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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Tuesday (11/10/09) 8:22pm - ... wherein Peter plans to write more than he actually writes.

Well, alrighty, then -- quite a few comments on yesterday's post about why I never chucked it all to become a TV writer.  To my surprise, I only got one comment calling me a whining loser.  (Baleeted.)  Instead, there was a lot of encouragement about making another attempt to scrabble up Spec Pilot Mountain, so I've started planning out the expedition.

The task looks doable (if difficult), but all the same, I'm keeping these posts pretty locked-down.  I'm so, so tired of having *all* of my writing failures out in public.

So, to recap:  my objective here is not "chuck at all and move to LA."  My objective, at this point, is to write one long script -- something longer than the shorts and sketches I've been writing before.  Specifically, I'd like to go ahead and write the studio show I've been kicking around.

If I can do this, then I prove to myself that I haven't lost my ability to write specs.  That would be a vast relief in and of itself.  And I know it's fear talking, but I refuse to go a-tilting at the "full-time screenwriting" windmill if I can't write a script any more.

But also, if I'm going to do anything with screenwriting, I want to have a supply of scripts that aren't just sketches and horribly out-of-date specs.  I have a feature script that's pretty evergreen.  I want to add to that.  Once you have a few sellable things, you have a chance to be taken more seriously in local circles.

So the current plan is to work on the pilot spec.

The big question is (as I said before), how will I find the time for it?

It looks like the answer is "mostly by being less lazy."  I talked in the last post about being reluctant to give up hobbies.  This isn't entirely true.  I'm mostly okay with dropping gaming or dancing in order to take writing more seriously.  That said, when we start cutting into the hobbies I keep up at home, like playing guitar or writing weekly sketches, I get grouchy.

Today I tried being diligent about getting through all my day-to-day household puttering.  Basically, this meant turning off the Internet at home and not dawdling for twenty minutes because I didn't feel like exercising.  I got through all that stuff by 7:30pm.  So that includes all the blogposts, and practicing guitar, and tidying up the house a bit.  I'm guessing tomorrow, I can get through everything by 7:00pm.  (It's a lighter day, owing to how I've scheduled out various tasks.)

So I think it's reasonable for me to say I can put in a couple of additional hours a night on this writing project without driving myself insane.  And yes, I can still get out of the house occasionally -- and thus avoid going stir crazy -- but I'll have to be judicious about it.  I'll have to (say) put in extra time on night 1 so that I can go out and play on night 2, and dancing will rarely be worth that investment of time.

How much total time will the spec need?  Well, I found the timesheet for the last spec script I wrote:  a My Name Is Earl episode from 2006.  That took twenty hours, all told.  Now, I'm planning on writing a half-hour script.  I'm not starting from scratch -- I know who my characters are, I know the first and last scenes, and I know vaguely what happens in between -- but writing pilot specs is hard.  You're not only telling a story, you're building an engine that can generate dozens of stories.  Okay, I'm going to stop scaring myself, but the point is:  I should assume it takes longer.

I'll be conservative, multiply by 2.5, and and say fifty hours.  ("Not to fifty!")

Theoretically, this means I'm done with the script in less than four weeks.

Practically, I can already tell you it won't pan out like that.

Crudely and profanely, November is going to shit the bed.  This weekend is peaceful and quiet-like, but the following weekend is the Lindy Exchange (no I'm not skipping that) and the weekend after that is Thanksgiving.

So here is the policy I'll impose on myself.  Today, November tenth, I start working on the studio spec.  I will put in two hours a night on it.  If I've completed the week's fourteen hours by the end of the day Sunday, I reward myself by going to game night at majcher's.  If I haven't, I stay home and write instead.  Hours do not carry over from one week to the next -- if I fall behind one week (ahem ALX ahem), then I have a clean slate the following day.

In broader strokes, the policy is this:  I'll keep up this two-hours-a-night until either (1) I've put in fifty hours, or (2) two months go by -- whichever comes first.

I'll spend the rest of my two-hour allotment tonight planning things out.  Basically I want to write up the big timesheet that lists out how I'll spend the fifty hours, and exactly what tasks will need doing.  (<x> hours brainstorming episode ideas, <y> hours picking out the logline, <z> hours picking the act breaks, etc.)

I know that some of you must be reading this with faint pity.  I know that all of this strict organization again comes from a place of fear -- both in the sense of "if I write up enough charts, then I can't fail!" and also "if I keep writing up charts, then I'm not failing yet!"  And I know that, in the end, the muse don't answer to no timetable.  Sometimes, as with the failed Burn Notice spec, all the time in the world doesn't get you any closer to the end.

All I know is, this sort of rigorous approach worked for me in my heyday, and I'm hoping it will work again.

If it doesn't, then I'll put that pilot spec aside, and try something else.  And if the something-else doesn't work, then maybe I'll admit defeat.

Mood: [mood icon] optimistic · Music: none
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Date:Tuesday (11/10/09) 8:36pm
And I know that, in the end, the muse don't answer to no timetable.

While that may be true, it is my experience that the muse REALLY doesn't answer to "no timetable". Having a timetable, and then allowing enough fluidity to follow a muse, seems to be a pretty good method for accomplishing artistic goals.

I'm trying to remember what playwright it was who talked about sitting down at the desk for 2 hours every morning, no matter how much writing came out of it. For those two hours, even if by the end of them he'd managed to type "the" on a piece of paper and crumple it up, he sat at his desk. The discipline of it meant that on mornings when the muse WAS in residence, he was sitting there, ready to write down what she brought. Without that discipline, he might have found himself somewhere without the ability to write when the time came.

If that makes sense. :)

Anyway, huzzah to you for renewed focus. And hopefully the work I'm doing on my end to create a more concrete example of something you've ALREADY written will only help. :)
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Date:Wednesday (11/11/09) 9:23am

Just want to add that there was a clever quip in one of the recent NaNo emails: "I don't wait for my muse to come home, I go out and drag her home by the hair." For me, this is what being disciplined is about. If the muse doesn't show, you write anyway, even if it's a hate letter to the muse.

And if it makes you feel any better, I chart, too and it helps. I have a list of writing tasks on the wall above my desk that has eight writing related things I should do each day. On a good day, I get through four or more. But the ones I always try to do no matter what are the ones that actually involve putting sentences together.

Good luck!
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Date:Sunday (11/15/09) 11:33am
If the muse doesn't show, you write anyway, even if it's a hate letter to the muse.

Yeah, my attitude tends towards, "any yahoo can write when they're inspired.  It's the pros who can write whenever."

So far the charting is working out okay, I think.  Hopefully I'll post an update sometime this week.
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Date:Sunday (11/15/09) 11:29am
The discipline of it meant that on mornings when the muse WAS in residence, he was sitting there, ready to write down what she brought.

Ha!  This is awesome.  And yeah, what scripts I've written, I've written with freakish speed, but I always spend a long, long, long time sitting around gathering ideas.  So "spending a few a day *ready* to write in case an idea happens to come along then" is perhaps the best way to think about it.

And hopefully the work I'm doing on my end to create a more concrete example of something you've ALREADY written will only help.

*cheers on la_directora*
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Date:Sunday (11/15/09) 12:33pm
(It is now of course occurring to me that I should take my own advice and figure out a schedule for my editing, rather than waiting to be inspired to do it, which is obviously not working as well as I need it to. Physician, heal thyself!)
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