Mini Camp!

23 Jul

Its summer – so its only fitting that its time to go to camp!

Every season, the writers of Lost would get together at a secluded mountain hideaway and lay out the entire season longhand.  Each episode would be discussed and fought about – and then they would write out the story for each show on about 40 pages.  Once they returned to civilization – they would divide up the episodes, break the episodes and jump in.

In TV – its tricky – because there are very tight deadlines.  And there are budget restraints.  And there are problems you can’t foresee – like someone suddenly deciding that signing on for a multi-year deal is not what they had in mind and would you please write them out of the show now.  All of this takes long hours, flexibility and a lot of whiskey.

Since I am now neither a TV writer – or really much of a writer at all – I have the luxury of time.  And bad habits.  And excuses.  So what I do is write when I feel like it… until I get stuck.

So what I tend to do when that happens is play spider solitaire.

Which is really the most amazing game ever and I defy you to tell me otherwise.  It is so deceptively simple that it is easy to tell your brain – oh just one little game of two suited spider solitaire will shake off the mental cobwebs… and the next thing you know – three days have passed with the promise of “I’ll just try one more time… I’m sure I can win one….” and you have lost 15 pounds and have a giant hillbilly beard.  But it was worth it cause you finally won a game…

So it was with great joy and celebrating that my good friend Patrick suggested we meet in the middle of our two towns and have a bit of a writers Mini-Camp!

Writing is a long sad road filled with alcohol, bad skin and dark rooms.  It is lonely, disconnected, sad and boring.  Until its not and then its amazing, spectacular, other-worldly… and when that scene is done – back to lonely, disconnected… boring…. and spider solitaire…

It is good for the writer to have friends.  Even if they are strange.  Even if they are a bit creepy.  Even if they are the nerdiest of the nerds.  Even if they write script notes in Elvish.  When a true group of writers get together – its easy to recognize them.

Pale – as if they haven’t seen the sun.

Bandaged wrists from carpal tunnel.

Excited like elementary kids on a field trip – cause they don’t get out much.

So its nice to get together with a fellow writer or writers – cause we crave social interaction and we want feedback on our work:

As long as its good feedback.

And by that I don’t mean notes telling us how to get better.  Just feedback that says we’re good.  So good there is no notes because we are that good.

Ok.  I’m kind of kidding.  If the notes say we are pretty good, we like that one too.  Good – but there are a few notes… you probably won’t be invited back.

Ok.  I’m kidding.  We like notes.  Sort of.  No really… its fine.

So mini-camp!

Patrick and I met up in Dublin – halfway between SF and SJ – and went over each others stories.  I cobbled together the first part of mine and sent it off the night before in an act of defiance.  Patrick has 50 note cards full of story that he has been working on.  We are both blindly flailing forward – but I do it by writing myself into corners and then quitting halfway through – Patrick takes the easy way out and actually plans his script before starting.


It is really awesome to get someone’s feedback on what you do.  Its really awesome to actually talk to another human being… so mini-camp is awesome!  We went over each others ideas and offered solutions in the form that they are best accepted:


While I wouldn’t say either of us came back with what we were looking for entirely – we both had important questions that needed answers that would help propel our stories forward.  And that is the point of mini-camp!  Which now much always be typed with an “!” because its that awesome.

Patrick is a great writer.  Our scripts couldn’t be more different – but he is really good and has great ideas.  I have such a great circle of people I can rely on to tell me what I need to do to my scripts before they go out into the world and make me look like more of a fool and loser than I am in real life.  Ryan – who writes like a maniac.  David – whose scripts make me cry they’re so good.  Blair – who doesn’t write – but knows how to make things better – and was the first of my friends to help me break story.

Every writer needs his team of Superfriends and if you don’t have them – you need to get with that.  They make all the difference.  No one wins when you write in a vaccuum.  You’ll end up like those crazy kids on the first week of American Idol auditions:

“all my life I’ve been a singer.  No one ever told me I can’t sing…”

(but if you had friends -they would have!)

So we did minicamp!  And we had notes.  And ideas.  And plans.  So its time to move forward.

This is my big note from yesterdays minicamp!:

You need to kill Megan.  Immediately.  The fact that she is 7 years old is besides the point.  Everything in your script now hinges in the death of this young lady – without which your hero cannot move forward and complete his goal.

And we can’t have that can we?

So now all I have to do is take her out.  Hmmm…. Inspiration…. where are you…..

I know what would cheer me up…. Spider!


State of the Union:  How to get rid of 40% of the junk in your house so you can move.


2 Responses to “Mini Camp!”

  1. Patrick Campbell July 23, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    I actually had some thoughts about killing Megan. We should talk. But the answer is still, yes, you need to kill her and kill her fast.

    • crackalley July 23, 2010 at 9:17 am #

      If only all scripts problems could be solved by killing off young children. It would make writing so much easier…

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