Thursday, April 23, 2009

Block and tackle

I wrote nothing yesterday, I hit a wall.

As regular readers will know, I loathe the concept of "Writer's Block". I believe I am justified in this loathing (obviously) and I shall explain (this is my view):

When someone says "I can't write, I have writer's block" it's as if they have some sort of disease, that it's something outside themselves preventing them from writing.

There certainly are things from "outside" that might stop you from writing, like worries about money, or a loved one's had an accident, or you have someone close to you who is constantly undermining you.

These are real external issues - they are not a disease and they are not "Writer's Block", but they can stop you writing.

From my personal experience the only thing that stops me from writing (and I tempted to believe that this is the real truth generally) is that I don't know what to write.

If you don't know what to write then you can't write it.

So clearly the trick is: find out what to write.

I've known for a couple of days that I have a problem with my plan for Running, it was too low-level from the start. In other words what I was writing as an Act-level description was really more of a Sequence-level.

And I ran out of plot. I was trying to write my Act III notes when I was barely halfway through. And then I made the mistake of sitting in front of the computer pretending that I was trying to solve the problem - because I knew what it was - when really I was doing nothing.

I faced the fact that I was deluding myself yesterday evening and decided not to try to fix it then and there - because other issues were intruding. Like the fact that I had an interview for a contract in Bristol today and I had to get everything sorted for that.

However that was to my advantage because it meant I had 6 hours of writing time available without interruptions sitting on the train. I made the decision I would sort out my plot problems and write a goodly number of pages today.

Then I had a terrible night. I had to get up about 5:30am, I went to bed at midnight and the dog decided to disturb us during the night. So I was really tired.

I drank a lot of coffee today - but not in the interview, didn't want to get coffee-breath. (The interview seemed to go well but, frankly, I've given up trying to second guess the result. Anyway I have a telephone interview tomorrow and another possibility coming up.)

So I spent the first part fo the journey figuring out how to fix my plot problems. I'm not a fan of flashbacks generally but I thought adding a few really short ones spaced out through the script would help explain things. I made a big note to add some more stuff in one particular scene. Then I sorted out how to fill up Act IIb and Act III.

Then I fell asleep.

I woke up at Birmingham and set about integrating the flashbacks. Rather than abrupt changes to flashback, I wanted to have common elements between the flashback and the present, to make the integration smooth - and that seemed to work well. I also kept them very short, 30 seconds max. (I can always take them out later if I decide they don't add anything.)

Thing is there is the issue that in order to "win" ScriptFrenzy I have to write a script that's 100 pages long. Which may mean padding, though I try not to.

On the way back from Bristol I carried on writing, though I was so tired I fell asleep twice and seemed to jump in space because I almost failed to notice I'd fallen asleep.

In the end I still added only another 7 pages but they were good pages for the most part.

I had a very bright idea for a Parkour action scene in a location I'm betting that no one else has ever done. I like the process of putting your hero into a situation that it's completely impossible to get them out of, and then getting them out of it in an entirely logical way. In this instance the "getting them out of the impossible situation" put them into the new location.

(I had fun with that one in my Une Nuit a Paris script where the hero and the prostitute are chained up in an S&M room in a brothel. Getting them out of there was ... interesting.)

However I ran into an interesting problem: It was rubbish. There was no drama, no impetus, nothing.

Now I like writing action, apparently I'm good at it. The stuff I usually write is exciting and full of will-they won't-they tension.

But not this. It was as limp as a dunked Rich Tea biscuit. There is no tension because the people running away are not being closely pursued by their enemies, and there are no enemies ahead of them. Just look at all the Die Hard movies, the real tension comes when the jeopardy is right there, right NOW.

So that needs sorting out.

In the meantime I now know where I'm going again, and I can write again. There is no "Writer's Block" - just not knowing what to write.

What's on the turntable? "The Last Time I Saw Richard" by Joni Mitchell from "Blue"


Scaramanga said...

I also find that in the period after "finishing" a script I cant write.

It's probably because on some level I still think about the old script when attempting work on the new one.

Dont know if you get that too?


Adaddinsane said...

In my universe that would be "haven't worked out what to write next" - even if you know what you want to write about.

That, to me, would be why writing is 90% thinking about and only 20% actual words on paper.


Sofluid said...

Right now, my problem is having too many projects to work on. It's like being in a sweet shop! Spend so long choosing what you want that you end up either a)running out of time or b)procrastinating and ending up not achieving anything much.

OK, that was a BAD comparison. Me taking ages to choose what I want in a sweet shop?! Nah!

But, in all honesty, that's my problem at the moment. I have plenty of projects to work on and could get stuck into any one of them, but I have many that I'm eager to develop and far too little time to do them all in!

Personally, I find it hard writing whilst travelling. I'm a bit of a daydreamer when I'm on buses or trains. I'd also be a little self-conscious of having my laptop out for all to see.

I could start off with a notebook, though. Use travel time to jot down ideas for later use :)

Adaddinsane said...

I always use the notebook for shorter distances and busy trains where we're crammed in together.

I pull out the laptop on longer/less crowded journeys only. Can't stand people looking over my shoulder (even if it's only potential "looking over shoulder"-ness).

I try to travel first class when I can - book early for cheaper fares.