Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Here comes 2009

It's been a strange time being off line. Oh. Didn't you notice? No. I'm not hurt at all. I'm just going to sulk in this virtual corner here. And I'm taking the Trifle with me so there.

OK. OK. You can have the jelly and sponge bits. But I'm keeping the custard and cream.

So how come I was off-line? A complete brainstorm. I'd blanked out the run up to last Christmas. We'd ripped out the bathroom and the plumbers had to work flat out so we'd have a working toilet by 4pm Christmas Eve. Did I learn from this. Nope. So this year we were shuffling bedrooms about. Lugging beds and emptying wardrobes. All so a drum-kit would fit in. Bedlam.

The decorations only went up late Christmas Eve and everything that wasn't nailed down got buried. Including our laptops. It is still nuts (Brazils of course) and the corridors are filled with stuff for charity shops, recycling and the tip. The cake is still waiting for me to put marzipan on it and some cards just never got sent out.

So a very belated Merry Christmas to everyone.

And a Happy New Year. May it be a quiet one so you can recover from your hangovers. With a drumkit and two stylaphones (from Father Xmas) in use I don't think mine will be.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

I turn my back for a minute and...

I go off line for a while thinking -bit quiet, good time to make tea. Come back and find you've all been busy posting and now I've got a mad catch up to do. By the way Jason, notice no "" or even '' used in that first sentence. If you're checking for miscreants.

So what have you all been up to? Seems some kind of drunken gathering from Jason's post. How come those that put their photos on their blogs look completely different in their candid shots? Anyway I note Sheikspear stayed sober enough to tell us what actually happened at the writersroom do. Thanks chuck.

Rob has done his write-up on Survivors and it felt like Deja-vu with similar comments flying round our car as we navigated rabid sheep.

I didn't get chosen for Son of a Pitch and now I find I won't experience the Screenwriters Festival on a balmy July day at a posh house. Instead it is moving to a posh school in October. Back to 4 days too and the discount tickets are now up for grabs. It's planning a bunch of stuff just on DR WHO!!!! Did any of you catch that. Weeee!

And those of us North of the country have the Alfred Bradley Bursary to try for. There are workshops too. Note the Keswick one has been showing the wrong time on the link above. It is actually 6pm to 7.30pm.

Anyway I'll wind up for now cos I've all your posts to read. Oh and maybe a bit of writing will get done too.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Baby's in Black and I'm feeling Blue

Any colour except Red it seems. Yep I got that dreaded letter too.

I'm still going to finish off the episode and send it out for feedback. I want to make it as good as possible. It does make you feel a bit down but these things happen.

Anyway congratulations to all who got through, too many to mention here except I will mention Caroline cos I saw her's and it was brilliant. You all worked really hard and deserve it. I don't want any scribofights mind. No disgracing us by wrestling each other to be first interviewed. We're watching you.

As to those who didn't make it. I offer a virtual shoulder to cry on.

Yay to fellow losers Lucy, Robin, Elinor (please prove me wrong on this one), Chip, Stuart, me and anyone I've not spotted yet. I suggest we all have a virtual chocolate fest to recover before knock our stuff into shape and beating them all next year.

Saturday, 22 November 2008


Just realised that looks a very self-centred title.

Anyway I got tagged for some memes and I'm very overdue in replying. So...

Book Meme: Thanks to Chip. What would you advise people to read?
Name your favourite:
(a) Fiction book
(b) Autobiography
(c) Non-fiction book
(d) A fourth book of your choice from any genre:
Explain why the books are essential reads in no more than 30 words per book.

(a) Mort by Terry Pratchett. First of the discworld series I read and still my favourite. Read how Death steals the show.
(b) The Dynamite Kid by Brian Blessed. The title and author say it all.
(c) Rubicon - The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland and Andrew Sachs .I've been hooked on Ancient history since I was a kid. If you find Tacitus and Pliny a slog then give this a go.
(d) The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper. Read it as a child and the imagery is still so clear in my head. Ignore the film. Read the books!

Writing Meme: And even further back I got tagged by Sheikspear. In honour of his 101st blog post he wanted my pet writing hates for room 101:
1. Competitions that tell you what they are looking for then pick someone who gave them the opposite.
2. People who assume if they haven't read your stuff then you aren't a writer.
3. People thinking you are bored and need a distraction because you are reading or writing.
4. Soduku, minesweeper, spider solitaire, etc for sitting on the laptop and tempting me away from writing.
5. Your brilliant idea that no-one has thought of and you work on for months then discover two films and a TV series coming out with the very same story.

Film Meme: Finally I poached this one from poacher Chip (or should that be frier Chip?)
I visit your house/apartment, and you spot me looking at your DVD/VHS shelf.

1. What's on there that you instantly force me to borrow, because it's a great movie and you figure I haven't seen it?
Diner de Cons because it's subtitled and people seem to be scared of that. Wonderful characters and farce at its best.
2. What you do also lend me, because even though it's not considered a classic, it's a personal favorite?
Deep Rising. Gets panned a lot but I love it. Horror and humour that mixes gore with suspense instead of delivering it neat. Can't listen to The Girl From Ipanema in a lift ever again.
3. What movie is on there that you have no rational explanation for owning, and which you try to slide under the couch while I'm distracted?
Cabin Fever.It was going cheap in Woolies. I like horror. Someone told me it was good. Watched it then went out and shot the messenger.

Anyone fancy picking up on these and running with them?

Monday, 10 November 2008

Current Projects

I find it interesting reading about all the projects people are working on so I thought I'd do one. If you aren't interested then please feel free to skip to the end. There's a pretty picture.

The list is in rough order of priority but I like to be adaptable. The first three are pretty well fixed but the others may float about or pop up at a quiet moment ahead of schedule. As to deadlines. Well the first one is out of my control but the others I set a goalpost and work towards it but if it needs longer then I don't really fret about it. The joys of writing spec work.

So here's my little list.

1) The Gate (Horror) - TV Series for Red Planet Competition. I've missed decent, non-gloss horror on the telly so I thought I'd write one. Seems lots of others thought the same so a load of us have had a go. Well at least it shows there's a demand and the more the merrier. Anyway getting first episode completed before the deadline. On page 40 so the 1st draft end is in sight. Had been blocked on a bit I wasn't happy with. It felt like talking heads even though they were driving in a car. Found a way to make it more dynamic while also giving more information about the characters relationship so happy now. Until others read it and go WHAT? of course. Then I'll be a blubbery wreck and resort to the chocolate I've hidden away for Christmas.

2) Don't be Koi (Romcom) - Radio. I'm on 1st draft but it is going well. The characters are bouncing off each other nicely and it's got a wierd streak so I'm comfortable with it. I want to get the 1st draft finished this month.

3) Witch's Stone (Teen Horror) - Novel. An allegory for addiction in its many forms. I thought I had the full story blocked out but when I want back to it after a couple of years break I realised I only had half the story. I'm going to write what I've got then free-wheel the rest to get that dreaded 1st draft done. This is my big winter project.

4) Blood, Sweat and Tears (Black Comedy) - Feature Film. This is muck and drizzle rural life rather than chocolate box stuff. A nice bit of grizzly murder to boot. I'm done a page 1 re-write on this one after noting everyone banged their heads against the wall while reading it. My first attempt at a feature film and I just tried to put everything in it. It is very different from the original version now but still has the theme and tone I wanted. All the scenes blocked out so its head down to get this draft finished.

5) Life to the Full (Drama) - TV Special. It's about an old woman and young boy that have become dispossessed from society. Not as gloomy as it sounds. Again the story is all blocked out but I need to get the thing written.

6) Rain on My Parade (Comedy Drama) - Feature Film. Sex and drugs and rock and roll for the over 40s, 50s and 60s. A pet project that I've not got quite right yet. It involves three interlinked threads about some non-conformist women so I know it is harder to write. Keeping the balance but letting people keep track of them all. I have two of the threads in a form I am happy with but one still seems too obvious. Can't have that.

7) Solitary Sky (Science Fiction) - Radio. I wanted to have a go at an SF play. First draft half way throught but still needsa lot of work.

8) Under the Thumb (Horror/Drama) - Stage Play. Set in the near future in a totalitarian state where things get very nasty. The staging of this is integral to the play so I'm still experimenting a lot.

And I've got some more Thoughts for the Day to do of course and there's a lot at the knocking around your head and scraps of paper stage.

Some of you are now thinking (hope it isn't giving you a headache) that might be why I've been erratic posting recently. Yep. 'Fraid so. I found I'd got into a spell of posting to avoid getting down to other writing. Trying to be more disciplined so hopefully a bit less of flood and famine. Unless I get bored of course then I might sneak out a few more.

Oh and I met someone the other day who didn't know who the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were. What's going on with education these days? Clearly not read enough horror. I can recommend the Book of Revelations for bedtime reading.

And continuing the horror theme, here's a pretty picture. Enjoy.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Horrific Halloween

Well Happy just doesn't seem to ring right for a night of chills. We're stocked up on sugar, skeleton swinging in the wind outside the window and mini-rolls with blood filling lined up for later.

I'm now sitting here. Listening to a cat being strangled while it tap dances on an old church organ. Seems this is Tesco's idea of scary noises. Still I can't find the remote control for my scare machine I brought back from the States so it will have to do.

Not quite the same as I've seen State side this time of year. Best one was a friend's house with cobwebs all over and a 6ft tarantula clinging to the wall! Looked for one over here but no such luck so I'll have to get him to post one over. Wonder what customs will make of it.

Anyway. All ready and on Trick or Treat alert.

Have a bone chilling evening everyone.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Thought for the Day

Some of you may have noticed a couple of posts ago that I was invited to get in touch with BBC Radio Cumbria by Steve Greaves. Well I did and thought I'd let you know what happened. This is a bit of a long post but I thought I'd write it for those new to this like me.

Steve wondered if I would like to contribute to Thought for the Day. This is just a couple of minutes long and slips into the early commute slot. He suggested I thought about it like writing a letter to a newspaper. I said Okaly Dokaly. All right I didn't really do a Flanders impersonation or Dave would panic and divorce me.

Anyway he then asked how long would it take to produce five of them? Gulp.

Right five pieces, about a page each, plus think time. I reckoned a week. He then booked me in for recording a week later and they would start going out this week. Aaaaah. Deadlines. Not having done it before Steve suggested I sent him each one when completed so he could check if I was on track.

So all I had to think about was what to write about. This is an early time slot, about 07.40, so people would be crawling out of bed, munching soggy cornflakes or trapped in the car. Basically depressed about the oncoming day. Last thing they would want to hear would be someone boring or droning on about the world's woes. At least I wouldn't and I was writing it. So there.

Over two days I came up with a list of about ten topics. I found four of these pretty well wrote themselves while staying funny. In fact I could have kept going for quite some time on any of them but managed to pare them down to about a page. That was hard. No rambling and just one aspect of the topic. For someone who can chat two to the dozen I have to admit I struggled a bit.

Anyway Steve said they were great so I just had to produce one more. Six topics on my list so no problem. Only I'd start writing and they'd become heavy or preachy. Yuck. I couldn't be running out of steam all ready? At last I approached one from a different angle and it fell into place, flying out on that electric highway just before the deadline. Again it got the OK.

That left the recording. I'd never done that before and wasn't sure what would happen. Steve would be at the main station while I was at a satellite one and he said he'd talk me through it remotely but what if I hit a wrong button? Did I press buttons? What about those sliding things. I might spill a drink and ruin a deck. Basically could I be trusted in a recording studio on my own? I can break computers just by looking at them. (I'm currently working blindfold).

Then bad news. I got the dreaded lurgy. Neck like it had two chipmunks hidden in it. Throat like I'd been chewing Guatemalan peppers (Yep another Simpson's reference. Go look it up). Temperature going for 2000deg C. I couldn't even speak!

Lots of magic potions later and I could utter the odd croak again. So Dave ferried me to the studio. They did offer to reschedule several times when they realised the state I was in but I'd got there. I wanted to do it before my nerve broke.

So there I sat in the studio, fluids at hand but safely away from all electrics. Eyes glued to a meter. When it jumped that would mean Steve was on the other end and we'd be off. So I waited and waited. Turned out the newsreader had grabbed the studio at the other end and we had to wait. Hearing the broadcast going out, knowing I would be talking at the end, was nerve wracking. OK I wasn't going to go out live but I mean. My voice. Going on tape. (OK clever clogs it's a generation thing. I KNOW it isn't tape anymore)

Finally a flip of the meter and Steve was on. I crammed the headphones on my head and must have deafened him when I shouted "Steve? Is that you?" Well he was a long way away so I had to make sure he heard me. Things then got really surreal with him speaking, someone else speaking, me speaking and all echoing about like a good old 60s Dr Who effect.

A nice lady dived into the studio my end and pushed some sliders until it all sorted out. I hadn't touched anything. Honest. Steve did mention he had some Dr Who effects but they weren't handy so we did the rest unaugmented.

I then read out each piece while Steve recorded it. It was a bit tricky getting used to hearing myself in the headphones a split second after I spoke but I eventually got used to it. All I had to do was chat away and just repeat a line if I wasn't happy about it. I forgot that. Editing. There I was worrying my voice would give out before I got to the end when Steve could do magic computer stuff to glue the best bits together. Yeah.

Anyway I finished them all with regular encouragement from Steve. Thanks for that. The pieces will now go out over the next few weeks. Steve also asked me to be a regular contributor. Of course I said yes. It was great fun. And good writing practice too. Not only to get stuff written but keeping it concise. Good for those dreaded synopses.

So the first one went out on Monday. Continuing the Dr Who theme my cold made me sound like a Dalek but it wasn't too bad. Anyway why not find out if your local station does the same. They probably say on their websites. Give it a go. Good fun and good practice.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Saw this psychoscribble doing the rounds so I thought I'd show my complete lack of talent in drawing. Especially when using the touchpad instead of a mouse.

You tend to pursue many different activities simultaneously.
When misfortune does happen, it doesn't actually dishearten you all that much.
You are a thoughtful and cautious person.
You like to think about your method, seeking to pursue your goal in the most effective way.
You like following the rules and being objective.
You are precise and meticulous, and like to evaluate decisions before making them.
You have a sunny, cheerful disposition.
Hmmmmm. Not sure about that diagnosis. Following the rules and a cheerful disposition really don't sound like me. Maybe I'm a multiple personality? Shut up. Don't think about it. I do not exist. This is just one of your characters talking.

I've really got to get those characters under control again.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Just a little update

I seem to have been a bit lax with posting and commenting recently. Sorry.

For those that do comment here you will notice I've had to switch security settings. As a vegetarian I took great offence at a slab of spam being deposited on my blog. I've scrubbed away with e-bleach and anointed with Eagh de Cabbage to take the smell of cadavers away so I hope all is better now. This does mean no more anonymous posts but I think I've only ever had one before this anyway.

Been incapacitated recently. Hobbling about like the witch in Sleeping Beauty (after her makeover to bag lady). This should have meant lots of time for writing but instead I finally installed Black and White on my laptop. These things are really addictive or is it just being an omni-powerful God. Yep I can live with that.

So I need to get my head down and some serious writing done. I have my first episode to finish in my Red Planet horror. In case I get that magic call or email. I know the odds are horrifying but I'm in glass half full mood at the moment. That's to make up for a summer of doom and gloom as I got a string or rejections.

My radio play is coming along nicely. The characters are bouncing off each other well. I have the overall story arc sorted and I'm just writing it out. Less structuring than I would do for a film or TV. I'm letting it wonder off on a tangent if it wants to and then I'll sort out what I like at the end.

I then plan to spend the winter working on some stageplay ideas and a novel I'd put on one side. Is it me or have others noticed a literary feel to bloggers efforts recently. Several working away at novels.

Mine has sat on the shelf for a couple of years. It is a horror again but for teenagers. I'd done the first four chapters and knew what was going to happen in each of the others to the end. Then I went back to it a couple of weeks ago. My full story arc. Hmmmm. More like up to the crisis and then running out of steam. I only have half a story! Got to sort out the rest.

And it has been ages since I've written any short stories. My excuse has been that there's not much of a market for them. I don't write great literary pieces for the more creative magazines or "I met my true love while cleaning out the bins" stuff for the women's weeklies. I just write stories with a dark edge. I think I need to do another market review to see if there's anywhere new to try and place them.

Hope you are all working hard and getting things out there.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Music Meme: Flowers are Red

Got tagged by Elinor. Rats. So it goes:

Find a song that sums up what you think it means to be a writer and post the lyrics on your blog and why you've chosen it. NB: It doesn't have to be your favourite song, it just has to express how you feel about writing and/or being a writer. It can be literal, metaphorical, about a particular form or aspect of writing - whatever you want. Then tag 5 others to do the same (reprint these instructions).

Had one of those, can remember the song but not the title or singer moments. But I found it. I want my writing to see things from a different angle. To turn things on their head. To keep imagination going. To be the kid that doesn't break.

Flowers are Red by Harry Chapin

The little boy went first day of school
He got some crayons and started to draw
He put colors all over the paper
For colors was what he saw

And the teacher said..
What you doin' young man
I'm paintin' flowers he said
She said... It's not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red

There's a time for everything young man
And a way it should be done
You've got to show concern for everyone else
For you're not the only one

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

Well the teacher said.. You're sassy
There's ways that things should be
And you'll paint flowers the way they are
So repeat after me.....

And she said...
Flowers are red young man
Green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen

But the little boy said...
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one

The teacher put him in a corner
She said.. It's for your own good..
And you won't come out 'til you get it right
And are responding like you should

Well finally he got lonely
Frightened thoughts filled his head
And he went up to the teacher
And this is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen

Time went by like it always does
And they moved to another town
And the little boy went to another school
And this is what he found
The teacher there was smilin'

She said...Painting should be fun
And there are so many colors in a flower
So let's use every one

But that little boy painted flowers
In neat rows of green and redA
nd when the teacher asked him why
This is what he said.. and he said

Flowers are red, green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen.

Oh and I found a fun youtube clip of a live performance. Keep marching to the beat of a different drum.

Now I tag Sheiky, Oli , Lianne, and Chip. You've probably been already nabbed in which case I double it.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Red Planet Progress - over a fortnight to go

I've sent my 10 pages out for feedback. Got it back. Ripped and shuffled and sent out again. It has gone through so many changes. And I mean major re-writes rather than slight tweaks. I found my subtle relationship clues were so subtle they were invisible and the poor PO3s were left with "Who are these people?" There again I didn't want any exposition so it was more than just adding a few lines of dialogue. Think it's sorted now.

Like others out there I have struggled with the Outline. I've written them for films before but it seems a bit different when you are squeezing in the information for a series. Or in my case a three series run.

My story ended up following the Lost and Babylon 5 tradition of a multiple series story arc with a definite ending. OK I'm not sure if Lost has an ending or if it will just circle back to the crash in some weird Mobius strip.

Anyway I struggled on this one. I've got the tone, referenced similar work, introduced the main characters and the arena, described how the protagonist changes and roughly what happens over the first episode and the three series. Doing that while keeping my own voice has been the toughest part. I don't want a shopping list but there's only one page.

In the end I wrote it ignoring the length limit then kept cutting until it fitted. It is amazing how much you can take out without changing the meaning.I've still got time to put it aside and read again before the deadline.

In the meantime I have the full episode to finish and I'm alternating that with a radio play. Realised I haven't written one for a while. Instead of thinking visually I'm having to think auditorilly... audiolly...audito...with sound. And it is a comedy rather than the Red Planet horror. Nice to have a change.

And lastly the BSSC Round 2 results are up. Didn't get through but some familiar titles there. Congratulations if you got through and commiserations if you didn't.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

The Confidence of the Long Distance Writer

If you want to tell people your successes then it is only fair to tell them your failures too. I've had a few recently.

I entered the BBC Sharps scheme a while ago and didn't make the shortlist. It's been over 2months and there has been no feedback so I assume I didn't make the long list. I then entered the TAPS Continuing Drama Scheme. Got the letter a couple of days ago. I didn’t get in on that one either. And as an earlier post said, I didn't get anywhere with the Page Competition.

However my response to these rejections has changed. In the past I'd have been in the dumps. Am I deluding myself? Is my work complete garbage?

This time, though I can't pretend I was happy about it, I didn't melt into a puddle of slurry. This time I was happy with what I'd written. So it wasn't what they were looking for on a particular competition or there were others who ticked more boxes. Bottom line I have something I am happy to add to my portfolio rather than being full of doubt and ready to give up.

But is that a realistic confidence and or am I manically delusional? After all I could be a complete nutter who thinks the back of the cornflakes packet is a literary masterpiece? (Well it's not too bad when you're stuck in a hotel restaurant eating breakfast on your own.) The crunch came when I got the Page feedback. How badly did it do?

Well not too bad really. I needed to score 60% to get through and I made 50%. It could have been worse. The feedback was constructive and helpful and honest. If you're going to enter this competition then I would recommend paying the extra for the feedback.

I got 100% for format but I'd have given myself a good kicking for anything less. How hard is it to check spelling or get your layout sorted?

I did very well on theme, imagery and premise. The reader felt it was a poetic piece rather than narrative, which is fine with a short film. This was what I was going for so I was happy with that.

The tricky part was the amount of information implied and whether it was made clear enough. This was the area that had given the biggest range of feedback from others who'd read the piece. Some got what was going on and others didn't. In this case the reader identified with the confused camp. Lots of questions unanswered that the reader felt many would find confusing or irritating.

There was also the issue of conflict. I was representing an internal conflict without a narrative. Not exactly easy. I felt I'd pulled it off. The reader felt differently. Maybe I will if I read it again in a year's time but currently I'm happy.

The bottom line was that it wasn't the type of thing their production company would look for and a more narrative element would be required.

Now I knew this piece was a high risk. Films with a surreal element (and mine's a big element) or are non-narrative (my one again) will appeal to a smaller audience. Some people love them. Some hate them. The reader recognised that a large part of the audience would not get it. And fewer bums on seats means less money.

So what do I do with this piece? I like films that are surreal and leave things hanging. Always have. Don't know what's in the boot with Repoman or the suitcase in Pulp Fiction but that's fine by me. Sat through 2001 as a kid, front row of the cinema and just went along with the ride. Solaris drove the rest of the family out the room while I sat riveted. Twin Peaks was an unmissible and Sunshine was a nice recent trip.

So I personally have no problem with that nature of my short. If I change it then I may increase the chances of it being made but I won't like the piece as much and will feel I've lost something special.

Should I concentrate on writing only stuff that wins competitions or has more chance of being made because it is low risk? Or should I spend all my time writing experimental, surreal stuff that will make people love or hate it but never ignore it.

I think I'll stick with what I'm doing. Let the story decide what it wants to be. Some of my pieces are standard narrative and very commercial. Some…well…aren't.

I don't mind what they grow up to be as long as they make me proud. But maybe I should pay closer attention to what a competition says it is looking for before packing their little suitcases and sending them on their way.

Oh and I will enter Page again.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Tunnel Vision Writing

Grief. It's been over a week since my last post. I'm getting a bit slack on the posting front. I feel better in that I'm not the only one quiet at the moment.

I'd say it was preferring to be out in the summer sun but even a writer's imagination can't turn gales and torrential rain into whispering breezes and a light fall of blossom . Yes it's lovely scenery in the Lakes but its also sodding wet.

On the writing front I got myself into a rut. I have a bad habit of writing a few pages and then going back over them to make them better and never progressing onto the next bit. Writing in tunnel vision. I have to accept the 1st draft is always garbage but you can't get a 2nd draft until the first is out. So I finally gave myself a good kicking and ploughed ahead regardless. I should really sit something disgustingly eight legged on the Page Up button to make sure I keep going.

I also gave my protagonist yet another hard look. My inner voice kept saying she was boring. Each attempt kept swinging between holier than thou ice queen and wimpy neurotic. I now feel I've got someone I'd like to spend time with and is fun to write. It has required some slight modifications to the story of course but the spine, theme, tone are still the same.

Got to get those 10 pages done. Don't want to be still working on it with only a couple of weeks to go. Hope everyone else's are going well.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Crashing into the Red Planet

I crashed and burned in Page. I wrote an experimental short about a woman dealing with grief. Problem with those is that people either love or hate them. It's a much bigger gamble. It is still my favourite short script and is through Round 1 of BSSC though. Even if it gets nowhere there I'm not putting it away in a drawer. It will be time to send it out elsewhere.

I've got a bit further with the Red Planet project. The first episode is now plotted out as a series of bullet points and it should make about 1hour. I've now started writing it. Well I suppose you'd really call it blocking it out in more detail. But I'm doing it in feature script format so it looks a bit cooler to me anyway.

I'm putting dialogue in but only what they mean. Very on the nose at this stage but I like to put all that down then go over the whole thing again and replace with what they would actually say.

Blocking out in detail is when I discover something really isn't working. Bullet points can gloss over problem stuff. In this case a suicide. At this stage I'm considering binning that whole sequence and putting something else there because it just seems too stereotypical. It won't be hard because this is the part that gives the protagonist's motivation. I can give her that motivation another way.

Monday, 4 August 2008

BSSC Round 1

The list is up and my two entries are through. This is as far as I got last year so it's a relief that I've not gone backwards. I am really pleased to see so many others that I recognise on the list too. Well done everyone.

I was a bit nervous with one of my entries. It is experimental with no standard narrative. Reactions have been extreme from those that have read it so far. Some have loved it and some found it just too wierd. But it is my favourite short.

I entered it into Page too. It didn't get through on that one and now I wait for the feedback.

Hope all your competition entries are going well and you are all working hard on Red Planet, BFSC and Rise.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Red Planet Progress - Working on Characters

I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front because I've been having deep, meaningful discussions with some very strange characters. Most worrying is they have all come out of my head.

It's the stage I've reached on my Red Planet project. So what have I been doing.

1) I worked out what I wanted the series to be about. Not the detailed plot but the underlying theme. Usually I try to do this backwards. Write the story then try and dig for the theme. This time I did it the other way round. Don't know if that's normal or if I will do it again but it is working for this one so I'm not complaining.

2) I then considered the tone and genre. This was very fluid for quite a while and to be honest it didn't stop changing until much further down this list. Currently I am settled in a very dark horror. Yep I'm going for the 9pm slot but I have to confess that the slot fitted the story I wanted to tell rather than my identifying that was what the commissioners were looking for. Nice to see the latest comments from Laura Mackie though.

3) At the same time as (1) and (2) I knocked about a few characters. Some had been sitting around for a while, moaning that I hadn't used them in anything. Way too needy so I locked them away in the big, studded chest again. They'll soon give up screaming. I then went hunting and came home with some brand new ones.

I decided to have a max of 6 characters after studying some of my favourite returning series. These are the ones that appear in most, if not all episodes. A protagonist, an antagonist, two other main characters close to them and two satellite characters.

I love these characters and can't wait to start writing for them. I think this is a good sign.

4) I've written the backstory for the series and for each character. Some of this will appear at different stages, including some that feeds into the series climax but a lot will never appear at all. It helps me see the characters better and makes sure I really do know my story.

I then bounced it all off Dave so he could ask Why does A feel like that about B? Why would C do that? Where's the contradiction in the character (see Lucy's post on that one). I've done this before on courses. The most fun way is to get someone to interview you while you are the character. They don't need to be writers, just nosy. It can be a bit painful when you think you've got the character sorted but I find it really useful. And I can pretend I'm a brilliant actor at the same time.

Interestingly it was the protagonist that showed the most holes. The first character to be found and the drive behind the whole story. Because of this her motivation and behaviour had to be spot on. It wasn't. So more talking to my invisible friend while I pottered around the shops.

Now to get down to the nuts and bolts story. Lots of work still to do before passing it out to others for a good grilling.

Saturday, 19 July 2008



That means stop reading and go somewhere else if you haven't seen it yet. Go on. Press a nice link on the right and read some interesting blogs about things you've already seen.

Right. Still here? So you are the smug lot that can get to cinemas the week a film comes out. You then watch with a self-satisfied grin while the rest of us flit past blogs with spoiler alerts and sit on the sofa, remote at the ready to avoid the trailers designed by morons who don't get that some of us DON'T get to see it until DVD release so DON'T want to know what happens yet.

OK rant over. After seeing a bit more than we wanted in the trailer we dived out and got the DVD to watch before the experience was ruined. Glad we did. We really wanted to see this in the cinema but sprog minders are a bit thin on the ground round here so we've had to learn patience.

We turned off all the lights, pulled the curtains, stocked up on munchies, bribed the gerbils with a skipload of toilet rolls to not spin or rattle anything and settled down. Didn't leave the sofa until it was finished. Didn't want to.

What I loved about the film was that it ignored the big picture. It didn't answer questions like what is the monster, why is it there, what are the authorities doing about it, are there others attacking elsewhere, do the humans win. It just ignored them and concentrated on the people trapped in the middle of it. At ground zero. You knew what they knew.

Personally this is the part of a story that interests me. In "The Day After Tomorrow", for example, the big spectacles of New York flooding then freezing were very impressive but weren't something that gets me back for a repeat view. I wanted to know about the boy's school they kept referencing. How would a bunch of kids cope. What happened to the party that left the library before they died in the storm. Did they realise? Did they doubt? Were they all happy about going or did the group rip itself apart first. I didn't give a stuff about the problems the government had in negotiating refugee access to South America.

I think the Godzilla remake had a similar problem for me. It was about the people in the centre of the decision making. Not about the people in the centre of the consequences. You had the scientists and the army up front. The ordinary people were just a body count passing the camera.

So back to Cloverfield. I wouldn't say it was perfect but it kept me on the edge of my seat and there were lots of moments where I curled into a ball. And those creepy, spidery, bitey bug things.... I spent ages waiting for them to turn up. It'll be now. No. OK they'll be now. No. They'll be.... Aaaaagh.

I loved all the Godzilla references (the original one) and I'm sure there was a bit of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms there too.

I also felt the characters were established well enough that their repeated rejection of escape was believable. Each had their own reasons for staying and I bought into them. They stayed because they couldn't leave, not because they didn't want to.

Right post over. If you haven't seen the film and read this anyway then you are very silly. Go see it.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Red Planet Competition

Just in case you haven't noticed the posts on nearly every writing blog out there.... Red Planet Comp is back and Danny is running a helpful blog here.

I entered last year and got nowhere. Looking back I'm not at all surprised. A slow start, overwritten and continual change in tone. I'm better now. Honestly.

So the rules have changed this year. It's TV only this year and we have a bit longer. That's a big relief because last year I took the laptop with me on holiday to get it done in time.

My first thought was still yikes though. I've come up with TV 1hr pieces and half hour sitcoms series before but never thought about 1hr episodes in a series or serial. This means I'm not going to be tweaking something I've already got.

Initial panic passed and I got down to knocking ideas about and brainstorming. I briefly considered trying to second guess what they'd be looking for or checking where holes were in the current output. However I decided in the end to write what I would love to watch and that I'd be happy to add to my portfolio. I did add the extra condition that it had to be something that wasn't already out there.

So I've gone through my favourite series and looked at what I liked about them. My favourites all have two things in common.

1) They are ensemble pieces. Even if the series is named after a single character the other characters are just as strong. And they are all 3 dimensional. No stereotypes, even if they appear that way when you first meet them.

2) There is balance. The series have an overall story, discrete stories for each episode and development of relationships. But they don't let any one predominate.

Well I've come up with something. It's meant to be horror and chucking the ideas down late at night has made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end so I think I'm on track. Let's just say I'm not going out on my own when it's dark for a while.

There's time to bin it and start again if I find it isn't working out but this is going to be my project for the next few weeks I think. If my nerves can take it.

Something Different

Has it really been 2 weeks since I last posted something? Ooops. Well I've had a busy fortnight. Travelling for work, sprog stuff and village life. For a change I thought I'd give a taste of that village life. Within a 24hr period we had a Ceilidh followed by the Village Gala.

My ankle was playing up but I limped along to watch the Ceilidh so the sprogs could still attend. The younger villagers had been rehearsing at the school so they would know the steps. Then on the night they all cleared off to play hide and seek or act cool instead.

They got hauled back in for the odd dance or to grab food but other than that it was a parent's event. I was able to play the invalid card and have a good laugh at everyone getting steps wrong, cannoning into each other or twirling partners until they lost grip and flew into the crowd. Dancing is a martial art round here. Only one fight this year and that was between two very little boys so quite a civilised event.

Next was the Gala. Like previous years it clashed with the nearest town's carnival. I asked once why we didn't shift dates and was put right. We had that day before they did so the mouse ain't backing down.

We all woke up to a typical warm, summer morning Cumbria style. In other words a downpour. But just past lunchtime it changed to a scene from the Ten Commandments. No, not the parting of the Red Sea sadly but rays of light streaming down onto the Marquee. Well it would have been stone tablets but they were busy patching holes in the church roof.

Everyone raced out to set up the stalls and tables. I was on early washing up duty but there'd been a glut of volunteers so I escaped. Only to get roped into helping set up the coconut shy. There I was, gripping a wooden stake while someone else hammered it with a mallet. Not an easy task our way where most of the ground is 2" topsoil covering slate or granite.

Anyway, just at that critical stage where you're holding a stake up in one hand, balancing two wooden boards in another, gripping string with your teeth while your feet slowly sink into the 2" of mud and you mumble a prayer that voice recognition software's cheap if he misses, the skies opened again. We were soaked in seconds so just kept going.

Rain then held off for the visitors and only returned to finish the Gala with a magnificent storm. Forked lightning, rolling thunder, the works. All we needed was a heavenly choir and trumpets to finish the job.

So what did I get out of it? Well I won a painting by a local artist in the raffle. It was a pastel one so a bit tricky to get home in the downpour. She hadn't had time to spray fixer.

I watched children and parents throwing eggs at each other. They were supposed to catch them but you really get to see the malevolent side of family life when you arm them with missiles. The assault course run by three of the Dads became a water fight after they made the kids jump over the paddling pool instead of walking along a plank. And the women of the village won the tug of war!!!!!!!!

Got to catch up on village gossip. Much more reliable than the local paper and they don't leave out the juicy bits. Also saw the plans for the new village sports hall and added votes on the list of activities to do there. One on the list was pickle ball. Considering the egg incident above I thought this might be a more extreme version but sadly no. Follow the link to find out what all the pensioners are raving about.

Anyway I was completely knackered after all that spectating and staggered home before I got nabbed to take apart the coconut shy. I then put my feet up for the evening and refused to move any more. Who says it's quiet in the country.

Monday, 30 June 2008


It's going to be a bit quite around here with so many off to the Screenwriting Festival. Couldn't make it this year but I hope to live it vicariously through their posts.

I said I'd report on the latest for my short play. It had its performance, after some modifications, just over a week ago. The audience was a bit smaller, not everyone wants to see a play twice, but there were new people too. This meant some feedback was on whether the reworks improved things and some was from fresh eyes. A useful combination.

This time the studio was laid out with a stage down the middle instead of at one end. I'm not sure if that worked because one of the actors moved about a lot and had to be sure he didn't obscure the movements of the other.

I felt there were fewer laughs this time (yes it was a comedy) but the audience still said they enjoyed it. Except for a lovely pair of pensioners who felt it was a bit too wordy for them.

This time there was a chance for people to ask questions and most of these were about whether I should expand the play and how. I'd always intended it as a short, complete piece. Half the feedback said it would be nice to expand it, they wanted to get to know more about the characters and I chatted for a while about the backstory for each. The other half felt this would dilute the piece. It is very fast paced and I'm worried I'll lose the momentum and end up padding it to make it longer. I still feel happiest with it staying as a short play but maybe I'll feel differently in a year.

Those that voted for expansion wanted me to make the two characters suffer more. The director, Dan, let me know that pain is funny. His stand-up mate says it has been proved scientifically. So I'm too nice to my characters and I've got to be more sadistic. Hmmm. I'm going to have to develop a nasty streak.

The piece was also selected for a workshop at a literary festival on the border. The aim was to introduce people to the scriptwriting group, show them what it was like to write for the stage and tout for members. The attendees were split into two groups and asked to write the next scene. An interesting challenge when the play's ending is the possible end of the world.

I heard today how it went and the two groups took very different routes. One kept the comedy style and that you are never sure if things are really happening or not. The other group decided it wasn't but made the characters suffer more. Both were great ways forward and I'm chuffed that it gave them very different ideas.

The attendees enjoyed the experience and the play so I think that counts as a success. Unless they all take up writing. Then I have more competition. Oh dear. This could all go horribly wrong.

I'll wind up now. Trying to decide whether to put my next play idea aside for a while or battle on. Currently going for the put it aside vote because it just isn't flowing well at the moment. Lots of other pieces to work on though.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Sharps and Flats

At 13.05 I logged on to my email area. Held my breathe. Lots of emails in. Scanned. Scanned again. Bashed the monitor and scanned once more. Nope. Nothing. Nada.

Ever the optomist I tried again at 13.30. Still nothing. I mean I even waited until 18.00. How could they keep a girl waiting that long. Guess I'll just have to accept I've been dumped. No shiny, golden email ticket to the BBC Chocolate Factory for me.

Oh well. I am happy with my script and will pop it into my portfolio. And I guess we are all waiting now to hear if we are one of the 100 who will get feedback.

By the way I'm applying to TAPS Continuing Drama. May get bounced but if you don't try you'll get no-where. If you are in the Nations category then it appears you have a little more time. The deadline has been extended to July 11th. For those in Regions the deadline is 27th June so get your skates on.

Monday, 16 June 2008

A bit of classic horror to cheer you up

Been keeping this in reserve. Had some good news and some bad news today.

Good: My short play has been picked as one of the four for a final performance. We modified them in light of comments from audience, actors and directors then resubmitted. I was one of the ones picked. I'm going to have to stand up and talk about the play then answer questions from the floor so my fingernails have suddenly disappeared.

Bad: Super Shorts semi-final list is now up. I didn't get through. I'm telling myself that there was a HUGE pile of submissions and I just missed so it was quite an achievement. I know I was nearly picked because the sheep are lying down so it must be true.

So here's the little horror present.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Music Meme

OK I got memed by Sheikspear.

I have to include the instructions below:

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

Right done. Then list my seven choices. So I dug out my MP3 player and made a list. The I halved it. Then I halved it again. Then I binned any that were already on Dave's list. I think it's leeching on his list but he's my husband so he has to lump it. Mwaaa haaa haaa.

So I got it down to seven.

1. Eurythmics - Missionary Man
2. Fleetwood Mac - Big Love (live version 1997)
3. Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child
4. Pink - Who Knew
5. Living Colour - Sunshine of Your Love
6. Snow patrol - Open Your Eyes
7. Verve - The Rolling People

Not many people left to pass it on to cos Rob and Sheikspear did a blitz. I'll doing a modest few. So if you are in the mood folks I'm meming Potdoll so you can relax after casting, Colin and Oli so you can destress after Sharps and Lianne because you've been quiet recently and you're missed.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Writing for Film and Stage

Spotted this on Rouge Wave about the difference between writing for stage and film. I'm having a go at writing my first full length stage play so it was an interesting read.

Oh and I got my confirmation email from Writersroom today. They've got my Sharps entry so the die is cast.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

It's like fellwalking

Ever climbed a fell and seen the top. Then you get to the top and find it was just a bump and the real top is still to climb. Then you get to the top and find it was just a bump and the real top is still to climb. Then you get to the ....

Well this first nearly half a year has felt a bit like that.

I've been working hard on my bad habit of overwriting. Having come in from a prose background it has been hard to cut the description and action down to the minimum. I love those vivid phrases and all the detail. But if I want to do that I should be tackling a short story or a novel.

Instead I've had to think of the script as a technical document. Something that will be read and used by both the creative and the technical sides of the industry. That isn't too bad because I write technical reports every day. I've found the toughest part has been mastering the balance. It is still a creative document too and so shouldn't be cold, clinical and formulaic. In other words don't be boring.

I think I've hit the balance now but time will tell.

I've also seemed to be chasing deadlines. Don't know if Spring is usually this hectic or whether I've just become more aware of it this year.

I started with loads of deadlines ahead and thought I'd just see how many I'd hit. I quickly realised I'd have to prioritise. What did I stand a chance on and what would expand my portfolio if I missed. That's kept me pretty busy.

I made about 25% of them which was still a lot more than if I'd ambled along writing specs as the mood took me. I need deadlines. I regret not managing to hit Bruntwood. Yes I know the deadline is still four days away but it has to be posted and I don't want to send off an early draft. The work isn't wasted though. The subject fits into Protect The Human too.

I haven't stopped my spec work though. Three features at different stages, an hour long TV drama and a radio play. Plus I need to get back to every1sacritic because the new deadline is on its way.

So does it ease up? All these deadlines? Or do you crumble into a mess.

Mmmmm. Crumble. Off to get pudding now.

Sharps and the half hour drama

Well my script for Sharps is ready. I've done the application form. I've got my email. I've bought new print cartridges. There's a stack of crisp, clean paper waiting. I've sacrificed the black cockerel. I've spun three times winnershins. I've raced up the nearest fell and back. OK not the last one. Me… running. I don't think so.

I'd like to thank the wonderful people who's feedback got me to the point. Bloggers Dave, Lucy, Elinor and Chip. Commenter Caroline and Non-bloggers Paul and John. Yes I know that's more than three but I'm really insecure and covering all demographics is my comfort blanket.

I used at least one point from everyone's feedback and they all said I was too subtle in showing the history of the characters relationships. I think I've sorted that now. Problem with subtlety. When all the background is in your head, how can you be certain you have put enough on the page?

I also got to read some of their submissions and I think they are brilliant so competition will be tough.

There seems to have been a lot of drop-outs on this one. And many people have scrapped ideas and started again, myself included. So what made it so tough?

Some felt it was the topic. The Nation's Health. The first thought was a hospital or health centre. Everyone's going to write that right? But health is a big topic and they were encouraging people to experiment so it shouldn't be hard to move well away from those areas while keeping with the theme.

However I think the problem was that they asked for a half-hour drama. You don't get to see many of those these days. Yes we have sitcoms. But BBC said they weren't looking for a sitcom. (I suspect they won't turn their noses up at one that ticks all the boxes though.)

So if you wanted a lighter route then that left comedy drama or dramedy or whatever you fancy calling it. There are some brilliant ones out there and it is my favourite viewing but they are about an hour long.

And for pure half hour drama you have soaps, sorry continuing drama. I hate it when the names change. I still buy Marathons, not Snickers! Anway hardly self-contained, excluding the odd one-on-one specials. All those threads from other episodes. I suppose the closest to a half hour drama in the past few years was the Bill in its short form.

Those of us of a more mature persuasion will remember Comedy Playhouse but that was…well…comedy. So there isn't a lot of half hour pure drama on TV as an example. Unless I'm just missing some brilliant stuff because it is on during the day or at sprog bedtime. Please let me know if I am. So easy to miss the gems in the gravel.

I've seen some lovely examples in short films by the way so I would recommend watching more of these. See Short Films on the sidebar of here for a list of sites.

I can understand why BBC chose half hour. You want it long enough to be sure the writer can sustain the quality but not so long that you double the reading time and costs. However with few examples of the form it seems to have proved an interesting challenge.

I haven't tried to second-guess the reader. It's pointless because they will all be different. Instead I've written something I'm proud of and would want to watch. Even if I get no-where on Sharps it is something I'm happy to add to my portfolio so no wasted time.

Good luck to everyone who's entered. Let me know how you do.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Hit a milestone

It's half past midnight and I just finished as much of my Sharps script as I think I can do before I pass out for feedback. It's down to 35 pages just. I tweaked a couple of descriptions into a single paragraph to squeeze in Fade Out.

As I wrote the thing I fluctuated between worrying there wasn't enough in there to make a 30min script to panicking that there was too much and I'd have to bin so much it wouldn't make sense.

Now I worry it is going to be confusing to others reading it. Or it is emotionally all one note. Or I've missed some huge holes. Or it's just plain boring. I think I've been working on it too long without a break.

Still I've hit one milestone. Now for humiliation and tears. Ooops I mean feedback. Those that said they were happy to read or swapsy, watch out. It's coming your way. After I've had some sleep that is.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Taking a Break

My Sharps script is progressing but not quite at the speed I'd hoped.

I was travelling again so I thought I'd have time in the hotel room to get some serious writing done. Sadly I had delayed flights, taxi drivers with less sense of direction than me (I can get lost in Tescos) and a hotel room a few inches from a main road. I'm used to country life so street lights, sirens and traffic meant I averaged 3hrs sleep a night.

So back home I had to knuckle down to some serious writing time. I've just finished the 1st draft. Or rather the "spewing it out so you can make sense of it" draft. I'm just taking a break so I can go back and check it with fresh eyes. Not a horror so I'll stick to mine.

I will check that it hasn't rambled off on a tangent, read it as each character to make sure they stay consistent and then make any modifications. It will then go out to those nice victims who have volunteered to read it and rip it to shreds. Then I'll lick my wounds and start at it again.

I had hoped to enter Bruntwood too but I don't think I'm going to make it. I love my idea and it is blocked out well so I'm going to write it anyway but I don't want to kick off a first draft. It might still be ready in time but I'm not going to rush something out that is half baked. And it does fit nicely into the Protect the Human competition so I can submit it there.

Right. Going to potter about for a bit to see what you've all been up to. Read the Sharps script again then off to see Indie. Evening planned.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Cutting Corners

A lot of cutting going on in my posts recently. Anyway the past week taught me a good lesson in getting too cocky.

I've been working on my submission for BBC Sharps. Lateral thinking had brought up some good ideas. Nothing too predictable. Not a hospital or surgery in sight. Good. I'd then got a rough idea of the characters and I'd knocked out a rough story. So I thought I'd just dive right in this time and start writing. Note all those rough bits in the earlier sentence. Well it was no suprise that the result was... rough.

Stop giggling out there. You've never been tempted to just bypass a couple of stages?

My rough characters were actually screaming stereotypes. My rough plot was so badly knitted together it was more fishing net than cashmere sweater. And that's a net a blue whale could have swum through without breathing in.

I'd start writing a scene and I'd grind to a halt, not knowing how to get to the end I'd planned. I wanted high drama, the characters wanted low farce. It was a mess. So I gritted my teeth and binned it. Back to square one. A week wasted but a lesson learned.

I'm now back with three characters deep enough for that blue whale to go diving in and a plot so tight I can make a cashmere sweater out of it. That or my brain is blubbering in the corner and I'm completely delusional. We shall see.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Cutting Scenes and Characters

So what have I been working on recently.

Well I finally got back to where I was when I lost my feature plot structure. It took a while because I decided to work it from scratch rather than try to remember it all.

The theme and basic story have not changed but the way I'm presenting it has, again. I think the result is much tighter than before. The big change was moving one sequence from Act 2 to the start. This allowed me to introduce the tone and a taster of most of the characters within the first couple of pages and I could then bin about 4-5 scenes from Act 1.

I'd been told on a course to consider seriously shuffling scenes as part of the writing process but had only made small changes before. A token effort. I'm going to have to make myself do this more.

However all this change has a sad note because I've lost another two characters in the process. One wasn't too painful but the other has been a core element of the story since its first conception three years ago. In fact it was the first character that appeared, triggering the story in the first place. I was really attached to that alcoholic sheep but he will just be a cameo now.

I've also been working on a piece for Sharps and another for Bruntwood. I got the rough storyline sorted for each then let them germinate for a week. With deadlines looming this was hard to do but I am much happier with the results.

Dave hates this stage. I wonder around with a notepad jotting down any random thoughts. Conversations trail off, I become glazed and then a stream of frantic scribbling. Even worse I do this at night too so lack of sleep makes me grouchy.

Now I've just got to write them. The easy bit. Teee Heee Haaa Haaa. More manic giggling...

Saturday, 10 May 2008

The Owl

Just thought I'd show what passes for funny in our house. Kids knew about it ages ago but I only spotted it today. Well I'm a mother. I was busy knitting cardies, baking pies, sweating blood and other mothery stuff.

The first here is a good demonstration of things happening to the protagonist because of what he does rather than just a random string of events. Cause and effect in action. Oh and its really good too. Once there go to Broadcast - Episode Pilote. Yes it's a French animation so it must be cool.

See more of The Owl on here. Oh and Pat and Stan are good too. I admit it. I'm a big kid.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Kill the Clique

Adrian Reynolds has done an interesting post here. It concerns your attitude to life affecting your writing. It got me thinking about how open I really was to other's lives.

We will all carry our own prejudices about and they can't help but sneak into our writing. But the more you mix with people outside of your normal circle, the more your assumptions will be ripped apart.

But where do you do that? How do you meet people these days that have different lives from yourself? Is it really true that people are spending less and less time outside of their home or workplace?

Once I left school it seemed people quickly drifted into their own groups and rarely ventured from them. It might be a natural process. We are pack animals after all. Even being aware of this and making a concious effort not to do it can be hard. And it does affect your writing.

My job involves me meeting a wide variety of people which makes it easier for me to experience, vicariously, other's lives. And I like to listen so they are happy to talk. I'd go nuts stuck in the office with the same faces every day.

I also tend to get roped into lots of committees outside work. This again means a mix of people and is in theory a great chance to listen. However I also notice how easily even these form cliques.

So what am I saying? If you want to be a good writer - kill the clique.

Anyway this one was a bit rambling so I'm off to get a nice hot chocolate.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

We're going to need a bigger boat

No it's not about Jaws. Though there is some fishing involved.

I did wonder how to write this one because I didn't want it to sound smug. But then I thought sod it. Just say what happened. The old timers can have flashbacks to their first paying audience, those also at the "weeee this is fun" stage can go weeee again if the mood takes them and the newbies can see what's ahead. Soon. As long as they keep tapping away and listen to Danny when he says "A writer writes. End of Story."

Anyway back to the boat. I went to see my short play Paddling last night. It was one of 11 being shown.

I left clear blue skies and warm breezes to drive through hail, floods, gales and some good old thunder and lightning. Someone clearly didn't want me there but I'm a stubborn old cuss so kept going.

Car park was packed but we managed to squeeze into a far corner. We then raced across the new river that had replaced the tarmac. OK they ran. I sort of waddled. Well its been over a year since I last wore heels. Finally we made it.

I did get some odd looks. Don't know if it was my clutching Dave in terror or the stuffed toy owl tucked under my arm. Ian Hinde, one of the directors, hadn't been sure if they could get a stuffed seagull so I brought back up. I raced, sorry minced, over and he just grinned and said "wait and see." Some friend. So I ended up nursemaiding the blasted thing all evening because Dave and my eldest refused to be seen dead with it. The baby of the family had already escaped to a sleepover.

We were in the Studio rather than the main theatre and I'd been told the turn out would probably be small. After all we were competing with Oklahoma. Imagine everyone's shock when we were only 12 seats short of a full house. That's nearly 90 people, not including the cast. And before you scoff remember it's relative. An angry mob of 90 berserkers = terror. A chirpy cluster of 90 cherubs = happiness. Or time for another trip to the detox clinic.

Maybe Oklahoma sold out and they didn't want to waste the coach hire. Anyway there we all were and center stage was a dingy. With a stuffed seagull on it. To my horror this meant mine was on first.

So I'd better explain a tiny bit about my play. The other director Daniel Bye (yep there were two) said it had the highest rate of props/second of any play he'd done. It was 5mins long and in that time the actor in the dingy, Wad Davies, had to manhandle a newspaper, oar, stilton drum, french stick, stuffed seagull, umbrella, bucket, trombone and anchor. The actor outside the boat, Ian Stokes, had a clipboard, pole and a big red button to deal with so got off a bit more lightly.

They had managed to get all the props except the trombone. In fact Ian S had made a lot of them, including the stuffed seagull!

Anyway the audience laughed... where they were supposed to laugh. The audience and cast didn't say anything bad at the scary feedback session so I could let blood back into Dave's fingers. I was pleased with what the directors and actors had done with it and the actors also voted it as one of their two favourites which was really nice.

So what did I learn? There's a lot of visual comedy in my play, hence the props, but the one thing I'd never done was imagine a pile of these things in a dingy. Lets just say it was a little bit of a squeeze. At one point the french stick got sat on so was rather bent when it got waved around. That got an extra laugh.

But Wad did have to do a lot of fishing about because things got pushed out of plaice. (I couldn't resist it, sorry). I apologised for burying them in props but they said that could be sorted with more rehearsal....or a bigger boat.

Comparing with the other plays.

Those that were self contained rather than extracts seemed to go down better with the audience. But then the extracts are a snapshot from a long story so it is really an unfair comparison. Personally there were several extracts that made me eager to see the whole work.

Some were more action. Some more dialogue. The comedy tended to be heavier on action with the dialogue much faster paced. Shorter sentences. Quick volleys between the characters. The drama was heavier on dialogue and bigger blocks of it from each character. I noticed several where the dialogue seemed quite natural for the stage but would have been binned by a film reader as too much black on the page. Talking heads.

So I've got to pay more attention to the difference in film and play. You can be more static and have more dialogue with a play. But I'll have to make sure I don't go too far and have two people standing there, static, rabbiting about nothing for 90mins.

Talking about rabbiting. I wonder if this is my longest post. I'll let you move onto something more interesting like the link in the post below. Go on. Disappear now. You have writing to do.

BBC College's Cuddly Brother

OK I wanted something beginning with C and so it got cuddly. Anyway, they've announced it. The writer's scheme for those who couldn't apply for the Colleges or didn't make it in. See it here and good luck.

Yes of course I'm going to have a go.

Friday, 25 April 2008

BBC Comedy College

Michael Jacob has announced that all interviewees have now been contacted. It's in the comments section here. Didn't get mine unless it got jammed in the wire when competing with all the job offers that failed to get through.

Oh well. Just got to keep at it and lots of other chances coming up. The first performance of my short play Paddling is on Wednesday so butterflies bigtime at the moment.

Did any of you get an invite to the interviews?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Purrrfectly lovely

Not a writing thing strictly but this got passed round the office today and I couldn't resist. The man clearly owns a cat. As should all good writers by the way. Who else can you have a sensible conversation with at 3 in the morning?

He has more here and apparently there is another in production. Out soon.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Aspirations and Inspirations

Ever been asked what kind of writer you want to be? It's something I've been asked on courses and sometimes ask myself. My standard response is that I want to have a body of work that I can look back on and be proud rather than stuff that just hit a deadline.

So the next question is what would I be proud of? Well the easiest way of replying is what do I wish I could have written. Well easy in theory, but I hate to leave anything out. The film list on the right is probably a good clue at how I can get carried away. And I'm forcing myself not to add to it.

Favourite 5? Do me a favour. Favourite 10? Oh rats, each time I squeeze one in, another I can't do without drops off the end. Favourite 100? Could I just add a few more please?

Deep breathe. Be strong. I'm going to list the first ones that spring into my head.

Edge of Darkness by Troy Kennedy-Martin. If any is on top of my list I think it has to be that one. Each character is memorable and multi-layered. Lots of subplots feeding into the main one. Tragedy, thriller, comedy and horror. And that reality-fantasy mix that I love so much. I've watched it so many times and don't get tired of it. If I could write like that...

Unless its Shooting the Past by Stephen Poliakoff. Missed the recent repeat and haven't got it on DVD yet so it's more the fact it sits in my memory so well. I know it is a much slower, gentler pace than is expected these days but the pace fits the story and I didn't find it hard to sit quietly and just experience it. It makes me calm just remembering it. Got to buy that DVD.

Right, that's two TV ones so on to films. But, can't I just add... Nope. Films.

I did a quick scan of my DVD case because my mind went blank. Not as a comment on film writers but because I got sensory overload.

So we have Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. Yes I know it started as a novel and a play but I know the film version. Again the reality-fantasy mix. Great characters and a gentle pace. Wonderful dialogue. The start, moving past a range of households along with a "housewife's choice" radio broadcast sets the scene beautifully and gave me plenty of flashbacks.

Then one that a few of you might not know but please ignore panic at subtitles. It's worth it.
Le Diner de Cons by Francis Veber. At this point I am sobbing in a corner because I've just found out there's a US remake planned with Sasha Baron Cohen. No pleeeeease. This is a subtle farce with beautiful characters, great dialogue and..... Sorry. Overcome by sobbing again. All I can say is see the original first.

I'll stop it here. Maybe another post later on stage plays.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Wasted from Writing

I am shattered. I was off travelling last week. Took my memory stick along so I could work on my every1sacritic submission. Then I got a call from Dave. STOP. Wonderful Robin had shouted the deadline was shifted until August so why not try Comedy College as well.

So I spent the time working on the BBC Comedy College submission after all. Didn't think I'd manage it because my old sitcom script was 4yrs old. Time flies... Reading it again was humiliating and I wanted to get the petrol and burn it.

Too much woodwork in the hotel room so I buried it in a far recess of the computer instead. Somewhere near the Microsoft Works folder that came free with the laptop.

So I took the basic idea and characters then did the old ripping apart and putting together again. I blocked out the first episode and sorted the full series storyline. Just had the first 10 pages to write. One weekend, no problem.

Then disaster struck. A sprog event, a visit from a relative and another from an old school friend I'd not seen since my wedding. So 2 days went down to 6 hours, if I slept.

Well I didn't sleep much. I tried but poor Dave had to endure me turning on the light every half hour to jot down more notes. He'll cut the plug off one day.

I got it done and sent out to a few people with a "pretty please help" and got feedback enough for a terrible trio. Thank to Robin again as one of them.

I did some more rewriting and just sent it off. If this is the pace the rest of you work then I might have to turn to coffee to keep going. Yeugh. Maybe I'll do extra strong chocolate instead.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Getting Sentimental

(Spoiler if you've not seen the last episode of Torchwood yet)

Speaking of which I had a little cry on Friday night at Torchwood. Family is used to it. I sobbed my heart out at the end of Blake's 7 and it's been downhill since then.

I had a feeling Owen wouldn't make it (or would continue not making it) but Tosh was a shock. Owen had started to show a soft side and Tosh had begun to toughen up and then they're gone. I'd wanted to see what they were going to develop into.

If character development means your end is near then Ianto may be at risk. And I've really liked the Everyman role he's taken. A bit of down to earth dry sarcasm. Nice.

However I don't sob at just anything. It has to be quality. If it's deliberately sentimental and slushy it has no effect at all. Most "women's films" leave me cold. I really, really, really hate that label. What kind of women are they targeted at? It's melodrama with a big C, which is usually what kills one of the main characters off with warning, and headlines and flashing lights so you know its coming. "I have a bad headache." Right, brain tumour.

That doesn't mean I hate films that have a mainly female cast. Calendar girls tackled many of the topics in melodrama but it wasn't over-sentimentalised. I watched that one surrounded by the WI who had turned out on mass. A bit… surreal.

And you have Descent, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 8 Women and Volver. I could imagine meeting (and have met) women like those in real life. Except they don't tend to break into song every few minutes.

I'm struggling to think of a big budget Hollywood film that would fit here. Hmmm. Wonder why that is? Anyone able to suggest one?

That old Writer's Block dropped by again.

Well I got a lot more completed than I expected this week. I've sent off a batch of shorts for competitions and done some feedback. I also got an entry into Coming Up, which I didn't think I'd have time to do. An idea grabbed me so I ran with it.

It seems there are a load of deadlines all looming at once and I don't have a big enough portfolio yet to just chuck something out. This leaves me with a dilemma.

Do I go for the BBC Comedy College and maybe not even have my work looked at because my CV isn't loaded with successes (yet?). Or go for Every1sacritic and maybe get my CV in better shape for BBC next year. They share a deadline. So I asked a couple of people who knew my stuff and they told me what I really knew already. Wait a year for BBC and go for the other.

But it isn't easy, what if this was THE break and I didn't even go for it. But if you stretch yourself too thinly and chuck out something you've had to knock together in a hurry then you won't get anywhere at all. I'm stuck between a granite clump and a rigid flat fish.

Anyway I've gone for Every1sacritic. I considered trying to get my current sitcom episode down to 15mins but decided in the end to start afresh. So there I sat. Blank sheet of paper in front of me. Pen in hand. And nothing happening. Zilch. Nada.

I usually get round this by doing a stream of consciousness. Just chucking any old garbage on the page. Let it form into something rational (or not) and then bin the beginning and pick through the rest for something interesting. So I shut my eyes. Raised the pen and let rip. Ten minutes later I looked down. Some sod had nicked my brilliant ideas and replaced it with a blank piece of paper!

I haven't had writer's block for ages. Must be lack of sleep from bureaucrats playing with clocks again. So I tried a more structured approach.
1) Think of a place.
2) Think of two people that are opposites.
3) Trap them in close proximity.
4) Now find a catalyst to push them over the edge. In this case I chose another character. So I've got a three-hander. The old top of pile, bottom of pile and the go-between … well … between.
5) Then turn up the heat and sit back to see what the characters will do. I made the temperature drop instead, literally.

They are turning out quite fun at the moment but I won't be sure if the idea has perambulating appendages just yet. I might still bin it and come up with something else.
But I'll keep the characters regardless. I'll tuck them away in a nice padded cell for a later date. I get really attached to my characters and can't bear to bin any of them.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Write On

OK a naff title. But it gives me the chance to use my favourite insult. Naff. It's an age thing.

So I got my head down and did some serious writing. OK re-writing. OK in a couple of cases rip into tiny pieces and stitch together again. Lucy made sure I used the machette judiciously.

Today I'll be sending out shorts to BSSC, Supershorts and Page. Then on to longer stuff.

I've a sitcom that has sat there for 18months. Time to dig it out and give it a critical read. I suspect I will keep the underlying idea and the plan for each episode but bin the rest. If you hear any piteous screeches it will be me, horrified by on the nose dialogue, direction to actors, and a multitude of other crimes I committed back then.

Hopefully it will be redeamable enough for the BBC Comedy College. I'm not sure if I have time to write something from scratch.

I hope to also get an idea in for C4 Coming Up. But only if an idea grabs me.

All this means I need to keep writing hard. Hence I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front and expect it will be a weekly entry next week too. I am reading you all though. After all I need a sanity check.

Oh and Robin did a link to this for a checklist on how to keep that writing going.

Keep your pencils sharp.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Procrastinating in Bookshops

Well I've not got much writing done this week. My Alter Ego, Aunty Ethel, was flat out trying to clear her desk before the holiday. Still ended up having to work remotely to finish it off so too knackered in the evenings.

However I've procrastinated enough. I did a check on deadlines and it scared me rigid. Can't keep finding pencils to sharpen and cupboards to clean. OK, I don't do the cleaning cupboards thing. I've been known to dump stuffing out of a box and wonder in passing when they'd added extra sage to the recipe. But honestly, bread mould is just another form of penicillin isn't it? And no-one actually died.

So what deadlines are brewing?

26th March Wed: Hotbed <30min Stageplay
28th March Fri: BSSC Early Deadline
31st March Mon: Supershort Late Deadline
04th April Fri: C4 Coming Up 30min Deadline
07th April Mon: Supershort Without A Box
11th April Fri: Harper Bazaar Short Story Competition
14th April Mon: Deadline for College of Comedy Application
15th April Tue: every1sacritic 15min play
15th April Tue: Page Feature and Short Competition Late Deadline
01st May Thu: Nicoll Fellowship Application
13th June Fri: Bruntwood Playwriting Competition
28th June Sat: BSSC Late Deadline

Doubt I'll make them all but if I fail on one I can use some of it for the next.

(Update: Lianne has just issued her latest deadline list. Always worth checking out.)

I've also set myself a deadline for my feature treatment. To chuck it Lucy's way before the end of the week. She's got some free time so send your stuff in. Really good value and very comprehensive notes.

I am also a bit depressed after a visit to the local bookshop. Usually it makes me feel a lot lighter in spirit (and pocket too). Don't need booze to feel better, just to wonder round a bookshop. However I overheard a couple of conversations. OK they spoke so loudly you probably heard them yourselves.

Conversation 1 between two 13yr-ish girls.

Girl1: What's this?
Girl2: A bookshop.
Girl1: So they sell books?
Girl2: Guess so.
They swagger over to the comic book section.
Girl1: Eugh. Seen what these girls are wearing?
Girl2: Gross.
Both look the store over.
Girl1: This stuff is so boooring.
Girl2: They've got booky-wook?
Girl1: Nah. There's nothing here.
They strut out.

Conversation 2 between designer mum and 8yr-ish daughter.

Girl: Can I get this?
Mum: What's the point, you're wasting your token?
Girl: But I really want it and it says 2 for 1.
Mum: But it costs more than your token. You can get a book with your token.
Girl: It's only 6.99
Mum: How much? What a waste of money. Come on. Debenhams has a sale on.
Mum dumps book back on shelf and drags daughter out.

I bought my kids their first books before they were born. I read The Hobbit to them when they reached four. With all the voices. (Tip, don't start with a different voice for each dwarf. You can't keep track but they can.) My youngest will voluntarily go to bed early if it means a bedtime story. And they traipsed round Hay on Wye without protest, buying as many books as I do.

I feel sad that they may become a minority. All those children missing the chance to make their own films in their heads.

OK. So what am I going to do to beat this funk. Read, write and watch some films. With a bit of chocolate on the side of course. After all it is Easter.

Happy Easter everyone. No slaughtering the Easter Bunnie.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Anthony Minghella

Just heard the terrible news on the drive home. His work could make me laugh and cry with subtlety. He was the first writer who's career I was aware of. Especially as he came from near my home town.

An awful shock and a sad loss. My thoughts and wishes are with his family.

Sunday, 16 March 2008


So how much people watching did I get done while away? Not as much as I'd planned.

There was the bloke who put a DVD on for his product then hid behind the plasma screen for 3 days. Each time we looked he was wading through a 8" high stack of paper, carefully turning each page. So we decided he was a novelist dragged out of his garret.

We did consider sneaking over and replacing the manufacturing process DVD with a Life on Mars one. But then his stand would get more attention than ours. So in future we might make an animation of Sam being hit by a car using our software. After all our animation of a boyscout sliding down an aerial-runway always gets a big response. Especially when he flies off the end and bounces along the ground.

We had the manic nose drillers. How can you walk around in a crowd with a digit shoved up your nasal passage? Doesn't it make breathing tricky? There were the bosses hiding out from their own stands. Juggling, playing rugby, how old are they? I met one panicking kiosk staffer who hadn't had a chance for her double caffeine fix and the queue was building. I made them wait so she could get human.

And there was the usual waltz around at the stall edges. It's like hunting.

1) They stand in the middle of the corridor and watch."I'm just looking, Come near me and I'll run." If you approach they'll go all flustered. They may take some details but only to dump in the bogs later. Conference centre cubicles are full of dumped brochures. Best you can hope is a smile will tempt them in. You let the lure lie still at their feet. Don't even touch the string.
2) They make eye contact and step forward. "OK I'll let you approach but be gentle with me." A reassuring voice can work here but carefully. They could still bolt. Tug the string a little so the lure twitches, ever so slightly.
3) They hover on the edge of the stand. "I'd like to talk but you seem scary". A chance to rest their feet while you show them some pretty pictures usually works. You slowly draw the string in, moving the lure closer.
4) They step onto the stand. "Ready for business?" Yank the lure home. You've got them.

OK. I'm not as ruthless as that. I just love to chat and if we get a sale in the process then all the better. But I don't worry if they walk away. It killed some time. I'm just not a salesman and to prove it:-

......ME and COLLEAGUE on a stand. ME chats to a visitor, LAMB.
Me: Why don't you sit down and I'll show you the software.
Lamb: I can tell your a salesman.
Me: Are you kidding? I'm completely undiplomatic. I once went to a meeting with a client and
slagged off their software, forgetting they wrote it. This is the only sales thing they risk
sending me on.
.....Lamb sits.
Me: So what part of America do you come from?
Lamb: Australia.
Me: See, I can put my foot in my mouth anywhere.
....Colleague collapses in corner, head in hands.

Still the bloke stayed and is looking to buy so maybe ditsy is a legitimate sales technique. I also asked the same question of a Canadian. Annoying thing is the brain was telling me where they were from but the gob carried on regardless. I've got to slow down talking and give my brain a chance to step in sometimes.

A few of you may have noticed I have the same problem typing. I touch type as fast as I think (or faster sometimes) so there's no editing as I go and I can't fight that little devil that whispers "Press Post. Go on. What can it hurt? Go on...Go on...Go on...Go on..." . Ooops.

And before the testosterone brigade ask, no the grunts seem to have finally lost at this show and all women were thankfully suitably clothed.

I also got some decent meals this trip. Traditional Chinese (so lots of veggie options), Caribbean (Yeeees. I can't get decent plantains and okra round here) and my first trip to Wagamama.

That was my baby sister and an old student buddie. They wanted to see my face when people started scribbling on the tablecloth. They weren't so sure when we struggled to find it and I just walked up to a stranger and asked. In the middle of a city. A big city. Where they think you're nuts if you even make eyecontact. Can't see what all the fuss is about. I asked. They answered. Problem solved. City folk huh.

Anyway, winding up now. Tea to cook for sprogs now they'll let me out of their sight. I think they missed me. That or we've been having another earthquake and they've been clinging to my arms and legs to stop falling over. And yes, Dave missed me too.

Doom and Gloom

Well I got the dreaded email yesterday. I'm one of the 1490+ who crashed out of the Pitch in Time. Just what I wanted to come back to. So I've finished licking my wounds and stomping round the garden. Believe me that's not easy. We've got tigers in them there 6ft high brambles.

My commiserations to fellow jetsom - Elinor, Sheiky, Chip and the rest of you. We woz robbed.

On to the next challenge. Sheiky had a good one here and another was sitting in my in-box here. I've got an idea involving misunderstandings on sexual preference in a minisub for the next play. Maybe I should get it written. But first I've got my re-write to finish and pass over to Lucy for a check.

I did get some stuff done in the hotelroom, in between watching Life on Mars episodes and Sunshine.

Hope some of you out there hit lucky.