There’s a strain of misbegotten thought that holds that writing is somehow a magical journey in which creativity bursts forth in boundless, rainbow-hued waves of inspiration and deathless prose. That kind of horsecrap perspective is usually held by people who want to be writers but haven’t yet realized that writing sucks. (Yes, it’s better than any other job out there … but it still sucks.) You fight with the keyboard, you fight with the blank page, you fight with your muse, you fight with your own sense of self-worth and confidence, you fight with your schedule, you fight with pretty much anything and everything around you in an effort to wring out a few more words of what you hope will reasonably amuse or interest someone. And more often than not, you lose most or all of those fights.
But when it gets done, then it gets read. And gets judged. And while I could hold forth on the value of, say, Internet commenters (and will another time), what gets scary is when it gets judged by people who are looking to pay you money for your work. Sure, getting your work edited is awful — I’ve thrown magazines across the room when I’ve read how my writing has been de-nutted — but it’s nothing compared to the sausage machine that is Hollywood.
My experience with Hollywood has so far been limited to two scripts and a handful of pitches, all of which have vanished as effectively as a corpse thrown down a mineshaft. But Louis CK has actually done something in Hollywood; when he talks of getting scripts made into TV series, the man knows whereof he speaks. And whereof he speaks is terrifying. Check out this recently-unearthed post on how his work went from idea to screen … and how many ways it could have gone wrong. Here’s an excerpt:
The first thing you have to do is come up with the general story line for the pilot, which you pitch to the executives, first studio, then network. Once the story is basically agreed to, you write an outline, which is just a blow by blow description of each scene in paragraph form, which should include all plot points and any funny details or jokes you already have. You then pass the outline in to the studio, which gives you notes. You take their notes and re-write it and if they are satisfied, you pass it in to the network. They now give notes which you re-write the outline with and then pass it in until the network and the studio are both happy. When that happens, it’s time to write the pilot script. So you go off and take as long as you need to churn out a first draft. I think this took me a couple of months. Only about three days were spent actually writing. The other fifty seven were spent driving myself nuts while ruminating about what the show is and how to do it.
Urgh. And it goes on from there. But hey, the man has created “Louie,” the single best comedy on TV today, so maybe he knows something after all. And if nothing else, the persistence he (and any writer) shows in getting an idea from your head onto the screen is admirable beyond measure. Check it out.