In my first post, I came up with six steps to writing that spec script. As a refresher they are:
1. Choose a show
2. Study said show
3. Find a minor detail that you can spin into a plot
4. Outline your episode
5. Write that first draft!
6. Edit it!
This post is going to focus on steps five and six, so let's dig in!
Step Five: Writing
It's surprising, or perhaps it isn't, how many people never get steps five and six completed. There are hoards and hoards of people out there who say that they are writers but spend very little time actually writing. If that is you, this is your wake up call said with love and support... you must write to be a writer.
I've been there before for various reasons. For one, I viewed as a hobby rather than a legitimate way to make money. I remember debating on whether I should go for my writing dream in my early twenties. I discussed it with some family members and they told me, "you can't eat words." Being young, impressionable, and a people pleaser, I was more than willing to doubt myself. They said I couldn't do it, and I believed them. So writing became a hobby, but the thing with hobbies is you only do them when you have time or feel like it. Both my reading and my writing declined steadily, and I found myself less and less happy.
I feel extremely blessed that I figured it out as early as I did. I started my second master's in the summer of 2017, at 27 years old, and have increased in my seriousness ever sense. A lot of writers will tell you that an MFA in creative writing is worthless. And yes, it won't get you an agent, and it won't get you published, but for people like me, it gave me the legitimacy I needed to fight against the naysayers and start taking writing seriously again. Still today, I find myself apologizing for my goal by saying things like, "my first master's was the responsible route and my second one is for me." I did that just the other day when a co-worker asked me why I was quitting. I am working on correcting that in myself. The truth is, this master's has made me realize there are many people being paid actual money, which you can turn into food (cough, cough), and there is no reason that can't be me too. So now, about a decade after I regulated my writing to a hobby and pipe dream, I am chasing after it. I've never felt prouder of myself.
*What I look like now, following my dream (including the dress... just ask my students)!
For my spec script, I scheduled myself to write one act a day. Once I had the plot figured out, as discussed in the second post of this series, that wasn't an issue for me. Actually, I finished the script in four days because I got into the writing and overwrote my goal. All I needed to do was turn on some music, turn off my phone, follow the outline I made for myself, and get it done.
There isn't much more to say in this post about writing. You need to do it. In other posts, I will go over things like computer programs, screenplay formatting, or chunking the goal out, but unless you will put in the work, spend the time, and close the door to distractions, all that stuff is useless.
Step Six: Editing
The final step is my least favorite step of all, but one of the most important. I have always had the creative mind. Finding a new story or writer's block is not a part of my writing story, but understanding what seems like elementary grammar really kicks my butt.
Ever since I was little, I couldn't spell. I still hold a grudge over a teacher who gave me the lowest grade of my life...in spelling... in grade school. Yes, I know! Get over it! But it's true, and it is there. My grudge isn't with the fact that I got a low grade in spelling, I was atrocious after all, but rather her going back on her word. She had a deal that kids could make up points by writing out misspelled words three times the correct way. And I did that for every misspelled word—losing a lot of reading/playing time. I did that to make sure I didn't have a low grade, and she gave me one anyway by saying I didn't deserve a better grade because I couldn't do it the first time. Great, all good, except then don't offer the makeup work if you will not abide by it. AND I just want to say I realize this teacher had her heart in the right place, she did an amazing job in almost every respect, and I am grateful for her hard work and dedication. I am grateful to every teacher I ever had, because before I became a teacher I had no clue how the education system actually worked. Spoiler alert: those teachers society likes to blame are the ones holding it together by sheer willpower and love.
Anyway... When I read, I see the big picture. I am always ahead of the great reveal in a mystery, and I aced all those reading comprehension tests in school. But I am slow, and I struggle to sound words out. I don't see words as individual letters but rather have memorized their shape. So when I run across an unfamiliar word these days, I type it into google and it pronounces it for me. Got to love technology!
When I make simple mistakes, many people love to question my legitimacy as a writer. I have a PSA: grammar and editing are not writing. That's why they are two different jobs. Don't get me wrong; would I be a better writer if I understood all the grammar rules? Absolutely! And that is why I am struggling through learning them, even when I hate it and feel like a dummy. But I also realize I will need to depend on an editor in my writing. That is okay.
So my next steps with the Nancy Drew script is to send it out to some loyal readers who help me find those mistakes I simply can't see. While they edit like the rock stars they are, I will analyze each character's lines on their own, making sure their voice matches the show and is consistent throughout my episode. I will double check my locations, the naming of certain items, and the formatting. And most important of all, I will read my script out loud multiple times so I can hear any mistakes that pop up!
And that's it, the process of writing a spec script, start to finish! My process is not THE process, and it could vary from person to person. I hope that reading this will make it less scary for those taking their first shot at this, and maybe it will be nostalgic for those who have written plenty of specs. Either way I wish you...