Wednesday, June 28, 2017

AND THERE IT IS

After last week's blog rewind post THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY I was delighted to receive a brilliantly inspirational comment from GILL KIRK.

It made me think!

It made me shout, "HELL YEAH!", out loud!

It put a great big smile on my face!

And it made me happy that at least one person got a boost from my post. That one person's day was made a little better. That one person turned a negative into a positive.

That... exactly that!  Boom!

Gill's comment says far more than the blog post I had planned for today,  so I'm just going to leave it here... enjoy!

What perfect timing. Thank you, thank you, thank you (and for pointing me to Lisa H's post). You made it much easier to explain my grumpy mood to a 6-y old in his bath just now (this afternoon brought two emails with, "it's great, but not for us right now").  
And in telling him, I added this to what you & Lisa gave me. Hope it makes other readers smile:
"In lots of jobs, when you get them, you're through. And maybe once a year, you'll have a big test. 
"But artists are always making up entries for tests that might not even exist, and quite often, the judges don't even really know what will pass and what won't. 
"And THAT is how brilliant art gets made. Because someone has to be brave enough to take the risks. And that - ma boy - is us." 
;)
Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

BLOG REWIND - THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

As it's National Writing Day today, here's a blog post from 4th February 2015 about rejection, handling it and why writing is so flipping awesome.

There have been times in my career when I've seriously considered packing it all in and walking away for good. Where the promise of a regular income and a steady job seemed a whole lot better than the continuing struggle to get anyone to like my work, surviving on nothing but a few pennies a week.

Yesterday (03/02/2015) I read Lisa Holdsworth's excellent blog on rejection - read it HERE - where she nailed what it's like to be a writer and how we deal or fail to deal with rejection. Every one of her points hit home and at the end of the blog post I was actually sniffing back tears.

She actually got me, got what it means and feels like to have my work rejected, and for once I felt I wasn't alone. That's the hardest part I think, the feeling of being alone and isolated with your 'shame' and 'anger', knowing that your family and friends, even though they mean well, don't really understand the crippling effect of being told 'NO'.

All writers face rejection, it's an occupational hazard. Every writer will at one time or another have to face it. But whether it's a project you've been working on for months that gets rejected or you're dumped from a project in favour of someone else, the mark of a great writer is that they learn to deal with it and move on. Yes, the bad times can hurt as much as a kick in the fluffy bits - I've even had to sell my book collections and DVDs just to be able to eat on a couple of occasions when money was so tight - but I've learnt that nothing is forever.

Sometimes as writers I think we set up ourselves for most of our falls, happily telling everyone that will listen about a possible new project that physically and emotionally excites us, only later for it not to go ahead. It's hard not to share our excitement over possible projects with others. We see people so rarely that when we're asked what we're up to the temptation to blurt out every little detail is overwhelming.

Some writers are better at keeping things to themselves than others. Personally, I'm crap at it and I'm sure it makes the rejection harder to deal with when you're asked..."What happened to your Vampire vs Robots project you told me ITV were interested in?" and you have to inform them ITV decided not to go ahead with the idea.

But it's not all bad. Us writers wouldn't do this for a living if it was.

There are days when you feel like nothing can dent your armour, that you're invincible and everyone loves you and what you do, when you just want to sing from the rooftops and tell everyone how well things are going. Those precious moments when a development exec says, "we really love your writing and we'd love to work with you," are the highlights that have us punching the air, strutting down the road as if we own the world. And for those few treasured moments, we do.

We are giants! We are superheroes! Our words are platinum! Our ideas genius! And the world is a beautiful place once again..!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

As I've said many times before, it's advisable to read as many screenplays and screenwriting books as you can to improve your writing. Learning and constantly topping up your skill set helps keep you one step ahead of most new writers. However, sometimes you just have to trust your instincts.

Thanks to the hard work I've put into my blog over the years, I'm lucky enough to have publishers send me screenwriting books to review. There's a pile of about eight sitting on my bedside table at the moment, waiting for me to find the time to wade through them. Some have been sent to me and others I've bought because they interested me. Since January I've read four books. But I've just decided not to read another one for a month or two because I'm finding they are becoming a bit of a distraction.

Over the last week, I've been plotting a new feature. But it's been slow going, not because the idea doesn't work, but because I've found myself trying to implement various techniques I've read about in those four recent books. I've spent more time thinking about hitting turning points, growing character arcs and some other less conventional writing methods than actually just writing down the plot and seeing what I have.

I'm lucky in that structure and character arcs usually come quite naturally to me, more so than dialogue does, that's for certain. Sometimes I forget to trust that natural instinct of mine, to just get on with the writing and not over think things. Just seeing what I come up with, without dissecting every little detail, is very liberating and helps me to get on at a much quicker rate.

So I've stepped away from the books for a while to let my instincts take over again. I'm not saying these how-to

books are a bad thing, they're not. They're essential for keeping your writing on the right track. I'm just saying that sometimes too much of anything is a bad thing and the occasional rest does you the world of good.

Learn to trust your instincts, they may not be as bad as you think.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

FIRST DRAFT - FINISHED DRAFT

As stated in my previous two blogs, my aim this year is to write one script a month for a year. Fellow writer Sally Abbott questioned whether this was a good idea. She pointed out that if I wanted my screenplays to sing then I should invest more time in them. So who's right?

The answer is both of us.

My aim is to write twelve first drafts, not twelve finished screenplays. The rewriting of those twelve first drafts will come later. For now, I just want to get twelve new ideas down on paper and see what works and what doesn't. After all, it's easier to rewrite a pile of poop, than it is to sit and stare at a blank page waiting for the perfect words to come along. If you have sixty pages of poop, you still have something to work with. If you have sixty blank pages and only an outline in your head, you have nothing. Getting it written is the most important thing.

Lucy Hay suggested I write treatments instead, as it would save me some work. But if I'm being truthful, I hate treatments. I only write them when I'm asked to. For me, getting that first draft down on paper helps me to work through my ideas and puts me in a better position when I come to write the second draft, much more so than if I write a treatment first. The first draft gives me a better picture of what I have and what I need to do to get where I want to be. This is why my first drafts are the equivalent of most other people's third or fourth. However, Lucy is also right. Treatments work very well for some people. But everyone writes differently. It's important to find out what works for you.

Going back to Sally's point, the majority of the work is done in the planning stage. For me, this usually equates to about 60%. 10% is then spent on the first draft and the remaining 30% is rewriting it until, as Sally says, it sings out and shines. But the thing is you can spend 90% of your time preparing and still find your idea doesn't work when you come to write it. Sometimes things just don't work on the first attempt.

My latest script took a bit longer than I wanted. It was partially down to some of it not working, partially because I realised I was giving out too many clues too early and partially because I took several breaks to reassess how I wanted the first episode to work. In truth, I probably spent five to six weeks actually writing the draft, rather than the twelve it appeared to take, or the four I actually wanted to complete it in. And thanks to this I have something that is now more advanced than a typical first draft. I also know the next draft will be bloody awesome.

Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. You shouldn't be afraid of this, you should embrace it.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

GETTING IT FINISHED

Earlier in the year, I challenged myself to write a new screenplay once a month for a year. Added to this I also planned to rewrite another screenplay each month and write my first novel until it was finished.

January and February went well - one new spec TV drama pilot was completed and also a rewrite of a sitcom. Then it all went a bit tits up (it's a technical term)!

March started well. I had the spec TV crime drama pilot all plotted out in three days and the first act flew from my fingers onto the page over the next couple. Then I stalled. A week went by and I worked on nothing but my novel. Then another week passed with no work on the spec. I went back to it in the fourth week, rejigged the first act and managed to get another twenty pages done. Then I went on holiday to Spain for a week... massive mistake.

On my return, it took me a further week to catch up on my emails and get back into the swing of things. By the end of April, I had both the first and second act done and was about to start on the third. It was then I realised my problem. I should have spent more time plotting.

The first two weeks of May were spent going over what I had written and replotting it and the last week and a bit rewriting like a rewriting ninja on speed (Dear Police, no actual drugs were taken in the writing of this screenplay unless you count tea and coffee and the occasional chocolate digestive). Today, finally, the first draft will be finished.

So why did I have such a problem with this screenplay?

It's my first multi-protagonist story. I've never written one before. There's a lot more to think about. I tied myself up in knots trying to get it right. I also didn't know my characters well enough. I struggled. But I learned fast. And now I'm confident when I write the next one I won't have a problem. Sometimes, things take a little longer to get where they're going.

And the novel progressing brilliantly, even if I have no idea how it ends.

Writing surprises you constantly. It's one of the things I love about it.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

BREAKING IT DOWN

They say that everyone has at least one novel in them. I don't know who 'THEY' are, but they sound like idiots who don't know what they're talking about. And that's what's I've been trying to do... write one novel... for the past eleven bloody years.

I read somewhere recently that Mark Dawson (author of the John Milton assassin series) has written twenty-five novels in the last five years. Sounds impossible, doesn't it? But is it really? Let's break that down.

Twenty-five novels over fives years - that's five novels a year - if they average 60,000 words each, then that's 300,000 words a year - or 25,000 words a month - 5,769 words a week - if you're writing only five days a week, that works out at 1,154 words a day - in other words, just over two pages of writing a day.  Even if you're a really slow writer, it shouldn't take you more than a couple of hours at the most. Doesn't seem so much now, does it?

Yet I've had several failed attempts at writing my first novel and can't seem to get beyond 17,500 words. It's a bugger, I can tell you. I have the first three acts plotted, but the fourth has a nice fat gap of nothingness between its start and the end of the novel. The last three months I've been sitting staring at those blank index cards (five of them) refusing to restart the novel until they are filled in. Stupid! Why don't I just get on with it? After all, I have three-quarters of the novel plotted. So really, there's no real reason not to get on with it. Am I scared? Am I an idiot? Or am I just lazy? I genuinely don't know.

Yesterday I decided enough was enough. If Mark Dawson can write twenty-five novels in five years (two and a bit pages a day), then I can bloody well write one in a year (that's just under a page a day). So I've rewritten the first chapter... it was easier than I though. And I enjoyed it. I'm determined to get it finished by Christmas, if not before. I will! I will! I will!

I guess the message of this week's blog is this: Stop titting around and get on with it! As 'THEY' also say - Writers, write! Talkers, talk!

Which one are you?

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

READ, WRITE AND LEARN

READ

Usually, when I'm about to start a new screenplay I'll hunt down and watch TV episodes or films in the genre I'll be writing in, to get myself reacquainted with their format, how and why they work and how quite often why sometimes they don't. This helps me to avoid common errors and write the most interesting, original screenplay I can.

The next feature screenplay I'm gearing up to work on is set mostly in one very claustrophobic space, where two people will face off against each other. This is quite different to anything I've written before, so research is vital to ensuring the tension and conflict are gripping enough to hold the reader's attention for ninety pages. To help with this I've downloaded and printed off three screenplays - PHONE BOOTH by Larry Cohen, LOCKE by Steven Knight and BURIED by Chris Sparling.

Two of these films I have seen, which means I can directly compare how scenes were written in the script and how they played out on the screen. A valuable insight into getting the best out of my own screenplay.

Of course, this research is just to help get the tone and feel of my screenplay right, not to steal scenes or ideas from other screenplays. That would be stupid and lazy and very wrong.

It's also worth mentioning that whatever level of writer you are, you should be continually reading all sorts of professional screenplays, at the very least one a month.

WRITE

Writers write! If you just talk about it then you're not a writer. You don't have to write much, a page a day will do, just make sure you do something every day. We learn best by doing after all.

Rewriting is also very important to improvement. I've known writers write one draft and think their screenplay is good enough to send out. And they wonder why they get rejected every time.

The more you write and rewrite the more your writing will improve. It sounds so simple... and it is. The more you write (and read), the more you'll recognise what doesn't work and what does. Gradually over time, you'll learn to distill and refine the words you write, to the point you will eventually learn to use the minimum to make the biggest impact. Words are power after all.

LEARN

This is something I bang on about repeatedly. To learn screenwriting you don't need to go to university (although you can if you want to), you just need to do the two things above and read as many books on screenwriting your grey matter can absorb.

Eventually, after reading a few, you'll naturally take what you need from each to shape your own voice and the way you write. No one book offers the RIGHT way to write. What might be right for someone else might not work for you. So read as much as you can, take what you need and forget what you don't.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

FEAR

Following on from my post two weeks ago, I thought I would take another look at networking and specifically the associated fear and how you cope with it.

THE SCENARIO - YOU'RE AT THE LONDON SCREENWRITERS FESTIVAL AND A TV PRODUCER YOU WANT TO CONNECT WITH IS STANDING JUST A FEW FEET AWAY.

(A) HOW YOU WOULD LIKE IT TO GO:

You stride over with confidence and a smile, say hello, introduce yourself, tell them you loved the last thing they produced and then ask them what they are working on. Ten minutes later you're laughing and joking and talking about your shared TV/FILM likes and swapping business cards. "Send me something," they say to you and you promise to keep in touch.

(B) HOW IT ACTUALLY GOES:

You want to go and talk to them but you don't know what to say. Your palms are sweaty. Your mouth is dry. You stare at them. They spot you staring at them and are a little bit freaked out by it. But you can't help yourself and continue to stare at them with an air of desperation. It's now or never, but your legs just won't work, let alone your voice. Your hesitation stretches from seconds to minutes and then when you finally decide to make your move someone else beats you to it. You go home beating yourself up, because it was an opportunity missed, even if you are secretly relieved.

Why does it have to be (B)? Why can't it turn out like (A)? The thing is it can.

I'm not going to write a three-hundred-page post about how you can get rid of your fear and become the most confident person in the world, I'm no self-help guru, I'm simply going to explain three truths about fear instead.

1 - Fear is a good thing. It prevents you from behaving like a twunt.
2 - Everyone feels fear, even the producer you're staring at. He's there to meet writers like you and is currently wondering why you haven't come over and introduced yourself.
3 - The majority of fear we experience is utterly wasted.

The last one is so simple and yet the one most people (including myself) overlook. I came across a great video on Facebook a few days ago that sums up number 3. You can find the link to it HERE! It perfectly illustrates how and why we spend far too much time worrying about stuff rather than just getting on with it.

Feel fear when you need to, not when you don't. Then when you do feel the fear, use it and go and do the thing that scares you anyway.

Jump in! Be awesome!

Happy writing!


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

BLOG REWIND - HOW TO NETWORK LIKE A PRO

First published - Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HOW TO NETWORK LIKE A PRO


I'm off up to London tomorrow for a day of meetings with TV types, so I thought it would be a great idea to look back and revise a previous post on networking and how it will benefit your career. So here we go...

NETWORKING 

I have found by years of trial and error that the best way to get work and make great strides in my career, is to put myself out there and meet and connect with as many people as possible. Am I just talking about producers and directors? No...I mean everyone, everyone even remotely connected to the entertainment industry, actors, casting directors, script editors and fellow writers at all levels.

And it's not good enough to just show a passing interest in other people's work, I believe you have be genuinely interested in what they're working on. If I'm not genuinely in them and their career then those people I'm talking to will soon start to suspect I'm sucking up to them simply to further my career. Luckily I don't have that problem because I have a passionate love of film and TV and a general curiosity about people, so I find it a pleasure to talk to others (even if it does terrify me sometimes) and talk about what they are working on.

Remember it's all about them, not you, so never, ever go begging for work. Remain helpful, polite and never pushy. Talk to them, ask questions and avoid talking about yourself as much as possible. If you're asked a question try and answer it as briefly as you can, before you ask them another question. If like me this comes naturally to you, then it's a great advantage, otherwise you'll have to work very hard at it.

I used to keep a spreadsheet of people I made connections with, now there's a handy little app for the iPhone called CONNECTED that reminds me who I've had contact with, when and what we discussed. I couldn't live without it, as it can get quite confusing when I've have met literally hundreds of people, especially as I'm rubbish at remembering names. Some days I even need help remembering my own.

Signing up to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help with the process, but you must remember everyone will read what you write so keep a separate account for personal use and gobbing off, and one for professional. You are what you write after all.

Personally, I chose to only have one account on each site, as it would take too much time to keep up with separate accounts. Therefore I have to be very careful not to Twitter or Facebook when I come home from the pub and think it's funny to post a picture of my bum. General personal stuff is fine, it makes you appear human, just as long as it's not offensive.

There are plenty of other places to go and meet like-minded professionals including festivals, such as the London Screenwriters Festival, held every October in London. Not only will you meet a ton of writers at various levels, but also producers, directors and script editors. LSWF has now become so big it is now the most 'must attend' event on the calender. If you're thinking 'I can't afford to go', and you're serious about your career, then what you should actually be thinking is 'how can I afford NOT to go?'

There are also many other festivals, workshop and other great opportunities to network, set up by various well known and respected media bodies you should be looking at. You might even want to consider going on courses aimed at up and coming directors and producers... why? Because you'll probably be the only writer in a room full of hungry people who can get you screenplays made.


Writing ten or fifteen short scripts and offering them free to up and coming directors is a great idea to get your name and work out there. Plus if any are made it will give you something to be proud of and a credit on your CV. A good place to find directors is on Shooting People, Twitter and Facebook. Always remember to check out the directors previous work first to see if it's of the quality you want your short to be and if they are intending to place the finished film in festivals. That last bit is important as this will increase your exposure.

THE CALLING CARD SCRIPT

This is the one that best showcases your writing. It is not designed to ever get made (you're lucky if it does) but to show others what you can do. Make sure it is the best it can be before you send it out, as a sloppy, poorly written script will not impress anyone. And you need to send it out...to everyone - production companies first and places like the BBC Writersroom and Industrial Scripts, and then to smaller producers and directors and actors and just about everyone, but with this second group of people only if they request to read it first.

And this is where the networking comes into its own. If you've done your job properly people will also be genuinely interested in knowing what you are up to and might ask to read your script. If they like your work they might even offer you some work.

It's really all about building relationships, making friends and creating an awareness of your work. Do this and eventually people will come to you when they need a writer and one day you might even get paid for it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

CHALLENGE YOURSELF

Forgive me, for I have sinned. This is my first blog in a month... naughty Dom!

The reason I've been so lax is because I have decided to challenge myself. But it's no ordinary challenge, oh no, I've deliberately made it hard on myself and come up with something that is going to push me to the limit as a writer. The challenge is this...

Each month I will start a brand new project and write it from start to finished first draft within the calendar month. Some of the projects will be TV pilots and others feature screenplays. When they are done I will rewrite them alongside a new project during another month, until they are as polished as they can be.

So now you're thinking I'll be writing two projects a month, one new and one rewrite... but I'm not stopping there, oh no. To add to the above I will also be replotting my young adult fantasy novel and finishing the first draft by the end of the year. Looking a lot more difficult now, isn't it? But that's still not all of it.

I will also be dealing with any paid work that comes in and even though it will have priority, my aim is to continue the spec work alongside it. Yes, I can see some late nights, early mornings and long, lonely weekends in my future.

So to recap, that's one first draft of a new project, a rewrite of a previous first draft, continuous work on my novel and any paid work that comes in. But why?

Well, last year started out with the best of intentions, as most January's do. I had a paid feature ready to begin, but as the year dragged on and the feature and life issues got in the way, I let my spec work fall away to the point I was only working on the feature. Silly!

This year I'm determined to complete as many finished projects as I can. I might not do all that I have planned, but I'm going to give it a damn good go.

In January I wrote and rewrote a spec TV pilot with my writing partner Anne-Marie Caluwaert which we entered into the Stage 32 Happy Writers TV Pilot Competition. We are so proud it made its way as far as the last ten.

In February I rewrote a sitcom I created with my other writing partner Lee Helliar, as well as plotting a new TV crime drama pilot to start writing in March. And that's where I am now, I have over half my novel replotted and I'm busy with my head buried in the first draft of the TV crime drama spec... which isn't going too great I have to admit (only 25 pages in), but which I'm determined to finish by Friday.

I had better get on with it then.

Don't forget to challenge yourself this year, push the boundaries of what you think you are capable of and then push them again. You can't afford to sit still... no one else will be.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

RECYCLE

"You really should turn this idea into a feature."

Every writer has their favorite story, the one they spend months or even years developing, the one they still get a kick out of every time they read it. It's even better when others read it and fall in love with it too. But it's incredibly frustrating when the screenplay isn't optioned and ends up gathering cyber dust on the hard drive of your computer. Don't despair, no project is ever truly dead.

A screenwriting friend once described projects as roundabouts; eventually, they'll come around again. What he meant by this is that someone somewhere at some time in the future will be interested in that project and option it. It may not be today, tomorrow, or even next month, but at some point, the subject of your screenplay will suddenly be in vogue again. "Have you got anything with happy dancing, pensioner gnomes in it?"

That's why it's always worth revisiting your work now and again and bringing it up to date, so it's ready to go should the market change in its favour.

Then there's recycling your ideas. In a meeting with a TV company last month I was told they loved the sample of work I sent them, a pilot episode of a spec TV crime drama series. When they suggested the idea would make a brilliant feature I initially dismissed the idea. But the more I thought about it the more it actually made sense.

It's not the first time I've changed the medium of one of my projects. One of the features I was commissioned for has changed from British Drama to American Crime Thriller to British TV Crime Drama. The idea has been recycled, turned into something else, giving it more chances of being
made.

So go and take look at your work and see if any of it could translate to another medium, whether that be a feature, a radio play, a piece of theatre or even a novel.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

LONDON, MEETINGS AND POTS OF TEA

Because I live on the busy South Coast of the UK it takes between two and three hours (depending on whether it's the fast or slow train) to travel up to London for meetings, which usually means a whole day away from my desk. So when I do travel up I like to make sure I have a packed day ahead of me.

I arrived at Waterloo at 10.00am yesterday, ready and raring to go. My agent was waiting for me under the clock and we hurried off to find a cafe, desperately dodging rain showers as we negotiated the London traffic. It was just a brief catch up over a latte before heading off for the main meeting of the day, discussing what I planned to write over the next few months and the various stages my current projects were at. And good news, my agent loved my new spec drama pilot episode and the series bible for a new crime drama idea. So after agreeing on a strategy for sending them out, I hopped on the tube for my next meeting.

It was cold and wet, so I was glad the lady emailed me to let me know she was already at the agreed meeting place and waiting for me inside. No standing outside in the rain like a lemon for me.

This was the big one, the reason for my trip, a major TV production company with offices all over the world and they wanted to meet with little old me. No pressure then... HA! In fact, it was a very relaxed chat. I sat down, ordered a pot of tea, she discussed how their company works, what they are looking for and what they are currently working on. Then we discussed my projects and I agreed to send her three of them. A great meeting. But after the latte and the pot of tea (Breakfast tea, three full cups) the pressure was starting to build, so I had to make a pit stop and grab a sandwich to go on the way to my next meeting with the brilliant Phil Mulryne, script editor of Doctor Foster series two.

Our meeting was just a little catch-up, two people with a love of TV and screenwriting chatting about what they were up to and what they were currently loving on the goggle box. It's always good to keep in touch with people and keep abreast of what they're working on. Another pot of tea later (this time lemon and ginger, another three cups) I scurried off to my final meeting of the day with my good friend Tom Kerevan... and he bought me a large latte.

The trains were delayed on the way home. Two people had been hit by trains in separate incidents. A lot of services had been cancelled and were only just getting up and running again. It was chaos. A lot of people were angry and could only see the two suicides as an inconvenience. It saddened me that our race can be so uncaring at times.

As I waited patiently for my train I thought about those two unfortunate souls, who for whatever reason had decided their lives were not worth living. I realised I'm a very lucky person to do what I love, to have others who love what I do and to be surrounded by those who love and support me.

So as I sat on the crowded train home, my bladder full to bursting, I said a little prayer for those two lost souls and promised myself to always be grateful for the opportunities presented to me.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

HARVESTING THE BUZZ

There are moments in life that are just so amazing they leave you with a buzz, that feeling you're on fire and everything is right with the world. For writers, especially those starting out, those moments can be few and far between. It's important to make the most of them, to use them to help keep you going through the lean times. But how?

I went up to London yesterday for a general meeting with a production company whose dramas I've been a fan of for many years. The meeting went extremely well. On the way home I was worried the high I was experiencing would evaporate after a few hours and the motivation it created would be diminished. I began to wonder if there was a way to harvest the buzz I was feeling to use another day when the doldrums were upon me. In the past, I've kept a feedback folder, where I used to put all those lovely emails of praise to refer to when I needed. I have no idea where it is today, probably somewhere in the black hole that is my office cupboard, tucked somewhere at the back and now home to a family of spiders.

So what could I do? It was an idea of my wife's that helped to provide the solution.

A jar full of goodness.
A couple of years ago my wife Susie told me about an idea called the Gratitude Jar. She kept a jar in the kitchen and instructed me and the boys to write down anything that happened that we were grateful for and put it in the jar. Then on New Years Day we would open the jar and reflect on all the great things that had happened to us as a family over the previous twelve months. But as usual with these things we did it for a few weeks and eventually forgot about it.

As the South-West train zoomed through the countryside to Poole I thought, "Why can't I use a Gratitude Jar to keep a track of all my highs as a writer, so they're there when I need them the most?" So I've nicked one of my wife's empty jars she was saving up to make jam with and I've put it on my desk where it will be in view every time I sit down to work. When something good happens I'll write it down on a Post-it Note and pop it in the jar. By the picture, you can probably tell there are three BUZZes in there already. January is already proving to be an awesome month.

The next time I'm in a slump I'm going to grab that jar, pulls out some of those BUZZes, read them and perk myself up. You might like to try it too.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

THE YEAR THAT WAS AND THE YEAR THAT WILL BE

2016 was a roller coaster of a year. There were ups and downs, twists and turns and at a couple of points I felt so sick I wanted to get off. I didn't though, I stayed on board until the bitter end. I'm glad I did, because late November early December everything flipped upside down.

But before I get to that, let me tell you more about my 2016.

THE LOWS - Every writer experiences them, even the well known and well paid ones. That brilliant idea you love gets rejected by everyone you send it to even though they love it, the promise of work never materialises and you constantly find yourself butting your head against dead ends.

I had a couple of really big slumps during the year and found myself questioning whether I should quit and go and find something more stable to do instead. I didn't of course, I never do, it's just not in may nature to walk away when things get tough. Successful writers are resilient buggers and besides, the highs would be nothing without the lows. So after each slump I sulked for a couple of hours, took a week off to do wonderful non writing related stuff and then went back to things refreshed, with a renewed optimism and enthusiasm.

Disappointment is inevitable, so if you want to be successful make sure you brush it aside as quickly as you can and carry on. You just never know what's waiting around the corner for you.


THE HIGHS - They fell in to three categories; 'Well That Was Nice', 'Flippin' 'Eck That's Awesome' and 'Mind Blowingly Epic'!

Here are just a few of the 'Well That Was Nice' and 'Flippin' 'Eck That's Awesome' highs that happened over 2016 - I finally found the time to finish two spec features I'd been tinkering with on and off for a couple of years. I made it into the quarter-finals of several screenwriting competitions, including with the two new features and I even made the semi-finals of one competition. A feature I wrote with one of my writing partners in just twelve days made the quarter-finals of every competition we entered it into. I had several general meetings and I was invited to the BBC TV Drama Writers' Festival, went to LSWF 2016. Over the year I was lucky to meet many wonderful directors, producers, script editors and of course fellow writers

It was the 'Mind Blowingly Epics' that really rocked my world though - The feature written in twelve days made it down to the final ten of the FINAL DRAFT BIG BREAK SCREENWRITING COMPETITION. I think if we had entered it in another category it could well have gone further. My spec TV drama pilot WONDERLAND made it through to the final ten of Idris Elba's Green Door, Green Light Initiative. It didn't make the final three and it didn't matter, just knowing Idris himself was reading my screenplay was enough. I'm on his radar now! But best of all something truly amazing and unexpected happened, a real boost to my career. It's really fantastic when all your hard work is recognised and rewarded. So what is this mind blowingly epic thing..?

Well... all I'm going to say is things are looking up on the TV front.

So for 2017 I already have two big meetings set for January and I'm looking forward to telling you all about them and what I get up to for the rest of 2017, this time next year.

Happy New Writing Year!