Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Something Was Wrong

This is where I left off yesterday: Her breath gone, she plummeted to the surface once more. Eirick was no longer on the rock. She looked around her to find the shore empty. No sign of Lily or Einar. It was too quiet. No birds sang out. Dread filled her. Something was wrong. What an enticing place to start back up again! I actually had to fight going back to this yesterday. Ideas needed to percolate. There were so many possibilities as to what was happening, they needed time to roll through my mind and get kicked around a bit like a soccer ball (or hackeysack, if you're old enough to remember those!). I have my document open, but I'm not sure which way I'm going to go even now as I type this!

When I was in college, I had a sitcom writing teacher who taught us several "rules" of writing. Stanley told us (imagine Darth Vader with asthma for the voice here) "You always leave off on a roll. If you write to the end of the scene, you'll be less likely to return tomorrow because it is finished. Leave in the middle of the scene and you can't wait to come back and complete it." I've found this to be sage advice over the years whether I'm writing for television or writing a story. Given that I wrote 1800 words yesterday and wanted to come back to it last night, I think it reinforces his idea. It has worked for me, anyways. Thanks, Stanley!

The closer I get to finishing, the more obsessive I am about the writing. I have burned through several outlines and am now flying by the seat of my pants. Why? Because I keep venturing off the path anyways. I know where I'm going to end up. I have a general idea of the next few beats. But who knows how we will get there and what grand adventures we're going to have along the way! We'll get there in the end, which is the most important part. The 'how' doesn't matter so much at this point. We're currently being hunted, which makes our task a little harder. Avoid being murdered while riddle solving and retrieving. Unexpected things are happening! I may not be big on surprises in real life (I'm a planner, a list maker) but I seem to be very, very open to them when I'm writing. It's fun to be able to relax and go where the writing takes you!

I surpassed my goal of 6,000 words this week! I shall set a goal of the same for next week. Happy writing everyone!

(Note: Pictured is my beloved sitcom writing teacher, Stanley Ralph Ross. Stanley was a bear of man - 6'5", but an absolute teddy bear. He really did have a voice that sounded like Darth Vader with asthma. He also had unruly, black hair (though it looks perfectly tame in his picture). I think he had a comb over, but it would never sit straight on his head so most of the class, he would be brushing it back over with his hand. It would pop back up a mere moment later so he would brush back down with his hand again. This was repeated the entire hour and a half class. I spent four years at USC, three of them avoiding his class because you had to do a fifteen minute stand up comedy routine as part of it. I was entirely too shy and insecure for that. Twice a year at the mixers, Stanley would corner me and say, "Jennifer, darling, when are you going to take my class?" I would drub up some lame excuse, but he finally wore me down and I enrolled. On the first day of class, I sat at the back of the room. He was facing the chalkboard, writing down the requirements "You will be developing your own sitcom and writing the pilot script for it. You will be writing and performing a fifteen minute stand-up routine...Jennifer, SIT DOWN...You will be choosing a current sitcom and writing a spec script for it." He didn't have eyes in the back of his head, but he knew instinctively that I had gotten up to leave because of that darned routine. I was the very last person to do my routine in class. A friend who was a comedian came in to watch my routine that night. He had to physically move my chair to the front of the room. I did it. I survived. People laughed. I got an 'A'. Stanley passed in 2000, lung cancer being the cause of death. He left a huge, gaping hole this world and in USCs sitcom department. He is sorely missed.)


  1. Oh the days of dear Stanley! You painted his picture so well, dear, it brings tears to my eyes as I remember that terrified, young woman!
    You really, really did get that creativity button tweaked at that school for sure! Happy memories! Happy writing! Love you!

  2. I'm learning to love this zero-drafting business, aren't you? This seat-of-the-pants flying, this open-to-any-new-characters scene building, this careful, careful listening for new beats. Love it.
    I'm looking forward to reaching the end, but I'll miss this. This sort of exuberant, wide-eyed exploration that we do together each week. I just added a whole new day to my story. It was supposed to all take place in four hours, and now I've added the idea of twelve more hours. That's craziness! That's insane! :) And it's so, so fun.