21 August 2009
“Dear Princess Scribe:
Once upon a time, I had an idea for a story. It was a tantalizing tale, and I quickly found myself courting it; I’d take it out in public, introduce it to people. Soon, I realized that what I had was a most perfect story. It was time for me to take the plunge, and commit myself wholly and completely.
But now, three years and six drafts later, I fear that the magic is gone. I no longer wake with this story on my mind. Instead, I find myself thinking about other stories. Taking them out. Talking about them. Working out the beats; massaging the B-story. Do I move on, and embrace these new delicious loglines? Or do I remain faithful to the old ball and chain? What do I do to fall in love with my story again?
Ah, the capricious nature of the adulterous scribe.
Writing is more than a craft. Writing is a commitment. Not unlike a marriage.
I repeat ~ writing is a commitment.
There are the obvious commitments, of course: time, money, energy, creation of your space. Then there is the single most important commitment – to STORY. Three years and six drafts?
Let’s take a gander at these numbers:
• LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE spent five years and close to a hundred drafts by different writers before production began
• CAPOTE took over seven years to go from conception to completion
• INSIDE MAN, also close to seven years, according to Gerwitz’s post-screening Q&A hosted by Creative Screenwriting
Tell me, my fickle friend, where would any of these stories be if their scribes were two-timing them? Chances are, they’d never see completion.
A conversation I recently had, with a writer, to whom I was giving counsel:
See, I’m a little ADD. I mean, I have to have a bunch
of projects going on. I write a little on this one for
awhile, then I move to that one, and then I have...
He gestures to his Board
this over here...
How is that working for you?
Great! Just great! I mean, I’ve got four projects going.
How many have you completed?
Of these? Well, none, yet.
Have you written other scripts?
Yeah, sure. Six scripts, maybe seven.
And how many of those have you completed?
Good lords and ladies of the court, I rest my case.
A story is like a marriage. You must commit to it, each and every day. Writers write. Each and every day.
There are days, of course, when you don’t feel the magic. Welcome to the world. Guess what? You still have to commit to it. Each and every day. Like a marriage, writing takes work. And you will find that, some days, you just have to do the work.
So, you’ve lost the spark? Instead of blaming your partner – your story – you might take a look inward and determine why that spark isn’t there. Self-sabotage? Fear of failure? Perhaps something as simple as structure gone bad – scenes in need of reorder, a misidentified protagonist, two stories competing in one script. Your ennui may be screaming to you, to wake up, open your eyes, take a step back and explore every nook and cranny of your story. Go back to the beginning. Meet your characters for the first time, all over again. Get to know your story’s world. Try dating your story; I assure you that spark is still there. It’s your job to find it.
You will not find the spark if you abandon your story.
The above being said, Princess Scribe does concede the necessity of managing multiple projects as a challenge in the life of the scribe. Princess finds herself doing the same; she writes spec scripts as she prefers to write her own lies. However, as Los Angeles is a far more costly kingdom than say, Madison, Wisconsin, HRH finds herself working for hire while working on her own material. This arrangement is not an adulterous one. Think of it, instead, as polygamy.
You are Bill Henrickson, and your stories are his wives. Simple time management:
HRH’s Ye Olde Calendar
Princess Scribe rises at 5:30. 7 to 8:30 am is devoted to physical and mental transformation through physical exertion. At 9 am, her workday begins with spec writes/rewrites. 11 am heralds time for other business, face time with clients, phone calls, coffee dates. 2 – 4 pm is devoted to work for hire or consultations.
So, my dear Disloyal Subject, Princess suggests that you resist the temptation to play the field. Instead, she would prefer that you step back, take a deep breath and assess your commitment to your craft – and to your story. Divorce is simple. Writing is not. If it was, everyone could do it.
~The Princess Scribe
TODAY’S ASSIGNMENT: Write a one page article on your story, and why you are not at completion. Take responsibility for your actions, and create a game plan to drive you to the finish line.
Recommended reads: “101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters” by Karl Iglesias; “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield; recommended site: The Business of Show Business Institute