Friday, 14 August 2009

Incommunicado for a Fortnight

To meditate and ruminate and cogitate and percolate and basically have a good rest.

See you in a fortnight.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The name's the thing.

Discovering Axel Rose's real name was Bill Bailey made me wonder what I would have chosen as a Rock name. Wanting something that would make me cool I hunted around for inspiration and came up with...nothing. I can't do cool. Not even slightly tepid.

However the internet claimed it could do better. Just type in your first name here and whether you're male of female then away it goes. So details went in and it came up with...Ellyn Sixx. What? A rock star called Ellyn? I could believe the lack of spelling ability but purlease. Even the website reckons I am a chill free zone. It gives me the name of an android or a murder victim. Great.

But there was hope. Maybe I could be a street-wise, angst ridden rapper. Hold on. Do they do angst-ridden or is it just a revamp of "You think you've got it hard kid? In my day we had to use go-carts for driveby shootings." So I put my info in again and I got Femme Rose. Cheers. Now I'm a ribbon wrapped, glitter covered perfume bottle. More glam rock than rapper. Think I'll bin this internet search.

I do have a big problem with names. Tell me yours and guaranteed it will go in one ear and out the other. Not because I mean to be rude but my brain holds that kind of information like a herring net holds a midge.

I've stated vociferously (now there's a lovely word) to phonecallers at the office that Methuselah Bates* does not and has never worked here until Methuselah taps me on the shoulder. Is it my fault I've know him as boy* for past ten years?

The problem doesn't stop there. I have to think of names for my characters. I call them A, B and C for as long as I can but eventually it gets awkward. And names are important as Daniel Gritten guest posted on Danny Stack's site in his write up of the William Ackers talk.

It would be nice to say I can just pull names out of the air but every time I try I just get two syllable names that end in eeeee. Like a register being read out at a chav convention.

So instead I try to find names that mean who they are. I have a couple of baby name books and I hit the internet again. Once I've applied my rule that no two names should have the same first letter I end up with a very short list. Too short. So off I go again for another dig. I can send a few evenings doing this.

I wish I could put aside the suspicion that it is all just another form of procrastination. Maybe I should go down the Prisoner route and bin the names all together.

So how do you handle naming?

* Name changed so he won't thump me.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Enter Late - Leave Early

Err-Humm. Excuse me? Anybody there? No? Woo hoo. Party time.

So what am I going to talk about today? There seems to have been a lot of flux in the blogs recently. Some have died and will be sorely missed. Some have revamped and others are still considering what they are doing and why they are doing it. Hmmm.

So should I write something deep and meaningful? Something enlightening fellow readers and directing them to fame and fortune?

Problem is I'm no expert in writing so it would be blind leading the blind, everyone holding onto the one ahead, marching in circles to nowhere. And there are lots of people with oodles of knowledge to guide you already. See the list of blogs to the right for a start.

Should I write about my latest projects? Not much to say on that front because I've been in a bit of gloom and they haven't progressed. Need to get them sorted, I know.

So I was lying there last night, listening to the Tropical Rainforest. It's a recording sadly, not some exotic holiday. One day…Anyway I thought maybe I could write about this thing "Enter late - Leave early". Again Hmmmm.

I've worked hard on this one and have chopped off beginnings and ends until it feels my scripts race along so fast that the viewer will be gasping for breathe before Act 2. But I do wonder why we do it.

Yes it keeps the pace up. Yes it makes the writing concise. Yes it gives you those precious turning points fast…faster… fastest. But why the rush?

Is it a Hollywood thing? Race in, snatch the prize, race out. Rush here, rush there. No time to waste. I want it all and I want it now…now… now. Is this low attention span real or is it just that someone somewhere decided they couldn't sit still more than 5minutes and conned everyone else that it was normal?

At first I thought, definitely. It's an American thing. You won't see it in Europe. But looking along my DVD shelves I don't think that's really true. You can't call Nikita or les Visiteurs slow paced. Nor do Lost in Translation or Sideways go at a break neck gallop.

So is it genre? Action should be fast paced and drama maybe slower? I looked for a slow paced action, never scared of a challenge, and I found Three Days of the Condor. It has its fast bits but most of it is slow and steady. I then looked for a fast paced drama and found le Diner de Cons. I defy anyone to call that slow paced. I count it as drama but I know someone out there will be screaming "Thriller and Farce." My blog. I win.

Maybe it's tied to budget? A higher budget demands a faster pace or the audience won't turn up and they won't get their money back. Only if that was true then how could a low budget film slip in and swipe the audience?

I think it is all a big conspiracy. Probably by the twitter creators. Get them used to short, sharp shocks and they'll be easy prey to twit …. Ahh used up the character limit. For heaven's sake where does 140 come from? Too long for a putdown and too short for a decent conversation. I want a discussion, not a sentence. Am I becoming a luddite in my old age?

Is the art of conversation dead? Will a film get a decent budget without insisting we are too thick to concentrate longer than 3 minutes? Will Jessica ever persuade Benson to serve poptarts?

So where have all these ramblings taken us? Nowhere really. But here's the thing. Didn't you enjoy the stroll through thoughts and musings? Wasn't the journey more interesting than the destination? Didn't you find starting early and leaving late a refreshing change? Wasn't the distraction more entertaining than sharpening pencils?

No? Who said that? Well if you are frustrated at wasting a few seconds of time on scenery and wish you'd stuck with charging after the holy grail then as the caramel bunny would say "Just take it easy."

Sunday, 14 June 2009

CBBC and Birdlife

I've spent the past week working on my CBBC entry. Not the episode itself but what I want the series to be. It has taken a while because I kept finding flaws and having to go back and rethink. I've found kids are very good at finding holes in plots and very vocal when a character does something clearly stupid.

Kids don't go into dark basements when there's a killer about. After all they know there is nothing a killer likes more than a dark basement. Or under the bed or in the wardrobe or anywhere but in the nice, bright warm parts of the house.

No I'm not writing a serial killer series. somehow I don't think that would go down too well with parents of 6-12yrs old even though I suspect the kids would love a nice bit of murderous mayhem. I once made a dinosaur birthday cake for a party. Asked the kids which bit I should cut off first and they gleefully screamed "The head".

Anyway I am writing a scary piece but I'm trying to be careful with the balance. Not so scary that they have nightmares. That's more a Saturday Teatime thing. However scary enough that they have to watch to see that all ends well.

I've also made sure the kids get themselves out of trouble rather than being the victims and that each major scare gets sorted at the end of the episode but there is still enough menace left that they want to tune in again to see how it develops.

I may have got the balance all wrong but I'm sure someone will enlighten me when they read it. I loved scary stuff as a kid, as do all the kids I know but it is adults that do the selecting.

On the summer front, we have hung up a load of feeders outside our living room window. It has been an eye opener. Anyone tells you collar doves are sweet should see what they've done to my heather. Flattened it. And wood pigeons can "deposit" more than chickens. Clearly these are the graffiti artists and vandals of the birdworld.

Starlings are complete psycho bullies that chase all the other birds away then swing on the feeders until the contents are sprayed all over the floor while blackbirds grab chunks of fat balls as they fly by, spit them out then dive down to eat them. Yuck. What slobs.

House sparrows have oversized kids that sit on the feeder, right next to the seeds but scream for the parents to pick them up and shove them in their great big gobs. The chavs of the birdworld? Then there are the great tits, coal tits and bluetits that swing upside down to eat, just cos they can. Big showoffs. OK. Little show offs. The rockers of the fraternity.

The poor robins hardly get a look in. Or rather they are too cool to get involved and sit on the wall until the brawling is over then glide in and and pick the choice pieces the others are too raucous to notice. And the finches dive in when all is quiet and then scoot off again when others turn up. The shy wallflowers.

Poor Henry, our cat, is failing to live with the shame. All these feathered tasties and the one time he caught one he got told off. He sits on the wall, glaring at passing dogs "You lookin' at me?". The result is a canine yelp and the screech of owners being dragged into the distance. He's hard, our cat.

I seem to have rambled on a bit today. Enjoy the sun.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

A Good Tidy Up

I've been doing a sort out of my writing area over the past couple of days. In my fantasy that means gliding into a fancy office with twirly chair and rosewood desk. Calmly sorting out the neat folders and pigeon holes and updated my tidy corkboard. In reality it involves pulling my battered laptop out of the detritus down my side of the sofa and opening up my "writing" folder. Somehow not as glamorous.

Anyway I found this tidy up rather therapeutic. I'd been feeling recently that I'd been in butterfly mode. Flitting one project to another and not finishing anything off. Doing a good sort out and compiling a list of projects for my portfolio revealed I'd done much more than I thought. I even found a couple of things I'd finished a few years ago and forgotten about. What other wonders might lurk in the mountains of cardboard boxes in the spare room?

There are a few projects at 1st draft only and a few more with step outlines completed but not written yet. However the majority were in a decent state and it surprised me how much Radio and Stage stuff I had. If you'd asked me I would have thought I had more TV and Film.

So now my head and folder have had a good clearout I should be able to plan my workload a bit better. This currently means working on my idea for the CBBC shout. I don't remember the last time they did a call for any writers so don't let it pass if you can help it.

And I've spent some of today listening to Tom Lehrner. Bought a couple of his CDs yesterday and now getting flashbacks to my student days when my decrepid flat would ring with "Poisoning Pigeons..." and "...she did everyone of them in." I don't know what they neighbours thought.

Hope you still have some Sun lurking about. Ours is just squeezing through a gap in the clouds and hoping they don't notice.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Calling Cumbrian sCribes

I don't know how many Cumbrians read this. If you do then Hiya. Anyway there are a couple of competitions coming up that you might be a wee bit interested in. Sorry folks but they are Cumbrian only. Makes a change from "anyone can apply but you'll be expected to move down to London" things. Move to London? But it's flat and has this unhealthy sun stuff and...well...Southerners.

So for those in the Northern climes we have the Theatre of the Lake 10th anniversary this year. This coincides with the 10th anniversary of the writing group I recently joined, North Cumbria Scriptwriters. As a result there are a couple of comps you can go for.

10 Plays for 10 Years. This is being run by the writing group and you can follow the link for more details. A chance to get your work on Radio Cumbria. The deadline is 25th August 2009 so plenty of time to work on a 5min radio play.

And on a shorter timescale there is this. CAN YOU WRITE … AND ARE YOU FUNNY?

If you are a writer living in Cumbria, and have a well-developed sense of humour which you can translate into the written word, then here’s a great opportunity to get exposure for your work at the county’s only producing theatre – Theatre by the Lake in Keswick.

As part of the theatre’s 10th anniversary celebrations, Associate Director Stefan Escreet is planning a series of free lunchtime readings the Circle Bar at the end of August – of comic material. The intention is to have 2 different 30 minute shows, each of which will involve 3-4 actors from the resident professional company.

Each reading/performance and very short: say, a maximum of 10 minutes but really best to aim at 5 minutes. It also of course needs to be family-friendly, as it’s well before the 9 o’clock watershed and undoubtedly there’ll be kids around!

There’s no theme - just let your imagination run riot – and the readings can be stories or poems (including extracts from longer pieces), but MUST be original work, new material and FUNNY! Think irony, satire, stand-up, farce or subtle … but not short plays.

All work will of course be credited.

Entries should be typed on single sided sheets of A4, double line spaced and either sent as a Word email attachment (preferred) or as hard copies by post, in the first instance to:

Sue Allan
Eden Arts
1 Sandgate
CA11 7TP

Stefan Escreet will select pieces for use during July and successful writers will be notified and kept in touch with the date(s) of readings of their pieces.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Useful Links

I've been trawling through my bookmarks and thought I'd add some useful ones to the bar at the side. I may get organised enough to sort them into categories one day but at the moment they are just in alphabetical order.

Hope you find something useful there and please let me know if any of the links don't work.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

ABBA and my Waterloo

Well the ABBA results are in, for those of us not on the shortlist. I've been amazed how many daily hits I've had from people looking for the results. It has been going on for weeks.

I found out a little while ago that I hadn't got onto the longlist. Rats, rats, rats. It was hard not to put this news up earlier but I felt I should wait until the formal results were out. I've had my cry and I'm all better now. I did consider recording the play myself and putting it online anyway but the script involves specific lyrics so sorting out copyright would be a nightmare.

A couple in the writing group got onto the longlist so a big well done to them. Did any of you get through?

Working on another play (a short one) for the writing group's 10th anniversary. Got some feedback so onto my next re-write. For those living in Cumbria I will soon be posting about a related competition for you to enter.

And a big Good Luck to all those submitting to the BBC writing colleges.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Starting Science Fiction

For some reason I haven't got much writing done this week. Maybe it was returning to work and being on frantic catch-up or still adjusting to the clocks changing. Whatever it was, this post is my most creative activity this week.

So what am I going to write about while my cat tries to push the laptop off and repeatedly turns the Caps on. The little @@%%$$. Well how about where my love for Science Fiction came from.

When I was out playing there were a handful of things that could drag me in. One was to watch an Apollo launch or landing. Not fiction I know, unless you believe those stories of secret filming in the desert. No I don't, I have a life. I would sit in front of the black and white TV with my Mum while she explained what was going on.

Another was Captain Scarlet. Forget Stingray or Thunderbird, that old Captain was cool and I still do Mysteron impersonations if I get my hands on a few torches. Each week I sat there, eager to see how he would escape those impossible, guaranteed death situations. OK. I was young, alright? My faith that he was in real danger each week was as indestructable as he was. And then there was Captain Black. I'm sure Darth Vader was based on him. I watched the remakes too but they just weren't the same. No strings for a start.

Dr Who has been part of life since, well my life started. The sofa was kept away from the wall just for Saturday night where we junior members of the family would hide. Peeking around to find out what the screams were about then diving back with horror. Nobody in the family would dream of missing it, right up until they cancelled the show. I was horrified when I heard it was to be reworked. How could they touch it? It was sacred?

Dave read all the advanced info because I couldn't bear to look then kept telling me it would be fine but I insisted the kids watched some of the originals before they saw the new stuff. Thankfully my fears were over nothing and it is now as regular a family event as the old stuff was. I think the highlight was the Daleks moving from their ships to the Satellite 5. I saw the trailer and screamed. "Oh my God they %%&& fly in space." I don't swear as a rule but well, that one deserved it.

I can remember watching the first trailers for Star Trek and wondering what on earth it was. I'd never seen anything like it. Again I was hooked. The gang of kids I played with were all fans too but when we built our own spaceship (a tree that had a convenient wall round it) I was always Captain Kirk. Can't remember if it was because I knew the most, because we'd picked up on the filtered down equality stuff or just no-one dared to demote me.

And Dad would make sure I watched any old movies that were on. Quatermass, Day of the Triffids, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds. Of course I was already in when they came on. The Mother Police on the estate would soon be whispering if any Mum was so slack as to let their child out after dark.

I would also run in to watch Marine Boy but the less said about that the better. Just pretend you never read that bit, OK?

But... you cry... that's all TV and Film. Well I did move onto books and devoured them but even an advanced reader takes a while before they can handle Azimov and Heinlein. Let alone Philip K Dick and Harlan Ellison. So my love of SF started with TV.

Don't know if this post counts as creative now I've done it so lets just call it a stream of conciousness. Have a great week.

Monday, 13 April 2009

End of Easter

Well the week off is over, I'm munched buckets of chocolate and now its back to the day job tomorrow. Sob. Hope all you bunnies had a good Easter.

I didn't forget my writing this week.

My black comedy feature "Blood, Sweat and Tears" is now renamed "Shepherd's Ruin". Feels a more appropriate title with the major changes I've made to the story. I've done about 30% of the re-write on it.

I've started on the first draft of "Rain On My Parade" my comedy drama feature. This is about 10% done.

I even started on "Life to the Full", my drama feature. This has been blocked out for quite a while but I've now got down to writing the first draft.

Forgot to say I also submitted my synopsis of my horror feature, "Valley of the Moon Dancers", into the Euroscript Competition. A while until I hear.

I wrote a short radio play. This is a spooky one. And I've been playing with ideas for my young adult novel.

Sounds a lot but what I've actually been doing is jumping from one project to the next whenever I get stuck. I do wonder whether it would be better to plough on with just a single project but I hate to do one thing at a time.

Even when I watch TV I have to be knitting or reading or writing or tapestry or anything. It's what I find hardest with long haul flights. You can't take knitting needles or sewing on the flight in case you attack the crew with a lethal purl stitch. The curse of multi-tasking.

So how is everyone's workload doing?

Sunday, 5 April 2009


Well it's time for my weekly post and I sat here wondering what to say. I haven't done much writing this week. Very naughty I know but blame it on the bugs that are lurking around this Spring. It is Spring isn't it? I know it's sunny outside at the moment but they are forcasting torrential rain for my week off. Typical.

Anyway, back on topic. How do I get inspiration for my stories. When I sat down and thought about it I came up with the list below but to be honest I rarely make a concious decision to go somewhere and look for a story. It's usually hindsight that shows where it came from. But when I get stuck I know the list below will help me out.

1) Music. This is top of my list because it is my main source of ideas. I listen to a piece of music and pictures appear in my head. I then take these images and expand on them. It doesn't really matter what type of music, and I have catholic tastes. But it does need to generate an emotional response.

So forget elevator music and most pop. Classics, soul, blues, alternative rock are much better. But not under any circumstances Country and Western. I'm sorry but its going to be many decades and several lobotomies before I can handle that. Not that I'm anti-country, just I want a wrist-slashing ballard that comes from deep angst, not cos Pa sold the prize bull and now the cows are in Moo...rning.

2) Dreams. I used to get a lot of nightmares as a kid, immersion heater daleks and shopwindow dummies springing to life. So my Mum taught me to control my dreams. Of course we didn't know there was a fancy name for it. I can recall my dreams very clearly and go back into them when I want which makes a great place to play with ideas.

I find this is most useful at the beginning and end of a project. At the start I can play with ways of telling the story. At the end I can act out scenes and get the dialogue and emotions right. I have to keep a torch and notepad by the bed though to write ideas down or I'll never get any sleep.

3) Travel. I have to do this a lot and I can't say I enjoy it. Airports and hotels get to look very much the same after a while. What keeps me sane is people watching. Catching a snapshot of their lives and filling in the blanks. Why is that woman trying to handle a business deal on the phone while feeding her toddler processed gunk from a jar? What made that security man think shouting in English would make anything clearer to the Indian lady that can't speak a word of it? How did they all get into those situations?

4) Morning Papers. One writing course I attended started with a couple of days improvisation. My first response was...oh dear. I'd once been dragged to a drama school class by a mate and after one session of being a tree and walking round a room saying Cro...Co...Dile and I swore never again.

But instead of walking I decided to give it a try and discovered it was great fun. And suprisingly hard too. Learning to hold the emotion in until it just has to burst out. To let others control what you do and say. It helped a lot with how people really talk and status games as well as stopping you editing your ideas too early.

The improvisation part was run by Dylan Emery of Grand Theft Impro and I believe they run courses in London so it would be worth checking them out here. Don't worry about making a fool of yourself. You won't be on your own. And the things people say when they are under pressure and have no time to think it through first. Hmmm Freud would have a field day.

Anyway, when I get really stuck I use the Morning Papers excercise. Just let yourself write anything until the flow is underway. You can always bin the early stuff.

5) Real Papers. Especially old ones used for packing. I like to think of it as recycling. I have a pile from the late 60s and early 70s that my Dad collected. Some are local papers and these I find are even better than the nationals. They have more of the wierd stuff. Odd adverts and little stories that were important to the community. Small scale stuff but that's what I like.

6) Brainstorming. I've had a few sessions with groups, coming up with a communal idea and it is great fun as long as everyone is prepared to have their ideas binned occasionally. It is awful if you have one individual plowing ahead with their idea and you are all expected to tag along. When it is working well the ideas seem to flow faster and you can bounce off each other. Not literally but I suppose that could be useful if you are working on an action film?

I have tried groups where everyone is in one room and I found these the easiest. Long distance groups tended to be a lot slower, even when emailing back and forth live. Sometimes you just need to see the whites of their eyes. However both forms were fun when you were working with people you trust. Haven't tried it with strangers.

So that's were I get my inspiration. What have you found works for you?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

A Post Of No Importance

1) Put the link of the person who tagged you on your blog. Lianne waited until I was away and then tagged me. I'm going to have to stop all this travelling or who knows what will happen next time I'm away.
2) Write the rules. Please read paragraph above and a few below. Done that? OK Job done.
3) Mention 6 things or habits of no real importance about you. Talk about myself? Hmmm. I wouldn't know where to start. Still, if you insist...
4) Tag 6 persons adding their links directly. Ermmm. Well there's...nope they've been tagged. Right I can do....again someone got there first. I tag Dave, Robin, Colin (if you're still out there), Jon (also a bit quiet), Paul (super quiet) and none blogger Caroline. (Aha. You thought you could escape. Nope. There's still the comments section girl.)
5) Alert the persons that you tagged them. Are you reading this? Good. Then consider yourself tagged. Ha.

So here's my little list.

1 I can make my knees bend backwards. It does tend to make people go yuck followed by retching noises so it is a habit I've worked hard to break. But it is so comfy when you have to stand for ages.

2 I've eaten raw meat. Yes I'm a vegetarian but that happened in my late teens. Before that I was known to partake of animal cadavers occasionally. Mum bought a packet of what she thought was luncheon meat and made our school sandwiches with it. Sadly it was a slab of raw pork. Tasted kind of chewy and sickly sweet. Like you'd imagine the rotting contents of a bin to taste. Just remembering it makes me feel a bit...OK, excuse me. Got to go throw up again.

3 I was called Cannonball when I played hockey. Maybe because my technique relied completely on momentum. Once I was racing down the pitch, anyone who got in my way would make a beautiful trajectory into the distance. And I wasn't averse to hooking my stick around ankles.

4 Every room in my house has piles of books in it. And I mean every room. Last time we moved the removal company had to get a second van because they had considered all the furniture and ignored my comments of : there are books inside there; have you spotted the piles of books?;and under those books there's...well...books. (Yes I know ?; is not a valid punctuation combination but I'm being creative and anyway it's my list.) Lots of moans about not being told it was a bleeding library and did we really read them.

5 I won a limerick competition when I was 10. The judge said it was because I entered more limericks than the rest put together. Well it was a class competition and any limerick that was obscene was binned. In the school I went to that meant nearly every entry got binned. But I was a good girl so I won. And the judge was a real poet too. Little did I know that early success would be followed by years of failure.

6 I want to travel up the Amazon before I die. But first I have to invent the perfect spider detterent. I can handle all sorts of creepy crawlies and actually like snakes and lizards but those 8-legged beasties. I even have to watch Arachnaphobia with my feet off the floor and a cushion to hide behind. And in our old house you get some big, hairy meanies. The sort that bounce back like a facehugger when Dave chucks them out. That carry their own suitcase in when they arrive. That knock plaster off the ceiling when they have their wild parties in the attic. Ever told a weightlifting, steroid enhanced spider to turn the music down? They just give you that unblinking, multi-eyed glare and you find yourself wearing slippers in Tescos at 3am looking for earplugs.

So that's my list done. Hope you enjoyed the read.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Still Busy

Tum, te-tum, te-tum. Now where was I? Oh yes.

I got my 7on7 submission sent off but it didn't get picked. Rats.

I reached the end of my sitcom first episode but realised it was just too early in its development to sent out so I didn't enter Northern Laughs.

Instead I sent my Red Planet piece The Gate out to my faithful PO3s for them to rip to pieces. Seems they like the dark tone, the gory bits and the strong female characters. And I manage it without big guns and clingy T-shirts.

Lots of useful points too on pace problems and each character having its own voice. Also that Landrover winches don't work that fast. Rats. Got to think of another way to make a fast exit. Note to self. Do not rely on John Carpenter vampire films for reference.

I've also knuckled down to my page 1 rewrite of Blood, Sweat and Tears. I have the step outline done so in theory it is just a case or writing what I see in my head.

Ha. How naive is she? Yep I can hear you all thinking it. I'm a Mother. We can read minds.

And of course I am holding my breathe to hear who gets shortlisted for Alfred Bradley but that's the end of April so I may go a bit blue in the meantime.

Back to the keyboard.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Battling Dragons

I feel like I've had a good week writing-wise. Well sort of.

The night before the deadline I decided to have a go at the 7on7 shout. They wanted three topical sketches or two topical with one character.

I had a character sketch already so I ran over it once more then read through the BBC News to see if anything inspired me. Must have been a productive day because I came up with several ideas, two reaching a point I was happy to submit. I read them out to Dave who didn't groan or throw rotten tomatoes so off they went.

I then carried on with my sitcom idea. Can't say it ran smoothly. I have a problem you see. When I try to be funny it is just...duff. When I just write it then things are a lot better. So I should be just plowing ahead but I keep going back on each scene and judging it.

Bad, bad idea. Of course it is a first, rough draft so it isn't going to be funny yet. I'm getting the story sorted first. But I keep losing heart and comparing to all my favourite writers.

So I am currently banning myself from reading back over anything until I get to the end. So what if the characters aren't consistent or the dialogue is on the nose. Just get it done you wassock. It's got me half way through and the plot structure is behaving so maybe it isn't such a stupid thing to do.

Well I've got to get back to battling dragons. Have a productive week.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

One gone and more to go.

Well the read through of "Don't be Koi" highlighted several passages that sounded great in my head but were a complete nightmare to say. So some work was needed there.

Feedback had also said some passages had the same monotonous rhythm. This was reinforced when they were read aloud so I did a bit of restructuring. The most effective way of doing this was to cut out some chunks and merge others so the process made the script tighter. Always a good thing.

So it went into the post today for the Alfred Bradley Bursary and I need to just forget about it and concentrate on the next project.

I've spent the past few days knocking ideas about for a sitcom. Northern Laughs deadline is coming up and I thought I'd spend a while seeing if anything came together. So I now have a small group of characters who bounce off each other well. There's plenty of opportunity to play with class and status and I can see how each relates to the others.

I've aimed for each to have a family role, even though only two are actually related. So I have a Father, Mother, Daughter, Uncle and Grandad role covered. Mixing the sex and age of the characters for these roles has been quite fun.

I also found a location for them. Two main rooms and one smaller one. I've made sure the characters have to stay in close proximity and the main character is trapped there, wanting to escape. A nice pressure cooker set up. All I have to do now is turn up the heat.

I do enjoy writing for characters that are unstable. I just give them a push and watch what happens. I must remember to be more cruel though. Got that as feedback a couple of times on other pieces. I don't make my characters suffer enough. Well I think this time I should get out the blowtorch and the birdysong cd**.

Lots of writing still to do though and the deadline is frighteningly close.

** I DO NOT and NEVER HAVE owned that item!!!!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Don't be Koi Part 2

All the feedback has been read and acted on and I have done a re-write. Though it didn't seem to need a page 1 one. Thanks to non-bloggers Paul, Wendy, Caroline and Fran. Also thanks to bloggers Elinor and Dave. Yes my PO3 turned into a PO6.

All the advice was helpful and it's shocking how many spelling mistakes Word misses. Not me. It was Word. Honest. Oh and we won't talk about the protagonist changing name half way through. Didn't happen. Just a bad dream. I can't believe I did that!!!! Bottom line, as I tell my trainees: You can't check your own work. You just repeat your mistakes.

I've now got to do a read-aloud of the whole thing. Dave's going to have to dredge up his old acting skills to help me with that one. Then I'll put it aside for a while and read through just before I post it off.

Moving onto a sitcom idea ready for Northern Laughs. Just to see if it comes together in a civilised manner. Or maybe an uncivilised manner seeing as it is comedy. If I don't think it will be ready in time then I just won't enter.

Lots of other stuff to do. And do you find certain keys become faded? Mine are E, R, T H and N. There's no letter on them anymore. Just as well I can touch type. But it does make me wonder what I've been typing in my sleep. THERN? NERTH? Sounds like fantasy characters to me. So I've just got to find where it's hidden on my drive, this nocturnal novel.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Don't be Koi

My first page re-write is done and it is now out to PO3. Wooo Hooo (with a good Blur rhythm). I think that deserves a nice hot chocolate. With squirty cream on top. Oh and the script is now a black comedy instead of a romcom. I couldn't help it. It just got darker and darker. Must be the time of the year.

Hope all your entries are going well.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Writing Progress Report

At the beginning of Winter I listed my plans for the chilly months here. I thought I'd give an update on progress. Yes I know there are those fancy sliding progress things but I've not mastered them yet.

The Gate: Horror TV series: The first 10 pages were submitted to Red Planet but didn't get picked. I re-wrote them and completed the first draft of the episode. This involved binning some scenes I really liked but they slowed the pace and had to go. Interestingly I found the supporting characters more fun to write than the protagonist. I don't know if that is typical? The script is now in the feedback loop starting with hubby who likes to track down holes and switches in character. It will head out to PO3 after that.

Don't be Koi: Romcom Radio Play: This is my Alfred Bradley entry. It is a romcom with a very dark twist. It is going through a page 1 re-write after I found the end was more malevolent than the beginning. The protagonist has changed quite a lot and I made a major change to one of the other characters. I'm using the fact it is radio to try something different with her character, basically playing with sound. Still enjoying writing it. Should be out for PO3 soon.

Witch's Stone: Teen Horror Novel: After Laura mentioned children's novels are typically 40,000 words I realised I'd got carried away and actually had a trilogy. The first novel is now well blocked out and ready to write but the overall story arc is still a bit rough.

Blood, Sweat and Tears: Comedy Feature: Some adjustments have been made but basically I need to sit down and write this next draft.

Rain On My Parade: Comedy Drama Feature: Reworked my outline and am now happy with the three main characters. Ready to write the first draft.

No progress in: Life to the Full: Drama TV Special, Solitary Sky: SF Radio Play and Under the Thumb: Horror-Drama Stage Play.

So lots on the go but not all have progressed. I've decided to concentrate on getting things finished so the portfolio is thicker rather than leaving them at step outlines.

Hope all your work is going well.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Bloggety Birthday

It was my Bloggety 1st birthday last Sunday and I forgot. This means I didn't get myself a virtual present or cake so I'll have to console myself with a real one this Sunday. Hmmm. I think a nice big chocolate cake with sprinkles and whipped cream on top. Nope. Clotted cream and strawberry jam. My arteries will never forgive me.

On the radio script front I decided I liked the ending better than the beginning. I am therefore going to do a 1st page rewrite to sort it out.

That's me sorted for the weekend then. Hope yours goes well too.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Northern Laughs

In case anyone gets bored with the Alfred Bradley Bursary applications there is another scheme to go for if you live in the cooler part of England. It's Northern Laughs, a BBC comedy writer development scheme.

Details are at the writersroom and application is via the local screen agencies. These are in the North East, North West and Yorkshire. Deadline is 12th March and you will need to be available for the dates they list.

I've already downloaded my application form but can't make any of the launches so if you are going can you let us all know what happens please?

These are:
Leeds 6-8pm 2nd Feb Carriageworks Theatre,
Newcastle 6-8pm 4th Feb Live Theatre, Quayside,
Manchester6-8pm 9th Feb BBC Oxford Road

Email your full name in the body of the email to: with the subject heading
Northern Laughs LEEDS
Northern Laughs NEWCASTLE
Northern Laughs MANCHESTER

Good Luck

Monday, 12 January 2009

A shout to the Mac users out there

I met a fellow writer at the Alfred Bradley workshop. I know, who did I expect to meet, a tapdancing gerbil in a beret? Anyway she is a Mac user and wondered if there were any handy templates or low cost (ideally free) software for radio play writing.

She'd tried the Scriptsmart at the BBC Writersroom with no luck. It gets twitchy (dies) if you don't have the exact operating system version. A search found a Pages Template by Brokensea but we wondered if the Mac crowd kn0w of any other options.

So help. Any of you creative gurus got any ideas? And no "buy a PC" comments from the rest please.

Big Ta.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Alfred Bradley Workshop

On Thursday I went to one of the Alfred Bradley Workshops. It was hosted by Charlotte Riches with backup from Stefan Escreet. For those that couldn't make a session I've put a little summary here.

In 2006 there were 371 entries. Because you can submit two scripts this means the number of writers was probably less than that. The writersroom read the 1st 10 pages of all entries. So you need to grab their attention in those crucial few pages. Set the world and characters but keep focused.

The long shortlist of 57 scripts were then read in full. If you reach this stage then you will get comments. A rewrite and resubmitting to the writersroom might then be worthwhile.

The shortlist of 14 scripts were then read by the judges. Of that group of 14, commissions were given to 6 writers. The commission were not necessarily for the script they submitted. They also got mentoring from producers and they propose to repeat that.

In other words the odds are good, based on 2006 about 1 in 92. Remember many will fall at the first hurdle because they think they can just knock something out?

The scheme is looking for 44min Afternoon Plays. I assume the extra minute to make 45 is for credits and stuff. These plays will fill the 2.15-3.00 slot from Mon-Fri and get 6000+ listeners. For length the latest advice is 1 minute per page or about 7000 words total.

It isn't a perfect timing method but even just reading it aloud and timing it helps. Just make sure you aren't on a crowded bus at the time or they'll kick you off and you'll have to walk home. Maybe I shouldn't have tested a horror script when the pensioners were off to get their pensions. Anyway they do allow a tolerance of about 5-7mins.

The slot accepts a range of styles but Charlotte gave a list of things to watch out for. You can use them if valid and you can justify them but don't get carried away.
  • Inner voice - they see a lot of this. If you can take it out and the story still works then why do you need it?
  • Setting in the past or future. Why is it important to set the story then?
  • Too much backstory. The odd flashback is OK.
  • Long time frames. For example 20 years.
  • Lots of characters. No more than 6 main ones please. The actors can double up but the audience is intelligent and will spot it. Not too many voices speaking together either. Make the voices different. Remember the audience has no visual clues and are unfamiliar with the characters at the start.
  • Bad language. Oh **&&%%!
  • Sex and Violence. It is a more personal medium and the listener won't accept as much as they will on television.

Another tip was to concentrate on story and think in film terms rather than stage. This means go in late, come out early, good pace and not too much talking heads about the philosophy of life. Ah shucks. And I was going to spend 44mins talking about the deep meaningful discoveries I've made staring into my belly button. Bin that one then.

Finally you need to write in your own voice rather than trying to second-guess what they are looking for. Be original and take risks. Write what you enjoy listening to.

The deadline is 28th February and the entries need to be posted. You can find all the details here. One thing to note is you are currently based, have lived or were born in the North. The website clarifies that condition.

Anyway thanks to Charlotte for braving the chilly fells and to Stefan for not racing home to a warm fire at the end of his working day.

Good luck everyone who has a go at this.