I hope that this finds you well even if you can’t find toilet paper to save your life. My only thing about this whole Coronavirus Pandemic is that panicking won’t make it go away or faster. So please be kind to your fellow human at this time. As the old saying goes… We’re all in this together.
But how the heck does this apply to “Legacy Code with Writing?” Let me tell you since you asked. I think that we’re all about to get some massive downtime with everything here in California getting canceled. This will give everyone even more time on their hands to do whatever strikes their fancy in the comfort of their own place. As a writer, this means that I’m going to be tackling more writing. Some will be on new writing like writing a short film script.
Other projects will be reworking old scripts. This will include editing, rewriting and even gutting in some cases. It comes down to the idea that creative projects are never finished. Writers at some point just stop writing on a project. The thing that has always puzzled me is when to decide to do this. Is it a deliberate choice or one made out of sheer exhaustion? Another possibility could be that you realize that you’ve taken your story as far as you can take it. But this is where feedback comes into the picture.
Feedback is a real gift for it gives impressions from a fresh pair of eyes. This is so incredibly invaluable. I know that some writers worry that others will steal their stuff. Yes. Morons may try to do this. Anyone with any integrity won’t for they would have a sense of how long it took you to generate your work. ‘Sides, anyone worth getting notes from would have enough of his/her own ideas that s/he wouldn’t want to take your work. S/he is too busy with his/her own work.
And getting direct feedback is the fastest way to improve your writing since an honest person will give you honest notes. The secret is to ask the reason why s/he liked or disliked something. Don’t let him/her get away with short or vague answers. I know that it’s exciting to hear when someone loves your work except it doesn’t help you if you don’t know why.
Chewing on the “why” of it all will help you decide what “legacy code” to keep and what to cut. The phrase “legacy code” comes from software that has been around for a bazillion years in newer versions of products. This means that the software was initially written in one programming language to accomplish its tasks.
As programming languages change, updates are likely written in a different language. But they can’t always convert 100% of the program to the new language since it may not have all of the functionality of the old one. Voila! Here is your legacy code. The program then becomes a hodgepodge of the old and the new to create newer versions.
Now is it sounding like a script? You have your old parts that have a certain amount of functionality. The best question to ask when deciding to keep your legacy code for writing is: Does the story fall apart without this bit of information? This is the part where you have to be brutality honest with yourself. I know that this really sucks to have to ask this question. But the success of your story depends on the brutal truth rather than coddling your ego.
Okay. You can stroke your ego if all you want is your EXCITED audience to remain a party of one. Others may say that they like it, but are they JUBILANT about it? Can they look you in the eye when they tell you their glowing remarks about your script? Do you think that they’re really looking you in the eye or that special spot above your head to appear like they’re looking you in the eye? Tell the truth…
Let’s say that you believe your legacy code must remain in your story. Can it be restated more elegantly in your “newer language?” Does it still seem so vital with its new fancy self? Can it be said in fewer and more dynamic words that scream: “READ ME” instead of “Yeah, I’m here. What’s your point?”
So… Why am I talking about this? I have two feature scripts that won’t leave me alone. They keep calling out to me even though I’ve gutted both several times. Yes. I stripped them down to their essence for that is what matters more than a specific execution. But I also admit that both have some legacy code that makes my toes wiggle.
The good news is that I have two not so secret weapons: Time and a shit ton of new writing language. It’s true that most of my new language is from TV writing except for one really important thing… Relationships are the foundation for all stories. Features and TV both need these for they are what create emotional stakes and emotional consequences.
I’m excited as hell to rework both of these scripts since I want to independently produce both. This translates to me cutting about 20 pages off of both if not more. I know that this would throw some people into a panic. But not me! I’m so thrilled that I will do a happy dance around a roll of toilet paper to thank the writing gods.
How about you? Do you have legacy code that works or you can’t let go to save your life? Is there a magic number you stop with the drafts? Has feedback helped you to see the error of your ways or make you want to dig in more?
Feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!
I wish you the best!