Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The joy of making it different

Got advance warning of a major note on a project I'm writing. Won't get my proper notes until next week, but it seems an important element of my first draft is too similar to an important element in a story told nine years ago. This is pure coincidence as I've never experienced the old story - if I had, I'd have done something different in mine. It's unfortunate nobody else spotted the similarity until after I'd written my draft, but that's how it is.

Fact: some things only become apparent when you read a full script. A short pitch, even a full treatment, can tell you a lot about a proposed script - but not everything. For example, years ago I wrote a Doctor Who audio drama called Full Fathom Five. Everybody signed off on the treatment and I was commissioned to write my first draft. When I delivered it, my script editor noticed one character was surplus to requirement. Goodbye to that character.

That's a classic case of everybody failing to recognise a flaw in the treatment. Sometimes you simply need to see a finished draft to spot these problems. Notes like that can be frustrating when they arrive. But so long as the resulting rewrites make the script better, it's all for the best. Less satisfying is the note that essentially says 'make it different', but it's part of the job. No point crying over spilled toner.

When my notes arrives next week, there could well be an element of 'make it different' about them - so be it. The best thing to do is treeat this as opportunity. Is there a more interesting way of achieving the same story beats while making it different? How can I better use the strengths of this project's storytelling medium to improve upon my first effort? I need to make sure my second draft is not just different where required, it's also better.

But that's next week's job. For now I'm consigning that task to my subconscious, along with plotting out ideas for a novel proposal needed soon. This week I've got my 38th issue of costumed comics hero the Phantom to write, and a 140+ page script to analyse for two friends. Plus a telephone conversation tomorrow that might lead to an exciting opportunity. More news as I get it, once I'm allowed to talk about it. Meanwhile, let's boogie. Onwards.

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