Long story short: Between the years of 18 and 22 I wrote a million words. It was the beginning of my life as a scribbler, a journal that covered my last years in Westchester County, my college years in Ithaca, New York, and London circa ’79 to ’81. The million words was written on long yellow pads and was stored in a leather suitcase in the basement of our old Westchester home. Through a series of events worthy of a screenplay in itself (I’ll tell you about it another time) my family ended up leaving that house in great haste, and leaving the suitcase with my million words behind.
Tragedy! A true loss to humanity!
Ah, no. I recently came upon the chapter notes for that diary that I thought had vanished into time– and, oh my God, if only it had! This overview of what was written my first four years as a writer was 90% poetry, and 100% atrocious. I mean embarrassing. I mean dafuck! Well-meaning stuff, sure. But just so damn…sincere! Topics included Death, Life, Capitalism, Meaning…the caps courtesy of the pen of ’79 era Peditto. I never knew I….FELT so deeply!
Good riddance, Good Readers…
I began to think about writing at the age of 20 or 21. It’s the time of life when you’ve read a ton but haven’t done much personally. You write what you think is decent stuff, but it’s actually dreck, without perspective, because you haven’t lived enough to tell personal stories of resonance. At least that was the case with me.
Look, it’s OK, the upside is… you’re 21! That’s a very good place to be! Wouldn’t I love to empty my brain, jump in a hot tub time machine and step back to my school days in London, ’79. I could get back into 32 inch pants, check out the Clash at the Hammersmith Odeon, jump back on my first Hovercraft and see Paris again for the first time.
Oh, and burn that damn diary.
Connecting this to your screenwriting and your own journey is easy. This is a discussion about your subject matter, about the movies you choose to make. Why is it you write about the things you do? What is it exactly you’re trying to say? Who is your audience? Do you write character-driven or genre? Studio flick? Indy? Micro?
Stop for one minute and think about your movie ideas. This is perspective the young writer doesn’t often have. Why is it you’re writing the movie you’re writing?
If you’re writing a Studio script, it better have a MONSTER hook in this Board Game and remake era. If it’s Indy you’d best have packaged talent including multiple bankable A-list stars. If it’s Micro, you better have written that script with minimal effects, locations, characters, pets, kids, and page count. Each is a different animal. You need to step back and think about what it is, exactly, you want to say?
Sometimes when you’re just starting out you don’t think about the stories you’re telling. You want to write what matters to you, of course. But you also want to understand the market you’re writing for.
One last note: If you have trouble writing original stuff, look into alternative story sources. Google World Mythology and dive into Irish myths. Or Greek. Or one of the lesser stories from the Grimm Brothers. Check out Public Domain material. How about Folk Tales? Or fictionalized stories taken from real life, like THE PERFECT STORM? Go to the library and look on the microfilm from newspapers eighty years ago. There are worlds upon worlds at your disposal, just waiting to be dug out.
Stick with it, outwork everyone. You’ll get there, Young Artist!
They say you have to write a million words before you write your first good one.
I can testify to that!
Share This Post or Comment Below.