You didn’t think it was over did you?
The art of multi-tasking concludes in this week’s installment as my scripts (PROJECT X & PROJECT S) ache for completion in the face of life and its many distractions. Can a young hopeful capture the ever-elusive New Hotness in his personal word processor before it’s too late? The clock is ticking, and only the world stands in the way…
-Friday, January 17-
Only writing I did today consisted of a three hour transcribing session for Multi-Tasking I that immediately followed work. How does one spend three hours moving several hundred words from a notebook to a Word document? Well first, the person must be cursed with a particular form of insanity that prevents them from leaving any piece of writing alone, trapped in a world of continuous revision. Secondly, said person must be provided a reliable internet connection, functioning at incredible speeds and allowing all manner of distractions in the form of SBC, Newsarama, Pulse, EW, and any other website my memory can conjure into being to prevent progress. Combine the two factors and you’ve created a recipe for disaster. By the time I finished tweaking things, three pages (or so) looked solid enough to keep, and having been awake since six, the brain was cycling into the restful pattern meant to accompany a Friday night.
The world can wait until tomorrow.
-Saturday, January 18-
Woke up with the spark. Up early on a morning tailor-made for the process of sleeping late, and for some reason I’m awake with a head of steam, seven hours before a late shift at work. How much can I accomplish in seven hours? The world has waited long enough.
Set up the laptop and ripped into Ambidextrous. Surprisingly, the three pages finished last night still read pretty well and the changes are kept to a minimum, allowing me to finish it quickly and drop in the missing New Hotness. My roommates’ scanner is out of commission for the week, so I have to rely on the incredible editors to jack cover images from the web, which is cool from a time perspective because it’s one less thing to do. During the final editing process, I’m identifying what works best about the piece, and making mental notes on what will twist slightly in the concluding chapter, before firing the whole thing off before lunch. With the column down, the scripts beckon, strangely receptive in their allure. I approach with caution.
Went back to page 6 of PROJECT X and started writing. Yes, I’m aware that I scripted pages 6-8 a couple days ago, but you try arguing with this thing. Original draft was crap, and I could tell with only a cursory glance. The pages were trying to accomplish too much too soon, and the dialogue was bad. Script Nazi that I am, there is nothing that raises my blood pressure more than bad fuckin’ lazy ass dialogue. And I had written some bad fuckin’ lazy ass dialogue.
Slowed things down considerably and found the seam. Was writing frantically, attempting to do everything at once, and neglecting the fact there were still another dozen pages to play in. I was writing the story, instead of letting the story write itself. Case of the nerves probably, but after settling down, it all came together and started to feel right. Laid 6 and 7 before work, and sometime after the first hour at the job, came up with a twist for pages 8 and 9 that was far more clever than what I’d originally planned for the scene. I almost wrote the shit on my arm so I wouldn’t forget. No bullshit. With a couple “breaks” 8 and 9 appear on paper, and I write a line or two for page 10. Approaching the halfway point on this one, and it’s making more sense by the page.
-Sunday, January 19-
I could offer some clever explanation that would somehow absolve myself for my actions on this day, something that would help you to understand and sympathize with my plight. Hell, I’ll just come out and say it…no I don’t know why I nearly finished PROJECT X today. One would suggest that spending the entire afternoon at work should preclude the scripting process, leaving me in the foulest of moods, unable to write or watch playoff football. Apparently, you people know nothing of the “podium.”
In the popular bookstore where I spend a great majority of my week, there is a small information desk outfitted with three computer terminals and barely enough standing room for three people to use them. I call the enclosed space “The Box” but that’s just me being dramatic. About ten feet from “The Box” is a lone computer terminal on a small desk, flanked by a large podium. From this vantage point, if one was so inclined, they could pursue their own personal agenda, without being in a direct line of sight to an enterprising manager.
Guarded by the podium, I dropped page 10 of PROJECT X, which is a conversation between a guy and his girlfriend. She wants to know why he’s always “working” late and displaying a general level of weirdness that confuses my lead. He asks her what’s wrong. She says, “Nothin.”
You all know what that means. This page almost wrote itself too easily. Don’t know what that means exactly.
Pages 11 and 12 weren’t very dialogue-heavy so that made them tough as hell. It’s hard to shut up because it feels like cheating. You ever read a book where a writer takes one long sentence and spreads it over six panels? Hate that shit. I see lazy pages, and I’m afraid of writing them. However, one must realize when to be quiet and for how long.
You know what’s my favorite aspect of Brian Azzarello and Greg Rucka’s writing styles? They are fuckin’ surgeons. They feed you just enough to accomplish their goal, and they step off. Their economy, their patience, is frightening. The only writer that doesn’t have to follow this is Bendis, and that’s because his rhythm is nuts. That’s what it is about his dialogue. The rhythm. There’s a bounce to it. Bendis da king o’ the bounce.
13 and half of 14 were put down before leaving work, and I managed to reach 15 despite tuning into the Raiders/Titans game. 16 appears before I pass out for the night.
-Monday, January 20-
Wrote everything you just read, minus the intro. More tomorrow.
-Tuesday, January 21-
Turning twenty-three on Friday, and made arrangements to have the entire weekend off. This means that my schedule is loaded with a set of consecutive shifts doing its best to swallow me whole, and due to the presence of Big Boss, none of that “writing behind the podium” nonsense. Even still, draft page 17 over lunch, and begin 18 a few hours later during the commercial breaks of Buffy and Smallville. Finish it before going to bed early. Have to be up at six.
-Wednesday, January 22-
Okay. Much too early to be awake. But I do have page 19 on the brain, so it’s not all bad. Just to prove that it is possible to construct coherent sentences this early in the morning, I drop the first couple lines while the car warms up.
Get to work and pretend I’m really awake when I’m not. End up in “The Box,” and finding no sign of Big Boss, jot down the last couple pages of PROJECT X, after crossing out what I wrote at six this morning. Maybe I shouldn’t write so early. Skipped lunch to speed cross-town and grab this week’s stash, because I am such an incredible hype.
Wednesday night is devoted to new comics.
-Thursday, January 23-
About to sit down and wrap the column for the week. PROJECT X has been drafted to its natural end point, and looking back on things, I’ll probably change nearly everything that’s down, but this is the natural way of things. The frame will help me ignite the work as necessary and perhaps the end product won’t be completely embarrassing. PROJECT S remains in relative stasis for reasons that I’ll keep to myself for now, but it’s still there on the edge of consciousness, waiting for its turn.
We now enter a phase of the proceedings that I’ve affectionately coined the “justification” process. Other writers draft, I justify. This is one of the final steps before releasing (as stories are never actually finished, only abandoned) the work to a team of experts for the final, all-important stage of quality control. “Justifying” a script simply refers to the act of dissecting the work into tiny bits, in an effort to ensure it is indeed the New Hotness it desires to be. Remember last week when I mentioned a hesitancy to “pad” scripts? This is why we justify.
Starting out there is always the reflexive concern of overall clarity and whether or not the 22 pages create a satisfying read. That’s stage 1, otherwise known as the easy part, if you want to refer to any of this as easy. After that, we’ve got to go a little deeper and examine the individual scenes, which should all have a relevant point and intention. This point shouldn’t be simply, “get the characters closer to the big fight,” either. Every scene should advance either plot or character, and the best examples do both. When it’s filler, it reads like filler, and will put the reader on guard as they begin to wonder: these people don’t respect my hard-earned money do they? The fans are giving up three bucks for these things, and there’s no need to jack them for it. Stage 2 of the “justification” is there to prevent aggravated assault. If something isn’t doing its job, I have to do it over again. Simple as that.
After making sure the scenes are hitting the right beats, I look at things from the level of the individual page. If panels and dialogue can be compressed without violently changing the rhythm of the piece, then why not shave things down to size? Something else I pay careful attention to is the page turn, the last panel on each page. Something about it, whether in composition or execution should prompt an uncontrollable desire to turn the page and keep going. If the phone rings while you’re reading my comic, you should be in some way aggravated that you have to leave and answer it. I’ve got twenty some pages to fill…doesn’t make sense not to use them all. Looking at the script from these three cross-sections, which are themselves interconnected, helps me to solve any of the problems that I’m sure to encounter. When I feel I’m done, things can move along to the “panel.”
Every writer, especially fresh-faced rookies, needs a “panel” because no one is ever as good as they think they are. They’re either far better or far worse, and you need someone to honestly tell you which. Based on the commentary you receive, you’ll get another set of things to consider, many of which will be so obvious that you’ll want to hurt yourself. However, they’re here to make you look good, and protect you from the harm of crap work with your name on it. Trust in them and they will save your ass.
Assuming all has gone well, this should lead to my possession of a hot script. I’ll take a small break and then finish PROJECT S, which will bring its own host of problems…
-January 24 to 26-
Birthday on Friday. Super Bowl on Sunday. Between this I’ll work on “justifying” PROJECT X, continue with PROJECT S, re-read Bendis’ Sam and Twitch comics, and pen a set of interview questions for a special celebrity guest. Perhaps I’ll even finish plotting PROJECT J, but for now…New Hotness has been waiting for you…
Daredevil #42 (Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev)
It all works. On a monthly basis, Daredevil works on every level that a comic should. Bendis brings his trademark spring-loaded dialogue, anchoring the methodical plotting of a writer in control of his story. Alex Maleev brings a stark realism to the panels that allow his pages to look simultaneously gritty and beautiful. Matt Hollingsworth delivers the structured hues and tones that bring it to life. This is seminal work being done here people. Ten years from now, we’ll look back at examples of a creative team firing on all cylinders every time out the gate, and there will be the Bendis/Maleev/Hollingsworth era of Daredevil. That’s what’s up.
Wildcats Version 3.0 #6 (Joe Casey/Dustin Nguyen/Richard Friend)
This is a damn sexy comic. And like anything arousing, the first thing you’ll notice is its appearance. There isn’t a title out there with hotter covers than Wildcats, and lucky for you…that’s only the beginning. Contained within is a tale more corporate than costume, slicker than your average, and unafraid of the individual fingerprint that sets it apart. Wildcats doesn’t slow dance like the rest of the crowd, because seriously…who can’t slow dance? It only hits the floor when the hot beat comes over the speaker, forcing the title to shake it for all its worth and make a sweaty spectacle of itself in the process. But it doesn’t care, because part of being desirable is knowing when to draw attention to oneself, and it knows that once you get to know it…you’ll be permanently hooked. Body and brains people, what more could you ask for?
Sleeper #1 (Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips)
You’re deep undercover in a network of heartless super bastards who believe you’re one of them. The only man that can terminate your assignment is trapped in a coma. You’re Holden Carver and unfortunately, you’re trapped in Brubaker’s latest criminal masterpiece Sleeper. Not only is this one of the strongest premises to launch a project this year, it’s highlighted by the impressive stylings of Sean Phillips. Wildstorm’s Eye of the Storm is bringing major heat, and if you people don’t start paying attention, someone’s gonna get hurt. Trapped in a culture of “supervillians” with no way out and finding yourself doing anything to survive? How could this book not be spun gold? Well that’s simple…it is gold. Brubaker recently broadcast a money-back guarantee for this, but no one’s going to take him up on it.
Whew…that’s it. Take a seven-day break and come back.