When I was about to start my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month, a friend of mine said “Martin, you’ll have no trouble with this, you have a skill for telling things as they are”
“Thanks, but I’m writing fiction”
“Oh.Never mind, then.”
In the same spirit (and organized by the same lunatics) as National Novel Writing Month (every November) is ScriptFrenzy (every April). I participated in ScriptFrenzy in its premiere year and managed to finish a flawed but readable script for a feature film about an insecure superhero investigating a crime involving his former partner who was framed for taking performance enhancing drugs.
This year’s script is for a two-hour pilot for a television drama. It’s set a few years after a mysterious natural disaster which has destroyed every large city on Earth. My characters are (so far) a former Ju-Jitsu instructor turned fisherman turned militia leader, an agrarian bible scholar turned underground spy, a cokehead airline pilot with political ambitions, a fugitive former CIA agent taking refuge with old mafia connections, a shameless disaster profiteer, a teenage girl trying to break away from the UFO cult her family is in, a HAM radio geek turned talk radio superstar, and a cute young journalist who rides a Vespa (her character needs some more depth, obviously).
I’m working under this basic formula, but it’s changing from moment to moment:
(Left Behind – Kirk Cameron/evangelical message) + (Battlestar Galactica – Cylons/Space Travel) + (The Sopranos – pop psychology) + ( World War Z – Zombies ) + (X Files – creepy sideshow episodes/aliens)
The best thing about writing a TV pilot instead of a feature film is that you don’t have any pressure to wrap things up. I’m going to just open up a whole bunch of messy loose ends and leave them there with an outlandish cliffhanger ending. It seems to work for J.J. Abrams.
After the first two days, I’m off to an OK start. Last night I literally fell asleep at the keyboard and typed an entire sentence with my eyes closed. Upon further inspection, I had to throw it out as it had no vowels in it. Tonight was better and I managed to get up to 8 pages (target is 100 pages in 30 days, so I’m a page or so ahead of schedule).
A big part of making a writing project like this succeed is the visible public commitment to meeting the deadline. This is the same reason that many teams get benefit from doing daily stand-up meetings, is that coders can stay focused more easily when they commit to action in front of their peers. By telling everyone that I’m doing this, it’s a lot harder to just give up silently and go back to watching Hulu or playing iPhone games.
Wish me luck.