Sunday, October 26, 2008

Imposing deadlines...

I read an interesting post today at Raving Dave's blog about the pitfalls of using deadlines.

While I agree with the issues, I disagree that it is necessarily a bad thing as mentioned here:

I’ve seen it happen so often: A looming deadline encourages you to move the goal posts, lower the bar, relax your standards. The closer the deadline approaches, the more crap you’re willing to see through your fingers, despite your intuition quietly telling you not to.

IMHO, there is absolutely nothing wrong with lowering your standards on a first draft. A FIRST DRAFT, and nothing else. I'm under the impression that Dave is talking about a deadline to finish a script in a final form, in which case I would completely agree, but it would totally ruin my post. So, I'm going to speak to using deadlines as first draft.

Imposing a deadline for a first draft is not only a good idea, but sometimes a necessary evil to put words on the page. I'm a huge fan of garbage drafts, and think that if you're thinking too much about your first draft, you're going to lose momentum. If I didn't have specific deadlines for first drafts, I would NEVER get ANY writing done.

If a writer is too self-conscious about a first draft, it's going to cause them to sit on their laurels and try to construct the perfect story. And that's not a good thing, especially for a new writer. As a new writer, you should be WRITING, because that's the only way you're going to become a better WRITER. I've never known a writer who has written a good first script, or third, or fifth. However, the things they learned from those scripts helped them become a better writer, and eventually a great writer.

I just talked to a good friend of mine on facebook this morning. The conversation follows, the names have been changed to protect the newbile.

Teach me the art of writing a screen play

start by reading about 1000 screenplays and analyzing them.

hahah ANAL-yzing

then, buy final draft, then read about 10 screenwriting books.
then buy the hollywood standard so you can learn all the formating.
then write 10 screenplays.


the more i think about it - michael bay should be directing my movie idea

seriously though, it's a lot about formatting, understanding structure, dialogue, and how to make a movie look good on the page.

The issue is that this specific writer thinks that he will be a great writer the first time out, that michael bay will be interested in his movie, and that he will immediately be a success, and that's just not true.

Different experts have different opinions, everywhere from "You'll sell a script when you've written 1 million words" to "Once you can stack you're work 18 inches, you'll sell a script" to "Writing ten scripts" and everything in between. But the key is that, PEOPLE DON'T SELL THEIR FIRST SCRIPT, OR THEIR SECOND, OR THEIR THIRD (caveat, I'm sure it's happened, but it's rare).

So, instead of trying to craft the perfect script the first time out, just get it out there on the page, look at it, and analyze your own work just like you analyze other scripts. Then do it again, and again, and again. And one day it will click, and with each script it will get better, but it's silly NOT to set a deadline, FOR A FIRST DRAFT, because you're trying to craft the perfect story. The most important thing to being a good writer is to WRITE. And if this doesn't work for you, figure out the best way to WRITE. After the draft is on the page, then you can re-write til your heart's desire.

1 comment:

Raving Dave Herman said...

Absolutely agree with the notion that getting to a first draft is essential, and can benefit from a deadline.

In fact I have a quote on my blog from Pixar's Andrew Stanton:

"The first draft is nothing more than a starting point, so be wrong as fast as you can."

However, the rest of your post confirms that deadlines can encourage you to lower your standards, and when it comes to delivering the best writing you can manage to a producer or an agent, that isn't what you want!

So yes, push yourself to the first draft, but be aware of it's status as such!