Monday, January 17, 2011

Revising a Two-Time-Loser into a Winner

The New Year finds me revising a writing project...again. Just a week ago, Nancy ended her blog on the importance of revision with a question: "What is your experience with the revision process?"

It got me to thinking how important that process has been to my writing career. I've learned to step away from my writing. I let it sit for a few days, then go back and take a look. Without exception, I make a few (and sometimes considerable) changes. And each time I do this, my writing gets leaner, stronger, and better.

The story of the screenplay I'm currently working on is a story that wouldn't have happened without countless revisions. Here's how it all happened for a little two-time-loser I wrote two years ago:

In January, 2009, I entered a short story "Heading for the Big Time," in the Idaho Magazine fiction contest. I worked hard, writing and rewriting my entry a dozen times. Finally perfected, I sent it in.

It didn't win.

Although my entry didn't win, I was later notified it had been chosen for the Publisher's Choice award. Hey, I'll take it! A come-from-behind win is OKAY with me!

A few months later, kNIFVES (Northwest Independent Film and Video Entertainment Society) announced they were holding their first Short Screenplay Contest. I decided to revise the short story I had written for Idaho Magazine into a screenplay.

This was my first screenplay, and I had a lot to learn. So I got busy putting down on paper what I had learned through workshops I attended and how-to books I read.

I wrote, and then re-wrote it time and again. I spent many hours researching, learning, and writing. Once I was pleased with it, I sent it to a writing friend for editing and comments. I took her critique seriously, and made some significant revisions based on her suggestions.

Finally! My 17-page screenplay was polished and ready to mail in the appropriately-sized envelope. That's when kNIFVES announced their decision to lengthen the contest period. For some reason, I decided to hold onto that envelope.

A couple weeks later, something clicked while I was reading yet another book on screenwriting and I realized my screenplay had amateurish flaws. I took a deep breath and went back to work, rewriting it again and again. When finished, I had over 40 revisions - some substantial, and some trivial. Finally satisfied once again, I sent it in: "Root Bound," an original screenplay by Mary Jane Honegger.

I didn't win.

Alright, I didn't win. but, I did learn about screenwriting. So, it was with confidence that I began working on a full length screenplay. (Which I am still working on.)

THEN, nearly a year later, in mid-2010, I received a request from kNIFVES to produce my screenplay.

A second come-from-behind-win!

kNIFVES President WJ Lazarus wrote for and received a 2010 New Filmmaker Grant from the Idaho Film Office to produce the screenplay and next thing I knew, it was scheduled for production. Karla Peterman, Line Producer for the project, recently issued the Pre-Production Schedule. It should be completed in time to be entered in the Sandpoint Films 2nd Annual Film Festival in November 2011.

End of story? Not quite. Guess what I get to do? Rewrite my screenplay! I am expected to rewrite (and rewrite) "Root Bound" until it meets approval with the producer. But when I'm done with that - I get to just sit back and watch my little two-time-loser go into production. What fun!

Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove,you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain. Elie Wiesel

1 comment:

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Mary Jane, thanks for sharing your experience with revision. It is inspiring and informative for writers of any genre.