Monday, August 17, 2009

Rewriting again

So, a little less than a year ago I had what I considered a pretty brilliant idea for a movie. A globe-trotting action/adventure ensemble flick with kidnapping, hidden treasures, puzzles, booby-traps, mythical creatures, perhaps even a dirigible or two. The summer movie to end all summer movies. I was in the middle of writing another script at the time, so I put it on the back burner until I was in a position to devote serious time to it.

When it came time to get to work on it, I realized I needed to make some significant changes to the characters and structure. Out went the ensemble cast, a chunk of the first act, and probably half the globe-trotting. The script just wasn't going to work that way, and it was painful to accept that fact since I'd had such a specific vision in my head for so long, but such is the nature of things. Anyway, I did manage to keep a lot of what inspired me to write the script in the first place, and I'm pretty sure that everything that I changed was for the better. I wrote the outline, cranked out the script, and now here I am again in rewrite hell.

Thankfully, though, it's not nearly as hellish as it once was. Confidence helps. Starting with better material helps. And, most importantly, having a real handle on your story and characters helps. (Successfully rewriting something you were never all that sure of is a near-impossible task. Believe me, I know; I've tried it. Multiple times.) After a while, it doesn't just start sucking less; it actually becomes liberating. The outline and first draft is largely a negative-feeling process (you have a great idea in your head, and your only real goal is to avoid screwing it up), but the rewrite process reverses that thinking: How much better can I do? How great can I make this? You realize you've blown the ceiling off and are now free to reach for the stars; you're limited only by your willingness to push yourself.

OK, all this hope and enthusiasm is a clear indication that it's been too long since I've done any actual writing. Better get on that.

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