Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Last week I rewrote a feature screenplay (92 pages) in four days. It was an epic 2nd draft and by the end of it I was exhausted. On Monday Gary Thomas asked me, "Can you do a blog on how you did it? (If you haven't done so already?) Did you not sleep at all?" Yes, Gary, I can and no, not much. But let's start at the beginning.

Ninja fingers of fury.
...lived a lovely Belgian lady called Anne-Marie Caluwaert. She came up with a brilliant idea for a feature, worked on the characters, plotted an outline, and even wrote the initial fifteen pages, but ultimately put the idea in a drawer and went off to work on other things. Then one day she received an email offering her free entry into a screenwriting competition. She didn't have any feature screenplays available at the time so had a quick scan through the drawer and found that old unfinished idea she had been working on.
Anne-Marie refreshed the character backgrounds and reworked the outline, before spending six mad days writing the first draft. Six days..! That really is madness..! My best has been twenty-one days from concept to finished draft, but six days (OK, so she had the characters and outline, but still...), six days is a major achievement. That left seven days to get the screenplay rewritten and entered into the competition.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away...

Worried that she'd rushed the screenplay and her English might be lacking Anne-Marie asked me to have a look. I read it and instantly fell in love with it. It was a brilliant story of hope from the ashes of loss and I complimented her on a great job. It needed work, the structure was out, a couple of character arcs needed sorting and the antagonist needed to be stronger, but otherwise she had done an excellent job.

Anne-Marie asked if there was too much work to be done to get it rewritten and enter it into the competition by the end of the week. There was. So Anne-Marie made me an offer; rewrite the screenplay, correct her English and I could have a co-credit. I loved the idea so much I said 'HELL YEAH' without thinking.

It wasn't until I realised exactly how much work it would involve, with only five days to do it in, that I knew I might have bitten off more than I could chew. But not being one to let people down I decided I was going to give it a damn good go, or have mental breakdown trying. But to make an already tough task even harder I decided I was going to finish it in three days, not the five I had, as I wanted to spend the weekend with my lovely wife and kids. 

For those of you who don't know I have a little part-time job working at my local arts centre on stage door. I love that job, not only because I get to meet so many wonderful actors and performers, but also because it affords me the occasional bit of time to work on my own stuff while the shows are on stage and things are quiet. During the time I would be working on the 2nd draft not only would I be out for two of the writing days during the day, but I would also be working every evening at the arts centre. What was looking like an impossible task was now looking insane.

So I did what any professional writer would do and got my head down and got on with it. It wasn't easy. There were a lot of interruptions - both at work and from the kids while I was at home - and every time I reached a landmark (say five pages) there was the temptation to say, 'five pages is a good amount, you can relax now.' But I couldn't relax, it had to be done and I had to push past my normal daily page targets, the interruptions, the fatigue and plod on, even when my eyes felt like they were full of grit and all I really wanted to do was put the damn thing down and get some sleep.

On the Thursday night at work we had a company award ceremony. I didn't get into bed until 2.16am the next morning. I was behind drastically on my page count as the first act of the screenplay needed the most work and by the time I got towards the end of the three days I was only on page 48. I knew I would have to work the Saturday as well.

Saturday night was even busier than the Thursday, as we had a charity event in. I knew it was all or bust because I had promised my wife I wasn't going to work Sunday. That left me with 44 pages to do in one day. I managed to get 16 done at home, leaving 28 in the evening. It was really difficult as I had to stop the rewrite numerous times to deal with queries and sort out problems at work, all part of my job. But at just before 2am I reached FADE OUT on the screenplay and gave a great sigh of relief. It was done! Finally! I had made it! I still don't quite know how.

Once I had locked up at work, driven home, I finally dropped into bed at 3.20am. Over the previous three nights I had slept a total of 16 hours. Thankfully my wife let me sleep in until 10am on Sunday morning, but still I was dog tired when I got up. I was really proud I had managed to get the rewrite done, when to be honest I actually doubted I was going to.

So the moral of this story is 'GET IT DONE'. There are no, 'I don't have time to write,' excuses. If you want to write you'll find the time. That's the difference between a professional writer and someone who only wants to be; the professional writer gets it done! If you don't, there are thousands of other writers out there who will get their work done. It's those writers you're competing against. Don't let them beat you.

Happy writing! 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


LUCY: "I haven’t seen one (a thriller screenplay) I’ve liked as much as this since JK sent me UNTITLED HITMAN THRILLER (aka REDEMPTION aka ASSASSIN) back in 2008. That’s a loooooong time and I’ve read a loooooot of these scripts in-between!!!"

Once I had regained consciousness and picked myself up off the floor I congratulated myself on a job well done and got on with the second draft. It's not easy to please Lucy so I was pretty ecstatic that she liked my spec thriller ELEVEN. But it wasn't by luck I got this response, or by accident, but by design.

You see in 2013 Lucy wrote a book called WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS, published by Creative Essentials and I reviewed it for my blog just before Christmas (find the review here). So when I sat down to write my first spec screenplay in four years I decided to use the brilliant advice in Lucy's book and write a kick-ass thriller.

OK, so now you might be thinking if I followed her advice in the book of course she's going to like the resulting screenplay. The thing is everyone else who has read it, in its various drafts, has loved it too. This is because Lucy knows her stuff and her knowledge is not only born of watching thousands of hours of film and TV, but from her work as a reader over many years for both established and new writers. She knows what works and what doesn't.

To celebrate the completion of the final draft of ELEVEN, I've managed to get hold of a free ticket to Lucy's two day WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS workshop at Ealing Studios on the 28th and 29th of November, which I'm going to give away to one lucky writer. All you have to do is Tweet me with your thriller longline as illustrated below:

@DomCarver 'Enter Longline Here' #comp

You have until 9 AM on Tuesday 10th November to get them in and the winner will be announced by midday. Any entries received after this time won't be counted, nor will entries not following the template above. My decision is final. So there!!!

Good luck everyone.

Happy writing!