Wednesday, May 31, 2017


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


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


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



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.


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.


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!