Forcing the Ending: Finishing a Screenplay a Year Later


A while back, I participated in Script Frenzy, a writing project/contest that encourages writers to finish a 100-page screenplay within a single month.

I hit the goal, and actually exceeded it, but the project was actually not “completed” when I completed the contest. I finished the contest, but I never wrapped up the story of the script. And then So You Created a Wormhole happened, with everything that entailed, and I had to leave the screenplay in a metaphorical drawer somewhere while other things took precedence.

Almost a year later, I’ve finally come back to the untitled project. It remains without a conclusion, although most of the pieces are there. I just need to figure out how to wrap it up in a satisfactory way.

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Revisiting old stuff to see if it sucks


I started working on my Script Frenzy script again last week, which I completed as part of the month-long script-writing event in (holy crap) 2010. It was already way too long — the Script Frenzy goal is 100 pages and I was at 117 — and I added to it significantly yesterday. (I posted on it some time ago, which also includes the first 10 pages.)

It’s good to be back in old projects again.

In fact, I’m finding there’s a lot of benefit to checking out old stuff lately. It’s an exercise in seeing where you’ve been and how you got to where you are, which is enormously beneficial. And then there’s the fact that it’s easier to see how to improve your work when you see the crappy parts of old stuff that you made when you were less good. And you’re always less good in the past than you are now.

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A script in 30 days, unfinished

The Script Frenzy outline in much rarely used writing journal. April marked the Script Frenzy challenge, in which writers were encouraged to try to write a 100-page script of one kind or another within a month.

A 100-page script isn’t really that bad, at least when you’re writing a screen play, like I did. Formatting helps a lot – there’s a ton of white space, character dialogue eats up pages and pages, and you get to make line breaks for different actions and things all the time. All in all, it could be worse (see Game on, novel writing, an entry about Script Frenzy’s sister event, National Novel Writing Month [which I subsequently failed]).

My 100 pages is finished. The untitled script is about Marney Friday, an intrepid high school journalist, who sets about chronicling the last days of her father’s life after he suffers a heart attack. Marney travels around her town, interviewing the people who interacted with Hal Friday before his death, and learns things about the man – and herself – she didn’t expect.

Problem is, 100 pages puts my script right around the end of the second act. In a three-act structure, this is, as we writers say, bad.

There are probably an additional 30 or 40 pages I need to write before I can set about revising this first horrible draft. I say “horrible” because, as far as my writing goes, this is one of the worse things I’ve ever put down. It’s not exactly a bad idea, and the writing’s not god-awful. But a good way to describe the project in general is, perhaps, “malformed.” Undercooked. Still incubating.

Ms. Friday needs some more time in the test tube before I unleash her upon the world. As such, I’ve given almost no part of the script to almost anyone, when usually I’m sending at least bits and pieces off to several of my writer friends for feedback. (However, you can read the unedited first 10 pages here.)

I don’t want feedback this time, because I know what it’ll be.

Meantime, one of the larger effects of Script Frenzy seems to have been that focusing for that long on one thing has got my brain swimming around in ideas for other things. I’ve hopefully got more than one zombie story for Wrath of the Damned forthcoming, as well as some other scripts I want to work on.

The only problem with that is firing up the old hyperdrive motivator in my head to get me working on some of them.

Or finishing that script.

Or revising it.

At least I’m not writing this in front of the TV. That’s one step in the direction of creativity.

Mitigated disasters

Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation I went with fellow Ultimate Frisbee enthusiast Nick Hurwitch to a pick-up game that occurs every Sunday up the hill toward the Hollywood sign from my house. I played pretty well (though most of the group was middle-aged) and punctuated my first real strong physical activity in months by rolling my ankle so bad, it felt like God was punishing me.

So I’ve spent the last week pretty much incapacitated, as far as the whole “moving-around-on-one’s-own” thing.

This on the heels of the beginning of April, which has me participating in the month-long Script Frenzy event (from the people who brought you National Novel Writing Month). Script Frenzy has its participants attempting to write a 100-page screenplay, play, graphic novel, etc. by the end of April – 30 days.

That’s going pretty well. As of this writing (Day 12), I have 55 pages done. Which is a little ahead of the game, all things considered, and I should be able to write a few more scenes this evening. (I should note: The story isn’t moving extremely well, despite the script’s length. Still, I think I have it and with some pushing, it’ll come together. Read the first 10 or so pages here.)

But my ankle has been a disaster. It has left me stranded, laid up, for most of the week, unable to do even simple things like make myself food.

Being stranded on the couch is somewhat maddening, but it could have been worse.

Oh, wait – did I mention it was worse?

Seems the hard drive has melted. A few days before the ankle injury, I suffered an injury of another sort. Apparently, the hard drive in my HP laptop overheated, melted, and otherwise completely broke. So then I couldn’t move and I had no means of communication or working.

Losing my computer and my mobility was a serious detriment. I make my living on my laptop – so not only was my script in serious jeopardy, but so was paying rent. And buying food. And managing the Netflix queue.

Fortunately, we were able to jury rig Caitlin’s Mac to keep me working. I managed to find all the bookmarks and passwords that I require to do my job somewhere in my e-mails (thanks for saving EVERYTHING, Gmail), and before long I was working really slowly on a foreign computer, which felt a lot like learning to use an American computer without being able to speak English.

At half-speed but still going, I looked into getting the computer fixed by HP. I’m just barely still inside the year warranty, so I pushed a few buttons and the computer company was more than happy to accommodate me. Two days later, they sent me a shipping box to send off my laptop for repair, free of charge.

Script Frenzy continued unabated, much to my surprise. I bought a couple of composition notebooks from the nearby Rite-Aid so I could work by hand while Caitlin was using the Macbook we were now sharing. Because of my stellar Act 1 outline, I was able to truck along pretty much unhindered. (Since then, I’ve made it to Act 2, where I discovered my outline was less an outline and more a scattered list of vague ideas about story flow. So I’m trying to, you know…get on that.)

Then I twisted my ankle.

Different kind of writing disaster. In the meantime, the new video game I ordered, Bioshock 2, arrived in the mail, so I had something to do while I wasn’t writing. I blasted through that at about the pace one would expect – it was a good thing to do after being asked to politely stop hogging up the computer for the day. (I wrote a Bioshock 2 review that you can read here [which I’ll link when I write it].)

Around Thursday my iPhone broke. The screen went blank on it, and while the phone itself seemed to continue to work, it was unusable. Rapidly running out of communications equipment important to my daily survival, I started looking into getting that fixed as well.

HP sent the computer back by Friday. With no cost to me. And it was completely fixed. After a few hours of running system restores off my external hard drive, I was back in business at near 100 percent efficiency. I’m missing a few files that I got in the couple of weeks between my last backup and my hard drive failure, but mostly they were book proposal- and Script Frenzy related, and all of those files exist elsewhere.

Aftermath of iPhone explosion. And after a fast trip to the Apple store near Beverly Hills, and about five minutes with the “Genius” (I hate calling them that), the phone was fixed. For free.

Back with my own system and my own programs and my own files, all the disasters are (pretty much) cleared out of the way. The ankle is healing and feels better every day. The computer has been rehabilitated. The iPhone works about as well as an iPhone works.

In fact, there’s so little preventing me from writing that I’ve completely run out of excuses.

Except for this blog. Need to finish this blog. Then I’ll work on Script Frenzy.

…And maybe after some lunch.