I suspect the interesting part of this blog post will be at the end of this post, so you may want to skip ahead to the challenge below by clicking here.
Last week, I set myself a challenge: conceive and write a five page comic script in a day.
I know the a few people reading this will scoff at that and say "I could do that!", and y'know what? Maybe you could. But for me, it's not that simple. I've learned the value of taking time away from the basic idea of the story to let it fester grow and develop into something worthwhile. Doing that also lets me figure out scenes and characters, the basic building blocks of the story that I can slowly start to put together. It's also why you'll sometimes catch me talking to myself... *ahem*
I have written five page scripts in a day, but I've usually been working from outlines and/or using established characters. I've also managed to outline a complete short in a day, but I've never tried to conceive and write a brand new, original piece of fiction in a day. So, I thought why not? It could be just what I need to flex the old writering muscles a bit.
Before I did it, though, I decided to set myself some basic rules:
- It had to be an original piece, with characters created by me
- It had to be no longer than five pages
- It had to be SF or horror
- It had to be a complete story, with a beginning, middle and an end
(I also coupled that list with my own personal rules for writing scripts - I might save telling what those are for another blog post).
Early[-ish] in the morning, I took a walk into town to clear my head and see if I could shake an idea loose - thankfully, it did, or it would've been a pretty short experiment and a long day of battering my head off a wall. So after that, I had the basic plot elements and a vague idea of a lead character. From there, I began to figure out an opening page that would establish the set up, and then... Everything started to come apart.
Over the last couple of years, my "process" has changed and I now tend to break down comic pages before I start scripting them. I try and figure out what needs to happen on each page and then break that down into a set number of panels, and then figure out what happens in each panel. Sometimes, I'll do it in my head and sometimes I'll write it down in a notebook for later. This time, though, I made the mistake of jumping straight into the scripting without breaking the pages down, and immediately found myself realising why I make the extra effort to do breakdowns.
So, after a long few hours hunched in front of the screen, trying to work out pages on the fly (as well as doing constant re-writes of pages before I even completed them), I finally managed to get a draft together. I wasn't happy with it, but I had one, and, more importantly, it worked as a story. I should point out here that I had a lot more to say on the process of scripting and the frustration that came with it to write up here, but, really, it's just a lot of nonsense about writing words on a screen, and you can probably all do without reading it.
I'll admit, I walked away from the script for a couple of days and purposely didn't look at it again, because I wanted to see it with a fresh pair of eyes and maybe polish it for submission (that's also the reason why I've been so vague about the contents of the story). Alternatively, I might just post it up as an e-book instead, and let everyone laugh at it see it.
The key thing I took away from this whole daft experiment was that I can sit down and come up with ideas and write when I have to. I don't need to sit and wait around for the starts to align to summon Cthulhu to act as my muse, I don't need my special "writers pen," or to have the "right vibes" flowing around me. I can do it any time I want, and I bet any writer worth their salt can too.
To recap (and if you don't want to scroll back up), those rules are:
- It has to be an original piece, with characters created by me
- It has to be no longer than five pages
- It has to be SF or horror
- It has to be a complete story, with a beginning, middle and an end
If you decide to take this on, maybe consider posting links to it in the comments, or maybe just leave a note there saying how you did. If nothing else, it might be good writing exercise. Or it might not, I don't know.