The Writing Journal #6

What a difference a week makes. 168 little hours. Storms and flash flooding that battered my small corner of the globe made way for bright and glorious sunshine that shows no signs of stopping (for today at least). The same week has also seen some differences in my writing outlook as well, although not necessarily in the same sunny way…

 

Target Number 1 – Add 3,000 words to my novel manuscript.

Status: ACHIEVED 😊

That’s the good news. Eventually, by Saturday afternoon, I was able to pass the three-thousand-word mark and ended the week five-hundred words over that target. That is nowhere near the entire story though, thanks in no small part to a “Mid-Week Meltdown” that suddenly struck from out of nowhere and threatened to derail the project entirely.

Regular readers may remember that last week’s blog ended on a high. I had a “great deal of excitement” for both projects, and that the novel in particular had “built up its own momentum” to carry it through to exciting new heights in the weeks to come. That all changed in the middle of last week, and a real anxiety smacked me and zapped all that momentum in just a matter of hours.  When I tried to pick the novel back up again, a voice in the back of my head started to whisper to me. Quiet at first, but getting louder and louder every time I finished a sentence.

“This isn’t very good, is it, Dave?”

“None of this makes any sense.”

“This is boring.”

“Why bother?”

These thoughts are nothing new. In fact, they are to be expected during our quieter days as writers when the ideas are beginning to stall and the initial excitement for a new project is replaced by the hard work of form, structure and character flaws. Yet these thoughts felt different. They were coming at a time of great excitement. Mere days earlier, I had been eager and ready to drive the novel on, confident that I had a fresh, exhilarating story to work with. But as I sat down to turn this excitement into writing, these sudden doubts began rattling round my head with such intensity I couldn’t seem to power through. Every time I tried a different approach, they would rip that one down as well. Most of Wednesday was spent writing and then deleting the same paragraph again and again until I had to walk away for the day and leave it in the naughty corner so we could both cool off. It was a strange, disappointing feeling and one that I really wasn’t prepared for after such a positive start to the week.

After such a demoralising, and frankly terrifying, gut-punch on Wednesday, how did I end up meeting my target in the end? Space and time were an important start. I carried on with the screenplay (which, as I’ll expand upon later, was doing alright) and only came back to the novel after a couple of days away. When I did return, so too did the anxiety. But instead of trying to write directly into the manuscript, as I would have done otherwise, I opened up a new document and I threw every idea I could think of down into it, so that every thought about this particular scenario was out of my head and laid out clearly in front of me. Trying to remember all the options whilst analysing them in minute detail takes away valuable brain power and leaves you in confused knots. I looked through each option, ruled out the most ridiculous, picked the one I thought most viable at the time and went for it. I wrote it out, from start to finish, despite those anxiety pangs. When the flaws came up, I acknowledged them, made a note, and carried on as if they weren’t there. By the time I’d reached the end, the actual solution appeared as suddenly as the anxiety. It was nothing like the passage I’d written, and a lot of it ended up being deleted in favour of the solution, but the key thought processes would not have happened if I hadn’t put fingers to keyboard and typed it. In a frantic couple of hours before bed (desperate as I was not to lose any of this new story now!) I was able to push through the doubts and finish the chapter in a way that was satisfying and has left a number of options open again for moving the story forward in the weeks to come. That such doubts could sneak up when you think you know what you’re doing is scary, but on the bright side it’s a great comfort to now know a successful way of pushing through these doubts, should they rear their stupid, grotesque faces again!

Target Number 2 – Write 10 scenes in my screenplay.

Status: ACHIEVED 😊

In contrast, it’s been a good (if twisty) week for my feature project. It was a bit of a different target this week, mainly because I was finding it strange to consider a screenplay in terms of a word count. There had been a couple of occasions, before taking the break to update the step outline, where I felt I had achieved a lot in the story but was still falling short in the word count, which felt counter-productive. The targets are supposed to boost that writing morale after all, not stall it! Word counts are perhaps more quantifiable than scene counts, as a scene can be anything from a line to five pages long, but scene count feels more pertinent to what I’m trying to achieve, so I think I will continue on in this way when setting screenplay targets. For the time being at least.

It was also a good week for this particular project as a new development arose which could, potentially, be very exciting. The producer who has optioned one of my other screenplays has floated the idea of doing a “teaser” short of this screenplay in order to generate interest from potential funding bodies. It is a route he is currently having success with in one of his other projects, and is something that is becoming more and more popular with finance providers and distributors (a famous example of this being the Whiplash short that Damien Chazelle made to secure backing for the Oscar-winning feature version). It’s not something that had previously occurred to me, but now that it has been presented to me there are a number of ways I can see this working to create a strong short. This will, of course, divert some attention away from the feature version for now but in the long-term it could have a significant benefit for the chances of the feature being made at all, and is something I am very keen to explore once we have had a chance to sit down and discuss it properly.

 

I’ll be taking a break from the blog next week as I will be on my travels. I’ll be heading back to London for the week, partly for pleasure, partly for business, partly to be a good brother and help my sister move house. I have the rest of this week at home, so should still be able to squeeze some good writing time in before the next blog in two weeks’ time. It will be good to recharge too. Partly through rest and recreation, but also (hopefully!) through some chances to catch up with industry friends and discuss some ideas that will hopefully lead to some exciting places in the weeks and months to come.

This week’s targets:

  1. Add 3,000 words to my novel manuscript.
  2. Write 15 scenes in my screenplay.

 

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