Wednesday, March 13, 2019

EP114: My Writing Process

Ken talks about his writing steps, from germ of an idea to finished script or stage play. It’s an in-depth look into the creative process from an Emmy winning writer.

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E. Yarber said...

This podcast was really rewarding, and I hope it gives a clear view of the writing process for beginners. I've dealt with so many people who think that an author simply types Page One, moves on to Page Two, and so on until the end. Composition is actually a lot of very different states of mind, from collecting cotton candy out of fragmentary thoughts to eventually driving the final nail in a very solid work of art. You have to handle each of these stages in turn. I've seen people who will get to one level of a piece and then just stop, because they aren't ready to change to a new game.

One point that struck me as particularly essential was setting a specific word quota for each writing session, like a runner knowing how much ground to cover. I spent most of my career working to deadlines, which is a different type of motivating force, but it's a whole new game when you initiate the project yourself. After the first couple of days on something, I can generally sense what would be enough of a quota to push me forward without wearing me out so much I'd dread getting back to the job the next day.

Right now I'm beginning to revise the first draft of a manuscript written over a couple of months. My gut sinks when I see how much of what I did is on shaky ground, but I think it was more important to lay something out to work with. I've dealt with writers who couldn't finish the first ten pages, a problem mentioned in the podcast. Honestly, some people would drag me through fifty or more drafts of the same scene, virtually none of it substantially different except in endless tinkering by an insecure author nervously rearranging the same few chairs. The thing is that all this fuss over a single segment of the work doesn't mean anything because you often can't judge it in isolation anyway. You have to see how the bit fits into the whole before you can properly understand what needs to be done with it. Initial momentum is important one moment, introspection after that, then on to feedback from others before finally turning back to your own instincts.

Most of the scripts submitted to studios never went further than a single pass by the author, and any reader can tell it. This was a decent roadmap for the sort of extended development a writer actually needs to take.

blinky said...

Did you just refer to yourself in the third person? Or do you have a podcast description writer intern?

Joseph said...

Very informative podcast. I tend to jump into writing which often means I get stuck halfway through or waste a whole draft figuring out the story. I really liked the idea of just throwing ideas out there before even beginning the outline. Thanks for putting this out there.

Ken Levine said...


The description is always in 3rd person because it's the same description used on the various platforms that carry the podcast. It is standard in those descriptions to refer to the host in the 3rd person.

blinky said...

Whew! I thought you were going all Bob Dole on us.

Mike Bloodworth said...

This is the one I've been waiting for. I look forward to listening to it. I just have to find some "computer geek" that I can hold hostage while I use his IPad.

Ted said...

Good podcast!

As others have asked, if you do blog about the college admission scam, please do give your view on the repercussions on the actresses' careers.

As per this article they may be fired from their shows.

I do understand that they will have to undergo punishment for their involvement, but this firing from the shows at the drop of the hat, I don't know where it will end?

Frank Beans said...

Interesting points about the creative process. I agree you have to make your audience like the characters, pretty much from the beginning, or else the premise is just not going to get off the ground at all.

Format is important too. Writing a play or feature film screenplay is very difficult, because you have to do all these things in about 90 minutes. I think a television series, or mini-series, can be the best formats for getting people invested in the characters. At least it's more forgiving--it's rare for a conventional movie to accomplish that kind of familiarity.

"You have no second act" is a concern that every writer should have constantly in their mind.