Monday, January 24, 2011

What you need to write

Sometime today I will begin to write the sequel to Ghostkeeper. My writing schedule has always been morning. And I usually write for no more than two hours. Today though, I have to write the blog first, which usually is around 8 am and takes me around 30 minutes or so.

There is a danger in writing so early, at least for me. You see, I like to be fresh, nothing should stand in the way of my writing. I don't want to listen to music, I don't have a coffee on my desk and I don't want phone calls.

What happens if the phone rings? Or if coffee is reachable?

Then I will find an excuse not to write for a few minutes. 

There are at least 300 books on screenwriting and most of them have their own theories as to how to write the great script. Yet, last Friday I listened to Ben Affleck at a screening talking about  how he co-wrote The Town and how hard it was to find a great script. I am not Ben's greatest fan, but that's another story.

The obvious question here is that, with all the screenwriters in the world running to Los Angeles and with 10,000 WGA writers already here... why aren't there a lot of good screenplays then?

A friend of mine and I have a theory, we realized that between us, we've probably seen every kind of genre, every twist, every surprise ending and every type of character there ever was. So what's left?

For a start, it helps to have lived a curious life, meaning that it helps if you are curious. About everything. Some of the best characters and dialog I've ever written was basically borrowed from watching real people living real life. 

And life experience is essential if you want to write, or act or direct.

For example, take Tom Selleck and Mark Harmon. As younger actors, they were considered "pretty boys", handsome in that Sears catalog kind of way but with little talent. But I watched a bit of their respective TV shows recently, NCIS and Blue Blood and I noticed something curious...

Whenever either of them were not in the scene, the scene felt empty. I've long said that the supporting casts of the procedural TV shows like CSI and NCIS are so bland that they could change shows and nobody would know the difference.

But Selleck and Harmon stood out. And I began to realize why.

They were older. Their faces had wrinkles. And they were relaxed and enjoying themselves because they had the comfort of confidence as well as years of experience and the access to options that they didn't have when they were younger.

They were easy to watch and comforting to an audience, and that's what made them interesting to watch.

The same thing goes for writing, the more you have lived, the more you have to write about. There are exceptions of course, but those are the talented ones. I've told you before that I'm not particularly talented, but I am stubborn has hell. It took me a long time to learn how to write good, maybe 6 years of writing bad scripts.

I'm still not good on story, my characters are colorful and believable and my dialog is pretty damn good. But stories are not the easiest thing for me. If they were I would have sold the 34 specs I currently still own.

Why haven't they sold? Well, because so far nobody likes them enough. Does that mean I'm a bad writer? No, it means that nobody's come along who likes them.

It's kind of like decorating your home; some friends will like it, some will be ambivolent and some will dislike it.

And like Tom and Mark, I am comfortable in my abilities. I'm never sure if anyone will like my screenplays, but like those two guys, I don't really care. With having written and/or rewritten 18 produced movies and having worked on at least 30 unproduced movies I know that I have accomplished my initial goal.

To be a working writer in Hollywood.

Now, I am forcing myself like crazy to end the blog and start writing. Maybe I should have a coffee first though? 

(Thurs: Progress?)