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02/28/2008: Metaphorical Stove Architecture
Thank you to Gentle Reader Seanna-Lin in Massachusetts. She's a novelist who says she has found this humble blog to be helpful. Really? Cool! I've never taken on a novel myself and am overwhelmed by those who have. Have you seen one of those things? So many words on a page!
There is also a letter here from Nicholas in Rhode Island. He's asking about taking on too many spec script projects at once. In a neat turn of phrase he says that he thinks his "back burner is about to collapse." Hee!
Well, Nicholas, I've found that back burners can pretty much take any weight you put on them. It's the front burners that are shaky. Cue up as many projects-in-waiting as you want. The trick is in determining the number of them that you can actively work on at once. Some people need to work on one at a time or they get distracted and out-of-focus. Others of us find there to be something counter-intuitively calming about being slightly overworked, since it forces us to turn off our censor and go into emergency mode, which can be very helpful. Figure out which kind of person you are and take on projects accordingly.
And then set some priorities. Having a spec pilot seems to be necessary right now, so that might be a good thing to have finished -- really finished -- before you work on that spec episode of Chuck which is less likely to be immediately useful.
Nicholas also asks a question about breaking the fourth wall in a spec script in an unusual way. He's thinking of having a character in a spec for an already-existing show make reference to a bit of pop-culture to which the actor playing that character is connected. Did you follow that? Well, strange thing is, I actually did exactly this in one of the first specs I ever wrote. I learned that the actor on the show I was specing had recently performed in a Chekhov play. So I added a bit in which that character specifically talked about that play, gambling that someone reading the spec might understand and be amused by the connection.
In retrospect, it was a mistake. I cannot recommend this approach. It's going to cause you to make choices in the writing that have nothing to do with what's organic to the scene, and it's probably not even going to be noticed or understood. Worse yet, if it is noticed and understood, you're in danger of appearing cute, instead of honest, in your writing. I understand why it's tempting (as I was tempted myself, once), but I have to say, "turn away!" Writing the show within the confines of the walls of that show is almost always the right choice.
Nicholas has more good questions, but those will have to wait for another day. For now...
Lunch: a chopped salad with garbanzo beans. I got extra garbanzo beans and I still had them all picked out before I was half-way done.