Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Garbage Draft

So, I've been knocking around a lot of ideas lately, and have a bunch in a cue to write. This is along with a lot of projects I am developing including 3 web series, 1 short film, and two features.

But, while these films stew and get ready, I'm intent on writing down GARBAGE DRAFTS of everything I have in my head. These include:

5 features
1 tv pilot
1 comic book pilot (are they called pilots in comics?)

In addition, I'm determined NOT to have any new ideas until after I do these projects, unless, of course, a paying gig comes up. Then these drafts go by the wayside.

So, what is a garbage draft? It's a first draft you know is going to be a piece of junk. It's the draft you write to have something finished. So you can look back at it and say, yes I like a few of these ideas, but I hate most of them. It's the draft you write when your stuck. It allows for the dialog to be weak, or the structure to fall apart a bit, or any of those elements that a writer gets stuck on to fly out of your head. And, for me, it's a great way to fight off writer's block.

And I'm in good Company; Hemingway's "Garbage Draft" Method. Hemingway used to say, "The only thing the first draft has to be is done." - Pulled from here.

Here's why...

For me, when I write from an outline, or a treatment, I get bogged down with everything needing to be precise and perfect on the first try. When it's not, it makes me stop, think, reevaluate, and start again. It slows down the process and often stops it completely. The worst thing, for me, that could happen to a writer is for him to go back and rewrite a draft after he's already written it and before he is done.

Writer's block usually occurs, for me, when I reach an impasse point in the script. I will invariably think the script sucks, and want to abandon it. I go off to do other things, putting off the script I know will be lousy.

However, when I write a garbage draft, it gives me carte blanc to suck. In fact, that I KNOW it's not going to be cohesive allows me the freedom to keep writing through blocks. I don't have to wonder how things will connect because at the end of the day, I know it's going to be ripped apart.

So, why do I write this way? Because writing is a lonely, creative process. It's very easy to stop writing for days because you are blocked. Because it's so lonely, there is no one to motivate you to write again, but yourself. For me, the only way I can motivate myself to write is either:

-Have a deadline I HAVE to meet.
-Have a story I LOVE.
-Be able to change the story midstream without having to revise previously.

The third path is the one that has worked best for me in recent times. Whenever I make a notable change to the story, a character, or even a scene, I make a note, and keep plowing through. So, when I get done I know where the story has changed and can go back and adjust accordingly.

Now, does this mean you shouldn't outline? No. If it works for you, do it. However, sometimes it behooves ME to have the ability to wander off the outline, especially when I get writer's block.

I read a blog post recently saying that if you can't stick to an outline you should write a better outline and that it's the fault of the writer for not having a better treatment. However, for me, that doesn't always work, especially when working on spec.

I've yet to write a script from an outline that wasn't dreadful on a first pass. And, I haven't written a script without an outline that hasn't been dreadful on the first pass. Don't worry, the scripts all eventually developed into brilliant projects, but that occurred after several drafts.

So, if you are stuck, this may be a method that can help you get through it. Or, if you have a writer's group that is hounding you for more material, or a group of close friends who you can give your script to for notes, this could help give you the freedom to explore. Once you break through a writer's block, the sky's the limit.

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