Making Time to Write

When you’re a beginning screenwriter, actually finding time to write can be the biggest challenge. You’re not getting paid for your writing at first, so you have to balance your desire to write with your need to make money.

If your job is incredibly draining, but you’re serious about being a writer, you might need to find a job that is more compatible with your writing. Or, you might have to commit to being a morning person – or a night owl – and get your writing done before or after work. I am naturally a morning person, and my job starts in the afternoon. So, the best part of my day is reserved for my passion.

“Iliad Bookshop” in North Hollywood, California

Once you decide whether you want to write before work, after work, or during your lunch hour, you must make sure you keep your appointment with yourself. My cell phone alarm has become indispensable. When a habit is new, the toughest part is remembering to do it. Having an alarm that pops us and says “WRITE!” is a great little tool to have.

For some people, writing on the weekends is the only time that will work. This can be challenging, since it’s easy for other things to pop up and challenge one’s commitment. You’ll have to be firm with everyone – friends, family, children, and your own laziness. The weekends are your writing time, period.

The other potential problem with the weekend is that you will have to binge-write. Instead of writing daily, which would allow you to stay in touch with your story throughout the week, you’re playing catch-up on the weekend. If this is your issue, all you have to do is read your story during the week for a few minutes. Even if you don’t have much time, reading parts of your script will keep you engaged until you can sit down and write on the weekend.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Trees in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA

There is no right and wrong time to write. You may have to experiment with different days, times, and places to find what works for you. Don’t give up! Experimenting also helps you get to know yourself as a writer. I know I’m a morning person, for example, as I mentioned, and I prefer to have a block of time to write – at least an hour, preferably two. However, I can sneak writing in for a few minutes here and there if I’m writing a non-fiction piece. For fiction, I need time for my mind to wander without the pressure of the clock. I’ve learned this about myself over time.

I’ve also learned that threats and rewards can help me keep my butt in the chair. If there’s something I want to do (or eat, or watch), I tell myself that I will reward myself with it as soon as I finish x-amount of writing, or as soon as I write for x-number of minutes. This increases my motivation to start. Once I start, I’m fine. Or, sometimes, threats are more effective. If I fail to get x-number of pages written, I will smile and initiate conversation with (fill in the name of someone I really dislike), for example. Rewards tend to work better for me than threats. But just the thought of the threat is enough to make me do what I’m supposed to do!

Most writing gurus recommend that you write every day, but the best plan is whatever works. If Monday/Wednesday/Friday is a schedule you can do consistently, do it! It’s better than pressuring yourself to write every day and failing. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes a while to get into a regular flow. But don’t give yourself too much slack either. If you don’t hold yourself to your commitment, your dream will never become a reality. Once your book is published, or your script is optioned, you will be expected to continue producing lots of content. So you might as well get into the habit now.

Happy writing!

Have a blessed and beautiful weekend,

Raven

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New Ways of Telling Stories

It’s fun to think about all the ways we can tell stories: from cave paintings and campfire ghost stories, to mime, stage plays, and movies. Last weekend, I attended a workshop in which the speaker, Chris Pack, discussed how movies are being adapted to virtual reality, changing the story-telling game even more. The above video is an interactive virtual reality horror film called Speak of the Devil.

Every time something new comes out, there are hold-outs who insist that “the old ways” are superior. I usually do not agree. I’m excited by change and evolution. I appreciate all the different story-telling modalities. I like watching movies at home, even on my phone, for example, just as much as I like watching movies in the theater. This depends on the genre, of course, and my mood. But the convenience of sitting in the comfort of home, with all my favorite snacks around me, and my own bathroom nearby, is pretty damn cool. There’s something about putting on my headphones and immersing myself, alone, in a movie, which is special and distinct from sharing the experience with a room full of strangers.

At the same time, reading is and always will be my first love. There’s nothing that can replace my own imagination, which gets to enjoy the most freedom when I’m reading a great book. There’s something self-caring and self-loving about giving myself the time and space to enjoy a good book.

But I’m a fan of new technology, so I am excited about virtual reality and all the other future technology that will help us tell stories. What’s most important is our own interaction with the story. There are different considerations that come with each medium. There are ethical considerations that arise with virtual reality that don’t come up in the same way with books or movies.

If your character-point-of-view in the virtual reality movie is a murderer, for example, and you are given his perspective, could this pose psychological problems? Could it cause permanent trauma? What about explosions, accidents, and sex scenes? Watching something happen, versus participating in it from a first-person perspective, is a different experience. We already have this with games, but game plots are usually pretty limited. The power of a good plot, combined with a first-person “reality” perspective could be quite powerful and influential in both good and bad ways.

So, the future is coming, whether we embrace it or reject it. In order to take our place as storytellers of the future, we have to think about how the technology affects the way the story is told and the impact it could have on the viewer. It’s all very exciting.

Happy storytelling and have a great weekend!

Raven

A Bad Ending: You Get Me

{This is a discussion of the film You Get Me (2017). Director: Brent Bonacorso; Writer: Ben Epstein}

In real life, endings are almost always sad (except the end of a work day).

In movies, however, endings tend to be happy. We know that, in real life, good people die, couples break up, failure happens, and life is not always fair.

But in the movies and on television, we don’t want to see that. We get enough of real life in real life, so we usually want to feel good at the end of a film or show.

However, what happens when a happy ending is, nevertheless, BAD? By bad, I mean, unsatisfying, trite, or too easy.

I watched a teen thriller the other day called You Get Me. I wasn’t expecting much. It was a teen version of Fatal Attraction, basically. But it was better than I thought it was going to be. At first. The cinematography was enthralling, the music was good, and the acting (for the most part) was good.

What sucked was the ending. I wasn’t expecting any surprises, and by gum, I got none! But I started wondering why I was still unsatisfied, even though it ended as expected.

I think I was unsatisfied because I got no final thrust. Given the nature of the story, I wanted to feel a little beaten up by the end. I can live with a trite ending, but please mess with me a little bit first! Make me sweat for it. Make the trite, happy ending feel well-deserved. Don’t make me feel like I received dessert without eating my vegetables. I want to feel so relieved at the end, that, trite or not, I need a break from the tension.

But there was no tension. It’s like, at the end, they scooped mashed potatoes onto a white plate and followed it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Please, smash some gravy onto those mashed potatoes! Slop some melted chocolate all over that ice cream!

If someone is going to get kidnapped, or if you’re going to kill off some expendable character, for example, stick it right in my face. Show it to me! Make me suffer with the victim for a little while. Don’t turn away, shy. If you’re going to rip off Fatal Attraction, then rip it the fuck off! Give me the creeps, make me feel bad for the villain a little bit, make me want to jump into the screen and get revenge.

Sadly, You Get Me was pretty good until the end. They set everything up nicely then got cold feet. They raised up my expectations a little bit, then kicked me square in the booty. Thanks for playing. Next.

However…if you want to look at pretty people living in Malibu, and you have an hour and a half to spare, You Get Me is not a complete waste of time.

Have a great weekend!

Raven