At or around 3:20 pm Monday afternoon I did something a tiny bit exciting: I saved, backed up, and then printed my first complete copy of the initial draft to [the new thing].
[Note—of course it has a title, but for now I am still keeping that nugget of info closer to the vest than normal, as I love the title and love the way it immediately brings a smile and a guilty chuckle to people when they hear it for the first time.]
At 92 pages, it's far and away the shortest first draft I've ever brought in for a landing. To contrast, the first draft of LILYA came in at 142 pages (and yes, it's been greatly trimmed down and streamlined since then, so get off my back, you sex machine).
There's a weird mix of emotions (at least, there is for me) at this stage of a project. On the one hand, there is of course a rush of excitement and happiness and relief, as I realize "OK, if nothing else I can say i at least completed the damned thing." It's one thing to start a screenplay, and quite another to finish one. Many a writer has disappeared into the dreaded Second Act Wilderness ne'er to be seen again. But having slopped together enough words to know that I have left an unbroken trail of crumbs from FADE IN to FADE OUT surely counts for something.
On the other hand, there's an odd sense of anxiety, as the easy work is now done. Writing is one of those self-absorbed activities where you are pretty much left to satisfy your own desires and predilections, but the moment you complete a screenplay the thing then ceases to have value unless and until it is read by someone else. Face it: an unread screenplay might just as well have never been written, as what's the point of writing a movie script you do not intend to share?
So having completed a draft means that I must confront the fact that I am now many steps closer to that terrifying day when I send my baby out to play with others. You hand your pile of pages to a stranger and leave them to open up your guts and your heart and your brain and say "well, it's not very interesting."
Then, assuming those readers do not commit suicide or move to Butte and leave no forwarding contact, you then are tasked with taking their notes ("needs more cowbell!") and trying to decide first if you are going to give a damn, and second how much of a damn to give. 'Cuz not all notes are equally good, or valid, or useful, or sensible, or relevant, or workable.
But leaping way ahead and assuming you do get useful notes which can be implemented without a loss of sanity or spousal tolerance, you then have to take the script and get it to Someone That Matters. Be it a producer or an agent or a manager or an actor's rep or a well-connected beautician or your cousin's manicurist's best friend from college, the script at that stage has to keep rising up the chain or else again it might as well have never been written.
And assuming then that you find someone with connections who is willing to read your thing, you then have to sit and light prayer candles that this person actually will read your baby, and assuming she does, that she doesn't vomit herself into intensive care, and assuming she doesn't that she likes it well enough to pass it yet further up the great chain, and then you get to start a whole new fresh round of fretting and worrying and realizing that you should have made that hero more likable in that key scene on the bridge or the heroine a little more heroic ("heroinic?") in that standoff in the submarine or the bad guy a little more interesting when he was first revealing His Evil Plan.
But jumping ahead and allowing for a second that you have in fact hit the cosmic jackpot and your pile of pages has impressed all the way to the top, you then hope that some other putz has not coincidentally suggested the same "DIE HARD on a parade float" concept to someone with a more direct line to Spielberg or Cruise or Scorcese or Weinstein, and that somehow your sad little monkeyfist of ideas gets a chance to shine alone in the spotlight of industry attention for a moment or two in which some instant greenlight becomes attached, and then some sweet talking agent calls out of the blue and suddenly tells you how great you are and how badly he's been trying to track you down to rep you, baybee, and everything is coming up roses and oh by the way Sony wants your next project sight-unseen for low seven figures and Halle says you're hot and she wants a baby, blah blah blah, and suddenly instead of writing movies you find yourself trapped inside one even more farfetched than your previous epic about a demonic blimp gone wild.
But first, there must be a pristine un-read and still potentially perfect initial draft.
And that's where we are for now—the end of the beginning.