Saturday, September 27, 2008

When to Quit

No, I'm not thinking about quitting writing. Writing is my nature, and it's what I do best. If I stopped doing that, then... well that would be depressing.

Instead, my question revolves around specific scripts. When do you give up if it's going nowhere? And what does it mean if you give up? Does it mean you aren't a good writer?

I've been writing my Dexter spec for almost 6 months now, writing and re-writing the plot points. That is about 2-3 times too long. You should be able to conceive, plot and write a TV spec in 2 months (though I think 3 months is OK if you have a full-time job). And I hadn't even started writing the script. So I decided yesterday, painfully because I've put so much time and energy into it, that I'm giving up my Dexter spec. I knew that Dexter would be a tough nut to crack, as it's one of the most complex shows on TV, but it's one of my favourites and so I gave it a shot. I came up with storyline after storyline, but very few of them really spoke to me. So I re-wrote and re-wrote, and eventually I think I got sick of it, which made me neglect my writing. If this were a film script, I'd put it to the side, turn to another script and come back when I felt refreshed, but this is a TV spec that is already approaching the expiration point, as the 3rd season begins tomorrow.

Now, it's also been difficult for me to let this script go because a point of a spec script is supposed to be that you are showing that you can write anything. If you're hired on to freelance for a show then you can't just *not* write it. But perhaps that is the point: I'm still learning. Maybe I should have done Dexter as my 3rd or 4th spec; maybe it was too much to bite off right now. I'd only written a Heroes spec before, and that is a much simpler show on many levels: plot, dialogue, structure, morality. While I feel shame for admitting this, I realize that when you're hired on a series you break story with the room, and then write the script around that predetermined story. This is another reason I think that 3 months for a spec is more fair than the 2 month limit. So what I need is a show that is more basic, at least in structure (part of the problem with Dexter is I had a lot of trouble figuring out the acts, and I found out later that the writers practically ignore acts). So for my next attempt, instead of doing a Mad Men, perhaps it would be better to write a Terminator: SCC spec.

But before I begin another spec, I need to create something. I can't go this long without writing a script, so I'm going to write a horror/comedy short that I've had percolating in my head for a while. A short script will give me some much needed creative release, but also will add another completed work under my belt. Never underestimate a sense of accomplishment!

Update: Saw the 3rd season Dexter premiere, and my spec would have been completely useless now, because my B plot was introduced at the end of the episode! At least it means my ideas are spot on...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quill and Ink

Quill and Ink, originally uploaded by Trevor Finn.

I'm back from my 2-week trip to Italy! On one hand that's depressing, but on the other hand I didn't get a chance to write the entire time I was there, and for a writer that's excruciating.

So, while I was there I confirmed my writerdom by getting this pretty feather quill and ink for my desk. I have no idea how to use it, let alone write in courier font, plus I'm left handed so even if I did know how to use it, I'd smudge the ink all over everything anyway.

But, it looks pretty, and it will give me luck.

As for the career front, I started my first week of being a paid writer/producer this week, for the company I mentioned before, that does corporate tribute videos. Meaning if a CEO is retiring from the company, we're who they hire to make the video either celebrating or lampooning them. So you can imagine the sheer lengths to which I can stretch my storytelling and comedic muscles. I self-deprecate, but actually, I do like it. I can actually say I'm a writer. I can't say I'm writing what I want, or getting paid how I want, I'm not in the Writer's Guild and am not even writing for broadcast TV but damnit I'm a writer!