Projects

People keep asking what I’m working on, and really I’ve got a couple big projects on my plate, both screenwriting related. First, I’m doing a rewrite of another person’s romantic comedy. It’s a really cute story with a lot of potential (I think), and the writer and I hammered out some changes, and now I’m implementing them in the script. And then the rewrite will go back to him so he can do some more rewriting. Because I know what I’m putting in won’t be perfect. Not on the first go.

And then I have this thriller script to write. I’ve outlined a general plot and sent that off to the director who seemed to mostly like it. (He wanted me to change some character names.) I’m feeling a little pressure on this one because it’s not my usual genre, and the director is a little impatient to get going. But I’d committed to the rom-com prior, and I told this director that, so . . .

I’ve also had a nice response from the few people I pitched to at Screenwriters World last weekend, so we’ll see what, if anything, comes from that.

Headshots went well, and I didn’t even need any wardrobe changes because the blue shirt I chose really made my eyes pop and my red hair stand out. From what I reviewed on the camera screen, I looked a little like Emily Deschanel. Of course, that could change once I see larger versions of the pictures. Watch the sidebar for the finished product once it’s ready.

Busy. In a Good Way.

I’m supposed to be working. I have quite a few projects on my plate at the moment:

  1. Adapting St. Peter at the Gate to add to the St. Peter in Chains script, thereby extending it to full length
  2. Two other script rewrites (for other people’s scripts)
  3. Writing the Hunting Victor Frankenstein pilot
  4. A number of prose projects, including: St. Peter Ascends, another K-Pro novel, more Sherlock Holmes stories, plus I have ideas for at least two other books
  5. A couple plays I keep meaning to finish

And though I’ve done some rewriting for 20 August, I’m pretty sure it needs another bit of work.

Also, these blank canvases are not going to paint themselves.

It’s good to be busy. Good to have projects. Really, really good to have scripts that people want to turn into movies, and then also have people wanting me to help them with their scripts besides. Exciting. Exhausting. But I like to take my opportunities as they arise, and in this work it’s often feast or famine. Today we feast!

Which reminds me. I haven’t had anything to eat yet today . . .

(I keep candy stashed in my office, but I try not to resort to eating any until mid-afternoon at the earliest.)

Anyway, must get as much done as possible in advance of the Screenwriters Conference at the end of September. It’s good to have deadlines of a sort, too, really. Otherwise it becomes too easy to drift. So onward! (Cue Man of La Mancha, as sung by Scott Bakula in that episode of Quantum Leap. Cuz that’s just the kind of nerd I am.)

Burning question: Why didn’t Weird Al ever write a song called “Keep Refrigerated” based on “Keep ’em Separated”? Or did he, and I just missed it?

Sisterhood & Other Bonds

sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-awa[2]Carol Kilgore has been kind enough to award me with this Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Thanks, Carol! Any of my fellow sister bloggers are free to take it along to their own blogs. (Yes, I know it’s lazy of me not to name a bunch of people, but I’m really busy these days.)

I’m nearly done with St. Peter at the Gate, but I wrote a wrenching near-death scene yesterday and am worn out emotionally. I’ve bonded with Peter in a way I never have with any other character. So for his sake, I’m also worn out with trying not to make his experience too cliché. It’s hard work, being a writer. There is a mine field of things to avoid.

But there are payoffs. Like finding out the screen version of “Warm Bodies” (still don’t know if they’re changing that title) is in editing now. Mind-boggling to think I’m about to have my first film credit.

And coming up: Blogger Book Fair, week of July 22. Stop by here to meet all my guest authors and bloggers and such.

So, yes, very busy. Haven’t left the house in over two days, so I think today I may need to get out a bit . . .

From Short Play to Short Film

So it looks like, barring any last-minute upsets (and this is me knocking on wood because with this business you just never know), my 15-minute play “Warm Bodies” will soon be moving into pre-production as a short film. I’ve spoken with the producer and director, and they are supposedly e-mailing a licensing agreement for the work. Hasn’t popped into my inbox yet, but these things always take longer than anyone plans for. Someone in an office somewhere has a stack of stuff to type and send, etc. And so it goes.

Of course they’ll probably have to change the title, since there was a feature film not too long ago called Warm Bodies . . . After talking to the producer and director, answering their questions about the script, I feel I can trust them to manage it properly. As it stands, they’re hoping to get on with casting sometime this weekend. I’m curious to see what the finished product might look like. And I wish them the best in submitting to festivals once it’s done.

ETA: Licensing agreement now in hand. And so the production machine trundles forward . . .

Writing for Stage & Screen

My technique for writing stage- and screenplays is a bit different from prose because while prose is a solo job, stage and screen work is, at the end of the day, a collaboration. Or it will be if you’re lucky enough to find anyone who wants to produce what you’ve written.

I hear a lot about writers who throw tantrums any time someone wants to change something in a script. I prefer to remain relatively flexible. I’m no carpet—I don’t let people walk on me—but I’m open to suggestions, so long as they’re made in good faith and spirit. I’ve found, to my great luck and benefit, that though there are some real creeps out there, a lot of people want to help. And when you’re all in it together, no one wants to fail. So when “creative differences” arise, it usually has more to do with one person’s vision of the work butting up against another person’s. I try to see both, or all if there are several. And remarkably enough, sometimes other people do have good ideas.

The other thing about writing for stage and screen versus published prose is that when I’m writing prose I try to make sure to fill in all the little details. I have to, in order to make sure the reader can “see” what I’m seeing. I am the only storyteller involved in such an effort, and the readers rely on me to give them the whole picture. But when writing for actors and directors, I like to leave a little wiggle room, places for them to play around and find what will work for them. I’ve noticed they like and appreciate that. My attitude generally is that I give them everything they need to do the job and tell the story while leaving them places to embroider. Or, to use another metaphor, I serve the meat and they select the sauce(s). Though I, as writer, do get a final say on the flavor.

Again, I get some flak for this from other writers who think I should be in complete control of my “vision.” Well, if I want to write and direct and star in it maybe . . . But these are writers who also insert every camera shot and angle into their scripts. And potential directors see that and shudder. Not the way to get your stuff produced.

I’m almost done with the script I’ve been asked to write. Soon I will send it off to the director/producer and the collaboration will begin. He’ll have some ideas and notes. I will take or leave them. We will agree or disagree. It is a complex conversation as opposed to a one-sided lecture. And that is the difference between prose, which is a narration, and stage or film work, which is the result of many dialogues.

“Casting” Your Characters

When writing something, I usually find (often without realizing it until well into my story) that I’ve “cast” an actor in at least one, if not more, of the chief roles. For example, the screenplay I’m writing now is based on a play I wrote last year, and somewhere in between starting and finishing writing that play, I realized it was Ewan McGregor’s voice in my head as the main character. A young Ewan McGregor, mind, since the characters are not long out of university, but him all the same.

With The K-Pro I had Benedict Cumberbatch in mind for David Styles, though in retrospect, were I to cast this as a film, I’m not sure I’d give him the part. Later in the story, I sort of had Emily Blunt in mind for Liz, and certainly Judy Dench as David’s mother . . . Everyone else I picture quite clearly but haven’t really found comparable actors for the roles. (Maybe that guy who played Lutz on 30 Rock for Craig?)

Of course, if you ever see a movie based on a book, it always fashions (or refashions) your mental image of the book. Sometimes, if I’ve read a book and then see the movie, I end up with two separate ideas in my head: my original and the one that has been fabricated for the multitudes. If I see the movie before I read the book, I’ll almost always simply picture events from the film version as I read. (Almost always.)

And then it’s somewhat surreal to see something you’ve written become a cast and produced—a concrete play or film. That changes things, too. I don’t know what I’ll think or feel when they make this screenplay (they’ve already cast one lead) . . . Will I keep picturing Ewan McGregor or will I be able to shift my interior perspective? I’ll literally have to wait and see.

Time Off

I’ve discovered that, for me, trying to take a few days off from writing is like trying to take a few days off from breathing. Life feels weird—not right—when I’m not in the midst of some writing project or another.

I have plenty to keep me busy, mind. Yesterday I did grocery shopping and also had my hair and nails done in advance of the conference this weekend. Today there’s lots of laundry to do, and bathrooms to clean, and I have to take the kids to their dentist appointments. Usually I would be annoyed that these necessary errands were interrupting my writing flow. Today I’m just sort of . . . lost.

On the good news front: another producer wants to read the St. Peter script. It’s good to have interest, and to have the script circulating. Ideally, someone will eventually step up to the plate and turn it into an actual movie. But maybe this one is destined to be my “calling card” script. We’ll see.

And now back to . . . something . . . that’s not writing . . . Although if I just print out the play and look it over right quick . . .

K-Pro Update

I’ve made all the copy edit changes to the file. Now it has gone to be formatted. The goal is to publish electronically next Tuesday, with the hard copy version available in a few weeks.

Now I’ll take some time off, go to the San Francisco Writers Conference, and then pick up with the film script project. Then I hope to finish St. Peter at the Gate.

Lotta gates in my stories, keys and such. Even when not physically, the theme seems to pop up as mental or emotional. Hmm.

Odds & Ends

I’ve finished the copy edit of The K-Pro, and tomorrow I will make the changes to the electronic file and be done with it. It’s one of those things where if I keep tinkering with it I’ll simply never be done. So at some point—and that point is now—I have to stop. The perfectionist in me would continue on indefinitely, but now it’s time to let go.

If you’re interested in a preview, though, there’s an excerpt up at AoA.

And while I try not to post too many boring personal things here, I have in the past posted a bit about my dreams and the characters who populate them. And, well . . . Last night’s dream was like none other I’ve ever had. Which is saying something because I dream vividly and regularly. But this one just felt different. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I’ve always been able to separate “regular” dreams from ones that might be important. And this one . . . It meant something, but not in the usual way. So I’m not sure what to think. I usually post these dreams on my personal blog, but I’ve cross posted what I wrote about last night’s here, if only for fun. Though if someone has some insight, do please send me an e-mail.

The first thing I remember (and I think there was more before this, but that’s unclear now), I was sitting on a wooden bleacher, outside, at night. I was on the top tier. On my right was Benedict Cumberbatch and on my left Rex Harrison. Benedict was wearing black and white; Rex was wrapped in a charcoal-colored wool blanket. There was something going on, but I don’t know what: a bonfire, a sports match, or some other kind of gathering. I spoke briefly to Benedict, though I don’t remember what was said, but it seemed we were friendly at least (unlike in other dreams he’s been in). I leaned against his arm for a moment as if to rest, like I was tired, but then Rex and I started cutting up about something else, and I may have ended up tucked in the blanket with him.

Okay, but then came morning and there was something sad going on—a friend of mine from college named Anne Johnson had died. I vaguely recall a big oak tree, but I don’t know what the significance of it was in the dream. Had she hit the tree with her car? Were we gathering there just to remember her? I think a photo of Anne was on the tree . . .

Then there was something about going to visit my dad. The house looked like the one we’d lived in when I was in middle school and high school, but there was a river behind it, and apparently there had been some rain because everything was wet and the water was high and moving fast. Also, the water was brown. Not dark brown but sort of café au lait colored. Anyway, my dad was planning some kind of trick or jump; it’s difficult to explain, but he was going to jump from a kind of platform onto this origami-like thing, sort of like a snowboard? I’m not sure what the point was or why he was planning to do it.

But then the dream became about going to this amusement park with a bunch of people from high school. We weren’t still in high school; it was more like a reunion trip maybe? And the park was on or near the estate of some movie star (the name Scarlett Johansson comes to mind but I don’t know if she was the one). I remember a lot of us joking that her parents had built the park to get her friends because she never had any.

Okay, but first off there was something about The Eagles and Don Henley being missing. (And I think, too, this was somehow related to the jumping thing my dad had done, but I’m not sure how—like maybe Henley had done the same trick?) Because The Eagles were playing a show at the park, I think? And it turned out that I’d gone on this trip with Benedict, but we’d gone to do different things once we got inside the park . . . And then someone gave me a cherry sno-cone. And I realized at some point I needed to go to an ATM, and then I realized my debit card was in the car (in the trunk, or “boot,” specifically) and Benedict had the keys. So I was thinking I needed to go find him, but as it turned out a group of four guys walked by and one of them reached out and briefly squeezed my hand, and it was Benedict, but he was done up like the old movie stereotype of Frankenstein’s Monster: green face paint, fake bolts on his neck, slicked hair. The guys with him were dressed as other old movie monsters, too, and it turns out they were on their way to some interactive, live-action game. But Benedict gave me the car keys at least. It was a cute little blue and white Mini Cooper. And I remember thinking I had no idea where in the lot the car was, but that I would find it. I specifically recall thinking: I can’t have Benedict do everything for me, some of this I just have to be grown up about and do for myself. Otherwise he’d get sick of me pretty quick. 

So I guess I did find the car and do what I needed to do, though that bit isn’t clear. The last bit of the dream featured Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty, who were evidently also doing a show at this theme park. And my friend Karl asking to please help find his cousin (whose name started with an A or a K . . . Alyssa? Krysta? Something like that). Apparently with all the press about Don Henley being missing, no one was paying attention to this girl who had also disappeared. And Benedict had also made me promise to come find him when I’d done with the car and the ATM and whatever. But I think first I went to Rob and the band and asked them to spread word about the missing girl . . . And then I woke up.

Certainly, all the missing people add up to something. But what?

Well then. Tomorrow I will officially finish The K-Pro and then take a small break prior to the SFWC this coming weekend before turning to tackle the screenplay version of 20 August. It’s good to have projects. Keeps me off the streets.