Today I think I just had my first experience of those pangs work-for-hire writers get when editors or producers start crossing out pages and THE BEST WORDS YOU’VE EVER WRITTEN DAMMIT.
Except they didn’t cross out that much. And they were far from the best words I’ve ever written. And they’re not paying me.
So I’m still doing some work for the York Archaeological Trust (I mentioned that before, right?) and I’ve been asked to write a short educational video that’ll play at one of their tourist attractions, an old medieval house (as opposed to a new one yada yada) on a TV in the corner. So that’s what I’ve been doing this week, researching the place to find out what the hell was interesting about the place.
This charming slice of 15th-century life was but one of many examples.
Turns out there’s quite a bit, and with enough weird and entertaining tidbits for me to get a bunch of jokes in there and turn the video into that oft-misunderstood medium infotainment! For example, did you know that the expression ‘red letter days’ comes from people using red ink instead of black in important letters or announcements? I didn’t until the other day, but that might well be because I’m an ignorant yutz.
So I finished my first draft for the video today, printed off a copy and handed it to my supervisor, deciding that was the perfect time to go for lunch so I didn’t have to sit there like a lemon while he tutted, clicked at and – worst of all – crossed out all signs of my hack work. I’d come back and there’d be a not unhealthy page (well, half-page at most, surely) of notes waiting for me with a smiley face and a cookie to soften the blow, and I could process all the cuts and apparent failures at once – better to take the shotgun blast full in the chest rather than have a new stab wound every ten seconds, no?
I came back an hour later and the guy hadn’t read a damn word. He sat next to me with six sheets of paper and a pen while I wondered how I was going to hold back the tears when he emptied his third pen on my closing ‘FIN’ (yes, I finish scripts with FIN, because it’s funny and quirky and who am I kidding I just hope they smile and it’ll make me forgive them for wasting their time).
Okay, it wasn’t that bad. He made a few suggestions for different topics, cut a couple of lines and rephrased a couple more but didn’t even touch the first half of page one, which was a tiny triumph. I wonder if I could get a job writing the first half-page of movies?
Still, I can’t say it didn’t sting when a line got rewritten in front of me (does anyone take that well? Okay, yes, apart from those with humility), often arbitrarily rephrased, which I realised at the time was pretty odd, because it wasn’t like I had any real personal or emotional attachment to the subject matter (though I am somewhat fond of the illiterate peasant girl I made up for the script).
I guess that’s the thing: as soon as you put your stamp on something, even if it’s just taking down notes or doing maths sums out of a textbook, you feel a kind of ownership of it. Think about when you got homework back and there were x’s instead of ticks next to your equations; it wasn’t that the sums were inherently wrong and you were seeing that objectively, it was that you had gotten them wrong. Y’know?
But I got over it, made the changes and finished for the day. I’ll come back to a set of new notes tomorrow and make the thing better. As long as it’s all making the thing better, then I’m cool with it. I’d like to think I can spot a bad note pretty easily.
But yeah, that’s me this week so far. Jack and I wrote a new Panel Discussion for Nerdly that went up the other day and both weighed in on the new all-girl X-Men series from all-guy Brian Wood & Olivier Coipel, which is a great read and a fresh change from the stagnant mess that are Bendis’ All New and Uncanny books.
I also watched Season 7 of Dexter at the weekend, so my review of that should be up shortly.
That’s it for now. I had fun doing this with you. Hoping to be back soon (and briefer).