Update for April 2021

The contract for the screenwriting job was finalised this month (which is about as much information as the NDA entitles me to divulge) and I’m currently 75 pages into the draft. This accounts for three weeks’ writing at a pretty consistent pace of five pages per day (taking Sundays off). Luckily writing for US letter paper means pages are a few lines shorter than A4. The consistency has been the most important thing, and there have only been a couple of days where I didn’t get the pages.

I’d usually be writing the first draft on my typewriter, but that machine is quite loud and my apartment neighbours have just had their first baby. So I’m writing on computer, using my screenwriting program, Fountain Mode. Due to my unconventional writing habits, this is actually the first time I’ve written a first draft in Fountain Mode, and I’ve found the experience quite enjoyable.

A much-requested Fountain Mode feature in has been to display a live page count. There was a version that did this, but calculating pages from plain text is computationally expensive, so it wasn’t a good experience. A while back I rewrote the page counting code so that instead of counting every page every time, it would apply properties to the text specifying the page number with its start and end points, and then only recalculate the page if these had significantly changed, allowing the page count to happen almost instantly. I added a command fountain-count-pages (C-c C-x p) to echo back “Page X of Y”. I found myself calling that command a lot, so I’ve since added which-function-mode integration to display the page info in the mode-line. As the name suggests, which-function-mode is an Emacs minor-mode to show the name of the function you’re currently editing, but it was trivial to configure it to show the page numbers instead. Here’s a screenshot.

I’ve long been a fan of using index cards for writing projects, or rather I’ve been a fan of the idea of index cards — I’d never before figured out how best to use index cards beyond just spreading them out over on the floor and marveling at the complex world being created. Most writers use index cards for scenes/sequences, benefiting from the ability to rearrange the story’s structure in a way that is both directly tactile and provides a high-level overview. But index cards are cumbersome to carry and store, so I’d always just gone back to bullet points in a notebook with a lot of arrows and scribble. For this project, instead of taking the scene-per-card approach, I went with an element per card. An element could be a character, location, prop, event, piece of information, or etc. Everything I could think of gets a card. Then the index cards get spread out (on the floor of course) and I just… move them around, making associations between elements. For a couple of weeks I had 65 of these index card elements laid out on my floor. I’d see/walk over them daily. I found this tremendously productive. I’m calling this the “AI Method” (Associative Index-cards) so that if people ask how I use index cards I can say I “use AI”.

Also I got new glasses, which means much less squinting at the screen. Here’s a pic.

I finished reading William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade, which seems like the best book to read immediately before starting a screenwriting job. On writing, Goldman accurately writes:

Most writers, when they are working on a project, any project, become interested, and then involved, and then obsessed. And when we are in the obsessive phase, our personalities split. We may look the same, act the same, but a very large part of our brain is cut away, intent only on the project at hand.

I’m now reading a novel a friend lent to me called Cinema, which may be the best book to read while writing a screenplay.

I wrote my own POSIX shell password manager, pw. It’s actually a rewrite of a utility written by Roman Zolotarev called pass. I used a different name because: it avoids confusion with the more well-known pass by Jason A. Donenfeld, it’s 50% quicker to type, and also because those are my initials. I’ve since removed both Denenfeld’s pass and gpg and have been using pw without issue.

Some small fixes to Olivetti; the commits are here and here.

My progress on learning C has been minuscule.

The winter light has become softer, and for the past week the rain and moisture int the air has given the sunsets that Apocalypse Now tropical haze for a few minutes at the close of each day.

Memorable Cinema

On High Rotation

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