Monday, April 11, 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Procrastination 

As is probably most unwise when trying to write, I'm reading a book on writing, called "Rules of Thumb," in which a bunch of writers give writing tips. Most are crap, but there are definite gems every now and again. One of them notes that a graduate research project revealed that 100% of writers of all varieties procrastinate. This must mean that procrastination is part of the writing process.

Which is great news, since that's what I'm doing right now.

I've also discovered a new medium of writing (aside from screenwriting) that is incredibly rewarding: children's fiction. Why that, of all things?

Here are the constant limitations that I find myself consciously or unconsciously imposing on myself during the normal screenwriting process:
  • Restrict the story and setting to feasibility on a low (or low-ish) budget
  • Avoid stereotype or cliche characters; make sure each one has a compelling arc and a complex multi-layered personality
  • Generally follow a three-act structure as a basic skeleton
  • Remember that adults want to see adult things like violence, sex, and profanity; at the very least explore the depths of emotional turmoil and the human experience
  • Deliver something new and fresh, but package it in a way that's familiar and accessible
Here are the limitations I'm finding writing prose fiction for children:
  • None; as long as your inner 8-year-old isn't bored, do whatever the hell you want
My kid's book is about a family that lives in a windmill-powered ship. They travel to strange lands having odd adventures. That's it.

It's incredibly therapeutic. Whenever I'm tired of chiseling away at dark, emotional stories of philosophy, death, redemption, and conflict, which take place in accessible locations, and feature characters with pages of background and soul-searching needs and desires, I write a little light-hearted tale about an awesome ancient city under a desert populated by mummies.

Let me tell you, after over ten years of writing stories which I knew I could go outside with a camera and make the next day, it's lovely to reach way back into my imagination and see what was locked in the "never gonna be possible" box (of course, it would be a dream to one day make these stories as a stop-motion animated film or TV show...).

'Cause I'm feeling charitable, here's a rough cross-section I did of the Merry Mariner, the adventuring ship.