Step One: Pick a Story, Any Story
In my possession are about 10 paper notebooks, 25 iPhone Notepad notes, and a whole spidery-web of Google Docs, ALL of which are chock full of ridiculous babbling. My Intro to Fiction teacher once told us the difference between writers and plebes: when writers have a cool idea, they write that shit down. Immediately. Anywhere. Often just as they’re about to drift off to sleep. My Intro to Fiction teacher also said that learning how to be a writer is learning how not to be an alcoholic, but that’s a concept for another day, yes?
Over the past year alone, I’ve had literally thousands of concept ideas. Obviously, a lot of them were garbage. That’s ok. That’s statistical. Finally, in May, when I decided that it was time to sit down and write the grand tome that would make me an official “struggling-screenwriter,” I happened to have a good idea: Post Coital. Yes, that is my working title. I loved No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits in high school, but as a recent grad I’ve witnessed a LOT of FWB relationships, and honey, that Hollywood Ending is not the norm! So, Post Coital begins with a chick and a dude hooking up for the first time, then jumps three years ahead to their life as platonic, non-sexual bros. New-fangled, un-tired concept? Check.
Step Two: Shitty First Draft
Writing is like being a magician. It’s like pulling a never-ending, technicolor scarf out of your asshole.
Getting started can be the hardest part. Once I have my concept, I try to do the following:
- Come up with some kind of climactic conflict that doesn’t make me want to gag.
- Figure out a dynamic, funny cast of characters.
- Have a VERY rough idea of the shape of the script, maybe even just a beginning and end point.
These things happen simultaneously, in tandem with my writing of the first few pages. Then I tend to get into a writing groove, which is really more of an inescapable rut. Some rut features: staying awake in 48-hour shifts to put words on the page, not seeing humans for days on end, not changing the uniform for days on end, forgetting that there is a world beyond my bed, sinking deep into self loathing then rebounding into hard-core self-love (sometimes on an hourly rotation), and eating either basically nothing or a pizza a day. What is this uniform, dare you ask? I have included a picture, a mirror selfie, because that’s how ratchet this shit is. Sleep Shorts + Mens XXL T-Shirt + My “House-Slippers” (aka my Vans from middle school, with the heels stepped-down). Whenever I get chilly, I throw a Goodwill sweater or this men’s button-down on top. Accessories? Scrunchies and glasses for days, biotch. I write my first drafts in a week or two, thus ceasing to be a human person in the process.
Step Three: Treat Yo' Self
Once a draft is finished, I fiesta and siesta. Hard. I usually have to spend between two and five days doing absolutely nothing cerebral. Just Netflixing and eating and partying like I’m the lamest member of the Spice Girls. In fact, I don’t look at the script again for at least two weeks, preferably a month. For sanity’s sake I need to go from full-on to full-off, but there’s also creative reasoning here. Fresh eyes are necessary for good work, whether you have a reader you trust or whether the oglers are your own. So chill out, mamas and papas. Treat Yo’ Self! And if you haven’t rewatched 30 Rock in a good, long while, I highly recommend that as well.
Step Four: Get By with Help from Talented Friends
Everyone knows that I write a character for myself in everything I do, even if I’ll never get to play her. Also, I’m a Funny Voice Legacy, meaning that my dad is a master and I’m campy and just like doing voices for myself. Obviously I read my scripts aloud in various cadences throughout the writing process, but it isn’t the same as having human voices interact within my text. This is why, for my longer works, I now host guerilla read-throughs.
Why guerilla? Because these things are impromptu and unconventional as funk. For this read-through, most actors played many characters. Actors received the script only a day or two before the reading and most were able to skim it once. The point here is not perfection, it’s just to hear the words. When we guerilla read-through, I record the audio for each scene separately. This allows me to best take advantage of the MP3s during editing. This group was such a blast, featuring the super talented Shane Jordan, Chris Collier, Leenie Baker, Jessie Smith, Kane Karsteter-Mckernan, Zack Williams, and myself. We had so many laughs, especially at the sex-scene stage directions. Leenie requested that I read all of those in their entirety, and oh, I did. Here is a link to a clip of an intercutting hookup and breakup (two different pairs, obviously, promise it makes sense). Pardon all the laughter. And if you’re squeamish, maybe don’t press play.
Step Five: The Edit
Ah, editing. I love you, but I hate you, but now I love you, but now I hate you, but AGHHH Ineedyouforeveryoucompleteme! That right there is some Brigadoon romantic-arc shit. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky. Anywho, I chose to edit this manuscript in three steps.
- Highlighter: Go through the text and highlight changes you’ll probably make. Blue for cuts, yellow for awkward wordings, pink for “add a joke!"
- Pen: Here’s where the audio comes in handy. Scene by scene, listen to the audio and make all the edits that you think you want. When I finish pen-editing each block, I consider that essentially done.
- Computer: The final showdown. While I pretend in the moment that pen-edits are final, I tend to add quite a few jokes in this final, typed edit. Once I move on from a scene, I am legit sure that it is done. For real. And when I reach the final page? That’s a cut and print, baby.
WELP, that's the process of Kayla Martine. No longer a mystery.
Words of half-wisdom? They say “write drunk, edit sober,” but if you’re 100% clear headed for your comp edit, I don’t think a few glasses of wine along the editing way are gonna hurt you. So long as you listen to Dan McMillan, Intro to Fiction teacher, of course.
And, on a somber note, the end is hard. It is hard to be a struggling artist. It is hard to feel like no one will ever see your work or appreciate what you do. It is hard to feel like nothing will ever come from the words you write and that the industry you want to break into is like a 56-sided Rubik’s Cube. But you know what? That’s the game, chick-a-dees. Comedy isn’t all rainbows and sequins and special brownies. It’s hard and it hurts sometimes, but if you love it with your whole heart? With every cliche? Then you just can’t let it go.
I, for one, am gripping like a turkey vulture’s talons.