Thursday, 29 August 2013

Every Journey...

So based on a small number of tweets it seems a certain percentage of you may be interested in hearing how the script for Writing Space came to exist. If the existence of such a thing is news to you and you are now squinting at your computer screen in confusion trying to understand, I recommend reading this blog post in order to catch up. Or you can move forward under the rather sensible assumption that it's a project I'm working on, for which a script is complete. If you're not one of those interested in the process, then feel free to click that small x in the top corner of the window. I won't mind, honest. I'm barely interested in it myself and I lived it.

First of all it's worth noting that the process I'm about to describe works exceptionally well for me and my writing partner Chris, but by no means by posting it here am I suggesting anyone should approach anything using the same method we use. It may very well be suitable for a certain percentage of you, but writing in a team can be challenging and I think an important part of developing into a team that functions well is developing a writing method that works for both members. I feel it's better to find something that works for you than adopt a system someone else uses.

For Chris and I, we prefer something Judd Apatow describes as the 'Vomit Draft' approach. The idea consists of riffling through the first draft of any script as quickly as possible to ensure you do not second guess anything. The goal is to simply push past the barrier of doubt and get the idea on the page in as pure a form as possible. That way you're working from something more than the daunting blank canvas. This draft is usually about as far from perfect as it gets, but you are left with a slab of marble to shape into the script you envisioned.

The reason I prefer this approach is because I find it incredibly frustrating to spend hours and hours perfecting a scene only to discover that it needs to be cut for structural reasons once I reach the end and realise it was redundant to start with. Also, if I'm honest I like getting to the end of that first draft knowing how much work the piece still needs. I find it oddly comforting to know that I'm not completely at a loss for how to make it better. I'm terrified that one day I'm going to reach the end of a draft fully aware how broken it is but not having a single idea about how to fix it. So being full of idea's and notions about what I need to correct on the next go around is strangely and powerfully encouraging.

The problem we found is that both Chris and I subscribe to this writing method, yet the very notion of writing in a team is diametrically opposed to the 'Vomit Draft' approach, because the entire point is to question one another as you go. This mean's it's practically impossible to write a first draft as a team using that method. So Chris and I have taken to writing the first and second drafts solo. We develop the characters, plots and ideas as a team, but then one of us tackles the first draft while the other writes the second, before we ultimately sit down and start working on the drafts together. This allows us to just get the idea on the page without the other over our shoulder questioning the positioning of a comma. (I'll be honest here, that's usually me.)

Interestingly, or possibly ironically, 'Writing Space' was born out of procrastination. Chris and I had met up to break the story for another project we were writing and during a period in which we had hit a bit of a wall our conversation drifted and gave birth to a very vague but simple idea. An idea that practically oozed with fun, an odd but accurate statement. We noted down several bullet points summing up the concept before we caught ourselves and forced our minds back to the task at hand, although like the petulant school children we are, we did resist for a little while longer first in order to play 20 questions or something equally time wasting. We were clearly fond of the new idea, but I'm not sure we seriously discussed perusing it during that meeting at all.

But it would not die, that same evening the idea would not leave me to sleep in peace, only now it came to me with a new element attached when it swam through my mind. I suddenly understood it needed to be a mockumentary. It's a conclusion Chris and I would have come to eventually regardless of whether it had occurred to me that evening or not. The significance of realising it in that particular moment is that it caused me to become more excited about the project and was immediately inspired to write a couple of sample pages there and then to demonstrate to myself how it would work in that format. One of those sample pages ended up being the first page of the finished script.

As a mockumentary it was suddenly very produceable, which to two writers working on several projects on spec with no sign of progress is a very enticing prospect. Chris had already been assigned the task of writing the first draft of the project we had actually met up to develop that weekend, we did end up breaking the story as we set out to. This left me to write the first draft of Writing Space, which had a different title at this stage. This was in late December of 2012 and we agreed to finish our respective first drafts by the first week of February 2013.

This is actually one of the reasons we didn't record any new episodes of our podcast Nothing But Static in January, as we were both highly focused on finishing our first drafts.

Seems I've rambled enough for now, my next post will pick up where this left off.

Thanks for reading.
-- Dan

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