A Writer’s Diary: October 2015

This week, I’m revising the new pilot. It occurs to me that I didn’t stop working long enough to enjoy the moment of finishing draft one; I was already diving back into the beginning and reorganizing scenes and sections of dialogue. Given the subject matter, which is kind of difficult, I’m especially concerned with getting the tone right. Believe it or not, by the way, when I’m writing the tougher moments, the soundtrack to my personal writer’s room has either been classical with lots of cello, or other soundtracks – or the silliest, perkiest pop music ever recorded.

I’m just gonna say it: Katy Perry’s “Firework” has been on heavy rotation. Don’t judge me.

Despite the seriousness of the storylines, it’s been fun to write the characters, and as usual I have my favorites, which change session to session. They’re what are going to make this (or any) show work. I feel good about my process in coming up with characters, but haven’t gotten the hang of just knowing that I’m telling a story with properly-calibrated obstacles and conflict.

I’ve been hibernating quite a bit to finish this draft, eating and sleeping it, practically. This show is more indicative of the type of  I envision writing generally, while my first pilot, Pirate Queen, is a big action-oriented series with a grand scope. So I want to get the new one ready and start shopping it as well. At this point, I can at least refine the all important logline and pitch for the new show.

Last month, I wrote a post with a colleague for my “day job” blog that crosses over well here, about how to overcome creative blocks. It was a blast collaborating with a visual artist and designer on that; I love getting ideas from other creative folks on how to feed and nurture creativity.

In part, that’s why I’ll be recapping Manhattan when season two premieres next week. Because watching other folks’ stunningly executed complex television is so good for the old confidence. I kid. Of course it’s good to keep consuming and reading new stuff as I’m creating my own work.

And I should wrap up a proper draft of my pilot #2 shortly. Plus, I’m developing a couple of ideas to turn into freelance pitches. In some ways, I feel as though I’m huffing up a lot of stairs to keep up, frankly. That could just be a subconscious preoccupation though, since I work in a sixth floor walkup studio in the city, and our elevator operator and I take the same lunch hour. Which means: BONUS WORKOUTS. I’ve got this, October, but I’m working for it.

Speaking of overcoming blocks, workouts and freelance pitches…this week’s writing class assignment beckons.

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Hurry Up and Wait

I should be working on my new pilot script, but it’s been one of those days when it’s very hard to get a good groove going. I’ve got a beat outline, which is the fun part, since it’s sequencing all of the story elements just so. Of course, things will be slightly reworked when I actually write the corresponding scenes, but that’s the shuffle to come.

OK, so there’s more than one fun part.

I’ve been doing a lot of character development, getting into people’s heads, learning about them, and what makes these characters tick. That’s another fun part.

The new project is quite different tonally from PIRATE QUEEN, the pilot I’m currently pitching. As for PQ’s status, I titled this post “Hurry Up and Wait” because that’s a lot of what I’m up to. For now I can just say that there’s been some interest. And I’d rather not jinx anything. I’m glad the television academy recognized Game of Thrones last night at the Emmys, because now I can point out that there’s another exciting show out there, ripe for the buying, with swordplay, political plotting and fierce warriors. And in mine, the lead is a woman and we’ll not be using violence against women as “entertainment”. (I know, SHOCKING.)

One of the reasons I wrote a show that literally has a woman warrior as the lead has to do with how women usually appear in such period action pieces. They’ve been princesses, or damsels in distress, but rarely if ever have they taken matters into their own hands to take care of themselves and the people they love. And even if my show is a bit adult, I want girls to know there are other kinds of women characters out there, including Grace O’Malley, the lead of PQ.

Hopefully, you’ll all get to see her onscreen. That would be another really fun part.

it’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Fellow Nerdlings (and the Cool People we adoringly share our lives with):

Is there a better, more satisfying shopping experience than that for school supplies?  I THINK NOT.

Continuing my streak of eliciting an impressed “Wow, that’s a lot of stuff for that amount” from sales clerks (at this point if I don’t get that compliment I feel a failure) I now have a canvas bag bearing goodies for my new semester.  There are only a few things to pick up, mind you, since by graduate school the school bursar and bookstores get the first pass at your accounts, and then there is the matter of paying rent and eating and dressing oneself.  Not much room left to indulge those elementary school styled two-page supply lists with arcane items.  (Of which “playing cards” was always a favorite. What, we’re going to play a hand of Hold’Em in the cloakroom?)

First for me today: notebook and pen selection.  Picked out some fluorescent sticky flags for the finance textbooks I’ll be renting this term; restocked my legal pads; delighted in the girls next to me earnestly asking their mother which color binder should correspond with each of their courses this year.  (Yes, it matters.  It just does.)

After this excursion I returned home and left my bag drooping on the floor to tend to more pressing business, but it was a fun couple of hours.  This is the one errand I will genuinely miss when school is over for good.

for all of those poor fish

Last week I’d been reading all sorts of articles about minimizing food waste, partly in the never-ending educational saga of learning how to reduce my carbon footprint.  I am well aware of how pretentious that sentence could seem in many places Out There.  But you see, I care about the earth, nature, trees, flowers, animals, you get the idea, and even clean air and water.  While I have for some time, and am thrilled at how, in some ways, such commitments are so much easier to make now, I also don’t want to become a dour fretting person.  Given how poorly certain policy reforms are going, that might well be appropriate, but that’s another matter.

So one night thereafter I had a dream including a turn of events the stuff of which I won’t bore you, but one element stuck with me.  Suffice it to say that upon much thought the next morning, I finally realized the obvious: I still felt guilty about not taking home leftovers from a restaurant dinner ALMOST A YEAR AGO.

Yes, I felt guilt, even though I can claim a fairly “green” existence right now.  Overall, I don’t tend to spend much on what you might call “consumables” and use whatever food or things come into my house.  While I still find myself fretting over the Diet Coke I bring into classes at night (plastic bottle), I know what others don’t: those Diet Cokes are a strictly-at-graduate-school habit.  (As I sanctimoniously sip my seltzer from a glass while writing this).  Generally, when I go out to eat I do bring home what I cannot finish on the spot.  Overall, I feel good trying to prevent Planet Earth from boiling over.

But the former theorist and perpetual observer in me notes that when it comes to “greening” our lives we can quickly get into an escalating guilt-tripping purity war which I find disturbing–and this is among folks who DO believe in climate change, mind you.

To wit: a recently overheard conversation at school after which I’m pretty sure a few of us were supposed to be mentally wringing our hands feeling personally responsible for some poor fish choking on a plastic bottlecap.  Or something.  Dear readers, I was also susceptible, feeling sad thinking of the recycling that is routinely dumped in the garbage by the fine denizens of Jersey City, worrying about the fate of my poor little Diet Coke bottles.

I don’t mean to imply that I walk around wallowing in constant, angst-ridden, dramatic guilt over every environmental “offense” I may commit.  I try not to beat myself up when I read about, hear from, or see someone else who is a “better” environmentalist than me.  I take what works and move along.  In fact, many of us who are genuinely interested in doing “more” or “better” still don’t know what we need to learn–hence the reading–but also, a point I like to gently remind my more politically active friends on this issue from time to time.  Not knowing everything to “do” doesn’t mean we’re not interested or at least willing to consider different changes.

Catholic school survivors can be masters of guilt, but many of us are also deeply suspicious of any sort of orthodoxy, which I think is a great quality, for the most part.

It’s also helped make me a little neurotic.  (Those poor choking fish!)