On screenwriting, so far

I started working on this comedy pilot spec (which means it’s my own story, not an assignment from producer or director) about two months ago. But I started to have ideas about it around a year ago. And yet, I wasn’t in the best headspace to birth it then.

Fortunately, a year later, the storyline and the ‘Why’ of telling this story now became more salient for me. It was time to start working.

From early March to late May, I probably deleted more than 100 pages for this 30-page script. The set pieces were shifted more than a few times on my notebook, in my head, on my whiteboard. Teaching screenwriting is one thing, but writing it is a whole other story:

  • You have to be nimble and lenient with your first draft (aka. vomit draft).
  • You need to write more than it is required on the pages. Don’t think. Just type.
  • You have to feel the heat when your character gets angry.
  • You must fight back tears as your heroine breaks down crying.
  • If you cheat or cut corners or just fucking can’t sit through a difficult scene, it shows. And you know it.
  • Don’t be glamorous with your words if you can be essential.
  • The list goes on… (I will keep blogging about #screenwriting as I learn and teach it on the go.)

What’s fascinating to me about screenwriting is that it’s both left-brain and right-brain. You want to touch your audience with the emotions you’ve created. At the same time, you don’t want them to poke holes and find you ill-logic. In a word, you have to be somewhat a schizophrenic.

When you are done with your first draft, put it away for at two weeks. So when the open-heart surgery begins, you won’t quiver. Just start cutting.

At this stage of my own script, it’s ready for an initial read. I just sent it to a dear friend for a review. With that, I will know whether it’s ready to cast a wider net. Or, if it’s ready for submission.

And lastly, writers write. It’s our job. So treat it like one.
Tomorrow, I will start a new project. It’ll be a TV series in Chinese.

To quote Gertrude Stein, “To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write.”

Yours truly,
YZ