Wise people often say that practice makes perfect. Since I’ve always believed that there’s no such thing as perfect in screenwriting/filmmaking (despite Richard Curtis’ best efforts), it might be wiser to revise it down to the slightly less catchy “practice makes better” when referring to screenplays; something I discovered quite plainly in my own work in the week just passed.
In assessing various options for moving my screenwriting along, I revisited the three spec feature scripts that I currently have in my portfolio which I consider to be “projects” (there are countless other unfinished collections of scenes on my hard-drive as well, but I wouldn’t dream of pitching them in their current form!). The ideas, stories, and themes at the core of each are very dear to my heart, and I love each of them for their own, quite different, reasons. But what struck me from looking at them in such close proximity was just how much better the actual, fundamental writing is in the most recent script when compared to the first. There’s a better flow between scenes, it’s more efficient, more visual and it’s ultimately more engaging as both words on the page and as a cinematic story. The first script has been well-received, and the story underneath has gained industry interest, but the way it is presented in places is extremely clumsy, and just from skimming through it I can already see how I would write things differently to avoid such clumsiness now. In the six years between that one and this most recent one, the act of writing more scripts – from shorts to features to TV episodes, and even the unfinished collections of scenes – has given me more practice at the craft of screenwriting to ultimately create better work as a result (alongside the reading of other people’s screenplays and the editorial discussions I’ve had in my script-reading career as well, of course). It was an exciting reminder that, even if scripts don’t get picked up straight away, or get stuck in development for a long time, it’s important to keep writing regardless so that when that opportunity comes a knocking, your craft is honed and ready to make the most of it.
Target Number 1: Spend a minimum of 20 hours editing my novel.
After last week’s stopwatch mishap, I was very careful to ensure that I didn’t repeat my mistake and stop the clock at the appropriate moment. It was largely successful, partly because of this attention to detail but mostly because I really didn’t spend much time with the novel at all last week, having only spent an additional 14 minutes on it over the last seven days…
The main reason for this was the renewed interest in the feature side of things, with some imminent deadlines looming for competitions that I think my most recent script could be particularly well suited to. Before submitting to any opportunity, I like to give the script a thorough polish to make sure it is as tight as it can be, and since these invariably take longer than I anticipate, most of my time and energies have been diverted here when they might otherwise have gone to the novel. Part of me is wary of leaving the novel for too long for fear of losing the momentum that has been building behind it in recent weeks. However, it may also be a blessing in disguise for giving some distance to the story, and allowing me to come back to it with fresh eyes once the script has been “finished” and submitted.
Next Monday, I will be in London, all factors permitting, so will be taking a break from the Writing Journal to make the most of my time there after a very busy summer period. I’ll hopefully get some work done on the novel in this time as well – I may need to based on today’s evidence! – but otherwise I intend to use the time to catch up, refresh, and reset ready for the autumn/winter months ahead. Keep practicing to make better, and I’ll see you back here in a couple of weeks’ time.