The writing grinder that is NaNoWriMo is one that I enjoyed enough to tackle its lesser known sister, Script Frenzy. It's the same basic idea. Instead of writing a 50,000 page novel in 30 days you attempt to write a 100 page script in 30 days. Being a screenwriter, this was more than a little appealing. Last year I considered doing it but being part way into a script at that point, it seemed like the wrong time. This year I was prepped, lubed up and ready to dive in.
The first thing required is a story idea. Not a problem. Ideas are cheap and easy to come by. Having great ideas is not the mark of a great writer. Executing on those ideas is. So I decided to take an idea that I had tried on three different occasions to turn into a script. None of them had made it past thirty pages. Pretty poor execution. I began to kick around ways to finally get the job done. Broke down previous failures. Game planned the approach this time around.
And then I threw the whole thing out. Maybe I'll take another stab at it some day. It's a good idea, I'm just not ready for it.
Something else drifted in from the ether. Well that's not true. I sat through a Die Hard movie marathon. What followed was a vivid and bizarre dream in which I found myself paired up with Bruce Willis as we stumbled through a series of misadventures. The next morning that dream loomed large in my mind. The details quickly faded, leaving me with just images and the final moment before waking up. In it, Bruce and I trudged through a snow covered field. We were bruised and bloodied, clothes tattered. And he looked at me and said, "I'm actually just a security guard."
For the next couple weeks I brainstormed based on those fragments of dreams. I watched a lot of action movies, mostly from the 80s. I watched East Bound and Down. Listened to my vast collection of podcasts, especially Writing Excuses and Creative Screenwriting. The goal was to turn my brain into a particle collider, a mental equivalent to CERN's LHC. I fed material in as fast as possible and waited for random ideas to collide and come up with something new. When April 1st rolled around, I had a pretty good mental outline.
As I write this, the script is at 68 pages. It has no title yet. And I don't know what the ending will be. That's a concern as I usually write toward a specific ending. But I have that snow covered field in mind. Maybe that's the ending.
What I've come to love about NaNoWriMo and ScriptFrenzy is that it provides pressure. Without pressure, a deadline of some sort, it's easy to put the work aside. The feeling that you can take a day off is always there. Having a goal to reach by a certain date means not having an excuse not to write. Most writers seem to excel at finding reasons not to write. Writing every day is anathema. But it shouldn't be. Watching a project grow steadily under daily attention is a huge source of satisfaction. And most important, the deadline forces you to finish. No endless tinkering. No constant rewrites of page one or chapter one. Just get in and plow straight forward to the end.
Rewriting is, for me at least, the most satisfying part of writing. The first draft is just to establish the vague idea of the script. Every draft after that fixes a problem, fills a hole, deepens a character, strengthens theme or cranks up tension or comedy. That's the real fun. But you can't have that fun without a finished first draft. So, what I'm saying is that I'd like NaNo and ScriptFrenzy to happen more often. At least until I get paid to do this, which provides a different sort of deadline.
That felt like a rambling speech but I'm not going to save it and come back later to refine it. This blog needs to update more often. To get there, I will accept some sloppiness. Plus, I'm curious what everyone thinks I sound like when I'm writing at 4 AM.