Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Screenplay: the final lap

The last couple of weeks have been 'spent' on the remaining 10 or 12 pages of my Shadows re-write. I say 'spent' because only a very small percentage of time writing a screenplay is actually dedicated to writing (I speak from my own personal experience and this won't apply to everyone). The rest of the time is spent doing anything... absolutely anything... other than writing. I'll listen to music, do some photography, process pictures, reading blogs, looking at other photographer's work on the computer, spend money on eBay, see who's Twittering little gems of info, read a magazine or book... anything... but write that script.

When things aren't working out, the best way for me to progress is to stop. Otherwise I'll just go off in a direction I don't want the script to go in and it becomes a vicious, downward spiraling circle of re-writing the same sequence and trying to steer it back on track. The danger is, I'll say 'screw this' and move on... and never return to the project with the same enthusiasm.

Now, the last couple of weeks, and my struggle with the last act, is a case in point. I started writing, didn't like where it was going and I stopped. I knew that, if I listen to my soundtrack for this script (as part of my process, I always selected music that invokes the feel I have for the script and I put a playlist of these tracks together on my iPod... it's a way of tuning in), if I do some new research (the web and especially YouTube is amazing for inspiration and info at one's finger-tips), I'd be fine eventually.

I tried again a couple of times and it still didn't work.

The final lap is always the hardest to discipline oneself. The end is almost there. You can see it. You can smell it. The temptation would be to write whatever comes out and get to my favourite part of a screenplay (the bit made up exclusively of two little words; 'The' and 'End') but, I know that, for me, this would be a mistake. Better to get it as right as possible on this pass and then go over it after and improve it further, rather than find I need to tear it up and re-do it again (not that this process of mine is a guarantee that this won't happen).

For some writers, just hammering something out and getting to 'The End' might work fine. It just isn't for me.

The point is, the final lap is crucial and the temptation to sprint for 'The End' and risk tripping up is something a writer should be wary of. The end is the first thing a reader or your eventual audience will remember when judging your work, so be patient. Shape it, construct it and take your time (not easy when you have a tight deadline to meet I know).

Finally, early yesterday morning, after listening to music, watching YouTube videos as research, reading up on stuff and making notes, I woke up at 2.30am with the end clearly in my mind. I got up and went for it. Six hours later, I typed 'The End'.

Now I'll walk away from the screenplay for a few weeks before reading it back and the fun will begin all over again!

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