19 November 2006

2 steps forward -- 1.9 steps back

In the previous post I was all happy about finishing a critical draft of the romcom TWELVE DAYS. I said things like "[the script]... is, for lack of a better word, finished."

Now, I can see how one might read that and take it to mean that I thought the script was totally ready to be shopped, but believe me when I say this: that is never what I meant.

First off, I'm not sure that any script is ever truly "done.' Without engaging in some navel-gazing debate over the nature of the word "finished," I just mean that I don;t care how good a script ever is, I' not one who believes any human being will ever achieve perfection in a textual document of 100 pages. Yes, you can absolutely get a script (or novel or emergency response plan or owner's manual to an '87 Corolla or whatever) tightened to the point where it is more than good enough to do its job, but to ever think that you will get it to that point where you can read and re-read 100 times and say "there is not one word, not one piece of punctuation, not one paragraph break that could possibly be changed or improved!" is just plain silly.

Second, I meant that TWELVE DAYS, a project which has been bugging me for more than a year now, was finally "finished" to the point that there was now an actual script which could be read. Perfect? Absolutely not (and more on that in a minute), but it was now in a form that contained the story and characters and emotions and beats that I wanted to describe.

And so it went out to readers, with the instruction to "rip me a new one. Tear it apart, show no pity or compassion, and tell me everything that needs work."

To their credit, my readers did just that. My ass still bleeds from some of the comments the script drew back.

"I didn't care for the script..."

"... leads are not likeable..."

"... not believable..."

"... I didn't laugh once..."

"... doesn’t work for me..."

"... Real people do not talk like this..."


"...never really gets started..."

Now, was I happy to get these notes? On the whole, no -- clearly I would have preferred unrelenting praise and gushing -- but after about an hour of sulking around the house, I went back and re-read each set of notes and thought about what was really being said, and why, and in specific regards to what. In most every case, I was able to take something useful and instructive from the negative comments and see where something could be, should be, and will be improved.

Were the readers all right? Well, no. In some cases they were unified in their comments, while in most cases there was a split decision (some lines flagged by one reader as totally worthless were flagged by others as their favorites -- such is the nature of subjectivity). In some cases I can accept some or most of the comments from someone and then totally disregard other specific comments as just plain wrong.

So, when I said before "the script is done," I was sighing in relief that the script in ANY form was done.

Now it's time to roll up sleeves, grab a knife, and go back into the pit and finish the job, or at the very least get it closer to being done. What's left to get it truly market-ready? A few days? A week? A month? Who knows. Who cares.

It will be done, and as quickly as I can do it.

Thanks, honestly and sincerely, to my readers for the sadistic honesty -- I have nothing but thanks and love for the beatdown you gave the script, and the project will improve as a result. However, there's every likelihood that the eventual version of the piece I finally decide to hurl into the void as "ready enough" will (or would) still leave you less than thrilled, but that's the fun part of the game: these are my stories, and I trust my story sense more than that of others. I'd hope others feel the same about their own stories -- if you're not in this game to tell your story, then why bother playing?

Sissy Fuss B


Scott the Reader said...

Ouch. Who ever would have thought I'd be the gentle one ;-)

Keep at it...

Chesher Cat said...


Being able to take notes is half the battle.


The Rough One

Anonymous said...

Least I bought him dinner, first.

Now, B, please post an addendum with some of our comments on things you did *well*. There were many.

Rock on.


aggiebrett said...

OK-- some of the nicer comments:

"Loved the white space. Those portions of the script where you had no words were my favorite parts by far."

"It's actually a much shorter read than it feels like."

"Nice margins."

"It's been a long long time since I wept in relief at the words -- THE END--. Congrats on that."


As I said, all of the notes had some things I can take and use. (And most all had some comments I'll crumple and toss with a shrug. Bite me.) I just felt like doing a little self-flagellating in public.
horsehair underwear B

sweeper said...

As someone who has spent near 30 years stumbling around the dark and sequestered cloisters of defense projects, I've seen multi-million and billion dollar programs come and go. Each time during design development which always went beyond schedule, we had to reach a point where we'd have to shoot the engineers so that production could begin. OK, so the anti-gravity wave drive in the atmospheric hopping stealth aerospace vehicle didn't reach the goal of 98% ion-repack conversion efficiency, it did manage some nice hi-rez photos of the Tom Cruise wedding. This was worth something.

The point of all this, of course, is that no matter how well you've done so far, there's always another intergalactic spaceship crash and recover event going on and, hence, another program that's gotta start. Believe me, the boring, work-a-day world of classified government projects isn't anything like the glamorous life of the screenplay writer. However, there's a lesson that can be shared across that great gulf. Essentially: No matter how good you have got it, a failed inter-stellar, pan-dimensional quark drive is no match against gravity and tierra firma.

Shawna said...

Oh goody, does that mean I'm in your next round of reads? ;-) I promise to be gentle...

Caz said...

I'm emerging slowly from the murk. You and Ms Bays are top of my list after tomorrow is out of the way. And by top of the list, I mean that I'll put off starting the script I was supposed to finish in November (i.e. by tomorrow) just so that I can say nice things about yours. So there. Patience, my pretty.