Alright, so this week…LIFE gets in the way of a comprehensive update. That’s a new one. In any event, I am off the grid for a bit, BUT: here’s the penultimate #SixWeekSpec update as the Selected Ten raced to put the finishing touches on their scripts and get them submitted. As of the writing of this update, they had less than 8.5 hours to upload their completed screenplays to The Black List. Will they make it? WELL WILL THEY?

Stop yelling at me. This is MY blog, goddamnit.

CLAIRE

“I’ve hit page 90. It’s a bloody miracle, but I have. I don’t seem to be getting beyond 90, because every time I add something new now I take something else away. But, hey, no one said it had to be 91 pages.

Over and over I hear about people overwriting and cutting back. I wish I had an excess of spellbinding material to kill. I just can’t see this ever being me, and perhaps it’s my place in the group to tell others like this that they’re not alone. Please tell me I’m not alone.

Once I had written all the scenes I had outlined I kinda got a bit stuck. It seemed too big a task to go through the whole thing. So I printed out a lovely satisfying stack of paper that I went through and marked everything that stuck in my throat. Somehow this used a different part of my brain – a part that wasn’t so exhausted.

I’ve still got a few things that don’t make sense. I’ve still got a bit that says they are saved by ‘something scientific’. But if I get knocked down by this thing that has made my husband ugly sick I will still have 90 pages to upload to the Black List.

Did I mention I wrote 90 pages?”

As I’m sure Claire will come to find, this is a very, very, very typical growing pain in transitioning from short films to feature scripts – feeling like you don’t have enough material. With each successive attempt at the longer form, you grow more and more comfortable with the structure and the pacing of features and inevitably make your way to the point where you have too many ideas as opposed to a couple too few. Regardless, I’m thrilled for Claire. Looks like she’s going to surprise even herself!

DAMIAN

“FADE OUT.

I typed those two words this morning: 6 weeks, 107 pages, lots of hard work and a few sleepless nights. I felt elated, but this evening I feel like crap.

Right now, I hate my script. I’ve read it through again, and wonder how I could have spent so much time turning in such shite.

But however my script is received, I will always be very proud of it. I think it’s better than my previous effort, and I did it from start to finish in 6 weeks. I feel like I’ve learned more in that time than in the last few years. The challenge has been a fantastic experience, it got me writing again instead of just dreaming about it, I’ve been introduced to some great new people and feel like my avocation has been given a real kick-start.

I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks playing my guitar, which I’ve missed very much, then I’m going to sit down and start my next writing project.

Meanwhile, I’m about to upload my script to the Black List – it’s called TOGETHER AS FOOLS – and anxiously await my evaluations. Good luck to my fellow #SixWeekSpec writers.”

“I hate this. Get it away from me.  It is awful. I hate it. I never want to see it again. I hate it. Fuck off, script! Let me know what you think as soon as possible.” Oh, I know this well. So many of us do. Welcome to the club, Damian.

RACHEL

“I can’t believe the six weeks are up. They went fast but–personally speaking–working to a deadline did wonders, and not just in terms of my productivity. The time limit put a vice grip on my insides, and I honestly think a little extra creativity got squeezed out along with all the anxiety, fear farts, etc. 

Now that I’ve uploaded my script to The Black List, I’m giving myself a new deadline. 
The best part about being incompetent is that I arguably have the opportunity to learn the most from the feedback process.  The worst part is that there’s a guaranteed motherfucking BLIZZARD of razor sharp insights headed my way.  I want them and I need them but I know embracing them is going to sting a little.  So here’s the plan…
I’m going to let them sting. I’ll indulge my insecurity.  I’ll binge on cheap wine and old seasons of the Real Housewives–relishing in the petty sense of control I get from knowing how things turn out for their future selves. (Good luck planning a $30,000 christening from your jail cell, dummy.)
But I’ll put a CLOCK on that shit.  After the evaluations come in, I’ll let myself have a few hours. An afternoon at most. Then it’s back to work and, you know, believing in myself and junk.”
How’s THAT for having the right attitude, eh? If you can’t develop thick skin as a writer, attempting to write professionally will eat you alive. You will collapse faster than Beyonce’s connection to reality. Which is what makes me so glad to hear this from Rachel. Also, Rachel sent me the best email I received the entire six weeks, and I will share that with you next week. I still laugh every time I think about it.
JERREN & JESSE
“Whoa. Last update. (We think?) (EDITOR’S NOTE: OH DON’T YOU WISH FELLAS.) So revising for us is usually like getting in a time machine and visiting our characters when we first met them. And we say, point blank to their fucking faces: ‘Oh, you’re pretty cool, but we know how you’d be way cooler.’ And then re-write that entry point to make them as cool then as they are at the ending. What’s weird with this project is that we haven’t changed our first scene, our protagonist’s introduction. It speaks volumes about knowing that this is what we wanted to write, and who we wanted to write about. Or, conversely, it speaks volumes about how little we changed as people while working on this.

Speaking directly to that: We’ve found that no matter what, over the course of writing, you yourself inevitably change. And you have to reconcile your current self with the one who started the project. You have to remember all those details and themes you were setting up at the time, and worry about if they changed or, if not, that you implemented them with clarity and intent. Surprisingly, we are still very confident that we got our thematic point across—in a general way—the first time through. Phew.

Yo, you guys, this is where shit gets real romantic (in a tasteful way, don’t worry). We only had one person read our draft/give us notes. This was a big call to make, but we knew if this particular reader was okay with it then we were in good shape. And this person is Jerren’s fiancé, his ‘ideal reader’. That’s a term Stephen King coined, referring to the person you most want to impress with your writing. This is either from his book ON WRITING or his other book KING’S KISSES, we can’t remember which. Either way, real romantic shit, Stephen, good job. That’s why you rival Nicholas Sparks in the romance category. She’s a writer and ex-film critic, so after she read it and generally liked it, we knew that this last few days were gonna be all about sleeping in, coasting, eating waffles, and not worrying about writing at all. J/K yeah right. We’re furiously reading, reading, reading, reading again. Cutting things and moving small pieces around. Making sure to get in all the small details that we may have forgotten. Also, eating waffles? In this gluten-free climate? Get outta here.

There’s been some big take-aways from this crazy project, ones that we will implement going forward. One of the biggest is that, because of the time constraint, we’ve forgone the typical ‘finish a draft, get notes, revise’ process in favor of revising each other’s work AS WE’VE BEEN GOING. The other big take-away is to stop having pillow fight breaks every hour on the hour. So we learned a lot. This whole thing has been (CURRENTLY IS) fun, exhilarating, panic-inducing, eye-opening, bloody, sweaty, teary, and awesome. Our best writing experience alone and together. It’s been a real blast.

(Yes that’s a compliment and an expression of immense gratitude to Geoff, but we didn’t want to get all sappy about it.)”

Out of all the Selected Tens, Jerren and Jesse were the two I thought were most “ready” out of the entire group. They’ve only gone so far as to reaffirm that with each update. So what I’m saying is: if someone doesn’t buy their script, I will hunt them down and set them on fire for making a fool of me.
DAN
“An update in two parts, part deux.

Part 1: Fuck yeah, this is a first draft!

This is probably the most coherent first draft of a feature I’ve ever written. The characters arcs are relatively clear, there are some jokes and bits I’m really excited about, and it has the best momentum of a script that I’ve ever written. That’s making me pretty excited, especially since its just a first draft, so the future drafts will be even better. But, unfortunately…

Part 2: Fuck, this is a first draft.

For every bit that works, there is another that doesn’t. The momentum stuff might be in my own head and the characters might not translate at all. I’m morbidly curious about what these pro readers will think, because this is script is far from being ready in any sense more than just technically being complete. Will they like it? Is Dan’s career over before it began? All this and more… sometime next week. Stay tuned! “

Interesting/exciting times for Dan, as he’s under the gun to get this in a place he feels good about in order to submit. Will he make it???? Also, newsflash: writers are terrified that their work isn’t good enough. Not sure if you ever heard that one before. Also, a black dildo-sized FUCK YOU DAN to Dan for that time a couple weeks back when Northwestern demolished Penn State on the football field. EVERYONE AT NORTHWESTERN IS A CUNT.
SABINA
“Well it’s been quite a ride and it’s almost over. I’m not sure what to think about all of this. Other than this update feels much more vulnerable than usual.

I’m a good 20 pages (I think) from my ending, but I do know where I’m going and how and why I’m going to get there. For now, at least, it makes sense. I’d like to re-read before I submit, so that I’m sure it makes sense.

I’d like to make sure my scene transitions are good. Check for grammar and spelling, of course. And just say goodbye. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?

It looks like I’m going to hit that 90-page-mark this time. Relieved that I have a screenplay on my hands and not a short.

Yeah, my characters debate free will, love and possession, all the while making a religious pilgrimage. Yes, my knees are knocking together, but I’m glad I tried.

I suppose everyone has to say goodbye eventually. It’s much earlier than normal for me. Much like ripping off a Band-Aid. I’m going to have to just do it.

The excellent Scott Myers of Go Into The Story has noted that it takes about three screenplays to notice a pattern in the way we write. This screenplay has showed me a few things.

1. The first part of Act 2 always gives me trouble.

2. I love outlining.

3. Visual writing is not my strong suit.

4. Dialogue seems to be.

5. Love is a frequent theme.

And other insights that I will eventually make in a journal when I have a chance to think about it.

I’m overawed at how awesome the other people in this challenge are. John August actually agreed to meet Christopher. Jesse and Jerren are up to God knows what – building a nucleur bomb or writing a screenplay? Heaven knows but it usually sounds cool. Last update, Damian had an outline and now he has, what, 60 pages. WTH? Rachel is writing a home improvement comedy called ‘Nailed It’. That makes me cry, it’s so good. I wish I’d thought of it. With kids and a full-time job, Claire has probably written something totally hard-core and awesomely sci-fi – I’m so jealous! Chris has done everything under the sun. And now he’s writing screenplay. And Delaney and Emily are youthful and full of promise. And Dan writes for the Onion. Le sigh.

And man, oh well. I’m writing a sci-fi romantic comedy. Those are three of my favorite things. But do they belong together? By that same token, I should put my husband, kittens and Nutella together and see what happens.

In any case, there’s one more update after all of this is over. Is there? If there isn’t, I just want to say I love you all *sob*.”

This is one of my favorite updates of the whole thing. You can tell that, once her script is finished, Sabina will have left it ALL out there. And honestly: what more could you possibly ask for of a writer? Too often we just osmose (I don’t know if that’s a word, but fuck it) what we’ve learned from writing – never hurts to go back and actually examine it. Can only lead to a greater understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
CHRISTOPHER
“Last time I gave an update, I talked about considering a page one rewrite, geared toward one particular piece of my screenplay. So I went through and eliminated a number of seasons that had wandered away from that. I grabbed the ‘point’ of the scene and tried to figure out where else in the script I could put it. Instead of having this conversation at the dinner table, maybe they can have it in the back of a squad car? That kind of thing. Cutting, and rearranging, led to nearly forty pages being removed from my script.

I was very happy to dig in again, and find the content of those pages buried somewhere in the depths of my story, but that’s when the ‘notes’ started coming in. The few people that read my first draft enjoyed the relationships that I had just so painstakingly edited out. I then mentioned to them the major shift in my new script. They had questions, I had a few answers, but the obvious truth was that I had to find the Goldilocks of my stories, not too little, not too much, just right.

This past weekend I blasted off to the Bay Area to see my girlfriend, which normally means at least five hours in the car each way. As of lately, this has become my office, and where I do the real legwork. It’s like the ‘Shower Theory’, except in my car and I’m not naked. I think about the script, talk things out, scribble down ideas, just letting the story churn.

This time I tried something new. After I painstakingly added ‘voices’ to all of the characters in my script, I plugged my laptop into my car stereo and was “read” my script aloud while I drove through the state of California. It was fun to hear it being read aloud, even if it was with the generic computer-generated voices.

As for the remainder of this week, I am officially cutting myself off. I’m temporarily moving into a small house with no television or internet so I can focus on my writing and finish up strong.”

I love the Shower Theory. Even though I rarely come up with ideas in the shower (it’s usually, annoyingly, right before I fall asleep) I’ve heard this from too many writers to ignore its validity. In fact, on one episode of THE BROKEN PROJECTOR, screenwriter Brian Duffield mentioned that he sometimes takes half a dozen showers a day just to think through his script roadblocks. That’s amazing. Also, Chris reinforces the magic of hearing your script read aloud. I can’t wait to see where his script ends up (and I hope he explains in the final update the nature of the changes he made).
EMILY
“So, I finished the thing some time last week, at a whopping 145 pages. Now I am just refusing to do anything but edit until it’s about forty pages thinner. Part of this process is cutting extraneous dialogue, but because I need to cut so very much, the other task is to take a look at the entire structure of the script and find places where I can cut entire scenes. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of being able to walk away from the script for a week or so, which would give me a more objective view of it.

I actually re-outlined it upon finishing – I made a chart of every scene, a brief sentence on the action of the scene, then made notes on what in the scene needs fixing. I find that this chart is easier to work with than my 145 pg document when I’m trying to find scenes that won’t be missed. I’ve cut it down ten pages, and it’s been a great lesson in writing economically.

The best thing about this last week, is re-reading the script in it’s entirety, and realizing that it’s not as bad as I thought it was. I actually like it. A week and a half ago I was fully planning on not letting anyone read it for a while. As I’m punching it up, and making everything more concise, it’s turning into something that I feel like I will eventually be very proud of.”

Re-outlining the script AFTER you’ve finished is something that I’m sure has been done before, but I’d never heard of a screenwriter working this way. It’s brilliant – and I think it gave Emily a way of stepping away from the script when she thought she didn’t have time to step away from it. I may well try this myself with my next script. See! Told you I was learning shit too!
DELANEY
“CONFESSION: I just got done writing my script. And I don’t mean with the edits and peer reviews and whatnot. I mean I just got done writing it, period.

For the record, most of it has been done for a while. But I had this chunk in the middle I was REFUSING to write because I thought it would suck, and I finally just got drunk and wrote it. (Yes, I’m drunk on a Monday afternoon. MY PARENTS ARE GOING TO BE SO PROUD WHEN THEY GET HOME.)

So now I finally have a FULL STORY with no holes in it. And about 48 hours to edit the shit out of it.

The reason why I ‘m just now writing those last scenes is because I thought that once I was done, I would have this complete product that I absolutely HATED. And I didn’t want to feel that way about something I worked so hard to put together.

But here’s the good news… I DON’T ACTUALLY HATE IT.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly like it either. I know that, even after working pretty much nonstop the next two days, I’ll be turning in something I’m not totally happy with. I know my script will be something really, really neat someday. Just not today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. And I’m finally okay with that.

In other words, I feel the same way about my script as I do about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or Zach Braff. None are particularly off-putting, but there’s nothing all that fucking great about them either.”

Delaney, predictably, has the right attitude: prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Again, I have a sneaking suspicion her script is better than she’s giving it credit for. But even if this is a total whiff for her…I feel like she, out of everyone, had perhaps the most invaluable experience these last two months. And what’s that gotten her? Drunk on a Monday afternoon. I couldn’t be more elated that this is potentially my lasting impact on her life.
LOUIS
“Wow, from sending in updates early, to needing to be chased up. I feel like Richard from THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF. If you’ve not seen Bake Off, it’s the most British thing on TV. Forget DOWNTON, hell, forget SHERLOCK; you want to get on that #GBBO shit.

My last couple of updates haven’t really explained what I’ve actually been up to. These past few weeks have been interesting for me. I’ve had numerous reads and feedback and notes from friends. I’ve got a hefty stack of 3×5 note cards with changes that I’ve put through. I’ve done all things I wanted to do, and understandably I’m bricking it.

Here is some full disclosure on your ass. Because I wrote it so quickly, and have done a fair amount of rewriting, and have had a lot of feedback; I’m now in the position where I have less to hide behind once I get my feedback returned. Yes, I only had six weeks, but my biggest fear now is borne out of the fact that I’m really pleased with what I’ve written.

So what happens if it’s shit?

I wish I could say, ‘It’s all part of the process, to help me grow and develop…’ and I know it is. But, right now I’m too close to it, too emotional. Whatever happens, I’m proud of myself for doing this, and getting it done. Who knows what comes next, but as long as I take it onboard, and keep writing, that’s all that matters.”

The wait. The interminable wait. In the industry, so often the chorus is, “Hey, we need this draft now!” And then you wait eight weeks for them to get you notes. In the meantime, you sweat your nipples off waiting to find out if  you nailed it for failed it. Louis is going through that right now, albeit on a different level. Hang in there, Louis. That’s what you get for being a fucking overachiever.
_____________________________
One last update to go, plus titles/loglines/links to the Selected Ten scripts! Also: I’ll be doing a special blog post at the end of next week to ask those of you who wrote at home for your own titles/loglines/script links, so look out for that announcement 🙂