"Staring at a blank page and saying, 'I have to write the best thing ever', is a guaranteed way of ensuring the page stays blank."
Below, a photo of the latest draft of The Hudson Avenue Chronicles.
Clocks in at 119 pages -- one short than my first rewrite goal of 120, so that's good, but clearly not the thirty page cut that I was aiming for, and still a long way from the ultimate goal of sixty. Normally this would upset me. Here's why it doesn't:
I went into this draft with the primary goal of getting the story and plot as air tight as possible. There were a lot of holes in the previous draft, as there always are with early drafts, and they needed to be filled before I could move any farther. Additionally, I didn't feel as if I were painting as complete a picture as I could, as there were many aspects of the theme that came by way of a character outright telling you what they were and how they feel rather than showing it, and, well, the rule is "show, don't tell" in screenwriting, so that was a big weak point that needed strenghtening.
So I was reintroduced to the blank page, my printed draft sitting in front of me, and got to working. The first sixty pages went off with nary a hitch. A lot of good, relevant material was added, corners were trimmed, and I fleshed out the plot in a lot of areas all of which made everything more interesting. It was still far from where I wanted the material to be, but it was definitely a step up, and things felt like they were progressing.
And then I hit a brick wall.
This was mostly for two reasons. First, I soon realized I had added too much material, and even though the new stuff was better and needed, it would be ever harder to make a landing anywhere near my proposed 100 pages. There were no other corners left to cut. Second, my central character arc was conflicting with the current plot points I had laid out in the latter half, yet the narrative was locked in with the theme quite nicely, and I was at a crossroads.
The last thirty days were spent far away from the script, in that anxious purgatory that writers know too well. You want to work, but you have no work actually thought up, and you can't execute a plan that is no longer there. In these situations, I find it's best to take a break and stop thinking about it. I became too close to the material again, and it was clouding my judgement. I was losing my objectivity, too locked into an outline that wasn't working. The gears stopped turning and the juices stopped flowing, and I couldn't go back to it until that changed.
After a holiday weekend spent vegging out in front of the TV watching the entire runs of Girls and Firefly, those juices came-a-roaring back.
This is usually how it works. Inspiration hits me in waves. When it rains it pours, and suddenly I had more ideas than I knew what to do with. They also all made sense, and I was no longer afraid to smash the current template that I was working with.
Immediately I knew that I was too far along in my current draft to implement these new changes without creating a fuck of the cluster variety, and it would be best to just start anew. But you don't learn anything from unfinished drafts, so I made it a point to bang out the rest of this one before I moved forward.
You'd be surprised how much easier writing gets when the pressure is off and you lose all investment in how it turns out. You'd also be surprised at how much good material comes out of the "I'd rather go to the DMV than write" mind-state.
For weeks, I'd struggle just to squeak out three pages in a day. I've written over thirty in the last 48 hours, along with some one-off scenes to be used later in the series' run. The bigger picture is starting to sharpen. It's becoming easier to trim the fat and simplify things, and not to adhere strictly to the autobiographical.
The coal is becoming a diamond.
So, upon finishing them, I bid a not-so-fond farewell to the BLUE REVISIONS, and look to the upcoming PINK REVISIONS with as much excitement as I've ever had. I'm sure halfway into that draft I'll have a similar brain-melting creative crisis. I always do, but with any luck, it'll be a little easier to manage as the pieces continue to fall into place, and hey, you got to take the wins when they present themselves, and you got to focus on the positive side of things.
And the positive side is that this project is still alive and well.
Until next draft.