I haven’t written about actual writing in a while…probably because I’ve been writing too much to write.
I’ve just finished (or pronounced myself done with) my dissertation/major project/feature length film.
It’s a drama.
With a touch of musical.
Set in the Scottish highlands.
About and American girl who gets swept away by everything wonderful Scotland has to offer (including gingers).
It’s titled Gingerly.
But it’s not autobiographical. I only wish that I was living in the secluded highlands and running into a ginger rock star who happened to be my idol and who would fall madly in love with me.
It’s actually a lot more serious than that. It deals with themes of estrangement, depression, alcoholism, sexual abuse, self-harm, and homophobia.
Which makes it sound super depressing, I realize, but I did my best to keep it as lighthearted as possible – like a kind of Peter Pan minus Neverland (but they do go to Isle of Skye).
Let me say a few words about writing a feature length screenplay.
- Structure helps – not just with organization, but also with goals. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I finally finished Act I and then Act II.
- Give yourself breaks. I didn’t work on my screenplay a single bit while my family was visiting in June-July, and by the time they left I couldn’t wait to start writing again.
- Read other screenplays. Doesn’t even matter if you’ve seen the film, just read screenplays. Read ones by screenwriters you know. Read ones that are in the same genre you are writing in. Read any one that you can find.
- Write through, and then go back. I think this is a common bit of advice, but people still get hung up on it. When you come back to your writing the next day, don’t go back and read everything you’ve written. Just the last few sentences or last scene so you get back into what’s going on. If you read everything you have so far, you’ll get stuck in a cycle of shaving that off or beefing it up and you’ll never move on in the story.
- Many drafts. I wrote three – from beginning to end – for this major project. The first was barely a spine. The second added some muscle, and the third added some skin. There is still room for improvement, but it really helped to have the whole story out in front of me so I could see all its gaping holes instead of having what I think is a superb Act I before moving on to Act II, when in reality something I’ve slaved over in that Act I is going to paint me into a corner in Act II if I keep it. Much better to have an overall mediocre (or worse) entire film which you then can doctor than having spend hours perfecting one part that you’ll have to throw away later when it doesn’t work.
- Listen to music. Or something to keep half your brain occupied. Because otherwise you’ll feel like a schizophrenic while you write (too many character’s voices vying for more screen time). Maybe that’s just a personal one for me.
- Never, never, never give up. Many times I felt like this was the wrong project for me, or this was not going to end well for anyone so I should just trash it and start with another project. But really, what I was writing about was very personal and very passionate, and the more I expressed things correctly, the more fulfilled I felt. So don’t give up, just find another angle. Hard work’s reward is much better than copping out.
P.S. Here is my dream cast. Now tell me if you would want to watch a film with all these people in it:
How could you NOT!? Utter brilliance.