Like fine wine and cheddar cheese

I am so much better at character stuff than I am at mystery. It's just crazy. I love that I can be plowing through my first draft and all of a sudden a scene I'm writing makes me cry. Granted, I am feeling a bit fragile because of lack of sleep and too many Raspberry Lemon Drops last night. But still.

And then my final scene, the one where Bones and Booth are always just hanging out, bonding? Chills.

Still, I have a long way to go with weaving my story together. Right now, I think it's pretty obvious whodunnit from the start. But then, maybe that's because I already know. Totally tough to gauge. Guess that's what readers are for.

Anyway. Yay me! First draft is complete. It's a very rough first draft, but it's like, I've done the sketch, and now I'm free to sculpt. And I'm more Moore than Picasso, if you know what I mean.

The new season of Bones is so exciting. The premiere (written by Mr Hart Hanson himself) was such a great tease. There are big changes in store for the show with a case that arcs through the whole season, the potential for many more personal stories (and why not, with such fabulous characters?), and a whole thread where Bones and Booth go to couple's counseling, which has so much potential for hilarity, I can't wait.

Prediction. This is the season Bones will finally get the mass acclaim it so deserves.

The premiere of House was incredibly intriguing as well. Until Tuesday, I'd only seen about three quarters of the first season. I wasn't gripped by it to begin with, but it just gets better and better. And Jesus, are those really Hugh Laurie's actual eyes? That blue just can't be natural. Honestly, I don't remember him looking like that in Spice World. Some guys just get better with age.

Funny that of the two shows I'm most interested in this season, one stars Hugh Laurie and the other featured Stephen Fry last season. If you don't understand the connection, better learn something about British 80s and 90s TV. Ahh, Jeeves and Wooster, how you made me laugh.

Slacker excuses
Went to an AFI Fest volunteers' mixer last night. It's actually the husband that wants to volunteer, but I met the man who runs the AFI Fest newspaper and he's desperate for writers, so hey, might as well lend a hand. Tonight, I'll be seeing the wonderful Bodies of Water -- who hail from just down the street -- and Broken West -- who I saw open for Calexico once. They were pretty cool. Broken West, that is. Calexico were monumentally, incomparably wonderful.

My PVR is about to burst with all the TV I didn't watch yet this week. Maybe I'll watch ANTM at lunch. Dang, I'm supposed to be writing about some new digital camera right now. Gotta go.


Go go guild negotiating team 2007!

As if we needed any more proof that film and TV writers in America are overwhelmingly white and male, I bring you the Writers Guild of America Contract 2007 Negotiating Team.

Much luck to all of you. That's my future contract you're negotiating!


This gun's for hire

Writing a first draft, after weeks of breaking story and outlining and thinking, is such a blessed relief. It's such an easy step if you've done the hard graft in advance. It's funny, but actually sitting down and writing what will eventually become your script could be the least important step in the whole process.

I mean, if you've created a solid story, written a detailed outline, and are planning on thorough rewriting afterwards, doing the first draft is kind of like dancing in a dark bedroom. No one is ever going to see it, so you're free to try out whatever you want. And maybe later some of those moves you developed in the privacy of your own room will good enough to display at Miss Kitty's on a debauched Friday night. But most of them won't. And that's just fine.

So yeah, I'm pretty glad to be first drafting this week.

Went to the library on Saturday, and the husband found me a copy of Jeffrey Stepakoff's Billion-Dollar Kiss: The Kiss That Saved Dawson's Creek and Other Adventures in TV Writing. I spent most of the weekend obsessively reading it. It's a fascinating account of his career as a TV writer, with lots of scary but also enlightening revelations about the business. If you wanna be a TV writer, or if you are one, you should totally read it, right now.

Super excited about premiere week! Heroes, Ugly Betty, Bones, The Office, Grey's Anatomy, House, plus all those new shows... auugh. Can't wait, can't wait. It's been, well, literally forever since I've been this excited about a premiere week.

Oh, and I'm totally going to start that writer's group I blogged about last time. But it might take me a couple of weeks to start contacting everyone, so be patient people. If you live in LA, and you're interested, do get in touch!


The TV writer's Mobius Strip

I'm starting to realize that writing specs is the easy part. For that, you don't really need anyone else - except for a few great fellow bloggers to advise and cajole you.

But, as I get closer and closer to having all I need to 'break in', I'm getting increasingly depressed over the methods you need to use to make that happen.
1. Get someone important to read your script... when no one important wants to read anyone's scripts.
2. Get a job as a writer's assistant. To do that, you need to get some already overworked writers to a) be in a position to hire an assistant and b) read your work.
3. Be really lucky.
4. Get an agent. Without already having a job? Ha!
5. Bang your head against the wall repeatedly until somebody notices, takes pity on you, whereupon you can spring your spec on them, declaring "You saved my life, now I am beholden to you!"

Sigh. I know I sound whiny. I am trying to come up with clever solutions. I've been thinking about getting in touch with the other bloggers and fans of bloggers out there who are in the same position – with great, basically unread specs in hand – and starting a group. Not a writers' group, where you critique each other, but more a writers' group where you get together, drink coffee, eat cupcakes and chat about the industry, support each other, and come up with clever strategies for getting work. OK, written down that actually sounds like a great idea. Forming a lasting network of friendships now would mean we could all bolster each other in the years to come. . . of course none of us would let our egos or naturally competitive natures get in the way of a nurturing a positive networking experience. Perhaps we could turn it into a reality TV show. Each week we vote the most self-serving, un-bolstering writer out of the group.

Goals for today are:
1. Nail down the final details in my Bones outline.
2. Make it through another three hours of fasting so I can go get my blood tested for high cholesterol and other things I'm pretty sure I don't have.
3. Print out Grey's spec for final read-thru before deciding if I send it, or Ugly Betty, to the Acclaim TV competition.
4. Watch ANTM, Gossip Girl, Weeds, and Curb Your Enthusiasm I PVR'd earlier this week.

Slacker excuses
I ran 5 miles yesterday. I know, that's not really slack, but I'm very proud of it. Also went to see New Pornographers last night. That band is outrageously amazing. Oh, and Flight of the Conchords were there (in the audience, including their single fan, Mel. I wonder if they were jealous when she sang along to another band?). Clark (of Clark and Michael) was also there. I didn't talk to any of them. Damn! Should I have been networking?


A writer's fairie would be much more useful

Warning!! This installment rambles on forever, so quit while you're ahead. Or at least make a nice strong cup of coffee before you dive in.

If wishing (and hard work) made it so
First, I've been hearing whispered details on the internet that the Warner Bros. Television Writers Workshop is taking ten - only ten! - successful applicants. Yeeps. If I'm one of the top ten applicants, this is great news. Imagine all the things I could learn with only nine other people in my workshop. Then again, if I'm, say, number 12 on the list... no, will not think about that. I am going to get in. I am. Definitely. No question. Yessiree Mr Barker. I am.

You can read Jane Espenson for all the pertinent insider details. Not about me getting in. About the workshop.

Writing what I know
My Bones struggle has been long and arduous, but I'm getting there. Crime drama is kinda hard to write. Who knew? There are all those new characters to create, and the hard science that needs to be invented - I mean - researched, and little clues that need laying. Then, once you have all that, you're only half-way there, because you have to make it all emotionally significant to your investigators. If you can do that, then maybe, just maybe, you have something.

My previous storyline was all about people, places, and things I really knew nothing about. It had a great crime scene, a fascinating victim, and a really gruesome way of identifying the body... but that was all. So I am now relying on that old chestnut "Write what you know". No, I've never killed anyone. I've never even hit anyone. But there was that noisy neighbor who gave me severe sleep deprivation and fevered dreams of ways to dispose of her... in the end I just moved, but that's not how the character in my Bones is going to handle it.

Writers faires and panel discussions
One of the good things about living in LA is that there are lots of opportunities to hobnob with real working writers while they dispense their sage advice ("Be an accountant! Be a zoologist! Just don't be a writer!"). You also get to eavesdrop on your fellow struggling writers as they talk about their miserable lives, which can be lots of fun. Sometimes though, I find myself sitting at these events thinking "I should have just stayed home and spent the day writing".

The UCLA Writers Faire was one such event. Yes, there were plenty of pro writers there, who now spend most of their time teaching at UCLA. But they mostly only dispensed wisdom regarding paying hundreds of dollars to take their UCLA courses. I'm sure I'd learn a lot from them, but I'm also pretty sure I could learn most of that stuff from other sources, in a lot less time, for a lot less cash.

Then there was the Writers Guild Sublime Primetime event. The other WGA events I've been to have been great. The Evening with John Wells made me just ache to be in his room (his writers' room, doofus!). Sublime Primetime was entertaining, I suppose, but a good half hour was taken up by a clip reel - hey, I've already seen the shows, don't waste my precious time on clips! The rest of it just felt a bit jumbled and flat. Matthew Weiner was the least confounded by the set-up, and actually managed to scatter some wise pearls around. Matt Selman made a few hilariously inappropriate comments, which kept things lively. The other panelists just seemed a bit uncomfortable, and I really don't blame them, it was just that kind of evening.

Slacker excuses
I'm starting a new running regime. Four times a week, first thing in the morning. Plus two sessions of weights per week, and ultimate frisbee. How does this leave me time to do anything else you ask? The answer. Volume!

Proud to be a Canadian?

Totally off topic, but, Passport Canada is completely insane.

OK, here's where the personal ranting starts. I sent my passport to the great Canadian government to be renewed in June. As of last week, it still hadn't come back, so I called them. They were cheerily pleasant while telling me that they still hadn't opened a file for me, and could I call back in October sometime when they might have more info? Sure, I mean, I don't need any identification saying that I'm in the US legally or anything. Feel free to keep my passport for 5 or 6 months. Longer if you need it!

For a few days, I went merrily on with my life, confident that at least my passport was crawling its way up the queue. Thought I might be able to travel outside the US by Christmas or something. Then, yesterday, a DHL package came. Inside? My passport, birth certificate, application form, pictures. Everything but a new unexpired passport. Why did they send it back untouched? Because my picture has a shadow on it. Not a shadow obscuring my face, mind you. Not an eagle-shaped hand shadow soaring through the background. Just a pale almost indiscernible 2 millimeter shadow, just next to my head – you know, where a shadow would naturally fall if there was, say, a light on in the room.

Can anyone tell me why this should be a problem? Please, because I'm pretty much ready to renounce my Canadian citizenship and just go full Brit instead of trying to get a magically shadowless picture and spending another $50 sending my passport off to be lost in the bowels of Passport Canada for the rest of the year.

On further investigation, I found that, according to good 'ol Passport Canada's website, fully "47% of all passport applications received from Canadians living in the United States are rejected. The primary cause for rejection is the quality of passport photos being submitted." Guys, did you ever consider that if you're rejecting that many applications based solely on picture quality, your regulations are way to frickin' harsh? My pictures were done by a pro passport picture taking person here in the US. Wanna bet they'd be perfectly fine for a US or European Union passport? I would. Arrggh!


Maybe I could use red tape to capture the ants?

My Bones script and I are in a fight to the death. The script is winning.

Or maybe we're just at an impasse. Same difference.

I keep trying, but I'm still struggling. I can't break the back of the story. I can't fill in the final pieces of the puzzle. And I keep changing my mind about who the killer is.

Why does this happen?

Is it because the idea, at its core, is just not right? Is it because I'm fundamentally no good at mystery? Or is it because I just haven't tried hard enough?

I don't know. And the problem is, my course of action depends entirely on the answer. Should I start again, with a new idea? Should I give up and write a half-hour comedy? Or should I just keep plugging away?

Slacker excuses
It's been a cra-appy week, involving the DMV, my lawyer, Passport Canada, the bank, and an infestation of little brown ants. No one can be expected to be creative with all that institutional red tape wrapped tight around them. Can they?

Ow, my head hurts.


It's hard to write in a bath full of peas

Traditionally, I've hated air conditioning. It dries out your eyes, it's environmentally unsound, and it means you have to wear a sweater in Vons, even if it is 100 degrees outside.

But now I understand air conditioning. And furthermore, I want some.

Hot weather melts your brain, taking away all creative impulse and replacing it with the impulse to eat ice cream while bathing in a tub of frozen peas. Which is fattening. And expensive.

I bet this week there was a record low in the number of pages written by struggling screenwriters and TV writers in the LA region. Our professional counterparts can all afford artificially cooled home offices or office offices, so they've been every bit as productive as normal. Which is good, otherwise we'd have an unscheduled week of dead air around Hallowe'en as all the TV shows that didn't get written this week grind to a halt.

So. Yeah. I'm hot.

And no, I'm not much farther down the road to finishing my Bones.*

Slacker excuses
ABC Evening News vans have been loitering outside my house all day, along with a brief appearance by five, count em', five, fire trucks. You see, except for my house, and one across the way, the power on our street has been out since Sunday afternoon. The news is covering that, while the fire trucks were rescuing my unfortunate neighbors from carbon monoxide poisoning after their generator leaked a bunch of nasty air into their house. So not good!

*Speaking of roads and bones, I heard recently that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have just completed a new travelogue, called Long Way Down. In Long Way Round, their first series, they drove around the world on kick-ass motorbikes. One of the roads they took was the Road of Bones in Russia. If you haven't seen Long Way Round, you really should. It's even better, if a lot less educational, than the ridiculously wonderful Michael Palin stuff.