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.