Just Breathe: Nova, in 25 Pages

Well, it's done. "Nova" is now 25 pages.

Lets crunch the numbers. Last draft was 32 pages, and over a period of about two weeks, I cut 7 of them. That's about half of a page each day. There's part of me that's not sure you can call that "progress." What I see in my head, when I picture the job that I had to do, was Steven Bach at the end of the table, a copy in front of him and those long fingers gripping a thick pen, putting broad strokes through each wordy, unnecessary, or trite line. In 10 minutes he might have easily have gotten me to 25 -- maybe 24, hell, maybe 20 -- and maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but anyone who'd seen Bach go to work on script would know, not by much. Of course he had the experience, but still, I can't help but feel without when I think about how I couldn't do the same when I sat down with my sharpie and my clipboard.

On the other hand, I don't feel like this was a broad strokes sort of job. "Nova" was, technically, finished. More than 7 drafts is a ludicrous proposition for a screenplay, and brings up memories of the horror show which "Last Action Hero" turned into -- a movie re-written so many times, by so many different people, that even Carrie Fisher did a draft. The 32 pages I wrote felt like the necessary amount of time to tell the story I wanted to tell, while hitting all the beats I wanted to hit. It felt tight, and even the things that went a little slow, seemed like digressions, I think I tied them in, and gave them reasons to be in there. Because of this, taking things down became more complicated, I had to rephrase some things, speed some conversations up. Cut here, or cut there, a couple of words gone, a line dropped. Take out too many swear words, Nick loses his edge, take out too many BEATs, shoot the pacing I'm going for all to hell.

Irony of ironies, there were actually things I found, things I changed for the sake of thrift that I'd probably keep, if I decided to go back to the 32-pager. I think... there are things in this draft that work better than in my last long draft. There are also things I knocked out that killed me a little to leave on the cutting room floor, and if given the opportunity I will squeeze back in.

Which is why I'm saying to anyone who's had a look, or who volunteered to have a look, or who I asked to give "Nova" a read through, and who hasn't yet, to please, still do. I would really like to hear what you think, and am still up to cut more, to remove some things, partly to get things I let go back in, and partly so the script itself doesn't look absolutely stuffed into 25 pages [we're talking one line, and I'm back to 26]. Besides, if there were things you saw that you liked, or things that didn't seem clear, I'd like to know those things too, because even though my focus lately has been getting the script slimmed down, I don't want it to look like I neglected the story itself.

I want to thank everyone else too -- particularly Ian, whose notes helped get me out of that tunnel I was talking about last post. Honestly, Ian's cuts could have gotten me from 26 to 25 right away, Steven Bach-style, but there were just a couple of things that I didn't want to give up. Still, his suggestions helped me drop over half of that last page, which made the leftovers something that could [mostly] be sweated out, or rephrased. It even gave me enough room to move, to rewrite one or two things that I'd been putting off, waiting to see if there'd be room.

So that's me. Small victory. Maybe now I can get to those unanswered e-mails in my inbox [apologies if you're waiting for one], and to my living space which has... deteriorated a little since I've started working. Maybe since a little before then. When all you have is a single room no one else sees, you tend to neglect the upkeep a bit, especially if you have more important things to focus on.

Probably post about "Nova" again before submitting it. Expect to take at least one more run at it, especially after I talk to a couple more people. More soon.

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