Thursday   September 11, 1997




The Usual Suspects

I wrote six and a half pages of "Beginner's Luck" today, thus meeting and exceeding the daily goal of five pages. It was a productive writing day. The words were flowing well, the scenes crystallized into place, I knew exactly where I was going, the characters weren't fighting me... It felt pretty good.

Oh yeah: I finished it, too.

Yes, today I typed those most glorious of words: "Fade Out" and "End Of Show." Ya gotta love it when that happens. It means you finished what you started, that you have something to show for all the hours spent hunched over the keyboard playing Freecell after typing each period, that you've accomplished something most people don't: you wrote a script instead of talking about writing a script. Most importantly, it means you can put the pages down, close the file on your computer, and never ever ever have to look at them again. Now you just throw a couple of brads into it, hand it off to your agent, and wait for the offers and big bux to roll in.

...and then you wake up.

What it really means is that the easy part is over. Despite all the angst and self-doubt and blood dribbling from your forehead, writing the first draft is the fun part of the process. It's when you're free to write shit, free to write without rein to see where it goes, free to just let it ooze from your fingers without worrying too much about whether it's any good're going to rewrite it anyway. It's easy to be cavalier about it; the rewrite's where the real work begins.

So I've got that to look forward to for the next couple of weeks. If this script is anything like my others, I'm very quickly going to reach a point where I'm so sick of it that I never want to see it again. I'll soon start each day with that joyful attitude. It should be fun. Not. So for the time being I'm just going to bask in the illusion of accomplishment and enjoy it while it lasts.

Today wasn't without anguish, though. I was about halfway into today's work, right in the heart of an important scene that explains the mechanics of my time-travel premise, when the phone rang. And while I was distracted with my conversation, Zoe toddled in. And made a beeline for my computer, which sits on the floor under my desk. And while she was amusing herself down there under my chair, it hit me. I realized, about a nanosecond too late, what she was doing.

She turned my computer off.

As the screen turned black I tried to remember when I'd last saved my file. It had been several hours before, long before I'd begun writing in earnest. Just about everything I'd written up to that moment was gone. I handled it well: I flipped out.

I didn't yell at Zoe, though. Well, I yelled "No!" at her as I spun around to try to stop her before she hit the power button, but after that I didn't yell at her. I stifled myself while the nanny grabbed Zoe and beat a hasty retreat to the living room, then I yelled at nobody in particular and threw things around my office for a minute. Did I mention that I have a bad temper?

When I calmed myself down I went out to the living room, apologized to the nanny for flipping out and gave Zoe a big hug and a kiss. It wasn't her fault; she was just being a baby. I was the stupid one for not saving the file and not paying attention while she destroyed a morning's work. Besides, how can you be mad at a little cutie who steals your heart with a smile and calls you "Boppy?"

Later, I remembered that I'd configured my scriptwriting software to autosave every 10 minutes. When I looked for the file in the autosave directory, there it was. Every single word of it, right up to power-off. And thank God, because those pages I thought I'd lost were absolutely perfect as written. I may end up rewriting everything else, but those pages won't change one iota. They're gold.

Yeah, right.





Copyright 1997
Chuck Atkins