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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Your Vision

A writer writes. It's the nature of the beast, the whole point. You write because you have to, because you have a need to communicate a story in some way, whether that's because you want fame and fortune, respect and security or because you want to give the world a message. Whatever the case, I'm sure you are all aware of what I call THE URGE - that moment where an idea hits and you have no choice but to get it down on paper. You may be in bed, picking raisons off the carpet or going to the post office at the time - THE URGE can strike any time, often when it's most incovenient (like last night, when I was attending to the cat litter trays. Niiice). But it's cool. It's what makes us, us: writers. We see stuff a little differently maybe, we're on the lookout for ideas and half the time we don't even realise it. Stuff gets stored in our brains, lays dormant for years at a time, before a small spark lights up your mind: sometimes it's a slow burn, others a full-blown conflagration. But we always have to give in. Writing our specs is the only way we can put those fires out or at least keep them under control.

The great thing about specs is they're entirely ours. We can write them however we want them. You want to set it on the moon? Why the hell not. You want to write the wo/man you wish you were or the life you feel you should have had into this piece? Who can know. As long as you keep that spec to yourself, your dreams will come true. You are the best writer in the world. You have written the best story in the world. Wicked.

It takes guts to show others your spec. Not because people will point and laugh like at primary school, we're all adults here, but because this is not a commissioned work; this is something you have dreamt up, something youbelieve in. When people tell you then it's "hackneyed" or "trite", it's hard not to take it personally. You may have spent hours away from your family to write this supposedly trite and/or hackneyed script. You may have made sacrifices to write it, emotionally or financially, perhaps both. So when someone is insensitive about your work, it smarts.

As a Reader, it's easy to open a script and groan. All those little phrases, at your fingertips, ready for those "bad" scripts: not enough white on the page. Tells it, doesn't show it. Too much black on the page. Information inaccessible to an audience. Doesn't push the story forward. Disjointed/indiscernible structure. No character arc. Extraneous information. Directing from the page...blah blah BLAH.

As Readers, we just pick up those white pages, flick through them or scroll down a screen. It's not personal to us. Yet it's personal to the writer. It's easy to forget that hard work has gone into a spec - yet a writer won't forget the hundreds of hours they've spent on it, feeding the kids fishfinger sandwiches in an attempt to save just twenty minutes to squeeze those few extra pages out. They won't forget tramping home from work and then staying up into the middle of the night. And they won't ever forget careless coverage that comes in with those script reading phrases I've already outlined, as trite and hackneyed as they are.

A writer - any writer, novice or professional - has The Urge to tell a story. Sometimes a Reader won't know what that story is, despite a large page count and several acres of prose. We all have to start somewhere. Writing isn't something you can just "do", it takes practice and development.

Bang2write* began after I made a posting on Shooting People the first week I joined back in 2004. Someone had made a posting about having to wait a long time for expensive coverage, only for it to be vitriolic and upsetting. Having completed two very long placements with literary agents throughout university, I had been reading for various others for some time as well as TAPs and I enquired if people would be interested in a low-budget, no-frills type of script reading service that promised a quick turnaround with an emphasis for those writers who wanted advice and help in becoming coherent storytellers. I expected a few replies, maybe 4 if I was lucky...

...I got 27. Two were professional writers whose names I recognised; I nearly had a heart attack. But Bang2write was born and has done steady business ever since. Many of my clients return to me and some have even become my friends and colleagues, which is great.

My aim was always clear: to be supportive of writers, without engendering false hopes. It's a tough market - I know that, I'm a writer too. Perhaps that's why it works, or perhaps it's because I actually do really like script reading. By providing notes or reports for writers privately, as a "safe" environment, I feel like I'm helping them. And reading others' work also helps me, keeps me on my toes if you like. And that's a must.

*If you want development notes or a script report from me, click here.

14 comments:

Anya said...

Amen to that. I got coverage from a place that will remain nameless that really pissed me off. I know my script was a bit crap - but that's why I sent it to them, to see how I could improve! And they charged me almost a hundred pounds - paying from the US, it was almost double in dollars! Was so mad, well you've seen the report Lucy...

Elinor said...

Talking of 'the urge' to write, I can't leave the house without the trusty notebook and pen. If I haven't written it down, it just vanishes...

Lucy said...

Me too, Elinor - though I'm unsure you OR Anya ever leave the house, you're always commenting on here! ; )

Anonymous said...

ALL the people you've read for have been happy with your work?

Lucy said...

There will always be people who disagree with Readers, Anon - that's not particular to my service or indeed anyone else's. But what I promise are insight about your work, possible solutions and encouragement:
people seem very happy with Bang2write because of it.

Elinor said...

That's not true, I was at the bottom of the garden 20 minutes ago. You know, where the fairies are...

Steve said...

Anonymous, huh?

Well, I don't know about Lucy, but I'm a professional reader as well, but for books, fiction and non-fiction.

Most people appreciate what I do, there's been only one that didn't -- or rather, two, a husband and wife writing team who said "don't tell us not to give up the day job because it's too late for that".

Nice people, friendly, hopeful.

But I didn't tell them what they wanted to hear. The wife had tons of potential, she had a fantastic imagination and style. It was unusual, and she had a distinctive voice.

Her husband didn't and his input ruined the work. Not that either of the books they'd written could go as they were anyway, but those works had no chance with him in the frame.

It was very sad. So I encouraged as much as I could, and gave them a very fair assessment of what was good and what needed improving.

But after I'd said the same thing about their second book they didn't come back.

Lucy said...

Elinor - I know, I am a fairy and saw you before I rushed back here. I take it all back!

Steve - interesting! Do you think husband and wife combos can work? I had a boyfriend back in the mists of time that I used to write with and that worked very well. Sadly nothing else did. However, if I asked my husband to write a script with me, I think he'd sooner unblock the toilet. Really.

Steve said...

Hm, reading what I wrote back it sounds like I might be implying you weren't professional Lucy ... sorry about that.

Husband & wife teams? I expect they work as well as any random pair of writers trying to work together.

My wife was a professional magazine writer and editor for almost as long as I was, we have experimented writing together and it probably would work, but the main barrier is time -- she's a teacher nowadays and has not time.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Most people I know are okay with whatever readers have to say as long as the coverage reflects the opnion of somebody who obviously did a thorough reading and understands the story.

Lucy said...

Absolutely MaryAn - though the rub *can* be there that a Reader may do a thorough reading, yet still not understand the story, especially when it's the writer's very first attempt, like I outlined with mine in this post

Anne of Cleves said...

Lucy-

When my script is ready, you're the one I'm going to for coverage.

AofC

Lucy said...

Thanks your Highness! I will treat it like royalty, of course (arf, arf)

Milli Thornton said...

Lucy, I saw your link on Raving Dave. I really like his blog so trusted his good taste in links.

When I got here I became doubly interested because your service is just what I've been looking for. Affordable, personalized coverage from someone who cares.

I had already found one script analyst who has a similar "feel" by writing her a fan letter. She had written a wonderful article in a magazine for movie types about common mistakes in scripts. I could tell from her 'voice' in the article that she has the right combination of compassion and observation/critique skills I'm looking for at this stage in my script. And she has agreed to do some private coverage at a very affordable rate.

But, before putting my script out to a couple of big Hollywood services for some feedback (before I enter my first contest), I wanted more than one critique of this nature. So glad to find you.

Plus your blog looks juicy. Bonus!

Thanks, Lucy :0)