve thought about this story and this story only. The nice thing about finishing a first draft is that you don’t have to think about what the next thing is going to be because the second draft is what it’s going to be. And so on and so on until you’re done. But once you are done, then what? Take a breather? Did that (Arkham Knight and a total Thrones re-watch, a-thank you). My brain is itching to create, but if you’re going to write a feature, you have to be glued to that idea because this story will be occupying your time for the next several months. Features aren’t for the commitment-phobes.

I have a few ideas for strories I’d like to get to (one I’ve had since 8th grade), but for whatever reason, now just isn’t their time. The motivation is absent. Again, “write every day,” but is it really writing if you have to force it? I understand this advice if you actually have a project you’re working on, then by all means, write every day. If you don’t, you’ll lose your rhythm and the script’s voice will fluctuate and suffer for it. But when you’re waiting for inspiration to hit, man, it’s fucking scary.

Will I ever write again? Was that the last screenplay? What if a new idea never comes? What if that was it and I’m all out? Like how Cobain felt after In Utero. Empty.