Monday, August 15, 2011

Everybody's working for the weekend

I, through the gracious consent of my husband and the superior knowledge of my friend Elena, was able to go on a two-day writing retreat this past weekend. E and I drove two hours and checked in to a lovely old Southern home overlooking the James River with grand porches running the length of the first and second floors. We brought our own food, our computers, and the essentials for clothes, etc. and then we did nothing but write, eat, pee and sleep for the next 48 hours. It was heavenly. (I also, with the assistance of Jim the Songwriter who was also there on retreat, retrieved a five-foot-long black snake skin from a tree outside my window and brought it home for Nolan. You know, like you do.)

I worked on my screenplay for Night Tour, which I had previously, I don't know, not abandoned, but stopped working on in any meaningful way about a year ago. And taking it out again and really trying to buckle down and FINISH THE FUCKER reminded me of why I quit on it before. It's a mess. There's a lot of good stuff, if I do say so myself, but there's also a ton of chaff, and it needs more than just a weekend writer's retreat to fix, sad to say.

I was thinking about it again because I recently sent it to a friend-of-a-friend (who I hope will now consider me also a friend) whose opinion I respect, and he really enjoyed it. He thought there was something worthwhile there, and it got me excited to work on it again and really try to make it work this time. So I dove back in, and spent a goodly amount of time re-acquainting myself with the world and the characters. I only wanted to write an ending, which it didn't (and still doesn't) have, during this retreat. I figured that was reasonable. Just finish it, however you can, and then go back and try to fix all the other problems.

And I couldn't. I tried, but what I ended up doing was kind of like a logic problem from a book of puzzles. You know, the ones that are like "Five friends live on Walnut Street. Tom lives in a red house next to the house with the tire swing. Mary's house is not next to Sally's house." and blah blah blah so you have to try to figure out who lives where. Doing that with my script. Trying out different possibilities. If I do this, what happens then over here? Can I combine these two scenes? No, because then that line of dialogue that refers to the other thing that happens will come too late. How about if I move this over here? Hmmm...

No! You know what it was like? It was like building a house out of Legos. Not the big chunky Duplos but the little intricate fuckers that only come in red, yellow, blue, white, green and black, with a big green plate to build it on. My screenplay was 3/4 of a Lego house, built really tall for some reason, with ragged edges of bricks and no fourth wall (no pun intended). So, looking at it from the outside after having been away from it for a while, it was like, "This should be a snap! It just needs to have those last few pieces tacked onto the end. Maybe stick a window in that other wall. No problem!" And I got all enthusiastic and ready to tackle it, and then discovered what most 6-year-olds already know: You can't just cut a window into a Lego wall. That's not how they work. First you have to take off all the pieces that are above the ones you want to remove. Then you have to smooth out the edges by pulling off all the pieces that stick out and replacing them with ones that end where you want them to in order to form the shape of the window. Then you put the top layer of bricks back on. And sometimes when you pull one brick out, three other bricks are stuck to it and you accidentally rip out a whole section when you only meant to trim. So it ends up taking a lot longer than you thought, and you keep fucking up the parts you don't mean to by taking out other pieces, and sometimes you don't even have a brick with the right number of dots on it - you need a six-er when all you've got are fours and eights. You know what you need to put there, but you don't have it, and what you do have won't fit.


So I didn't finish it. But I'm not giving up. I will keep plugging away.

Thanks for reading.