WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE YOUR WRITING SHINE
Or My Last Advice of 2022
I have a show on Netflix!
It’s a 90’s series called Triple Nine. Singapore’s first-ever police action crime drama series that went to 4 seasons. I co-created the first one and took over as head writerfor the rest.
I ran a room of ten writers and had great fun coming up with exciting action where the lead hero would fight through mud, rain, and forest to catch the criminals. Action was important because directors just love that shit.
For myself, I paid attention to the words on the page. How we wrote the stage directions. How an action scene was crafted so every punch, kick, and bullet dodging came alive in the reader’s head. How every word in a dialogue scene advanced the plot. No room for spelling errors. No room for weak adverbs. We were making mini mind movies that play in your skull.
And to do that, we had to rewrite.
Rewrites were de rigueur when I ran a writer’s room. The junior and senior writers in the room put up with my obsession with le mot juste. But one day, the strain got to one junior writer and he blurted out. Why bother?
NO REST FOR THE STUDENT WRITER
In my former life as a screenwriting lecturer at a polytechnic, I’ve supervised the scripts of hundreds of students. The scripts they wrote were for short films, that go up to twelve pages at most, but it did not matter. I did not skimp on the rewrites. It was not uncommon for a short film script to go up to over sixty drafts.
What were the rewrites on?
Pacing of the sentences.
Structuring the story.
Finding better verbs to make the writing more vivid.
Some students went along with the rewrites with humility. Some groaned. Some silently went to do the work. But I could see it in their eyes. The same question.
MAKING THE INEXPLICABLE LOOK EASY
It has been more than ten years since I wrote the first episode of Triple Nine. I am still writing. I still rewrite. Even this blog article. Why though? Why do we as writers labor over the words?
I could say the following.
You want the reading experience to be smooth.
You want your reader to enjoy the storytelling without being interrupted by grammatical mistakes, or awkward word choices.
You want your writing to come alive for directors and producers who will read your script and decide if they want to be a part of the magic you have created on the page.
You want to show professionalism.
Recently, I read Mystery, by Jonah Lehrer, who wrote about the power of mystery and why it captures our attention. He wrote -
To be a great artist is to become a magician. It requires that you devote your life to making the inexplicable look easy. It means spending years practicing tricks that only succeed if nobody notices them. Because if the method works, there doesn’t seem to be any method at all. Just a quiet gasp, followed by a lasting sense of mystery.
Just a quiet gasp.
That is why a writer labors over the words.
That is why a writer strives to find le mot juste.
That is why if you call yourself a writer, you must bother.
Because you’re an artist striving to make the inexplicable look easy.
GENTLE REMINDER TO ALL WRITERS
Create word magic on the page. Make the inexplicable look easy. And earn that quiet gasp.
Finally, thank you for reading my posts for this year. I have had much fun putting them together and knowing that they have been read means so much to me.
Hope you will share these posts and do check out my brand new post of 2023 next week!
Happy new year !