Look what I found! CNN made me the movie poster for Aftershocks! For free!
See? The guy has a dvd drive in his head!
After an embarrassingly long gestation period, a first draft of Psycho Ex (with a name change) has finally gone out to its first round of readers. I should get feedback Tuesday after the long weekend.
This always feels weird. I am happy and satisfied and exhausted and not convinced it’s really happening – like the first week after college finals.
But there is a whole different additional dynamic at play with this one than usual, because – due somewhat to the original “Challenge” – it is much more an exercise than a passion project. Don’t get me wrong, the story was my idea, and I take its execution very seriously, but now that a draft is complete I feel “outside” the thing more than I ever have.
The thing I love/hate about writing is that when I work on something this big and all-encompassing, I get overwhelmed and lost inside it. I fall in love with it, and I don’t know if this is a blessing or a curse. It’s wonderful because I think/hope it adds heart and soul to the piece, but it’s terrible because I lose all objectivity and get lost. For long periods. With almost every script, I can vividly remember THE EXACT MOMENT when everything shifts and I come up for air, when I get back “on top of it,” when I get back outside and un-consumed by it and I start cutting and shaping and whacking at it with no emotional attachment whatsoever. This is when the work really gets done. But this is also when I feel guilty, like I’ve stopped loving someone simply because it is no longer the pragmatic thing to do.
I don’t think I was ever in love with this one. I spent a lot of time in the depths with it, don’t get me wrong, but it was never a passion project like Aftershocks was or Dead Guy is. I was more objective with this one all along, so there are parts of it (Act Two hopefully, Act Three definitely) that I think are better executed than my usual output. I would say I’m very happy with the execution on those (this Act Three is probably the best I’ve ever written). But it never took on a life of its own really.
Does this mean it will be less “alive” than it should be? Than it could be? Does this mean there won’t be enough “there” for the reader?
Will the reader know that it has less of a “soul” than it could have had? Or will it just be me?
Or have I finally shaken off the indulgent crap of falling in love with your material? Have I finally got on with the real business of writing?
Update: Just got my first feedback (thanks Tammy!). The weekend is off to a good start…
I got my first agent years ago (too many to mention). It was, more than anything else, a learning experience. It’s a pretty arbitrary relationship: “Writer, meet agent. Agent, this is writer. You guys don’t know each other. You may or may not be compatible people, you may or may not ever meet each other face-to-face, but now you’re going to work together… until it becomes too uncomfortable to work together anymore. Or maybe even beyond that.” Yeah, a match made in heaven every time.
This agent and I were together for several years, then parted ways amicably, then got back together very briefly for a project, then parted amicably again. She showed my stuff and got me meetings and pitches, I got THIS CLOSE to being hired as a staff writer on a kids’ TV show, and then she paved the way for me to successfully pitch and then get hired to write a freelance episode of a different kids’ show. This all sounds great, but these are the highlights of a time span of several years. Several. Due to political reasons, her (and my) contacts dried up at that production company, she and her agency decided to focus exclusively on an area of the business that wasn’t for me, and our relationship reached a dead end. I am grateful for her help, even though neither of us profited much financially from our relationship. Although we haven’t spoken in years, I wish her well and have no hard feelings.
But what I learned was this: having an agent doesn’t solve all your problems.
It seems simple enough: you write scripts and the agent sells them. What’s the problem? The problem is that there is much more to it than that. You want to write material that’ll take you in one direction, while your agent’s contacts may be in a completely different direction. Or you may have a great suspense thriller, but your agent just exhausted all his/her contacts on a much better suspense thriller from another writer client, and everybody passed. Plus the agent always has internal politics or issues at his/her agency that shape what s/he is looking for and what s/he can do with you. As a writer your infrastructure is pretty simple: an idea, a computer, and some toner. The agent’s world is slightly more complicated.
So getting an agent one day doesn’t mean your stuff is going to get sent out and sold the next. You read about the dream in the trades, and maybe you’ll get lucky and it will happen for you, but don’t get your hopes up. There will be some adjustments first, on both sides. You aren’t the only client. There will be notes. So keep your feet on the ground and your expectations realistic. Keep writing – it’s all you can control. It is perfectly natural to get your hopes up, but don’t fall for it.
Now, things are fine and nothing has happened, really. The script still has representation and there has been no specific event or disagreement. But there are “issues” at the agency/management company and they are getting sorted out. Slowly. Communication has fallen off completely and things are in limbo. Inertia has us at a dead stop. These people have a vested interest in getting this script out and looked at – it would have been a tremendous waste of their time to sign me if not, right? Things are okay and nothing has happened, but that’s just it: nothing has happened. So I’ve arrived at a little self-imposed reality check. And at least in my mind…
The honeymoon is over.
Keep writing. That’s all you can control.
Yes, I felt the earthquake today. No, I don’t have any clever tie-in to my script. Too bad the script hasn’t gone out yet to production companies – that could have been an interesting (morbid? cynical?) marketing coup for me.
The earthquake was the biggest one I’ve felt yet, and our first with the house. A broken picture frame and a couple of new cracks in the house (maybe – it’s hard to remember if a crack was there before or not, or if it got any worse), but that was it. We’re all fine.
Aftershocks – I did indeed finish the rewrite on Tuesday night, then gave the rewrite to 7 or 8 friends on Wednesday. Quick feedback from the first 2 was positive. Pleased with myself, I took the long weekend off. Then today I emailed it off to the script’s new representation for their notes. We’ll see what they think.
Supervillain – I tossed around a few replacement titles all weekend and ran them by a few friends. Everybody’s a critic. I narrowed those down to 5 lucky finalists (I thought I could decide on 1 but no go) and emailed those to Supervillain’s producers. I think I’m in good shape – I thought they were pretty good and I can live with pretty much any of them. Suggestions are still welcome…
Hancock – helped me out (I think). Good numbers. Now we have to take advantage!
Wall-E – saw it on Friday with the wife and kids. I am a huge Pixar fan and I was not disappointed. That said, I think the claims of “Best Picture” contender are somewhat overstated. Best Animated Feature, sure, but Best Picture material? I liked it but there are a couple of Pixar features I’d rank it below. More discussion soon.
A few things hopping right now:
– Supervillain: Things are still moving forward with the investors, but the rate of speed has not picked up. Yesterday I was told everything is cool, but my producers are looking for other opportunities just in case. With that in mind, this weekend’s opening of Hancock may do great things for my script. When Supervillain made the rounds of the studios, readers liked it but conventional wisdom said that superhero comedies always flop. We’ll see what Hancock has to say about that. So the producers are readying Supervillain for a renewed studio push.
And then there’s the title – “Who Wants To Be A Supervillain?!”. Now, we all love the title and all the game-show desperation it brings. But it does seem a little, well, Y2k. Yeah, dated. At least for getting shown around the studios. If the movie ever gets made, we’ll see (by then it will be WAY dated…). But for showing it around, it needs a little refreshing. Any suggestions? I have the perfect title, but I stole it from a friend who has been trying to get a project with the same name going for years, so I really shouldn’t use it…
– Aftershocks: I’m currently finishing up a mini-rewrite (somewhere between a polish and a rewrite) for the script’s new manager/agent to spiff it up before it gets sent out. This rewrite is somewhat… experimental for me. Not “experimental” in that the script is getting any weirder, but “experimental” in that I may end up chucking it completely and reverting to the original version. I have received quite a few sets of notes on it lately (from Abbot and elsewhere) and after talking with the script’s new representation I decided to address some of the more consistent observations. I have previously discussed the contradictory feedback the script has received (and all scripts receive), but I do have to admit that some points pop up somewhat consistently among those who don’t like the script. Those who do like the script tell me to disregard these points, and there’s the rub: sometimes the very thing a non-fan sees as a weakness a fan will call a strength. So it’s tricky. As I’ve discussed before, Aftershocks is an atmospheric drama, and some people love this. Others say it needs more drive and focus. So the question is: is it possible to crank up the drive a little without destroying the atmospherics that many readers love? We’ll see. The worst-case would be to screw up what is already there while trying to make tweaks to attract an audience that just isn’t going to like it anyway. I’m trying to find a middle ground. But if the feedback on this new version tells me that this middle ground is the worst of both worlds, then the rewrite gets chucked and the original draft gets sent out instead. So it’s still on the hard drive and waiting, just in case.
One more new scene needs to be finished (the scene is 85% done) and then another read-through to smooth things out and it’ll be ready for my agent. Then it’ll come back with his inevitable notes… The hope is to finish it tonight, or at least this weekend.
Some news: The paperwork has been signed – Aftershocks has an agent/manager.
I’m psyched but realistic. The first time I got an agent I thought my troubles were over – they weren’t. Now I’m 14 years older, calmer, and wiser (well, maybe). We’ll see how this round goes.
You keep sending your stuff out, you might just get a bite. Get your stuff finished, get it polished, and get it out there. Again and again.
Fasten your seatbelts.