Friday, March 31, 2006

OMFG, the Nicholls!

In a drunken haze last night, I suddenly remembered that the Nicholls might be coming up... so I looked, and the submission deadline is May 1st, but the application form isn't available online yet.

The Nicholls are only open to people who haven't earned more than $5,000 from writing. I qualify on that front. So I'm going to submit WAR, INCORPORATED to the Nicholls. On the other hand, I think WI also has a good shot if I do the usual send-it-out-to-prodcos-and-agents thing, so... does submitting it to the Nicholls mean I can't send it out otherwise until I either get rejected by (or, in the Bizarro universe, win) the Nicholls?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Moving on

Spec #5 is, for better or worse, done. I've sent it to a few people for sanity-check feedback, to make sure I didn't miss anything blindingly obvious. Once I deal with that feedback, it's off to prodcos and agents, and into the hands of the very few contacts I have in the industry. The title is WAR, INCORPORATED. Here's a (not necessarily final) logline.

Corporations have become independent city-states, with their own laws and militaries. "Hostile takeover" doesn't just mean stock trades and layoffs; it can also mean invasion by force. When the militaristic Global Defense Manufacturing attempts to conquer the more civilized Henckel and Sons, a small group of employees fights back, trying to stop GDM before it can tear their community apart.

I'm moving on to another spec, which is quite definitely not in the action genre. It's comedy-fantasy (think LIAR, LIAR or GROUNDHOG DAY, may the fates let me write something half so good).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Uh... yeah, I meant to do that!

"Dear Variety, I never thought this would happen to me..."

I gave a draft of the current screenplay to my wife, who did me the favor of reading it. Among other things, she commented on a particular action by one of the characters, saying that she really liked how this action symbolized a later set of actions, and it was tied together really nicely.

And I'm all, "...buh?" Because I didn't do it on purpose. I never even thought about it. And there were approximately half a dozen times where she pointed out another such element in the screenplay, that I had never consciously thought about. So either:

1) I'm a screenwriting savant. (Insert your own "idiot savant" joke here.)
2) It was just sheer coincidence.
3) The deliberate, thorough, lengthy method which I used to write this screenplay ended up just sort of naturally coming together, because of the thoroughness with which I worked out all the story beats and character elements to begin with.

What I call "thorough" others might call "anal retentive," though, so, actual mileage may vary. Anyway, I'm keeping this short so that I don't spend hours tweaking the blog and instead spend hours tweaking the screenplay.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hulk Revise!

The current script is down to around 126 pages, and I've still managed to avoid excising any complete scenes. Some scenes have been cut down significantly (especially where I realized that I was spending time unnecessarily focused on a secondary character, in order to flesh them out -- fleshing that could occur elsewhere, in many fewer lines), but 90% of the compression has come from simply shrinking action and dialogue, and removing superfluous action and dialogue. Shortening conversations. Removing unnecessary reaction lines. Removing unnecessary description.

I'm getting down to the bone, and that worries me, to a degree. I worry that the whole thing will end up being too long and too skeletal, leaving me with the unavoidable task of rejiggering the whole story to eliminate one or more subplots. (Followed by the subsequent pass to fix all the dialogue and description that's now broken because it references things that no longer occur.) The problem with that is that it might be more time and effort than it's worth, for this story; and I think I can get this below the 120-page mark without removing anything major. Yes, yes, I know, kill your babies; the problem is that there are no babies left in this thing. It's nothing but unruly teenagers, dotting the scene breaks with their rebellious spoor.

Then, it's time to start sending it to agents and prodcos. Huzzah! My first screenplay that I think is actually worth a damn!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Okay, so I'm sending up a flare.

The current script is almost done. The first draft was 173 pages. After a single compression pass, it was 143 pages, and that was only via removing/combining some dialogue, and shortening action and dialogue lines. Then I realized the line spacing was too large (more than standard), so now it's 135 pages. I think it stands on its own at that length -- and yes, I'm well aware of the difficulties inherent in specs longer than 120 pages or so. However, the set of acceptable outcomes for me also includes getting work based on the quality of my writing, and not just selling the script di-rectly.

Right now I'm doing a full-spectrum dialogue pass. This means establishing a dialogue style for every character, and then making sure every line of their dialogue fits that style. This is micromanagement at its finest; I'm glad I spent all those years fine-tuning my colonies in Master of Orion II. This is asking questions like, Does this character use phraseology like "I want" or "I need"? Does he say "This is X," or "I think this is X," or "Do you think this is X?" Does this character use words with Greek roots, Latinate roots, or Germanic/Norse roots?

More than that, I'm also making sure that the characters' dialogue flows well and is interesting. The hopeful end result is that someone reading the script will have the sense that the dialogue is good, but not be able to tell why. This is incredibly tedious work, but it's the kind of fine detail that I think is important in making a script excellent.