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.