Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Thinking versus Typing

On his blog Was I Something I Wrote?, professional TV drama scribe English Dave has some interesting things to say about the difference between smart writing and fast writing. As usual, he hits the nail on the head. I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that when my writing grinds to a halt in the afternoon, that usually means my subconscious is telling me to stop. The big well of inspiration has run dry and I need to stop pulling up the bucket of words, otherwise all I'll get out of it is dirt. [That's one butt-ugly metaphor, but you get the idea, right?] Yesterday I was hoping to knock off the last third of my Phantom script, take a light lunch and then power back into my Warhammer novel. I confidently expected to produce at least 4000 words, keeping me on schedule and on track.

Cue cliches about best laid plans. My average Phantom script runs about 200 panels, to be divided by the artist into 30-32 pages. [Team Fantomen likes lots of panels on the pages, which gives stories a pulp density - only one balloon or caption box in most panels, keep the narrative driving forwards.] By 10 in the morning I'd hit panel 170 and I still had another 60 panels worth of story to write. So, it was back through what I'd dashed out the previous day and some ruthless pruning. I always write flabby at the start of a project, while I'm feeling my way into the proper pacing for the story I'm trying to tell.

Sure enough, I cut 30 panels out of my existing material. That left 60 panels still to write for my 60 panels of story to tell. Finishing that by half twelve, give it a final re-read and polish, before emailing that to the editor in Stockholm. Follow-up phone call, set deadline for next Phantom script, mark it on wall planner, time for lunch. Having run in the morning, I also needed a bath. Plus emails needed answers too. By the time I'd done all that, it was 2:15 and suddenly I've only got three hours of writing time left. Where the hell did the day go?

Back to the novel. It'd been three days since I last did any work on it, and I have to re-read the last chapter to remind myself where all the characters, who I had just killed, who I was about to kill and what would happen as a consequence. I'm loving my best ensemble cast [especially now they're starting to die], but keeping all those plates spinning is challenging. So I skimmed through my previous chapter, did some tweaks and twiddles on that and finally made a start on some fresh writing by three.

In the end I only managed 2000 new words for the novel yesterday, so today needs some good solid work. From now to the finish will be one mad dash, but I've had months to think about this, getting it all ready in the back of my head. Now is time to unleash cause and effect, and see how my cast of characters react as the pressure gets to them. Who'll be a hero and who'll be the anti-hero? I love it when a character's choice surprises me. I'm looking forward to being surprised over the next two weeks.

1 comment:

Frank said...

I am stunned by your work rate and your "project hopping".

I'm lucky if I can produce 2-3 pages of script in a few hours!

It's taken me a month to write a rough draft of a 30 min spec TV script!

I take my hat off to you!