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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Help - My Partner Won't Let Me Write!

Bang2writer Jade-K emailed me this week with this lament:

I love my boyfriend to bits but he drives me nuts... He doesn't get that I need to write my novel! He says we should watch spend time together after work and when the kids go to bed and gets proper narked if I want to write. I see from your blog you have kids, how do you manage it?

Jade-K is not the first person to email me about this. I frequently hear from Bang2writers who complain to me their non-writing spouses and partners don't always "get" they *need* to write. Their situations are most often complicated by children (particularly under 5s), shift work, duties to relatives, other work such as uni, kids' school holidays and yes, it's most often the ladies complaining about their menfolk (though I suspect this is largely 'cos I too am a lady, rather than there being any big anti-men conspiracy before anyone gets their knickers in a knot).

But it's important to note two things:

1) Those men - AND women - who are unsupportive of their writing partners/spouses are not usually doing so out of spite. Most are genuinely confused and/or oblivious of HOW IMPORTANT writing is to their beloved, that's all.

2) This works BOTH WAYS: I have ALSO been contacted by the non-writing partners of people who've found their way into my social network who complain their writing partners/spouses TAKE THE MICK by locking themselves away and "dropping out" of duties/responsibilities for extended periods of time!

When it comes to number 1) I think it's very important to consider whether you might have taken for granted your non-writing spouse/partner's POV on this. After all, YOU know how important writing is to you - you're you. But have you COMMUNICATED this to your spouse/partner? They don't write - so may not understand the urge - and they're not you!

But they don't have to understand the urge of actual writing to "get" you need to, so all you need to do is TELL THEM. But not in a "Back off honey or I'll go postal" kind of way, but in terms of your hopes, dreams, ambitions, plans. Invite them to become PART OF IT: I'm always amazed by how many writers confess to not telling their partners/spouses anything much about their work! Why wouldn't your spouse or partner want to know? When I'm writing something, my conversations with Mr C often go *something* like this:

ME: Hi. How was work?

MR C: Oh [this happened... We talk about the kids etc]. How is [character's name]?

ME: S/he's being a bitch. S/he was supposed to [do whatever] but ended up [doing this instead] and now I have to rewrite [this bit].

MR C: What did [your agent/feedback people/Twitter] have to say?

ME: They said [blah].

By the same token, if you have something *outside* the relationship you love like writing, there's a strong chance your spouse/partner does too. So if you get to write a certain amount of the week, what do *THEY* get out of it? Maybe you'll find your spouse/partner has a hidden love of pottery, aerobics, fishing or gardening. Perhaps they simply like getting away on their own or going out with friends.

YES, the above is all obvious stuff, but I'm constantly surprised by people who haven't a clue what their spouse or partner likes - and sometimes, that spouse/partner hasn't a clue either, simply because they've NEVER BEEN ASKED. That's is pretty tragic, but not unusual.

When it comes to 2) this is OUR responsibility as writers and easily fixed - DON'T TAKE THE MICK. Writing is not a "get out of jail free" card for avoiding "life stuff". Sometimes writers tell me they *have* to get stuff done in a short period of time - and yes, if you're a professional writer, like ANY job sometimes you have to batten down the hatches and get on with it as deadlines loom and/or pay cheques beckon.

But when it comes to SPECS? you don't have to. 9/10 the panic spec writers feel is from within THEMSELVES: they may feel they "haven't done enough" either to their actual script or in their entire SCREENWRITING CAREER and one way of making themselves feel better is by locking themselves away and getting on. But this can clash with "real life", upset the balance and create conflict with the important people in your life, so what's the point?

A far better strategy IMHO is to NEGOTIATE certain amount of time - per day, per week, per month - and STICKING TO IT. I'm always surprised when writers tell me they "have no time" to write; even just 20 mins a day adds up. Had I not thought this, I'd have never managed to write the first screenplay that got me an agent. I had the script reading to do, a nursing baby and Mr C was retraining on a VERY low wage; that year could well have been a write-off. But instead I wrote it each night while he was bathing the kids.

So in answer to Jade-K, I would recommend TELLING your boyfriend exactly *why* you need to write and invite him to be part of your journey, negotiating certain "terms" for you both and sticking to them.

And if that doesn't work? Bury him under the patio. You know it makes sense.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Characterisation: The Expected Vs "The Recognisable & Surprising"

In lots of scripts, characters all sound and act the same. I don't mean they're LITERALLY the same - most writers will go to some lengths to include *differentish* characters, especially in terms of dialogue - but strip away those idioms, different genders, colours, races, the way they dress or whatever and WHAMMO - the same characters I [and countless other readers] have seen before.

I always think this is odd, because as writers we are confronted by the differences in people every single day: whether those people are in our own family, our neighbours, the parents at the school gates, shop assistants, cold callers on the phone, NOT ONE is the same. Even identical twins are NOT truly *identical*.

One of the most stereotyped or at least same-ish characters I see on practically a daily basis is The Mother. All of us have had one, all of us know some, yet day in, day out I see The Mother represented as one of JUST TWO WAYS:

The Depressed Mum. Depressed Mum has postnatal depression or can't bond with her baby *for some reason*. She spends a lot of time letting the baby cry in its crib or pushchair whilst crying herself or STARING OUT OF A WINDOW. If she has other children, she plonks them in front of the TV and/or shouts at them a lot. Sometimes she's a junkie or self medicates with alcohol. She nearly always smokes.

OR

Super-Enthused Mum. Super Enthused Mum has taken to motherhood like a duck to water and CAN DO ANYTHING. She is super healthy, her kids are angels and she usually has in excess of the usual two kids - sometimes as many as four or five. She works full time but still finds the time to run marathons, bake fantastic cakes and be like WELL, SEXY MAN.

So basically (as is so often the case when it comes to characterisation) we're talking two COMPLETELY OPPOSITE ENDS of the scale here. What's more, neither have any *real* grounding in reality.

My response? Yawn.

I've been a mother now for over a third of my life, but even if I hadn't, I don't think it's difficult to find ALTERNATIVES to these very obvious stereotypes; all we have to do is LOOK AROUND US. That's right - take a really good look. You'll be drawing with broad strokes at first - we never know what's *really* going on - but from there, we have a STARTING POINT FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

So here's my tongue in cheek list of the *types* of Mother I've seen around, at various school gates, at work, in the street, at toddler groups, BBQs, fetes, coffee mornings and the like:

Military Mum. This lady isn't the army - but she does everything with MILITARY PRECISION. This may be because she has a multitude of under 5s to control, or because she's a control freak. She always has tissues for inevitable mishaps, that antibacterial handgel stuff and she never leaves the house without bottles, nappies or the various favourite blankets/toys. When she utters a command, her kids COME RUNNING; you rarely see her lot tantrumming in the street. Military Mum thinks Free Range Mum (below) is a wimp.

Free Range Mum. Free Range Mum works on this basis: "If the kids aren't dead, ill or screaming, everything is more or less fine". Free Range Mum is not laissez-faire or hands off, quite the opposite; she cares about her children's emotional and physical needs, but also appreciates the kids' needs to fight their own battles and discover their own stuff. Free Range Mum gives her kids sweets AS LONG AS said kids have eaten all their dinner. She disapproves of helicopter parenting and thinks *most* things - bar playing in the middle of the road, illegal drugs or going off with strangers! - is OK in moderation. Free Range Kids can be gobby but largely well-behaved, with the odd tantrum or big argument, in comparison to Uptight Mum's kids (next).

Uptight Mum. Uptight Mum is BESIEGED with guilt - for working, for not working, for putting her baby on the bottle, for buying stuff her kids want/don't want, for picking the "wrong" school or nursery - you name it. She spends all her time on internet forums asking those "more experienced" Mums than herself WHAT TO DO and believes her husband or partner DOES NOT UNDERSTAND what she's going through, so keeps a lot of her worries and fears locked inside. Uptight's Kids have clocked their Mum's angst as a result and play her up A LOT, which feeds into the vicious cycle of her thinking she is a bad parent. At first, Free Range Mum spends a lot of time trying to console Uptight Mum, but ends up getting peeved with her and telling her she needs to CHILL OUT. This doesn't work out either.

Eco Mum. Everything for this Mum is about SAVING THE PLANET and LIVING HEALTHILY, which she feels will rub off positively on her kids in terms of being responsible. Eco mums are often easily recognisable by their sandals and 3/4 length jeans, with a surfie tee shirt. Eco Mums would never in a million years put their kids in disposable nappies and have fully adopted the "breast is best" mantra. Eco Kids are often only allowed sweets or pop at weekends, so as they get older, they may sneak off to Free Range Mum's house to get biscuits etc on the sly which drives Eco Mum WILD with fury.

Mega Mum. Mega Mum has LOTS AND LOTS of kids, usually all close together in age. Mega Mum frequently spends the first five years of her firstborn's primary school years pregnant and pushing a buggy. Mega mum hardly ever works because she'd never afford the childcare - even if her husand earns a decent wage - but then she works hard enough! The washing machine is always on and the hoover is always being pushed around the house and the house is tidy - as long as you NEVER open the cupboards where she's stashed everything away! Sometimes Mega Mum is a cross-breed with Military Mum, but just as frequently she is a Free Range Mum as well.

Harrassed Mum. Harrassed Mum shares some characteristics of Uptight Mum, though she's less crippled with guilt. Parenthood is a mega hassle to her and she CAN'T WAIT for the time the kids leave home. She'll tell anyone who'll listen - even though her youngest is only six months old! She's been counting down every stage of the kids' childhood - getting them out of nappies, getting them into school, getting them to uni... Sometimes (and weirdly) Harrassed Mum is also Superior Mum (below).

Superior Mum. Her name says it all - she has the best stuff, the best kids, the best plans - SHE'S BETTER THAN YOU. It's likely she moved into her well-fancy house before she even CONCEIVED her kids so they can go to the *best school in the area*... That's how good she is at forward planning. She had a problem-free pregnancy and knows all there is to know about drugs, birth, C-Sections, you name it. Superior Mum tends to think Stay at Home Mums are saddos: Superior Mum was working right up until her due date and back six weeks later! She is likely to work full time and pays for the top nannies/nursery care to ensure her child is a GENIUS. Free Range Mum is the DEADLY NEMESIS of Superior Mum.

Single Mum # 1: Tigress. This lady isn't going to let a little thing like Daddy not being around blight her parenting or her kids' childhood. If the father still wants to be involved, she will allow it for the kids' sake though she doesn't like it. If he's done a runner, she won't go looking for a substitute "in-house" Dad, but instead encourage male role models via grandfathers, platonic male friends, etc. Like Free Range Mum she's a hands-on Mum who reckons all's fine as long as no one's screaming, but after a few drinks she may reveal a few of Uptight Mum's insecurities, especially regarding providing for the children AND being there for them, the latter which she can feel she misses out on, sometimes. Tigress sometimes feels jealous of Mouse (below), but has great affection for her.

Single Mum # 2: Mouse. This lady has been badly battered by divorce/relationship breakdown but continues stalwartly and quietly on. She's at the school gates every morning and afternoon and has had to accept she cannot necessarily work full time and NOT miss out on things like sports day, school plays, helping out at school etc, so Mouse typically downsizes MASSIVELY and lives with less to balance the two. Mouse may be a Free Range Mum or an Eco Mum too. Mouse has admiration for Tigress' drive and they're often great friends, with Mouse frequently picking up Tigress' kids for her from school.

So, rather than go for the EXPECTED - think on:

How can I create a character my reader/audience will RECOGNISE, yet still be surprised by?

Remember, you'll be drawing in broad strokes like the above list AT FIRST - but then FOCUS IN on your character, make him/her 3D by giving them that *je ne se quois* that is unique to them, thus AVOIDING STEREOTYPE. Don't forget Character has its own section in The Required Reading List. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#scriptchat Writing Genre

Writing a genre film? Then The Deviation Blog may just have the series for you: "Writing the Thriller".

Taking a look at its own production, Deviation and comparing it to other produced Thrillers, the series ALSO looks at the differences in various genres and how they work, particularly Horror and Comedy. So don't miss out!

Here are all the posts so far:

Premise

Characters - Protagonist & Antagonist

Characters - Secondary (support roles)

Dramatic Context (Structure, Part 1)

Keeping Going (Structure, Part 2)

OTHER LINKS:

Join Deviation on Facebook and Twitter

Q&A with Deviation's Writer & Director JK Amalou

Round Up of Deviation's press

Friday, April 22, 2011

Learning Writing: Go To University - Or Not?

Bang2writer Gail Hackston asked the Facebook page earlier this week the question:

School Taught or Book Taught - I'm just wondering what other Bang2writers' experiences are around whether it is best to go to a "film school" or have some formal education in Screenwriting or learn by reading books, writing and networking alone?

First up, it should be noted I went to Bournemouth University and did its BA (Hons) Scriptwriting for Film & TV course: it taught me a lot and got me "connected" to various people I don't believe I would on my own, so I have a certain bias towards formal learning on this subject. That said, I know stacks and stacks of working writers who have NO formal training whatsoever who are extraordinarily talented AND doing well for themselves, so I know it can be done and think the "Lone Ranger" approach is just as valid. In short, I really DO think either can work - as long as one is realistic, has a strategy, is open to new ideas and knows it's not *all* about the writing.

Anyway, here's a round up of Bang2writers' thoughts on the matter:

GOING TO UNIVERSITY

It focuses your intent. Going to university is only 1-3 years; writing is a much longer journey than that.

University is a lot of money, but as writers we're all poor anyway.

Going to university is not a "golden ticket" and that is a valuable learning experience in itself.

You meet lots of like-minded people and that is good for your writing.

Lots of courses give you access to people you'd never be in the same room as otherwise.

At university you learn the importance of collaborative work.

Craft is taught more "obviously" at university, there's less guesswork involved.

Committing to a course puts writing first and foremost in your life.

Courses give you deadlines.

GOING IT ALONE

There are so many great resources online nowadays, we don't need university to teach us.

If you're disciplined, you can do just as well on your own.

Most screenwriters working today are self taught.

Short courses, seminars & screenwriting festivals can be just as valuable as university.

If you're determined enough, you can make your own contacts.

Writing relies on being an independent learner anyway - you will be mostly self taught regardless.


Talent is a given - I don't think it can be taught and I've certainly never seen it on any curriculum anywhere. From both of these approaches though, I see the following three things coming to the surface as being necessary in "making it" as a writer:

CONTACTS/NETWORKING

DISCIPLINE

CRAFT

Rather than argue which approach creates the MOST opportunities for these three elements, I would advise any Bang2writer considering going to uni (or not):

What do YOU need, first and foremost? How best do YOU learn - and how will YOUR life fit around what you need to do, to get where you need to go?

What I will say in favour of university however - since I have already admitted to having a bias:

You have to speculate to accumulate. It is was with this in mind I packed up four black binliners, two boxes and my two year old son just over ten years ago to go to Bournemouth University as a single Mum. People often tell me they "can't afford" to go to university, but I had NOTHING. Literally zero. My Mum and Dad gave me nothing (except their love and support, of course) because they had nothing too. So I had to think outside the box. On this basis then, I approached various charities to help me - and two did, one paying the deposit on my first flat and another helping me with some money to buy some furniture. It wasn't enough in reality and financially I got screwed over in a number of scenarios by the then-government who changed the goalposts several times throughout the course itself, which was very stressful. But I survived and I made sure my son did not miss out on anything really important. In other words, I think ANYTHING is possible if you're determined enough - and money should never stand in the way of that. Now, uni course fees are going up now - to ridiculous, heinous amounts if I'm honest - BUT the threshold of earning capacity has gone up too, so it *could* be argued it's as broad as it's long for Media people like us who largely end up low earners regardless. Also, the loans are now applicable to part time courses (they weren't before), so this could mean an alternative route for some people. In other words, I think if you WANT to go, you SHOULD. Debt is horrible, but it is part of life... And the other parts of life involve being happy. If you turn your back on your dream solely because of MONEY, can you be really happy? I'm unconvinced: I know if I had never gone to uni, I would not be where I am today. It is as simple as that. Read my breakdown of university fees etc here.

Work Experience is key. Lots of courses have work experience modules built into them - in mine, I had to do a minimum of six weeks just to pass. In reality, I actually did LOADS more than this, but let's concentrate on those six weeks - that's a LOT of time to fill, which could present huge opportunities for you. Of course, if you're interested in filmmaking itself, then there are plenty of film sets to crash and be a runner on if you can find them. But if you're SOLELY interested in the writing - as I mostly am - then where do you find work experience? Well literary agents and prodco internships are obvious places to start, but WAIT! All interns are supposed to be paid these days, which screws up a lot of opportunities for work experience, which I for one think is a terrible shame. In the past, those interns could get valuable experience in return for their work for a short time, which I think (within reason, naturally) is a FAIR TRADE. It's what I did and I WOULD do it again, I learnt so much from it all. But here's the BONUS: students don't NEED to be paid for interning - so students get a FREE PASS at all the lovely work experience on offer that producers, agents, etc can't necessarily pay for. Definitely worth a thought there.

Realism Central. In the past, I have to say: a lot of scriptwriting students, including myself, were a bit nuts. We wrote all our scripts, thought they were brilliant and expected to come out of uni and get options and deals and all sorts. And of course we didn't, which was very disappointing. Luckily for me I literally FELL INTO the world of corporate writing (via my work experience at uni, actually!), doing stuff like music videos, games and toys, which was great cos I got paid for my writing and felt validated regardless, but I would imagine there was a time - pre-blogs, Facebook & Twitter in particular - where a lot of writers weren't really sure what to do with the degree they just did (in fact, some told me they didn't!). Nowadays however, university is a DIFFERENT STORY: the students I know are 100% switched on to the marketplace and what it means to be part of it. They're very open to feedback, run their own groups in reality and online and are LOOKING FOR EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO GET INVOLVED - on anything! I see the same faces popping up at all sorts of events, on Twitter, Facebook, blogs - they're EVERYWHERE, they're getting out there and doing it... I've been so impressed I've even enlisted a few myself for my own projects and recommended them as volunteers to events like London Screenwriters Festival. Now, there's NO REASON non-students can't do this too, but it is usually more difficult/expensive since various events etc will often offer a student discount; students are also more likely to put each other up on sofas etc whether they know the person in question or not, whereas it's more difficult if you're a Lone Ranger type, since you have to "infiltrate the group" first - made all the more difficult because frequently you don't know these people in "real life", but more often online first.

So, those are my extended thoughts on the Bang2writers' - I personally favour the uni approach, but feel the Lone Ranger approach is a valid one, for definite.

LINKS

Check out The Required Reading List under the "Inspiration" and "Resources" sections for more, including a FREE online Screenwriting Course from University College Falmouth.

The Bournemouth University Southern Script Fest

Bournemouth University: BA (Hons) Scriptwriting for Film and Television and MA Screenwriting

De Montfort University (Leicester) TV Writers' Day - tickets still available

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guest Post: Writing The Shots by Pauline Kiernan

I'll be back next week with my own dose of bloggy-goodness, so thanks once again to another lovely Bang2writer Pauline Kiernan, writer and all-round scripty Guru for stepping in with some excellent thoughts from her new book. Enjoy!
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Many of my students asked me to include advice on Writing the Shots in a script when I was writing my new book. I thought I'd post something here as it's an aspect of screenwriting that doesn't get much attention.

Writing the shots was something I had quite a lot of problems with when I started writing screenplays. What helped was when I started to imagine my script as a living, breathing organism, but also how important it is to imagine the industry reader experiencing the actual reading of the words on the page. If the words are breathing with rhythm and evocative language that works on the reader's senses, the story comes alive and the reader is able to 'see' and 'feel' the film as though it's before her/his eyes.

As well as writing outstanding visuals to create the mood and atmosphere, expressing character, emotional resonance, the inner lives of the characters, story thread, thematic depth, you have to create your action lines like a heart beating. They have to create or contribute to your story’s breathing.

And that means you have to write the shots.

This doesn’t mean putting in camera angles like CLOSE-UP, WIDE SHOT, LOW-ANGLE ON, JANE’S POV, and so on. It does mean being very creative with your action lines so that they imply or suggest camera positions and angles.

HOW LONG OR SHORT IS THE SHOT?

As well as implying camera angles, writing the shots can suggest pace, contracting and expanding time.
Here’s basic example from one of my screenplays:

“She springs to her feet like a young gazelle, dagger poised.”

Implied camera angles:
MID-SHOT as she springs to her feet.
ANGLE ON DAGGER

“She waits. She listens.”

Implied camera angles:
CUT TO LONG-SHOT of Character and the (implied) door.
PUSH TO CLOSE-UP as she waits.
MID-SHOT as she listens.

“She shakes her head.”

Implied camera angle:
PUSH to CLOSE-UP as she shakes her head.

“She’s hearing things again.”

LOW-ANGLE CLOSE-UP of her face.

Look how the way these shots are written to convey the pace of the scene - what its breathing is like. The short sentences enact how it will play on the screen. “She waits. She listens. She shakes her head - she’s hearing things again.” Say the line out loud. Hear the implied beat between each short sentence. Through short sentences, the rhythm, as you read, mimics the suspense - we hold our breath at “She waits.” Then hold our breath again at “She listens”. Then hold our breath again before the tension is released at “She shakes her head - she’s hearing things again”.

Look how the syntax works.

Feel the difference if I’d written: “She waits and listens, then shakes her head”.

No pregnant pauses, no suspense, no tension, and no real sense of release. Nothing to suggest Time expanding or contracting, no sense of how long or short the shots should be. With the line as written, it implies how each shot will be held long or short on the screen, simply because a sentence was broken up into discrete ‘breaths’ which shows how it’s to be paced.

Each shot is building the tension, before we experience the release at “she’s hearing things again.” The overall effect of this tiny scene is intended to express the character’s emotions, her fear of assassination. Although her fears turn out to be unfounded here, the reader’s sense of tension is intended to linger, and it is a foreshadowing of events which come later.

Now, if I had inserted camera angles, they would have shattered the reader’s involvement in the story. As soon as you draw attention to technicals, the spell is broken. The aim is always to take the reader through the experience of what is being put on that page as though it is happening - and moving - before their eyes. The aim is never to detach the reader from the beating heart of the story.That’s why flagging up camera angles is a big No-no - it detaches the reader from the story.

Edited extract from chapter entitled 'BREATHING' in "Screenwriting They Can't Resist". Buy the book here and visit Pauline's blog here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Guest Post: An Insight Into The Realities of Self Publishing by Simon Lipson

I know a lot of you Bang2writers out there are very interesting in indie publishing, so many thanks to Simon Lipson, who shares his experiences with us today... Enjoy!
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It all started with Losing It, an 80,000 word novel that took me 5 years to write, not because I sweated over the manuscript day in day out, more because I could never quite muster the enthusiasm to finish it, believing that getting it from my laptop to a prime table in Waterstones was a distant dream. I mean, a stand-up comedian trying to peddle a psychological thriller. Why bother? Then fellow comedian Mark Billingham did exactly that and I thought 'why not?' Mark suggested I approach a handful of the larger agents before casting my net wider. I picked five. Two rejected it, two didn't reply and one – whose biggest client is simply the biggest – loved it. It was going to be a massive bestseller, global, a movie, the works. So they said. They also loved the fact that, as a professional performer, I'd be well capable of going out and marketing my work. What could possibly go wrong?

Long story short, after several redrafts, their vision no longer chimed with mine and I withdrew from the process. Idiot. On reflection, if they'd insisted I make the protagonist a one-legged raccoon with shingles, I should have agreed. I tried a couple of other agents, but it was all very half-hearted and I gave up. Bigger idiot.

A couple of years later, on a whim, I decided to self-publish after re-reading my now dusty manuscript and deciding it wasn't half bad. Everyone who'd read it loved it, hadn't they? Surely that was enough. I didn't need some agent, editor or publisher telling me what to do. And it was going to be quick, a short cut. No hanging around for rejection slips, no painful re-drafts, no distant launch dates. Two months, tops, and I was going to be a published author.

I researched the self-publishers, rejecting the obvious charlatans and opting for Matador. They accepted the manuscript within a day of receiving it (well why not? - they saw me coming) and within a few weeks – and after paying an initial hefty tranche - they sent me the typescript for final tinkering. It looked great, even on cheap A4, and the seduction was complete. I settled on an obscure American outfit to design the jacket, oblivious to the problems this would create with my British publisher (margins, sizing etc). I also engaged the services of a book marketing specialist. I shall mention no names, here. Suffice it say that, for the princely sum of a grand, he did nothing. I say nothing. He got me interviews on a couple of radio stations so provincial they barely had their own post codes.

In fairness to Matador, they were courteous and professional throughout. If their marketing package comprised only a basic press release that had the words 'chuck straight in the bin' written all over it, I wasn't complaining. The books looked great and were soon made available for sale on all the main web sites. I received three reviews, all of which were dazzling, but all from fairly marginal publications. The nationals are simply not interested in self-published fiction. I contacted the local press myself, but the only way to generate interest and shift a few units is to get out there and do the legwork.

So, that – to a limited extent - is what I did. The local libraries were only too keen to have me come and talk about my book, especially as they reasoned I might be fairly amusing into the bargain. I did a couple of these and sold books to most of the attendees. I'd say 15 in all. They also bought copies to put on their shelves. My local independent bookshops were all prepared to display a few copies and I even managed to persuade nearby branches of major chains to stock a handful. The 'local author' angle is a potent tool for generating interest. Had I not had a life and a mortgage to pay, I might have spread my net wider, feigned a 'local' connection in every town and city across the country (no-one ever questioned my 'local' credentials), contacted libraries and bookshops nationwide and nagged local radio stations and newspapers until they gave in. Sadly, for every G P Taylor (Shadowmancer) there are a thousand self-published authors who sell only a handful of books, but you won't know until you try. Word of mouth can be very effective in the absence of a vast marketing budget.

I eventually sold around 400 copies. I know it's a decent book (the good reviews and feedback attest to this) but lighting the necessary wildfire can be a question of luck and serendipity and, as I have observed in comedy, being good doesn't always equate to success – and vice versa (Russell Brand, anyone?).

If losing money is a key consideration, the bigger issue is the stigma. What does self-publishing say about you? That agents and publishers have passed on your book? That no-one thinks it commercially viable? That you didn't have the gumption to hang in there and make sure it was good enough? So what if thousands of lousy books are published every year by major houses? So what if yours is better? Self publish and be prepared to make excuses for your book before anyone has even read it.

If you opt to self-publish, you will need to expend considerably more effort marketing the book than you did writing it. You should also be able to absorb potentially heavy losses. You'll get yourself a nice shiny book (nay, hundreds of them) to point out to unimpressed visitors to your home, but whether you will succeed beyond that depends upon your commitment and objectives. It's unlikely to make you a bestselling author, but if your intention is to get your work out there, to see it in book form, to impress friends and family and maybe get a flavour of the life of a professional author, go for it. You never know what might happen. G P Taylor spent £3500 self-publishing his book for the benefit only of his parishoners, and look at him now!

For me, however, the better advice is to keep improving your manuscript, keep nagging agents, use professional editors if you have to and try and make it the conventional way first.

Now... go and buy my books!

SIMON'S BOOKS:

Losing It

A Song For Europe
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Thanks Simon! Have you placed in a contest, gone to a course or have something to say about writing, the process, filmmaking, the industry -- or anything else?? Then please do contact me on Bang2writeAThotmailDOTcoDOTuk, tweet me or leave a message at Bang2writers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Post: Improve Your Prose With Poetry by Alexis Bonari

Many thanks to guest poster Alexis Bonari who reminds us - scriptwriters and novelists alike - that looking to *other* mediums can help us improve our writing, in this case: poetry. Love the notion of what a horse might think about... Enjoy!
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If you’re looking to sharpen your vocabulary or shave off a few thousand words from your manuscript, try picking up a book of poetry. Many prose writers and novelists are taught to generally keep their noses in their genres; little mention is given to poetry if for no reason than the obvious disparity in length between a poem and a novel (perhaps with the exception of this bestseller). Still, poetry has the following to offer all writers:

Subtlety

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens.


A wheelbarrow, however ordinary and mundane at first glance, exemplifies the Imagist philosophy of “no ideas but in things.” Without a wheelbarrow, everything a pair of hands cannot lift does not make it from one end of the barn to the other, past the farm, to the market, or across the globe. A wheelbarrow makes the simple monolithic, and yet needs only 16 words and understatement to convey. Rather than saying “everything” as implied, however, William Carlos Williams opts so say, “so much” depends upon this wheelbarrow.

Parallelism

In Incantation, Elinor Wyle begins every new stanza with mention of a white object: “A white well / … / A white rose / … / A flung white glove.”

Finding a place within a novel for repeating structures can be tricky, and we risk cheapening the writing or becoming long-winded. When well-executed, however, parallelism lends prose a momentary and therefore precious melody.

Personification

Referring to Robert Frost’s dismal poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening: the poet says of his little horse “[he] must think it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near/ … / He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake.”

Frost takes for granted what most people would not—that a horse has reasoning and cognitive capabilities beyond, “Dude, where’s my hay?”

Rather than simply describing the scene of a murder, consider having the reader see it through the eyes of a stray cat, or describing a train as eating up the landscape a la Emily Dickinson.

Minimalism

Few but the most nostalgic of writers and readers have the patience for reading Chaucer or Milton cover to cover anymore. This is a literary age when every word counts—or should. What better way to resentfully shave a few thousand words off your manuscript (at the behest of your devil-incarnate publisher) than by reading a few haiku? By definition, haiku, tanka, and other forms of Japanese poetry have limitations on syllables. That means every word must count. Renowned Matsuo Basho wrote in 1667:

Plum blossoms at their best—if only the wind blew empty-handed!

An entire scene and range of emotions—wistfulness, sadness, regret, joy—are expressed in 11 words.

Then again, there’s this one by Masaoka Shiki:

A stray cat

shits in my

winter garden

What else needs to be said?


BIO: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching civil engineering scholarships as well as Coke scholarship for all those thirsty students. Whenever she gets some free time, she enjoys doing yoga, cooking for fun, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Can I Write Just *Part* Of The Book - Or Do I Have To Write It In Full To Get Noticed?

Bang2writer Jason Harrison has a question about novel writing and getting published:

"Is it possible to treat getting published like a business opportunity? I'm thinking that I could write a first chapter or two of my book, get a decent synopsis/covering letter and just send it out to publishers and see what happens – I realise that if there is genuine interest it will be dangerous of me NOT to have completed the book in its entirety – I know this goes against the grain of most books I have read on getting a novel published."

Though I have read MANY spec novels, it should be noted I am not an expert on getting a novel published, especially as I'm only taking my first baby steps into novel writing myself. However, because I am trying for the same goal and because I have spent a lot of time *around* agents and authors, I feel I can offer something here to Jason.

My first advice: when thinking about getting novels published - and if going the traditional, rather than "indie" route - I would target agents FIRST, rather than going direct to publishers. Though there are some publishers who are willing to read unsolicited manuscripts, they are few and far between; agents are your go-to men & women who can get you in front of the majority. Agents are the EXPERTS and have all sorts of kung fu skills in terms of pitching, contacts and trade/book fairs, never mind all the *other* mindboggling stuff like translation rights, e-book sales and the like. But if you've already tried knocking on the doors of various publishers regardless and been given the knock-back, then perhaps you would be less attractive prospect to them? Since so many agents are willing to read novel manuscripts from prospective clients, I think it's a no-brainer to go to them in the first instance, but end of the day you must decide for yourself.

Secondly, when you approach an agent re: getting novels published, you don't *tend* to send the whole novel. Even if you do, the whole thing rarely gets read by the readers and interns anyway. Usually, the first few chapters - three maximum - are considered, along with its synopsis. When Bang2writers come to me and ask *what* they should send, I always recommend this approach. Nothing is more scary than a gigantic novel thudding through the letterbox and to the floor! Far better to send a "taster" that really shows what you can do.

But do note - this is no "easy" approach: the synopsis in particular has got to ROCK. It's your opportunity to "sell" the novel AS A WHOLE - whereas your sample chapters are showcasing what a fab writer you are. So don't think you can rush these things. You need to really INVEST in them. Lots of Bang2writers worry about what *should* be in a synopsis or pitch document for a novel - my advice? It's the same as script pitch stuff - so take a look at all the pitch document stuff in The Required Reading List. There's plenty of articles in there to guide you. But the one BIG thing here: DON'T be mysterious about your plot in the synopsis. I've read so many novel synopses who think that it's "enticing" to be vague. IT'S NOT. Sell us the idea, really make us want to read the whole novel.

So this is the way to go, whether you've actually finished the novel or not. And of course the *ideal* is to have it finished. But that's not always possible, so if you haven't? When you've sent off your AMAZING synopsis and chapters to the agent: KEEP WRITING. It will most likely be months before you hear. Once I waited an entire year. So use this time to finish your book, so hopefully - in the best case scenario - if the agent wants to see the rest of it, you can say: "No problem!"

BUT if life gets in the way and you HAVEN'T managed to finish AND the agent wants to see the rest, DON'T PANIC. It is not necessarily an opportunity wasted. The best selling author Lisa Jewell recounts on her website this EXACT THING happening to her:

"And then, one morning a couple of months later a letter arrived from the last of the ten agents. She liked what she'd read and she wanted to see the rest! After peeling myself off the ceiling I calmed down a bit and then I started panicking. There was no 'rest' of the novel – I'd only written three chapters. I didn't have time to write any more and I couldn't afford to not work. I had rent to pay. What was I going to do?…. "

Lisa goes on to explain how she got the novel finished after all and delivered to the interested agent ONE YEAR AFTER that original letter expressing interest in her sample chapters!!! And of course the rest is history. The moral of the story here is, if someone is interested in your work - deliver the best you can, WHEN you can... And it doesn't have to matter when that is, necessarily. FAR BETTER to give in GOOD WORK than RUSHED WORK. After all, an agent (or producer scriptwriters!!) isn't going to be hanging around *just* waiting to hear from prospective clients anyway... They have other stuff to do!

So in answer to Jason's question, YES: you can treat getting published as a business opportunity, because that is exactly what it is, just like ALL writing-related stuff. We sometimes have this romantic notion of novelists plugging away in their bedrooms in the dark being "artistes" while savvy scriptwriters are out in the field networking and kicking it DIY-style, but in reality novelists should be getting "out there" too to maximise their chances of success.

So go for it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

ComedySWF Lowdown: April 9-10th, 2011

This weekend just past was The London Comedy Writers' Festival. And what a weekend it was! I had a great time. Much as I loved the first London Screenwriters' Festival last October, I actually spent at least 1/3rd of it with my head down the loo - not because of some weird initiation rite courtesy of festival director Chris Jones either (I was newly pregnant! Timing or what!). So it was FAB to really get involved and not have to rush off what felt like every five mins this time!

I moderated "The Chain" at 10:30am on the Saturday, with Pozzitive Production's David Tyler and the BBC's Simon Wilson. This session was about how writers, independent producers and commissioners all work together to get stuff to the screen. The last panelist, writer Sara Pascoe, rocked up lated at 11:20! C'est la vie. I thought the session went really well, with both Simon and David making excellent observations about the development process, format and presentation skills for the people there, with David offering some very interesting and witty anecdotes about his experiences too. Delegates may also have seen me rushing (make that waddling) between sessions, tweeting and Facebooking and also making random announcements at the beginning of other people's sessions about lost handbags and room changes. I also did a few hours of "informal networking" on the sunday in the Quad, so if I met you at any point: HELLO!

What I loved about the event was the buzz and the ethos of "getting out there and doing it". In every session speakers highlighted the need to get on with one's work regardless, don't wait for others to come to you. The personal high point for me had to be meeting Jessica Hynes and Stephen Mangan, because I totally loved both SPACED and GREEN WING. Jessica and I had a great chat about what I call "intuitive scriptwriting" - ie. NOT following formulas and page counting etc, but using structure as a foundation - and Stephen Mangan revealed a shall we say TOUCHING concern for my kids:

STEPHEN MANGAN: (indicating my pregnant belly) So is this a first one for you?

ME: No, my third.

STEPHEN MANGAN: So where are the other 2?

ME: At home.

STEPHEN MANGAN: (mock outrage) So basically you've ABANDONED them to come to this?

Haha! Love it. My son, the Male Spawn, was especially jealous to hear about my meeting these two, so I could bask in the glory of being a "cool and connected Mum" - for about three seconds. Hey ho!

The downside of the weekend was my hotel, which was quite possibly one of the skankiest and noisest I've been in for a while (though this one, in Edinburgh, STILL beats it hands down). You can see photos of both ComedySWF AND the hotel of evil below and you don't have to be my FB friend or even on Facebook to see them cos they are public albums. So enjoy!

Can't wait for London Screenwriters Festival 2011 this October. Are you coming? Let us know! Also, if you have a blog about your experiences at ComedySWF or more photos, then do post to our wall on Facebook or tweet us the link.

LINKS

All my ComedySWF Photos

Hotel HELL: The Photos

From 2007: The worst hotel in the history of the world? Quite possibly.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Genre Vs Drama # 2: Master of None?

Of course, the inevitable lament rose up after yesterday's post on Right At Your Door (this time on Twitter, in my words) - "We don't NEED categories, the average viewer/reader is smart, the marketers and producers are talking down to us!"

I've been script reading so long now that when I started, the *thing* of the moment was - and I quote - "fragmenting the narrative". I remember hearing about it every five minutes: at uni, at meetings, from colleagues. Basically it boiled down to thus: "Structure's a load of pants! Pulp Fiction and Memento is the way to go! Non linear baby, WOOOOOO!" Of course, fifteen years or so later AFTER these ground breaking films (and dozens and dozens of variations later), we all realise that *actually* stuff like Pulp Fiction and Memento didn't actually "fragment" anything in the narrative AT ALL - they just re-ordered it.

And the rally *against* categorisation is no different IMHO; I believe it's just another *thing* we have to work through. As much as it might pain us as WRITERS to have our work pigeon-holed sometimes, as CONSUMERS ourselves, we DEMAND it. When we see a film that does not pan out as "expected" (whatever that happens to mean), it's not unusual for us to feel CHEATED, for whatever reason. This is why it is unwise to try and reinvent the wheel when it comes to genre or drama: there are *certain things* that ARE done and others that AREN'T, according to whatever you're writing. It's just the way it is. If you stray too far from those conventions then, you're not actually writing what you intend. So what's the point?

To say viewers and readers don't need OR want categories I believe is naive. Just look at the fans, who are SO willing to say they love Horror, Sci Fi, Comedy - and yes, even Drama. They go to pains to DEFINE themselves *as* fans of a particular genre or even on the flipside of the coin, as someone who is NOT. Just look at your friends' blogs, Twitter profiles, Facebook pages and the like. But even if they didn't, as human beings we categorise everything and everyone: child, son, daughter; father, husband, mother, wife; boyfriend, girlfriend, single, married; straight, gay, bisexual, transexual; skilled, unskilled, professional; rich, poor, whatever. The list goes on and on and on. Why? Because that's how we understand and define the world, whether we agree with doing it or not. Why would books, films etc be any different?

I think it's important to remember using conventions is not JUST so viewers and readers will "understand" - on this basis, I think the writers who believe categorisation is *just* that are actually the ones talking down to the audience, not the marketers or producers. Audiences are MASSIVELY media literate and are becoming increasingly ever more so, so it's important to push boundaries as much as possible, for fear of becoming otherwise pedestrian and dull. This is why producers want "the same... but different": NOT because they're actually restricting what the audience "can" have, but because the audience actually want it TOO. And think on... Is the "Same... But Different" really THAT restrictive, when it can literally BE anything? It's your story, people.

So it's a good idea to give your audience SURPRISES within the confines of those categories: it's those surprises that make the narrative fly and pushes said boundaries. But mixing drama and genre conventions doesn't automatically do this. As I demonstrated yesterday with RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, there were many things I liked and admired about the film and I "understood" the narrative perfectly well. But that doesn't mean I found it ultimately dramatically satisfying. A GREAT drama and a GREAT genre film are two very different things. Trying to be both then "dilutes" the potential greatness of each. We end up with what is essentially a hybrid that cannot reach the pinnacle of its narrative potential as it pays to lip service to both elements, rather than picking just one to exploit. An old saying springs to mind, "A jack of all trades and a master of none".

It's very easy to talk down categorisation and say audiences are being patronised by its very existence. If you really feel this way, I would recommend taking a walk to your nearest slush pile and reading several hundred screenplays with an identity crisis like RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR. Regardless of what each script is *supposed* to be - drama OR genre - I venture you will see countless story opportunities missed; undefined character motivations; and structure that makes a 90 pager feel like 900 minutes - and that's just for starters. In short, I don't believe you will find scripts that are the best they possibly CAN be.

However, if you read/have read all those screenplays and STILL feel the same way about categorisation? Then by all means, be my guest. As if oft said thanks to ol' Goldie, "No one knows anything" and I'm not about to say my own thoughts are cast iron.

Bet you'll change your mind, though ; )

MORE ON THIS BLOG ABOUT GENRE & DRAMA:

Check out The Required Reading List, it has its own section!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Genre Vs Drama: Right At Your Door

SPOILERS I frequently read spec scripts that fall somewhere *in-between* genre and drama. This is a significant issue for writers in terms of getting their spec noticed, since it can be difficult for others "higher up" the food chain - agents, producers and the like - to assess whether said script *can* work and even, if the writer really knows what s/he is doing: did they MEAN to write it like this? Or is it a mistake? Do they know WHO they are writing for?

2006's Right At Your Door is a FAB idea. Charting the drop of a dirty bomb on LA, we see the catastrophe from one man's POV from of his own house when his wife has just left for work. He of course tries to find her, but in the ensuing panic is unable to; he is forced to return to his home, as directed by Army officials. He leaves the door open as long as possible, hoping against hope for her return. Eventually however, he has to make the difficult decision of sealing up the house as directed by the emergency radio news bulletins.

Then of course she returns.

What does he do? She's clearly been exposed and wants to come in. He loves her and wants her to come in, but he also wants to live. ARGH: nightmare situation. He ends up leaving her outside on the porch and even resists her attempts to break in. Even worse, there's a child wandering about outside who appears to have lost its parents and those creepy face-masked Army Officials turn up from time to time and mark the house with a red flag, with the man sure they will come for his wife at some point AND TAKE HER AWAY (the subtext being they will kill her, for being exposed).

Looking at this aspect of Right At Your Door, it's very clear this is a very HUMAN drama. We're not watching explosions, panicked crowds or close ups of people clawing at their own throats and dying. Instead, we're invited to see the tragic, yet nevertheless SMALLER story of a couple who are left literally on either sides of the glass when something terrible happens. We're asked to believe the husband will choose his own life over his wife's and chart the disbelief, denial and then acceptance of the wife that he has done so. A fantastic, visceral and arresting idea for a drama.

So why did I feel Right At Your Door had an identity crisis? My reasons:

Title. Right At Your Door screams "drama" to me, rather than genre which typically favours one word titles: ALIEN, INCEPTION, DEVIATION, etc. But it strays into genre territory regardless, without ever really picking it up and running with it, more next.

The Stranger. There is another character in the man's house, whom he finds there in Act 1 when he returns from looking for his wife after the initial blast. He shows compassion for this man and lets him stay in a way he doesn't for his wife, which feels confusing and suggested - to me, at least - this *other* man may have some kind of ULTERIOR MOTIVE for being in the house or will betray them both in some way. Except he doesn't - and promptly leaves somewhere past the mid point. What was this other man's role function? I was not sure. What's more, his escape from the house has a direct effect on the twist ending - see that section - yet is never commented on.

Timing. It's hard to tell how much time passes in Right At Your Door, though if I recall correctly it's approximately three days. This puts it right in genre territory, but never once do we get the "real" feel of a clock ticking. The *other* man even says at one point the Army Officials will be returning "in the morning", but we cut from the night to the morning in a "dramery" way, rather than countdown style. What is it to be?

Deadlines. Yet in contrast to the above, like all good genre films, the Army Officials set a DEADLINE for the situation to be sorted out: they come to the door and the man won't let them in, though he does tell them his wife has broken in (though she is not there at present). They ask him to collect some ash from INSIDE the house for them to analyse. They then tell him they'll be back with the results, the idea being the wife *may* have condemned the man to death with her actions and his time may be RUNNING OUT.

Twist Ending. Most surprising of all, for a drama, Right At Your Door has a twist ending. Dramas are best known for devastating endings, but this one felt as if it came out of the left field for me and seems as if it's suited far better to a thriller than a drama. The Army Officials of course come for the wife as set by the deadline - and the man is left to watch helplessly as they drag her away. Bad enough? No of course not - one of the Army Officials breaks it to the man he's made his house airtight and the disease dropped by the bomb has incubated like mad, with the man himself a LETHAL CARRIER. In other words, he SAVED his wife leaving her out on the porch. And of course the Army are now going to kill the man by flooding his house with gas. Which they do. But if this is the case, the *other* man who had been in the house is also a LETHAL CARRIER, yet there is no mention of him nor *that* obligatory shot of him at the end disappearing into a crowd and taking the infection with him, as with typical genre films, either. Also, let's not forget the man sealed up his house as directed by the GOVERNMENT via the radio bulletins - so surely more houses have done the same and created this super toxin within them?? Logic didn't work for me.

I actually had a lot of admiration for Right At Your Door; I thought the actors did an amazing job in particular. But it does sum up for me WHY it's so important to pick one OR the other - drama OR genre - and run with it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Guest Post: Writing AND Finishing The First Draft Script by Steve Bromby

Having trouble finishing your first draft? Just getting words on paper sometimes can be a frustrating and infuriating business, so many thanks to Bang2writer Steve Bromby, who offers these insights on FINISHING the first draft... Enjoy!
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So, you’re writing a screenplay that’s gonna turn the horror genre on its head, or maybe a spec TV pilot about a favourite historical figure and you’re hip deep into that first draft? Excellent. But wait, there’s a problem. You’ve discovered that something’s stopping you from getting past a certain point, and you don’t know what it is. Maybe you’re not halfway through, but more like only 10 pages in, and then suddenly, out of nowhere – BAM! – the whole process has come to a grinding halt, and it’s stressing you out.

I know exactly how you feel.

I’ve been writing film and TV scripts for over ten years. In that time, I’ve probably left a veritable truck-load of scripts by the wayside, like wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Starting a script was never the problem and the answers were not immediately forthcoming. Until that is, about six years ago, wherein I had a kind of breakthrough, what I like to call my "Script Epiphany."

It was such a simple realisation, I could’ve kicked myself (which I did. Repeatedly). I realised that, each and every time, I rushed head-long into a script, with little or no forethought to the mechanics of the process. Even at university, I often eschewed treatments and step outlines, preferring the fluid nature of ‘writing blind’ – that is, without the net of working from said treatment.

The net result of this?

I stopped writing altogether. For six months. It wasn’t fun anymore, and I’d grown dishearted with the prospect of tackling another script that seemed doomed to fail before I could type the words FADE IN. It was hell. But here’s the thing, those months of not writing were agony and drove me nuts. Supremely, monumentally, nuts. I even started watching daytime television to compensate. It was excruciating. Eventually I got so frustrated that I simply had to start writing again.

So I did, but this time, I did my homework. I read every book, every script, and every interview I could find about the craft. Some of the advice was naff; some of it made complete sense, but it was enough to get me back to the computer. Armed with a new well of enthusiasm, I started work on a new script.

Four months later, I had a “kitchen sink” first draft, and, you know, a thundering need to sleep for the next year.

That was five years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve finished every script I’ve started since then.

I offer the following as a kind of Tips n’ Tricks ‘rough guide’ to getting that first draft locked and loaded, in the hopes that you, dear reader, are not besieged by this irritating affliction.

WRITE A TREATMENT/OUTLINE: A breakdown of your idea can be crucial, allowing you to have a clearer framework for your script ahead of time. It’s much easier to rewrite that initial fifteen-page outline, than it is to go back over ninety-odd pages and fix those nibbling problems for the second draft. A treatment, or even a one-page synopsis of your idea, can prove vital in determining the viability of your story as well, and I recommend taking this step first. Even if you hate treatments. Especially if you hate treatments. You’ll thank yourself later during that umpteenth rewrite.

SET DAILY/WEEKLY TARGETS or MAKE TIME TO WRITE: Common wisdom is to write every day, and a benchmark minimum of 10 pages is often suggested. I’d suggest a more doable schedule, especially if you have other commitments. Start smaller, perhaps, at 5 pages every other day, or if you tend to think more in numbers, allocate a certain amount of words to be completed by a certain date. In short, work your writing schedule around your life, not the other way around.

STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER: Whenever I’ve been stuck on a plot point, or I’m uncertain about the structure of a script, I’ve forced myself to leave the computer, and done something else. The pub, shopping, housework, carnal relations with your partner – whatever floats your boat, get away from the devil machine once in a while, your sanity depends on it. Writing may be a solitary business, but remember, you have a life too.

RIP IT UP, START AGAIN: I love this step, mainly because it has the added benefit of letting you shout at the computer, which never does what it’s told anyway. Too many times, I’ve made a start on a script, and about a third of the way through, something just isn’t clicking. At this stage, I usually go back to square one, and start again. This is where your treatment comes in real handy. If you’ve got your story worked out before hand, the actual scripting stage can be massively improved by pressing the delete key.

ENJOY THE PROCESS: This might seem like a misnomer, especially if you’re besieged by that sinking feeling every time you sit down at the computer, but if you don’t, or can’t, engage with your work, what’s the point? If it’s not fun, make it fun.

And finally...

FADE OUT – WHAT TO DO NEXT:

Congratulations, you’ve written the first draft and are ready to begin the second. But beware, because it’s not as simple as you think. Now cometh the hard work.

Rewrites.

Happy writing.
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Thanks Steve! If you have something you'd like to share in the form of a guest post, contact me on Bang2writeATaolDOTcom: we've had SO MANY differing views and articles from Bang2writers, including confidence, music, competition placings and sales strategies - and they've not stopped there! We've also had guest posts on adaptation, film criticism and novel writing - as well as a story about rescuing a duck! Make sure you click the "guest post" label below and take a look.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Make The Most Out of CeltX Book

Packt Publishing have got in touch to let Bang2writers know about the Celtx Open Source Screenwriting Beginner's Guide. You can access a free sample chapter here.

As a hardcore Final Draft devotee, I haven't read the book but I know many, many Bang2writers are BIG advocates of CeltX, so figured I'd pass on the details. At £30.84 it's quite expensive, but then CeltX itself is free and this book promises to help users get the most out of the software. I'd argue anything that helps you with how your script looks on the page is a good investment, especially when poor formatting (with *any* script software!) is STILL very much an issue in the spec pile and *can* still turn readers off one's work from page one.

Here's the book's overview:

- An illustrative guide to writing and formatting professional scripts and screenplays in the only way acceptable to Hollywood producers and agents
- Work with all the powerful tools of Celtx to come up with brilliant scripts for films, documentaries, stage plays, even comic book scripts
- Master other pre-production planning features including storyboarding, scheduling and casting
- Maximize the power of Celtx with helpful tips about both the software and how to sell your completed work
- Part of Packt's beginner's guide series – practical, simple and illustrative

If you buy a copy, let other Bang2writers know what you think of it on the Facebook wall or here in the comments.

Buy the book direct here.