What the hell have I been doing for the past few years?
It honestly all seems to blur together at this point. In the age of hyper-productivity, it’s popular to set goals and track progress. I knew I should have been doing it, but alas, after not having really tracked my progress for a few years, I felt compelled to compile this list of checkpoints that I hit while working on various projects. I came up with this list:
October 23rd – FINALLY complete The Lottery, a spec screenplay co-written with my friend, after an arduous three year process, send to friends and mentors for feedback
November 18th – Receive notes from college professor/mentor on The Lottery. Some encouragement, mostly negative
January 17th – Submit The Lottery to a workshop in the Itaewon district in Seoul
February 25th – Complete an early unfinished treatment of a Sci-Fi Thriller. The first sign of my new project after deciding to write novels.
March 7th – Complete list of changes needed for The Lottery, prioritized by importance
July 9th – Finish experimental chapters of Sci-Fi Thriller
July 15th – Finish revision of The Lottery
August 20th – Receive competition feedback on The Lottery
September 4th – Send First Act treatment of Sci-Fi to potential editor
September 20th – Final rejection letter for The Lottery rolls in
November 27th – Send experimental first chapters of Sci-Fi Thriller to workshop group in Itaewon.
December 17th – Attend first meeting of workshop in Gangnam
March 5th – Send 20 pages of psychological thriller to a workshop group, calling it “While You Were Asleep”. It’s about a guy who hears his wife confess a murder while in her sleep. First documented evidence of my story.
April 26th – Send 8 page outline to a friend, calling it “Untitled Mystery Thriller”.
April 9th – Send one page outline on the story to a friend, very thriller-esque, lots of plot
May 4th – Finish eight page outline
August 3rd – Send 13,000 words of novel to a friend.
So, I worked on three projects during those three years.
- The Lottery, a spec screenplay
- Sci-Fi Mystery novel
- Psychological Thriller novel
I completed the first, abandoned the second, and the third is what I’m currently working on.
I was simply revising my spec The Lottery, getting feedback and rejections, and also most likely mining concepts.
This was a year spent trying to crack a very difficult, ambitious story, plus also trying to find my voice as a novelist. Whenever novel writers try to write scripts, I always say that you can’t just walk in day one and try to write a screenplay. Well, it’s the same vice-versa, I should have taken my own advice! The process was much more frustrating than I had imagined and, while I’ve now found a style I can run with, I don’t feel I’m completely matured in my voice just yet. I wound up abandoning that tricky story altogether. I did do some revising on my spec script as well, but it didn’t take the bulk of my time I think.
This year isn’t over, but it was equally frustrating, as I was trying to crack a new story that I thought was simplistic. (It’s never simplistic). I was writing a lot of pages and throwing them away. Rinse and repeat. It was a very humbling, unpleasant experience. I wasn’t doing well in the story department, and I wasn’t doing well in the craft of writing either. Wound up scrapping somewhere along the lines of 50,000 words that were just simply horrible.
What I learned:
So what was the major takeaway of doing this and also the past two or three years? Now that I have a good view of the previous two years, I can say that they were a great learning experience. Two major things come to mind:
- I learned a lot about story. I did a bunch of treatments and I did a lot of thinking about the true meaning of
story. I also learned about what appeals to me as a writer is very
important,and that audiences have expectations as well.
- I learned a lot of adapting my style to novels. You can’t just
forgotten years of playwriting and screenwriting knowledge, throw it all out the door when you start writing novels. I need to fall back
onmy craft. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, just need to adapt my current style so that it fits the conventions of novels.
One more thing comes to mind: I threw away tons, and tons of pages. Like, actual weight in tons. Alright, not really, but it sure felt like it. I think I threw away about 90-95% of the words that I wrote.
I came up with a few rules/takeaways for myself:
- Know when to walk away from a project. Seriously, my sci-fi thriller had tons of potential, but I just didn’t have the tools to execute it. Had I doggedly pursued it, I may have written something bad.
- Listen to your inner critic. There was a solid stretch there where I was just typing away, knowing something was wrong, but not addressing it. It came back to bite me and I wound up throwing all of those pages away.
- Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Gotta fall back
onmy craft and not forget about everything I learned up
untilthis point. When I decided to switch over to novels, I felt like it was this strange new territory to be conquered, but I realize I just need to do what works for me.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to writing-wise for the past few years. When I decided to switch over to novel writing two years ago, I didn’t envision this happening. But looking back, I can say it’s been a valuable experience for me.