#NaNoWriMo2016: The Journal

November 30, 2016: Let’s Call it What It Is

Of the three screenplays that I wrote during the month of November, one is a “secret,” one is ongoing, and the other is finished and reposing until January. Since that’s the only one I can really talk about here, I figured it’s best to tell you what I wrote and see if there’s any interest from my friends out there in reading it.

Takeoff is the story of Justin Case, an Iraq War veteran who, after returning from a tumultuous tour in Afghanistan, got into the business of high end repossessions, specifically airplanes. Taking his assignments from Lloyd, an old man in diner by the airport, Justin and his team are sent on a mission to “retrieve” an airplane from the Middle East that is suspected of being in terrorist hands. The mission is a set-up, so Justin and his team do everything they can to find the dangerous man behind the assignment, and what they find, strikes at the very core of Justin’s existence.

I’d like to think of it as Mission Impossible meets Airplane Repo.

Let me know if you want to read it!

November 28, 2016: Winner!

NaNoWriMo_2016_WebBanner_Winner.pngIn light of recent world events (Fidel Castro), and my shortage of words for the NaNoWriMo competition, I have decided to revive one of my old projects. There’s a short window where this particular idea will hold cultural significance and value. In order to hit that window, I need to finish this particular idea, this particular screenplay, as soon as possible. I imagine it’s going to take me until the end of the year, but I’m starting it right now and including it in the NaNoWriMo word count. Whatever! I’m writing, isn’t that the most important part?

I’ll admit, this started project started with an outline and a handful of scenes written, so this isn’t completely from stone. The important part about this project is that this combines two of my favorite forms of storytelling: historical fiction and conspiracy theories. Historical fiction is as accurate to history as it can (while still remaining entertaining), and conspiracy theories are the intellectual pole vaults between the those moments. Merging these two together, depicting how conspiracy theories come into being, are some of the most interesting stories to me. This is one of those stories.

There’s significant research to be done. Books. Biographies. Documentaries. I could spend an entire year doing research into this character, but that’s all part of the journey. With screenplays in particular, the story will continue to evolve until it is projected in a theatre. If you can get the story down on the paper, you can continue to cultivate that character in updated versions, but the entertainment, the structure of the story, has bones ready for meat.

I spent the weekend at home, researching and writing. As I tend to do when it comes to these types of projects, I went through the outline, bullet by bullet, scene by scene, elaborating and making notes for later scenes. I really hit my “flow state” and let the pages just roll out of my fingertips. I’ll deal with the intricacies of dialogue later, right now, I’m looking for the knives in the back.

With a handful of #writingsprints over the weekend, I managed to break the 50,000 mark and become an official “Winner” of NaNoWriMo2016. I know there are actual prizes for people who wrote actual novels, so I don’t think I’ll really “compete” in whatever competitions exist, but maybe that’s something I’ll do next year?

I may be crossed 50,000 words, but I’m far from finished.

Word Count: 52,597/50,00

November 24, 2016: Thanksgiving Day!

I will openly admit that this blog post is being written at a later date. I was too busy writing to pull myself away to blog, so now I’m going back and filling in the gap with the comings-and-goings of my NaNoWriMo.

Yet another benefit of living in Portland as a creative human being is totality of the circumstances are incredibly conducive to getting work done. The overcast days are a constant reminder that “there’s nothing out there that’s worth enduring that rain.” (I know it’s not true, but when I have to write, I don’t mind the fact it’s raining outside.) The pounding of rain on the roof is even more relevant these days as I live in a converted attic space. (I think I’ve mentioned this before)

I acknowledged in the few earlier writings that I did do, is that I was not writing a novel, but rather, a pair of screenplays. By Thanksgiving day, the alleged date of this particular entry, I had finished the initial draft of both screenplays. I had proudly and confidently descended the stairs into my empty house, drove to a friend’s house, and consumed a delicious Dungeness Crab Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, “Crabsgiving.”

The first screenplay, the adaptation, was based on an e-book. It was partly motivational, partly autobiographical, part research paper. I chose to pursue the route of a psychological thriller, the “confined” thriller, as an opportunity for the main character to impart her wisdom and motivational prose. It didn’t come out as “long” as I wanted. It was only around 83 pages, or just under 15000 words. I’m waiting on a series of notes, but ideally I’ll be adding a good 15 to 20 pages to the film.

The second screenplay, the action film, was intended to be a mindless piece of fast-paced action with a new spin on the team dynamic. Something requiring very little thought to enjoy. I quickly wrote 90 pages, imaging the remaining scenes in the film to wrap up in the next 10 pages or so. I sat down on Monday morning and couldn’t stop writing until 10 PM that night, and I still wasn’t finished! I woke up the next day, and did the same all-day writing session, finally wrapping up on Tuesday night. 133 pages. 25,732 words.

Word Count: 40,593/50,000

November 4, 2016:

Today was a spit-shine printing day.

When I get to these points in the script, I will print out the entire script and read through it from the beginning, making the edits by hand. Because I don’t want to waste paper, I print them out two-to-a-page on a landscape page.

This is an incredibly important part of my process. It allows me to look at the story with fresher eyes, taking ink to white paper, rather than the sharp brightness of my laptop monitor. Writing my notes in the margins is a freeing experience, something I still haven’t found a good equivalent of in Final Draft. (Yeah, I know there are notes, etc) Because I’m superstitious, I normally make my edits in green ink. I don’t really know why this is, but I use a fine point pen with green ink and I edit every page by hand.

Once I’ve gotten through the entire screenplay, I will then scan the document and upload it to my computer. I know that this process could one day be streamlined with the use of Evernote, but for now, I scan and upload. Then I’ll start at the beginning, go back through the screenplay page-by-page, and make the changes from my edits. For the most part, I refer to the original hand-edited papers, but, in the event I am “on the go,” I can pull up the scanned document and apply my notes.

Without truly adding any “new material” to the screenplay, but rather, “elaborating on ideas I’d already started in the first draft,” I was able to put an additional an additional 2313 words on the script, pushing me over the 10,000 word mark.

I’m planning on taking it easy tomorrow, “doing research,” and then doing a late night push on the script, hoping to break page 60. Here’s to a job well done!

Word Count: 11,532/50,000

November 3, 2016:

Write, write, write.

Today I got to explore the characters a little more, let them settle into their scenes, and see how they would respond. It’s an interesting process to get to know characters you didn’t create and hardly know yet, especially when they’re evil. What does a particularly evil person, such as my character, do in this situation?

I also started to take the screenplay off the tracks a little bit. The source material is running thin, so I’m starting to get creative. I’m bringing back characters, giving them larger parts, and twisting their persona. The good people, might not be so good after all. And the bad people, just how bad are they?

I put another 2,273 words on paper today, which I will always consider a good day, whether it’s a screenplay, book, or blog post. But the even better feeling is that a majority of that content was fresh, grown from bullet-points watered with highlights. I love that part of the adaptation and research phase. One line, one snippet of information, a throwaway piece of dialogue, can turn into a massive part of the story. When I find those seeds, I pull them out and water them. After all, the entire screenplay is intended to be seeds for film, right?

The problem I see myself experiencing in the foreseeable future is that my source material, as a structure for creative narrative, is almost running out. More than half of the source material is “inspirational” and “motivational” in nature, which unfortunately provides me with nothing other than morsels of preachy dialogue. (“You can empower yourself to achieve your dreams,” etc.) My concern is that there won’t be enough story to reach the feature length zone, roughly 100+ pages.

Nevertheless, I’m just over 50 pages in.

Word Count: 9047/50,000

November 2, 2016:

Today was more preparation work than writing. I started the day with a solid structure of the events taking place throughout the course of the screenplay. When all was said and done on the first day, I had written roughly 29 pages. Looking at my document currently, I’m only on page 37.

What I did this morning was immensely valuable, however, as I went back through the original source material and highlighted opportunities for flashbacks and character discussions. I worked through all 120 pages and broke down the section into categories. Chances are these are going to be used as points of dialogue to extrapolate on.

Then I went back through my writing from yesterday, interjecting notes between scenes to remind myself to insert a new scene, what the scene is about, and where I can find the references in the source material. This isn’t as cut and dry as it could be, as more than a handful of the chapters in the source book are informational, rather than narrative, so they’re not that easy to work into a fictional screenplay.

Therefore, as a general tool during my writing process, I keep a separate list of plot strands, ideas, comments, anything that I can loop back to later. In this particular case, we’re talking the ex-husband, ebony magazine, quotes by Confucius, rhinoceroses, Houdini’s straight jacket, and that she said at the church in the beginning.

I was preoccupied today, but I did want to make sure that at the bare minimum, I wrote the average of 1667 words so that I could keep the momentum going into tomorrow, when I’m planning on another big day of writing. Maybe I’ll even do a couple of writing sprints! If you’re following along with me on Twitter (@themysterytin) keep an eye out in the early afternoon for an hour Writing Sprint! Let’s use the hashtag #WritingSprint!

Word Count: 6774/50,000

November 1, 2016:

Today was the first day of NaNoWriMo and I got to work with unparalleled fervor and delight. I’d read and highlighted all my notes, converted my outline into scenes in Final Draft, and I was ready to buckle down and get everything down onto paper. Today’s goal was to get as many of my highlights into the text of the screenplay.

This is part of the reason why I generally enjoy doing adaptations. I love being able to dig in deep, discovering the core ideas and concepts at play, then transferring those ideas and concepts across mediums, and breathing new life into them along the way. Every highlight is an opportunity for exploration.

The main dramatic sequence I worked on today was an armed robbery in our main character’s home. My main character was captured, tied up, and taken into the basement while her house was burglarized. During the traumatic event, she is watched over by a burglar and they begin to develop a friendship, or so she thinks.

I typically start with the skeleton, and as I go back through draft with each rewrite, I like to tie in little details along that way that support my original themes and concepts. This means the conversations between characters are typically rather shallow and the scene descriptions are scant. I do special revisions of the script just focusing on these two areas, but it’s all gotta start somewhere.

Because the entirety of my story takes place over one afternoon, there will be a number of flashbacks helping to build plot and character development. Tomorrow’s writing will be primarily focused around identifying those flashbacks and finding the right places for them in the story.

Word Count: 5086/50,000

I’m excited to be officially participating in NaNoWriMo this year. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, November is “National Novel Writing Month” encouraging writers of all ages and abilities to buckle down and write. As I am almost exclusively writing in a freelance capacity, but I decided to accept the additional challenge and to share my experiences here with my community.

You can see my official NanoWriMo Page here.

This isn’t necessarily the standard NaNoWriMo project, as I’m writing an adaptation of an e-book outline into a screenplay. There are no diehard rules about participating in the program (other than declaring I’m starting with an outline), so I still think I’m in the clear to participate and share. It doesn’t have an official title yet and I don’t think I want to share my screenplay publicly yet, as this project may one day be released under a pen name or most likely updated. Luckily, NaNoWriMo offers a “scrambling” service that allows you to scramble your text before you upload it for counting. That’ll be fun to play with, but if the going gets tough or too cumbersome, I may not update the official NaNoWriMo page as much and I’ll just focus on updating everybody here on the blog.

The word count goal is 50,000 words. Most screenplays, however, typically land in the 20-25,000 word range, and a majority of those are character names and locations that get repeated a ton, so chances are I’m not going to accomplish the word count goal, but I am confident that on November 30, 2016, I will be finished with an engaging, completed screenplay.

Current Word Count: 0/50,000


One thought on “#NaNoWriMo2016: The Journal

  1. Hello,

    I’m really interested in screenplays and will be following your NaNoWriMo journey this year. Pages bookmarked. May I wish you all the best for the following days. Thank you for keep updating about your progress and/or thoughts during that adventure. Many supports from Vietnam.



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