Gateworld Interviews Martin Gero

by Paul William Tenny

I haven't read this whole thing but there's a transcript over there, along with the audio from the interview. Sometimes I bang my head on the table when I read interviews with working writers. There's one level, and then a whole other level for how fast people can write, and the difference between the two is a shock to the system. Even when you know it, when you see it again, it's like whoa, how can they write that slow?

Not trying to toot my own horn here, I'm just one of those people that when I get on a roll, I can flat out produce. It's worth remembering that quantity is not quality, so I may in fact be somebody who is not much more than a prolific producer of absolute junk. That's fine, there are worse things in the world to be, but at least I know that among producers of garbage, I can push tin.
On my worst days, I can still get 15 solid pages of script in about seven hours. Note that I said worst days, meaning all I want to do is sleep and/or die promptly. Any creativity inside my brain must be intricately and painfully removed with tweezers like a wood splinter. It sucks, but I can still get good quality pages written.

On my good days, I can get those 15 pages in about three hours. On strictly memoir type writing, prose style by historical, I went on a three hour bender one time that resulted in 13,000 words. That's nothing to sneeze at and I can't do it every time out, but I can still pound the rock when I have to.

It may be crap, but it's a lot of crap done promptly, and on target. Nothing another single day of re-writes couldn't fix. We're not talking about stuff that (in my opinion) you'd have to throw out 2/3rd's of it.

So I sit and marvel at guys and gals sometimes that talk about having to write (as in Gero's case) 7-8 episodes a season. I don't know how long a period he actually has to write those, what his other duties are, both of which would put a new spin on the strain to get product out the door, but I find it hard to believe I could ever write that slowly, even if I tried.

Again, I take great pains to admit that at my pace, I may be producing crap on an epic scale, so I'm not comparing my quality to Gero's quality. That'd be insane and arrogant, and I'd never do that. Honest. Well maybe after I've sold something. Or a couple of things.

I've read that JMS during the times when he was writing basically all the scripts for Babylon 5, was writing entire episodes in 2-3 days. At first when I didn't know my own capability, I thought that was rather insane. We all know that some people take years to write feature screenplays, which aren't but 2-2.5 times longer than an hour-long drama script. More intricate, better written, yes. But the pages don't really change. How could someone possibly do in 2-3 days what another takes weeks?

I don't know, and I suspect I never will. Maybe some people just can't spill their brains into the page that fast. At what I think is my average clip, I should be able to drop an entire script in about four days. That's working 3-4 hours per day, by the way. Output drops significantly with every hour after the first few, so working 8 hours instead of 4 does not guarantee getting 30 pages instead of 15. Still, at 8 hours, I don't see think it impossible for myself to regularly produce 20-25 pages per day all by myself, without aid of an outline or getting ideas from the outside.

That means, theoretically since I've never actually do that, getting a full episode in 2 days without a rewrite. Fudge it for occasional writers block, back tracking from not using an outline, and a rewrite, and I'm certain I can produce something a lot faster than Gero's pace.

Again, that's only while writing, with a story I'm comfortable with. He may have other duties, may not write alone, and other factors may exist that would slow the pace down considerably.

I'm only talking about this because it seems like every week I read about professional writers that take four or five times longer to write something than I do, and I wonder how well that would be received by a writing staff who would invariably slow me down. I worry about having to work on a staff, like that, and having it screw up my mojo. Could I adapt to it and still maintain my speed? Probably not.

I imagine, however, that writing 7-8 scripts per season wouldn't be that big of a deal for me.

You know what would be really cool? Having someone like Gero read this post, then tell me to send him something to look at (in three days, from scratch) if I'm such a fucking hotshot, then sitting here and choking on the opportunity. That'd be fantastic.

Definitely one of those sleep, or die promptly moments.

By the way, the interview is over here.


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