Wednesday, February 05, 2020

VOICE

Voice is important, it defines you, makes you stand out and identifies who you are as a writer.

For those of you who don't know what I mean by 'voice' or are confused as to what the term means, 'voice' is the writers' style, the quality that makes their writing unique.

A few weeks ago a writer I know sent me their latest treatment, asking me for my opinion. The treatment was fantastic, it sang from the page with a frenetic, sweaty energy that perfectly matched the subject matter. It was one of the most powerful treatments I have ever read. And it got me thinking about my own voice and how, a few years ago, I lost it.

Your writers' 'voice' takes time to develop and that means a lot of writing. It can take months, even years to perfect, but when you have it, it really elevates your writing. I wrote a lot of crap to start with but as my confidence grew so did my writing and I found my voice while writing my script FAITH. It's no coincidence the script won an award and is still used to get me through a lot of doors.

As I began to make a name for myself and my blog audience grew, screenwriting authors and their publishers started to send me their latest screenwriting books for review. I thought it was great, getting to read all these fantastic screenwriting books for free and learning new, relatable skills. However, after time I found all those books had a negative impact on my writing. I started to overthink what I was creating, agonising over structure, plot, and character while ignoring my instincts. It was those instincts that served me well over the years and helped to develop my voice.

My writing became formulaic and bland and even I hate some of the scripts I wrote during that period. I had to learn to trust myself again, to invest in the process and to re-find my voice. Once I did, I quickly noticed the difference, people were once again taking note of my work and asking for samples.

Work hard at finding your voice, play with your writing style, experiment often and above all trust your instincts. Try not to get bogged down in the technical aspects of writing, let the words flow and have fun with them.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2020 VISION

2019 was a great year and a fitting end to my first decade as a working writer - it started with a feature commission on #LondonBoys, continued with me acquiring a well-known actor as a writing partner, whom I've been working with on two newly resurrected ideas from my ideas vault, and finished with me completing a long-gestating project which I'm very excited about.

But... and there is always a but... I was left feeling I could have done much, much more. So for 2020, I've decided to take chances, big chances... one in particular which I would have previously considered too risky to attempt.

For far too much of my life, I've played it safe and have taken very few risks. I've always chosen the easy option, the path of least resistance. Whether that's because I've been scared, cautious, too polite or because I didn't want to abuse other people's friendship, generosity, and kindness... I don't know.

There is a certain amount of luck with writing - being in the right place at the right time with the right project - and I've always been fascinated with finding new ways of improving my luck, convinced there is more to success than simple randomness. On Boxing Day I watched the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture: How To Get Lucky and learned that being successful is simple mathematics.

I've always known that the more opportunities you make for yourself the better chance there is of something paying off. I also know it's no good working on one project all year and then sending it out to one person at a time. But what I hadn't considered was that your chances significantly increase by being bolder with your decisions and the chances you take, that by being clever and understanding what works and what doesn't you can improve your chances of success, even when making very bold decisions.

Because of this, I've decided to send the project I've just finished to not only my agent and the handful of personal contacts at production companies as I would normally do, but I'm also going to email the script to two well-known writers I get on well with. Both of these writers have already expressed an interest in working with me so it wouldn't hurt to see if they would be interested in co-writing this idea together.

Normally I would never do this as I consider it pushy, cheeky and very rude, especially if the writer is more established than I am. I remember one year at LSWF where a female guest speaker spent most of the afternoon trying to avoid an overeager writer with no credits who insisted they work together, and as he put it 'use her contacts' to get an idea of his made. I remember how annoyed and angry she was at the writer's bare-faced cheek and disrespect and how she told everyone she met she would never work with him under any circumstances. I certainly don't want to be remembered as one of those people.

However, the How To Get Lucky lecture changed my mind about approaching well known established writers and made me realise that some risks are worth taking. It's how you go about it that matters. While being bold you still have to remain polite, pushing the boundaries of your existence while always being respectful of others and as long as I'm polite and respectful, it's a risk worth taking.

If I can get another writer interested in the idea, one with better connections than me, I will increase this projects' chances of getting made significantly. But that writer has to be someone I already have a relationship with, someone whose work fits with the project and not someone I've randomly chosen because they have a successful TV career and I don't. I have two writers in mind - one who fits this genre I've written in perfectly and another whose writing is very similar to mine. Let's see how how it goes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained after all.

So here's my vision for 2020 in all it's glory...
  1. Help move one of my features forward into production.
  2. Finish at least two new projects by year-end.
  3. Land myself an episode of a continuing drama.
  4. Get one of my own TV projects commissioned by year-end.
I hope 2020 is your year too. Be bold! Take chances! Make your own opportunities. But always remember to do so politely and with respect for others.

Happy writing!