Any Way You Can Get It On The Page

“I would go running with a Dictaphone and discuss the plot aloud with myself. I felt like a juggler who was trying to keep 13 balls in the air simultaneously. Imagine if someone had found the Dictaphone. They would have heard a panting guy talking about Rome and Mary Magdalene’s child and assassinations — and would have turned it in to the police!”
Dan Brown, on creating The Da Vinci Code

No kidding. I have a friend whose secretaries made an obscene cassette tape for him to take with him on a mountain climbing trip… This was pre sexual harassment, more in the Mad Men days… they all got drunk and made the tape together of all the wicked things they wanted to do with him… The trip went fine, until he got caught in an avalanche and the only thing that made him dig his way free was the fear that they would find the tape with his body, and would give it to his mother thinking it was his last thoughts… So I understand Dan Brown’s worry.

A fear many writers have is that “their method” is not the “right” method. Poppycock. It’s the same in every field. I used to want to be a cartoonist, and everyone wanted to know just which paper and which brushes the master cartoonists used… like that’s going to help?

Whatever writing method you use is just fine. It doesn’t matter how silly it is. If you write a lot every day, or a little, that’s fine too.

If Stephen King writes ten pages a day and you find that intimidating, write one or half. Any way YOU get the words on the page is fine. Whatever works, works.

In my book, I mentioned the amazing PLAYING BY HEART and its writer director, Willard Carroll. He walked up and down on the beach thinking about his script, and never put down a word until he was finished working it out in his mind, and then came in and blasted out a draft in eight days.

I dictated the first draft of most of my book in the car. Lots of free time in a car. I’ve written screenplays in pencil. I’ve have put music on, laid on the bed with a tape recorder, and as I drifted to sleep, talked about scene ideas… an amazing way to be creative.

Nabokov wrote his novels on 3×5 cards…easy to reshuffle scenes. Hemingway wrote 500 words a day. James Joyce was happy if he got three good sentences. Truman Capote wrote in bed — first two drafts in longhand, the third on a typewriter, but always in bed. Phillip Roth stands up and paces and writes at a lectern.

Do not be shy about your work process. If it works for you, and is not the way Stephen King writes, who cares? The book editor and reader and producer don’t mind in the slightest that you write with a quill pen.

They only want the writing to leap off the page and grab them by the throat.

Edgar Allen Poe didn’t use a Dell laptop and his stuff works.



Filed under Screenwriting

2 responses to “Any Way You Can Get It On The Page

  1. So when I’m walking in downtown Minneapolis and talking to myself (running lines of dialogue over and over), it’s okay? I’ve been tempted to get a button: I’m not crazy. I’m a writer.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      In film school, we had buttons: SLEEP IS FOR SISSIES. I still sort of agree. Just found this quote and may write something about it sometime:

      I worked hard, and if you work hard you get the goodies.
      Steve McQueen

      Sad to say, if you are a writer, you already are crazy… so you may as well talk to yourself in public. If you’re worried about public image, pair yourself off with another writer and people will think you’re having a conversation.

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