Tag Archives: re-writing

What a relief!

Finally, last night — just mere moments before the airing of the newest episode of Riverdale on the CW — I finished my revisions of Act One of Cleveland’s Burning.

I think I’m happy with it, but I’ll know better once I go over it again here this morning. Last night, however, I was extremely happy with it.

As an aside, I want to say that I really loved how, at least for now, they’ve done away with the pesky problem of pedophilia in Riverdale [Spoiler Aert!!] by simply forcing Miss Grundy to leave town… I guess we’ll see how that pans out. (And, you know, back in the day when I was in high school, they never asked heterosexual teachers to leave town; they basically just told the teenagers who were sleeping with their teachers to “knock it off.”  Ah, the 70s! Gotta love ’em!) (If you were a gay teacher, however, your life was essentially over and they would have put you on the front page of the newspaper.)

Anyway. Back to the topic of re-writes. It is a strange phenomenon, and one I go through with every single project I write — I know exactly what I want to say, yet getting it onto the page can take, literally, forever. At first, I go merrily along, typing, typing… And then suddenly, I hit an impasse and wonder how on earth to get words onto the page. I don’t know why that happens, but it always does. It’s not as if I suddenly lose my vocabulary, or my sense of how grammar is structured. I can see what the characters are doing. Yet I just can’t get the words out!

It makes me INSANE.

However, I can look at all my completed, published projects (of which I have many), and see the proof there that the condition is always temporary, so I stick with it, grueling as it is.

What tripped me up yesterday was having my character go into a diner and order a cup of coffee at the counter. It felt wrong. At first, I thought it was the counter attendant’s age — so I changed him from a teenager to a 50-year-old. Then I had my character pay for the coffee with a dime. (In 1963, a cup of coffee cost a dime.) Then I had him leave a tip. Then I deleted the tip because it was taking up precious screen time. But then the neighbor girl puts a nickel in the jukebox! Suddenly all this screen time is being “spent,” as it were, on dimes and nickels.  It was really just ridiculous. So I stopped everything and walked away. I flopped down on the bed and read several chapters of Peril At End House, c -1932 by Agatha Christie and all was right with the world again.

So back to the desk I went and I realized that the character is simply at the counter drinking a cup of coffee! For heaven’s sake, just get rid of the counter attendant altogether, along with all the dimes and nickels. And finally, the rest of the scenes came and the act was over! Commercial break time!! Yay.

And last night was a great feeling — to finally finish Act One.

Act One in a one-hour TV drama is the longest chunk. Everything else after this gets shorter and shorter, so I really do feel a great sense of relief. Especially since, this coming Tuesday, a mere 5 days away, the notes for Tea Cozy Murder Club will be coming my way… And the final, final, FINAL edits for the one-woman musical I’m working on with Sandra Caldwell in New York are sitting atop my desk, awaiting my attention…

It’s no wonder I wake-up tired.

Okay!! Have a happy Friday, gang, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! And, as always, thanks for visiting! See ya!

No trick left unturned!! Gotta love it!
No trick left unturned!! Gotta love it!

 

 

How to not walk away from your chair

I’ve been a professional writer — meaning that I’ve earned some form of income from my writing — since I was 23 years old. That is 33 years already, and I still battle that timeless problem of wanting to get up out of my chair and go do something else approximately every five minutes!

Today is no exception!

I’ve been at my desk, doing the revisions on Cleveland’s Burning all morning. I am making strides with it, but I am still constantly getting up from my chair and wandering around the house. Why does writing still fill me with anxiety, even after all these years?

When I hit those patches in the script where it flows, then it’s great. But most of the time, I’m hitting patches that need to be re-thought, and re-thought really carefully. There is something in that thought process that brings everything to a screeching halt, making me automatically stop everything, even in mid-sentence, and get up from my chair and walk away.

Look out the window in the living room. Lots of snow out there.

Go into the kitchen and look out that window. Lots of snow out there, too.

Then back to the desk and sit down and try like heck to ignore the anxiety of creating.

When I was a lot younger, creating was always a really, really joyful thing. When did it become so anxiety-inducing? Actually, once I moved away from New York, it became anxiety-inducing. (I had originally thought that getting out of the city and settling someplace quieter was going to be so relaxing! Oddly enough, I was really, really wrong about that. For so many reasons that I won’t go into now. It’s sufficient to say, New York is simply in my blood.)

Well, on one of my many detours from the writing-on-the-page, I once again looked up properties for sale, or even for rent, in Dutchess County, NY; took a look at the price tags; took a look at what I had in the bank, and lo & behold, the reality of those two things created a really good incentive for staying put in my chair!

Okay! My lunch break is over. Going to get back at it on this snowy afternoon in the hinterlands. And it ain’t so bad in the hinterlands. I like it a whole lot better than back in the suburbs, that’s for sure!

The charm of the hinterlands in the fall.
The charm of the hinterlands in the fall.

All right! See ya. Have a great Thursday, wherever you are. Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

Blessed & restored in the hinterlands!

Yesterday, it was cold here but really sunny. It was one of those February days in which you begin to remember how Spring feels. In fact, when I opened the front door early yesterday morning, I heard birds singing.

After tangling with Cleveland’s Burning revisions well into the afternoon, I decided to go out and take a walk. I really needed to refresh my mind and it has been months since I was able to just go out and walk. (In days of yore, when I lived in the old house, I used to walk 2-3 miles a day. I really missed doing that.)

At the end of my street, here in the hinterlands, is what I had thought was a small playground. Yesterday, I thought to myself: Self, I thought, go walk to the playground and back. Your mind will feel better!

So off I went. The “playground” is less than a 5-minute walk from my house. But when I got there, lo & behold, I discovered that it was a huge municipal park! It had 2 playgrounds, 2 baseball diamonds, a couple of paved walking paths, a huge sand lot — and tons of beautiful tall trees, rolling hills, and green grass that went on for quite a distance.

I  was so filled with joy.  It was like God dropped this amazing piece of solitude right into my lap! There were very few people in the park, partly because it was cold out and partly because it was honing in on the magic hour of Superbowl Sunday.

As I walked over hill & dale & through the wooded areas in absolute tranquility,  fondly recalling the wonderful park my Grandma used to take me and my brother to that was at the end of her street (way back in the early 1960s), it finally came to me that the reason I was struggling with the script is because I needed to take the scene I was revising and really polish it, make it sparkle, even though it will only be a few seconds of screen time.

With that realization, my mind felt free and I felt completely blessed and restored.

There is a lot about my life these days that confounds me — mostly the limbo of it. However, there is so much about it that makes me feel blessed when I take the time to stop and look at it.

For instance, my friend being willing to rent me her 2000-square foot house for next to nothing, so that I can save up money to move back to New York. (Technically, I have enough money to move back to New York right now, but it is so expensive there, I worry that I would be broke in about 2 months…) Plus, she is giving sanctuary to my colony of 8 semi-feral cats.

Not many people would do that. And not only does she allow them to live here, she actually likes them and engages with them when she comes to visit.

I love living out here in the hinterlands (in Tea Cozy Murder Club country — the other TV show I’m writing). Yes, there are farms, and cute alpacas, and cows, and beautiful, pastoral parks, but there are also book stores and plenty of non-chain restaurants, and farmers’ markets around.  So it’s not like it’s the Land that Time Forgot. It’s a little lonely, but these days, I basically need to sit in my room and write, so that’s okay.

Here is a photo of the park. I didn’t take this photo myself, I found it online. So thank you to whoever took it:

The park from the top of the hill. Looking away from the playgrounds and baseball diamonds.
The park from the top of the hill. Looking away from the playgrounds and baseball diamonds.

If you click on the photo, you’ll get a feel for the expanse of it. It is almost impossible to believe that directly on the other side of this park is a huge mall, complete with an AMC multi-plex movie theater!

All right, gang, I gotta scoot! Have a lovely Monday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! And remember: Everyday, in every way, it’s all getting better and better!

See ya!

Yes, we finally persuaded ourselves!

Ah, what could be better than using the royal “we”?

I do, of course, refer to myself as the one who was not only persuaded, but also who did the persuading!

I’m talking about the cold open vs. Act One issue (see post below). It finally became glaringly apparent that we were already into Act One from the top of page 2, so I just went with it and then made great progress.

One thing that has sort of stymied me, though, has been watching the new CW television show, Riverdale. That show (which I am really enjoying, although I can’t really see in what way it is related at all to The Archies…) (ha ha).

Anyway, Riverdale takes a full ten minutes in its cold open. I’ve been timing it! It feels like the show is practically over before they roll the opening credits! Even though it does a great job of drawing you well in to the storyline, as a writer, that means you get maybe 45 or 50 pages to present, circle back, and tie-up the entire  episode.

That feels way too restrictive for me, even though I love how it comes across in Riverdale.

Anyway. I got past it! And now I feel pretty confident that I will have the revisions for Cleveland’s Burning (aka Untitled Cleveland Drama) completed by mid-February! Yay! Then on to all the other stuff that needs revisions…

On another note:

Another wonderful thing I’ve discovered about living here in the hinterlands of Ohio (or in any State’s hinterlands, I’m guessing) is the ready and constant access you have to farm-fresh produce!! Wowie. I have an indoor farmer’s market within walking distance from my house. Literally, I can drive there in under 2 minutes, which means that, if I’m driving, in less than 120 seconds, I am standing amid farm-fresh produce! And in spring & summer, the outdoor farmer’s market is only 10 minutes away. (I’m a vegetarian, and of course prefer either really fresh or organic produce whenever possible, so you can imagine my delight over farmers’ markets.)

Also, I finally bought a cheap, hand-held spiralizer the other day. I love it. I made zucchini “spaghetti” last night for dinner and it was incredible. (I didn’t buy the zucchini at the farmer’s market, though. They didn’t have any. Of course, I hated to ask myself why zucchini was available anywhere in the dead of winter because the only answer that came back to me did not include the words “natural” or “organic.”)

Anyway, it was just too cool! A whole bowl of “spaghetti” that only had  about 200 calories — and 140 of the calories came from the olive oil. I ate the big bowl of spaghetti while watching a 47-year-old re-run of Laugh-In. A show I loved as a kid, and I still love it now! The sun was going down and outside of the enormous picture window in the living room, I was a bit spellbound to see how magnificent the endless sky looks when one lives in the hinterlands.

Good food. Quietude. Nature. Peace. And Laugh-In. It doesn’t get any better after a long day of re-writing a story I am really passionate about.

Okay, gotta get moving here. I’m going to leave you with a choice here today, gang:

The sublime (the song that inspired my opening scene in Cleveland’s Burning):

Or the ridiculous! (I love this song!!!) (They actually managed to squeeze it into Riverdale in episode 2!)

Okay!! Thanks for visiting, gang! See ya!

To cold open or to jump in? That’s the question!

Welcome to this rainy Tuesday in the Hinterlands!

I cannot tell you how much time I have spent on the new opening of the Untitled Cleveland Drama, once known as Cleveland’s Burning.  As is customary for me, I seriously  belabor the first few images of everything I write, whether it’s fiction or a screenplay. As I have pounded into the heads of my writing students over the years: DON’T give your reader a chance to put it down!!

By this I mean, keep your opening seamless, keep it flowing, don’t allow for a single question in your reader’s mind about what is visually happening. Be exceedingly crafty about your punctuation, as well. Anything that could cause a  reader to pause, or to question, or to consider his or her own mind, thus causing a break in the flow, is that dreaded gap wherein the book or script can be set aside for something else, indefinitely.

Because of that, I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent on the first 60 seconds of my script (also known as page 1).  Then, when I felt I finally could sign off on those first 60 seconds, I labored over the next 20 seconds, because now I can’t decide between: the cold open, or jumping into Act One? And since I cannot make up my mind about this, I go back and forth between how I want to craft those next 20 seconds…

In order to still utilize my time efficiently, I set aside my quandary and did some more background research for my character, Caleb Robinson: I watched  Stanley Nelson Jr’s documentary,  The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.  I really liked the film and it gave me some critical dates to work with, historically. [However, it does seem that some ex-Black Panthers weren’t happy with the tone of the film, in particular, how it portrayed the dismantling of the Panthers and  Huey Newton’s demise. But there was still a lot of amazing stuff in the film for me to draw on.]

Today, I need to process that from my brain into the script, even though Caleb Robinson won’t become a Black Panther until 1967, and that’s 4 seasons away from the pilot episode. Still, you gotta craft a character from his first scene in order to keep it believable, right?

Well, on that lofty note, I have got to decide, once and for all, if I have a cold open here or am I already into Act One??? I think I will go watch a re-run of Perry Mason and see what hits the page when I’m done doing that!

Thanks for visiting, gang. Have a terrific Tuesday, wherever you are! See ya!

Best TV theme song, EVER!!

 

 

 

Dare to compare!!

Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt be at least a little familiar with my good friend Val from Brooklyn, who pens the Paws for Thought Comics.

The other day, she did a great tribute to the late Mary Tyler Moore. I love the details of this!

First, the actual shot from the opening credits of the Mary Tyler Moore Show:

Famous hat in the air!
Famous hat in the air!

Next, Val’s Paws for Thought tribute:

Don't you just love the cat's eyes glasses on the cat in the background??
Don’t you just love the cat’s eyes glasses on the cat in the background??

Okay! As always, life goes on around here.  Hard at work on the re-writes for the TV Pilot, once called Cleveland’s Burning, but now called “Untitled Cleveland Drama”. That’s my first attempt at “please give it a new title.” Ha ha.

Do you know how it is when you finally tap into your groove? Kerouac called it “finding your way in” to the piece. Once you find that way in, it’s like it takes on a flow and energy of its own. Hours go by and it simply doesn’t feel like any time has passed because you are so into what you are writing.

That is the longed-for-hoped-for head space of the writer. That’s where I’m at right now. Hopefully that flow will just keep flowing. It’s only 64 pages, after all! Right? So how hard can it be to keep flowing???

[Correct Answer: Don’t ask!! You’ll jinx it!]

All righty, gang. Thanks for visiting me on this snowy Friday in the hinterlands! I hope you have a terrific day, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing out there! See ya!

writersnow

 

 

just saying, “hey!”

I don’t have much time these days to hang out online because I’m ankle-deep in re-writes over here –on several projects at once (!!).

Still, I wanted to swing by with a couple cute photos of my sweeties — because I always have time to take their picture!

Can you tell these guys (& gals) are related???!!!

Tommy, Weenie, & Huckleberry
Tommy, Weenie, & Huckleberry (& Joel Osteen!)

Life is rough for a cat, here in the hinterlands!

Weenie & Huckleberry
Weenie & Huckleberry

As always, if you click on the photos, they enlarge! And, yes, the cats do indeed get off the bed once in awhile, although you’d never know it from all the photos I take of them sleeping on my bed (which is right next to my desk, so I’m always looking at how cute they are!).

Life is good here. The re-writes on the TV Pilot are going well, but I am still aiming for 110% better… Also, final, final, FINAL re-writes for the one-woman musical I’m working on with the actress in NYC are nearly complete.

I still try to take one day at a time around here, but I also still keep thinking that a year from now, life is going to  be really, really different. Not sure, though, in what way.

Hope all is well where all of you are at! Thanks for visiting, gang! See ya’ real soon!