I am currently competing in a 48 hour screenplay challenge and last Thursday I found out that I had made it through the first set of cuts and would be competing with the remaining 125 people in round 3 over the weekend. So for this weeks blog I thought I would let you in on the timeline of my writing as I tackled the challenge of writing a 5 page screenplay in 48 hours!
11:00pm: I gave up trying to stay up till I got my assignment at 1:00am (teaching high school and getting up at 6:30am will do that do you). So I decided to go to sleep and get up early to find out what I needed to write about.
2:25am: woke up for a second so I decided to check my email. My assignment was the following
Location: A dentist’s office
Item: A wedding dress
My first thought was, “Shit, drama again”. Though I can write drama, and like writing drama, it is a very broad genre and thus it is hard to focus in on a story. I decided to go back to sleep.
I had a dream in which I turned in my story (all I can remember is that it was about a toy store) but I only had time to write 1 draft. I was cursing at myself for submitting such a terribly constructed story.
8:15am: woke up and started brainstorming, here was my result:
Drama meant that I had to deal directly with the emotions of my characters and that I would probably have to create an internal struggle or a struggle against another person.
The dentist’s office meant that my protagonist would have to be a dentist, someone who works in a dentist office or a patient.
The wedding dress was not going to be easy to work with, it seemed like I either needed to think really far outside the box, or a bride was going to have to come to the dentist office.
The summation of my brainstorming: “I wish I was writing a comedy.”
9:30am: went to work for a few hours and got no further on my story.
12:30am: went for lunch, spoke to my partner, Alyssa, about the story that I was trying to construct. We came up with a concept that involved two woman getting married and confronting one of their bigoted fathers.
3:00pm: started writing. I struggled as I could not find a place to start. Decided to start with the two woman entering the dentist’s office and go for a comedic first page and abruptly switch to drama. Wrote 3 pages and got stuck on writing the ending.
4:30pm: went back to work to run electronics for a swim meet. Did some editing of my story when I had the chance. Though I started polishing up the characters, I still could not think of an ending.
7:30pm: made my corrections and found an ending wherein my protagonist learns that some people are just not worth your time. Finished my first draft.
9:00pm: Gave up for the night as I had reached my goal of completing a 1st draft.
7:00am: Made corrections to my draft and completed my second draft. I focused on highlighting what my protagonist wanted and how she felt. I also did some rewriting to make my antagonist to be well… more antagonistic.
8:45am: Sent my draft to Alyssa, so I could get her thoughts and went to work.
12:30pm: Realized I hated my current draft and that the story wasn’t going to work. If my life were a story this would have been the “all is lost moment”. Though the basic story might work I realized that for the story to be any good I would need to remove characters, focus more on the protagonist and speed up the introduction of the story on the first page. I needed to highlight my protagonists emotions and her want so that the climax would be more meaningful. Typically my 3rd draft rewrites half of my previous drafts and takes the story in a slightly different direction. The trouble was, even with all of these corrections, I didn’t know what direction to take it.
1:30pm: The 3rd draft hit a wall. In a flash of inspiration I rearranged my plot because it better served the characters and my antagonist’s introduction was much more powerful. Trouble is my climax became my midpoint and now I am missing half my story. I need some time to think…
2:30pm: Back to the grindstone, Alyssa has pointed out more areas I need to focus in on, and all the parts I don’t need. Though many of the points she made, she made yesterday, it is only today that I have finally come around to see how they fit within the story I am trying to tell. On to more writing!
2:46pm: Finally happy with the opening of the story. 0.5 pages completed.
2:56pm: Except for one line of dialogue, I have the first 2 pages competed.
3:15pm: story is taking shape again, 3 pages completed.
3:23pm: 4 pages done. Just the climax and the resolution to go.
3:31pm: The story is done and looking much better. The intro now doesn’t deal with comedy because that was a bad idea. Instead the intro sets up the characters in a few quick lines and foreshadows the father’s reaction. My protagonist now has a nice moment with her fiancee which nicely leads into the ending. Time to take a break before I edit some dialogue.
4:00pm: Starting on draft 5. I was happy with the plot and the story arc, so this time I am looking at fixing up the dialogue and descriptions. This involves taking a close look at each word and trying to find the best combination to tell the story. I am a firm believer that every word in a story has to have a reason behind it.
5:10pm: After discussing the script with Alyssa it’s time to polish it up once again!
5:50pm: Descriptions are polished, spelling mistakes are caught. 5 drafts later and I’m done. Now to finish my lesson plans and get ready to teach tomorrow!
So that was my weekend, though on Sunday morning I had a script that I could best describe as terrible and I had doubts I could pull it off, by the end, I felt I had an emotionally powerful story with well defined characters and I am proud of the story. The lesson after all of this is, is twofold. “You’re first draft is always terrible.” and “never stop editing.”
Until next week. Keep writing and remember the deadline for the CSSC is January 31st.