I love writing. I really do. When it's good. Because when it's good, it's really good. You get in the rhythm and the flow and the story starts telling itself to you, and you just have to hope you can keep up.
It's not always like that. Usually it's awful, you have to strain and strain just to get SOMETHING on the page, and when you do, it's crap. You know it's crap. But you have to put more crap on the page or else you're not going to get anywhere. You have to create the raw materials for the process. More specifically, you have to get all the bad ideas out of your head and onto the page, so you can crumple them up, toss them out, and start over.
But oh man, four or five drafts in, it just all suddenly starts to click. Ideas you had that you couldn't make work in the first draft suddenly pair up with seemingly unrelated but equally unworkable ideas from the third draft, and then suddenly bingo, they work. They work so perfectly it's hard to believe you didn't plan it that way.
I had one of those experiences tonight, writing up a new treatment for The Descendants. Joey (the creator of the original comic book) and I have been banging our heads against a wall trying to come up with a story that's true to the spirit and the premise of the comic, while injecting new life into the concept; the opportunity to blow it up the size of a building and expand it beyond the scope of the comics is too good to pass up. But we couldn't come up with a solid storyline. We've done several drafts, first collaboratively and then back-and-forth individually, and with Joey's most recent draft I started to feel like we had hit a brick wall, we just weren't cracking this thing the way we needed to.
I had a similar problem with another concept I had, which my manager was very excited about as a concept, but I couldn't for the life of me formulate a plot. He still wants to do it. I still want to do it. But it's stuck in limbo without any kind of real storyline. And I couldn't bear to think of that happening on Descendants.
So I started to despair, I freaked out a little. It was a low point on the project, for me. But then I took the new outline, and all the previous outlines, and all the other ideas we'd bandied about, and most importantly, the comics themselves. And I looked them all over, out of order. And things started to click.
I wrote 8 pages of the treatment in one sitting, which is tough to do. Writing at that pace is genuinely exhausting, but it was great to feel so excited and adrenalized by the concept again. I don't know if the team will even like it, and it will probably need to undergo changes (there is always a better way of doing something), but I'm damn proud of this treatment.
I have to get back to writing it -- I need to get the third act on paper and send it out to the team -- but I was taking a break from the aforementioned marathon session, and thought I'd exult about the rare moment of total story clarity that makes writing worthwhile.
When it's bad, there are few things I want to do less. But when it's good...