Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Final Countdown

30 pages to go, can I do it in 5 hours?

That's 6 pages an hour.

I did 17 pages yesterday.

I'll keep you all updated in the comments below.

Come see.

Cry with laughter at my attempt.

Read with amazement as I begin to lose it.

I'm ready, are you?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Days

After I had to cut a character, cutting out several scenes in the process, I find myself with 45 pages to write in just two days. Fook me!!!!!!

I shall give you updates as I go in the comments, so feel free to encourage, cajole, or just plain insult my efforts.

Enjoy, as I have a nervous breakdown. :-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Three Days

Three days to go.

I'm nearing the end, but I still have a significant number of pages to write.

Gotta get my head down.

Food and drink are with in reach.

The phone is off the hook.

I have an empty two litre bottle to pee in.

My fingers are feeling numb.

I will make it, damn it!!!!!!!!

One snag....I put my back out at the weekend and leaning over the laptop is killing me.

I suffer for my art, I really do.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Stress Factor

Poor little Lucy, she's off to Edinburgh for an Adrian Mead course soon and she has to fly there. She hates flying... with a passion. She'll be experiencing that tight, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, the shaking hands, the wobbly voice and the weak knees. It's not a nice feeling, is it? The things we suffer for our passion.

It got me thinking about situations I find myself in as a writer where I feel the same as above; phoning production companies, going to seminars and meeting people who have had more success writing than I have (I always feel like a dribbling, arse licking freak, eager to bleed knowledge from them but also aware I might come across as slightly disturbed).

I got married last year; that was the easy part. The bit I was most scared about was having to give a speech in front of both sets of family and all our friends. Quite frankly I was shitting myself. I was reminded of something someone (I forget who) once told me, that helped a great deal with the nerves. So if you're feeling nervous the next time Russell T Davies rings you up to chat about you writing for Doctor Who, think about this.

What you have to understand about the human body is that it is run by chemicals. When someone holds a knife to your throat, or you stand on the edge of a large drop and the wind blows you off balance, your body produces chemicals that make you sacred and fear for your life. That's because the body interprets these threats as life threatening, and rightly so.

When you receive a phone call from that production company or you're about to enter a meeting with a big time producer, your body will release the same chemicals (albeit in smaller quantities). Your body interprets a threat to your person the same way if a knife is held to your throat or you're about to enter a very important meeting. Only one is actually life threatening but the body doesn't know that. The chemicals that it releases in response to those threats are what make you feel sick.

So you have to train your body to understand the difference between those threats. When you're about to go into that meeting think to yourself, "Yeah, this is scary, but it's NOT going to kill me." Do that every time you come across a scary situation and you'll find that meetings, public speaking, and other scary tasks, will become easier with time. A producer might give you a hard time over your script, but he will hardly pull out a giant knife and slit your throat over it.

Think like that and you'll feel better in no time. Have a good Bank Holiday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Career Vision Part 1

Think you can write? Got a great idea for a script? Want to know what you do next?

Getting Started:

Being a writer isn't a hobby, it's a job, and a full-time job at that. Anybody can have a great idea for a script (usually they aren't that great in reality), it's putting it down on paper that's the hard part. Writing for a living is a long, hard slog, where you have to be prepared to learn, and accept that when you do there is always more you can learn. Then you'll have to learn some more.

First you have to decide if writing is the job for you; ask yourself if you're prepared to give up your social life, your friends and all of your spare time. That's what it's going to take when you first get started. Many hours of writing will be followed by many hours of rewriting, and just for good measure many, many hours of still more rewriting. If you can't stand that isolation or spare the time then writing isn't for you. Dedication is the key word here. Dedication and rewriting. Did I mention the rewriting?

Reading is important! Read anything and everything. Read scripts; of blockbusters, early drafts, your fellow writers' work. Read books, not just your favorite sci-fi, but all genres, and news papers, lots and lots of news papers. Increase your knowledge base; the more you know the more you can write about. Read books on writing, on film making, on production (It helps to know all aspects of the business. The more familiar you are with the industry and the way it works the more you'll be able to navigate your way through it.), industry tabloids like - Radio Times, Broadcast and Screen International.

Get a blog. Meet other blogging writers. Swap tips, ideas and bodily fluids if you have to. Ask them questions. Ask them lots of questions. Pester them for advice. Be a sponge, soak up their collective knowledge.

Then you want to look at courses. Ask around; who's been on what, and what do they have to say about it. You don't want to waste your time so research is important here. Choose the wrong course/s and you might as well throw your money down the toilet. Listen to what other bloggers say about courses they've been on, would recommend, etc.

Now look at your great idea again. Is it such a great idea after all? No? Never mind, there will be other ideas... better ideas... one that someone might even be prepared to give you some money for.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Will I, Won't I?

It's the 15th of May and I'm on page 31 of about 90 pages of my new feature, Faith.

Will I make the end of May deadline or will I slip in to yet another month?

What do you think?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Life On Ashes

And here it is, as promised.

Mark Greig has written for Life On Mars, Taggart, Afterlife and the new Gene Hunt series Ashes To Ashes. He found time in his busy schedule to answer a few nosey questions from myself.

Q: How did you get into writing?

Constantly being told that I was 'good at English' as a boy, and devouring the written word like chocolate raisins.

And for more...

Q: What's your writing highlight to date?

Getting to the end of the first draft of anything. Plus a few neat story beats and some lines of dialogue - most of my favourites of which ended in the cutting room bin. Note for learning writers; dialogue isn't really what it's about.

Q: Readers of your blog are aware of your love for all things stationary, what is your most treasured stationary object and why?

A Pentel propelling pencil I've had for years, because I've had it for years, and because writing in pencil makes the words on the page somehow provisional and fluid, which is a good thing in the early stages of making something up. And the yellow A4 pads from Ryman's, of which I have a satisfying stack. And a lovely notebook from Muji that's too beautifully functional to use. And, and, and...

Q: You're currently working on Ashes To Ashes, is there anything else we should be keeping an eye out for?

No guarantees, but there's a better chance than most that a single I'm developing at the Beeb will make it to screen - an urban fairytale with songs and rent boys - and as I write this, an amber light is flickering to green on a 2 part pilot for a new cop show that will be written before the end of the year.

Q: What can you tell us about Ashes To Ashes with out getting fired or publicly flogged?

Mmm. Most of the stuff we hoped to hold back is now in the public domain - how *do* people get hold of it?? - e.g. 1981, London, female co-lead etc. Same but different. And better, obviously. I find Alex Drake a stronger and more interesting character to write than Sam Tyler (CHARACTER, weirdy fan nuts - no reflection at all on John Simm's excellent performance), who was oddly passive for a dramatic lead.

Q: It was reported that there was going to be a third series of Life On Mars, but this was changed at the last minute and the final episode rewritten to bring an end to the show. As you wrote the penultimate episode how did this decision impact on you and the rest of series two?

It was known that there would only be two series before Matthew started on the last episode, but that start was pretty late. Although Matthew always had the ending clearly in mind, the plot and story mechanics (i.e. how to make it work) didn't really emerge until I was on draft 3 or thereabouts (this was a year ago, so it's hazy). By that time the Frank Morgan/Hyde character had made such an impact that it was obvious we'd be missing a trick if he didn't continue into ep 8 in a big way. The story of the week of ep 7 was locked down quite early, but various bits relating to Hyde - what Sam knows and when etc. - were tinkered with up to principal photography and beyond.

Q: On my blog I've discussed two possible interpretations of the ending of Life On Mars (I may just have been reading more into it than there was). What was your interpretation of the ending and what was the official one?

Sam was in a coma, and entered a 1973 world weaved from a slippery combination of memory and fantasy. A surgical process brought him round from his coma, but he found the 'real' world less vivid and meaningful than this other world, a world where he paradoxically felt more alive and more true to his emotional self, so he chose to return there permanently by killing himself.

As far as I know that's also the official version. Everybody involved were, and continue to be, amazed by the myriad alternative interpretations, some of which were, well - perhaps a little over-complicated. Good reading, though.

There was no time travel.

Q: What instructions were you given for writing Gene Hunt?

I watched the first series and read a couple of early drafts of series 2 eps. You don't get instructions in the way I think you mean.

Q: Your episode of Life On Mars was slightly darker in tone than previous episodes, was that deliberate?

Only in so far as it reflects my apparent inclination towards the heart of darkness. Just can't help it.

Q: Please explain the process once you've been commissioned for an episode of a series?

You have a chat about the series as a whole and your ep in particular with the producers, editors, and sometimes the other writers. You come up with an idea and put it on a page. They like it. You then do a treatment/sequence outline/beat sheet, whatever you've all agreed to call it on that particular project.

I call it a beat sheet and tell the story in sequence units of a paragraph or two, numbered for ease of discussion (much better to refer to number 17 rather than 'you know, that bit where she gets lost in the cave, the one after the bit where the old bloke says 'whatever you do, don't go in the cave'.'). You send that in, you meet and talk about it, and then you revise it. You then either meet and talk and revise or phone and talk and revise, and then you either revise and meet and talk or you go to script.

Repeat the submit, talk, revise process till you have to stop, usually the first day of principal photography. And sometimes beyond...

4, 6 & 8 part series work differently from things like the soaps and Casualty/The Bill etc. where episodes are to a greater or lesser degree storylined for the writer, but the basic process of submit, talk, revise and repeat ad infinitum applies to all.

Q: Have you ever had to turn down work that you regret, and what was it?

Probably the first series of Life on Mars. Who knew?

Q: What's your preferred writing beverage?

Coffee. By the piping hot black cafetiere load. Less of a beverage, more of an essential tool for living.

Q: Where do you write and under what conditions?

In a room at the back of the house with a view of next door's vast holly tree and the bully bastard magpies*, and occasionally with a little girl, who thinks that work means listening to music on headphones, wriggling on my lap demanding to look at pictures of herself on the PC.

*is it legal to shoot magpies? Someone out there must know. And cats, although I'm pretty sure I know that answer to that one. I'd just like it to be different.

Q: If you could have written an existing film or TV series from past or present, which one would it have been and why?

Mm. Don't know. There are lots of films and shows that I love and respect, but that doesn't mean I'd want to write them. I'm still happy to get sucked into someone else's world. And maybe I love them precisely because I *couldn't* have written them.

Q: What's your favourite film quote?

As above - it's not really about dialogue. That's there to move the plot along and show how clever the writer is, but for me the films and film moments that stay with me are about image and sound and the parts between the words.

Oh okay, if you're going to *force* me - uummmmm - "Do you eat the herring?"

Q: What advice would you give to a new writer trying to break into TV?

Have a gift for it, be productive and persistent. You learn more by doing than by being taught. And have a gift for it.

Thanks Mark.

If you want to wonder at Mark's world then check out his blog, but be warned he doesn't update it regularly even though he really should. Naughty boy!

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Oh yes, it's coming, but I'm going to keep you waiting a bit longer.

I'm such a tease!!!!

Maybe it'll be here tomorrow.....??????????

Thursday, May 03, 2007

BBC Writer's Academy 2007 Deadline

Only eleven days left until the final deadline for the BBC Writer's Academy 2007.

Hurry up if you want to apply for this fantastic opportunity.

*News just in. An exciting and informative Q&A is on its way, so stay tuned.