The smoke has cleared. Hands shaking, I can finally start to sweep up the glass and rubble.
I can't remember who said that writing gets harder the more of it you do, but they're bloody right.
So you think you've got this writing lark figured out, and that you'll just apply the tricks you used last time... but that approach doesn't get you a better script than you wrote last time. For that to happen you have to grow, and for growth to happen you have to face the unknown.
Because you want more for your writing. Your taste and your abilities have shifted so you bite off more than you can initially chew, and you're feeling adventurous and you think you can manage it...
... then you find yourself trapped and suffocating underneath the weight of your mad undertaking, wondering how you got here, how you can go back (you can't) or who is coming to rescue you (nobody is).
I'll leave the analogy there before I'm tempted to take it too far.
It was all going fine up until the midpoint. My outline was loose, but I've written with looser outlines with great success, and even added twenty extra pages onto a third act once with universally appreciated results. I have a good relationship with outlines, I thought, as I stampeded mindlessly into Sequence E, then Sequence F, then clattered into an unseen ravine just shy of the third act turning point.
It wasn't the 'what', or the 'how', that failed me. It was the 'why'. Why were my characters doing what they were doing? For what truthful, understandable, emotionally logical reasons? They had reasons in the outline, but since then they'd become fleshed-out, believable human beings and the tone of the events of the film was starting to ask increasingly tougher and tougher questions of their creator.
I had to go back and analyse every single bit of character motivation, every single bit of plot, every single bit of backstory, or set-up, or exposition, or explanation -- and because I was well inside the world of the film by this point everything had a few dozen possible permutations and I was just as perplexed as any of the other characters as to how all of this had come about, who was responsible, and how it might resolve.
Added to which is a last-minute twist reveal ending, meaning that I had to work out two working plotlines side-by-side, both of which had to be logically consistent with the events of the film and every character's goals and emotional logic throughout.
That would have been better done at outline. With a friend.
“Spitballing” is a great term of William Goldman's. It's storyline brainstorming. He gets a buddy and they throw around plots and characters and take all the ideas to their logical conclusions until there's no stone left unturned. The more complex the script the more I think this would be a good idea.
So I'm at Draft Zero and the script is finally in the hands of a trusted reader. It's quite a way yet from anything I'd ever show a producer, but:
A crap draft is better than no draft...
... because then at least you have something to fix!
Happy New Year, and I wish you all a prosperous and enjoyable 2012 developing your scripts.