The Horse Latitudes

A stream-of-consciousness post about writing.

horse latitudes

This is where I go a little crazy. I’m on page 88 of the new script. if I reach page 110 by the 30th (certainly feasible) then I’ll have managed to catch up on the whole Six in 2006 scheme. That in itself is remarkable because I started this one a good twenty-five days late. But 110 pages of writing does not a decent script automatically make. In fact, the writing has stalled. I’m still cranking out pages, but creatively, I’ve hit the horse latitudes.

You remember The Horse Latitudes? First grade history class? The Horse Latitudes are those areas around the globe where the winds die and the temperature soars. People who were like Magellan and Columbus (but not necessarily them) would have to toss horses over the side of the boat like ballast in order to conserve water and resources. Sometimes they would take the blood and meat first. If the heat were especially bad, and the madness among the sailors severe, they would hop on the horses and try to ride to the nearest island. But not having maps, they usually lost their way.

My script is large in scope. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s a prequel to the vampire western. It’s chock full of fun stuff. There’s blood and action and glowing red eyes. It’s got a hurricane in it, and a blizzard and a former slave named Billy Speck. And for good measure, it’s got a riverboat in it, too. But even though I’m working from an outline, I realize at times that I’m toiling in a dramatic vacuum. I’ll be writing along and rocking back and forth in my little desk chair and I’ll notice that I’m staring at the screen, but my fingers aren’t really doing anything. I’m not typing. There’s no movement. There’s no impetus. There’s nothing for my characters to do. I’m standing on the deck of the Portuguese vessel known as the Hollywoodland, blowing frantically into the sails. Trying to get this boat moving, but damn it, there are just too many horses on board!

But then I often feel this way late in the project. I’ve been staring at the same stretch of horizon for so long I’ve got no idea how far I’ve come or how true my path has been. I need to just stick it out. Reach that last page. Because then I’ll be able to go back. The clay will then be on the table. I can begin to shape it. I’m mixing metaphors now, or at least two-timing them a little; I talk to writers–usually novices–who believe that the first draft of a script is like a rough sculpture that needs refinement, a bit of a chisel job, before it’s ready for market, but I feel that when a writer completes his first draft he’s now got a big block of wet clay on the living room table, and that somewhere in there is the real scuplture, the real subject, the image that we’re really after. Like, say, a majestic horse. (Hah! Brought it around!) We just have to find it.

Anyway, that’s where Six in 2006 stands.

And now I’m finding myself distracted by a mental image of a large sailing vessel perched on a sand dune in the Sahara. Because, when you think about it, a ship stranded in the Horse Latitudes is no better off than it would be in the Sahara Desert. They’re not going anywhere, they only have the water the crew brought with them and it’s hotter than a mo-fo.

Might as well start chucking horses.

About the author: will

2 comments to “The Horse Latitudes”

You can leave a reply or Trackback this post.

  1. DAWN - June 25, 2006 at 5:32 am Reply

    i think i love you.

    gotta say i’ve never heard of horse latitudes. stupid catholic schools.

  2. mom - June 30, 2006 at 11:15 am Reply

    “I think the deadly thing is when you stop. How do you get going again? Part of the whole discipline is, you continue working – sometimes with red-hot inspiration, and other times it’s just methodical practice.”

    – Michael Bergt –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.