Though it feels like fiddling while Rome burns, let’s talk about writing….
Almost all the writing I’ve ever done has been on my own – on-spec stories and novels that I conceived and created in isolation, with little or no outside input until the work was done in solid first draft. Even after that, changes tended to be limited, and under my control.
A few weeks ago though, I completed a story development project for a proposed film that turned out to be something very close to a joint-author effort. This project has been ongoing and evolving for about two-and-a-half years. The latest iteration called for a detailed story synopsis that needed to be completed in a very short time frame. I can’t talk about the details of the project, but I can talk a little about the process, which was a new experience for me. The goal was to develop a dramatic, futuristic storyline. (How’s that for a useless general description?) There was a list of ideas, themes and locations that needed to be included, and we had already worked out the main characters during earlier phases of development.
Way back, circa 1999, I had written a novella from a similar “laundry-list” of requirements. That project collapsed, though the novella ultimately evolved into the story Goddesses — strangely enough, one of my more lucrative writing projects. At any rate, after initial discussions, I was on my own with Goddesses. Not so with this future-tech story.
I created the initial synopsis in about three weeks, and sent that off to the producer prior to a planned August meeting. The story did everything requested…but like painting a room in an unusual color, the final result only led to the realization “That’s not really what we wanted.” So with new requests in-hand I set out to produce a complete (and completely different) synopsis, this time in nineteen days. Then things stopped. For various reasons there was a delay in getting feedback – potentially critical because the production meeting was set as a fixed date so the story had to be ready on time. But after ten days, work began again – and once more there were extensive changes. I did a very short synopsis this time, again with extensive changes to the storyline. Now we were on track! From September 14 – 21 I was sending drafts to the producer every two days, with follow-up phone calls, implementing (or arguing against!) suggestions and requests. It was very intense, and also a lot of fun. It was also interesting to see the story develop through someone else’s eyes, and hear their thoughts on the factors that help a story connect with an audience.
The final result went out on September 21. I’m still waiting to hear if we get to move on to the next step, but whether or not that comes to be, this was a great project that taught me a lot, and I look forward to finding another collaborative project before too long.