The first draft* is finally complete, which is great, but is a strange bag of feelings because a) there's at lot more work to do on it and so I'm refraining from feeling too good about it: "getting carried away." b) it's brilliant that I've managed to reach this point, but don't feel as great as I thought I would clearly because of a), and also due to, c) I haven't read it back yet, and d) it's a long first draft, not the longest, but it means that it's competition status is probably out of the window.
Unlike my scriptwriting experience and projects of the past, this one hasn't been a fast process or a reclusive experience. But going in I knew it wouldn't be and that was part of the challenge. The project begun as a highly relaxed one and one that I knew I wouldn't write quickly due to the change in my living and working environment. That meant I no longer had all day and night to write and get lost within the story and writing like when I was at university, or shortly after, whilst being unemployed. The luxury of time had been swept away from me but has only made me value it even more. As well as the beauty of deadlines and working under immediate pressure which had also faded away.
However, I just wanted to get back into writing and test the waters; see the relation between time spend and progress made, finding the best ways to work and getting myself to work, all in order to adjust to a permanent future writing fixture. I feel now that I may have reached that point.
The process itself was often relaxed, however, frustrating a little early on and in the latter stages of the scene breakdown, as it took awhile to see real progress (in comparison as a whole) and it took so long to finish. The script was a much faster process as it was bliss to be back and was bolstered by having a scene by scene guideline of the story, which I could refer to and equally, not solely rely on. There were times when the script was heavy going, towards the middle and especially nearer the end because it was emotionally draining and simply put, I just didn't want it to come to an end.
Overall, a fair few sessions were missed, but self-discipline and habit did kick in over time, as well as some self-generated pressure whilst writing the script: to get to the end and get it down. All along I knew this was going to be the hardest part of the entire project because I was going from nothing to something. But whilst writing the script and seeing progress, it felt great and I felt home, and often wondered why it had taken me so long to get there.
However, this one turned into a larger animal than I had initially hoped, and the duration of its scene breakdown document and length of its first draft shows that. Intended as a short one hour drama, it soon became apparent that I was hoping for a miracle first time round. But I powered through and continued with the scene breakdown as previously planned. Not to mention, I had already started it and naturally wanted to see it through. But this wasn't a major problem, only in that it would take a lot more time to complete, but was more a welcomed realisation and green light to walk the road ahead.
As with many stories and especially character-led dramas there can be appear to be a number of different ways in which to tell them, however, with this one due to story and character loyalty, and in favour of a more realistic and compelling portrayal, a short telling disappeared as an option.
A Blessing in Disguise
At last I could fully relax knowing that I had breathing space and could explore this fully, then later choose from what was written down and re-work accordingly. Without room to relax and with boundaries, I would have missed out on a lot of character, story and scene opportunities, and scriptwriting lessons in this first draft.
For the future, I now know better than to frame a story before it's written. It has worked out in the past for me, some exactly on cue, but for some stories I understand that we don't fully know them until they're written down. I think it's nice to have a desired or logical ideal in mind, but not so firm that it can't be broken, as the story preceded by its characters should will out in the end and in their own way.
I had hoped to use this as a competition script for The Peter Ustinov Award, which is why I partly assumed it would be short and wanted it to play to one hour. Its original and list form scene breakdown written in August 2007 (wasn't considered for this due to enlightening knowledge on writing for Television, and changing its arena and visual nature) was perfect in structure and development for a one hour drama. This partially led me to believe it would be fine the second time round but I guess a lot had changed since then.
It's quite possible, although, unlikely that I may be able to get a solid sixty page script from this. At the moment I believe it's a feature-length drama, at least. It may work best as a two-part drama, but who knows. It just depends on which works best for the story, the development of its characters, and the experience of the reader/audience. That's something I won't know until I return to it at some point in the future. Either way, it's exciting stuff.
Back on Track
- Aline Brosh McKenna
This is something I heard early into the actual writing of the script and had a profound affect on me. The advice was solid and totally inspiring. However, it affected me because I knew it was true and it was something that I hadn't consciously thought about. But after having a few months away from writing scripts (whilst developing), and then six months whilst writing a scene breakdown, I hadn't been involved in the theory and actual practice of screenwriting for awhile. But that was an important quote and realisation to have because it made me realise I was a little out of touch with it, and that wasn't where I wanted to be.
With this project I was aiming for relaxed so I could assess the how, when, and why of writing to figure out an ideal plan and solid way forward. But now I have witnessed it in action (and non-action) and seen the evidence of progress over a twelve month period of writing, whilst working full-time (plus seen three months go down the pan, which I could have written a lot in). But ultimately, I know I need to be doing more each week on a project in order to make worthy progress; should be using my passion and turning it into motivation; should be seizing the moment, every moment: all to stay on top of my game, and if I'm to stand a chance in writing half of what I want to write within my lifetime.
What happens next?
This will be shelved for around four months at least, or until I've had the right amount of distance from it. Then I will read it for the first time (a first in my book), and rewrite it. But before then, the next and thankfully, shorter script awaits....
It's clear that if we want to get ahead on something then we have to step out of our comfort zones and push ourselves everyday, and in addition to doing everything else. Getting through the day and completing the usual feats isn't enough. We have to go further than that.
"Success comes to the person who does today what you were thinking about doing tomorrow."