Friday, April 27, 2012


As if my working week wasn't busy enough I decided today to go to Industrial Scripts' - Making The Low-Budget Feature Film training course in London on Sunday and have just booked my ticket. All very last minute.

Why you may ask? Well for two reasons really. The first is because if I know what goes into making a low-budget film it will help to understand the constraints low-budget film makers face. It will also help me package my low budget screenplays better. Secondly, and most importantly for me, it's a room full of producers and a screenwriter it's an opportunity I can't afford to miss.

The training day costs £156.99, but even if I sell just one screenplay, or get one commission out of it, it will have paid for itself. Plus I'll actually learn things too... on a Sunday... I know... crazy!!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Wise words and especially poignant for writers, who seem to spend most of their life hearing the word 'No'.
I've written on this subject before, but it's one that crops up so often it's worth covering again. It's easy to get disheartened, to throw a paddy, say 'fuck it all' and use your latest rejection letter to set fire to the person who sent it's pubic hair. It's easy to sink into a grump, shout and yell at your significant others, kick doors, punch walls, shut yourself in the cupboard under the stairs and cry until you can cry no more...but really that is just being silly. It's self destructive and self defeating and if you choose this route your career will be over before it's started.

They are not rejecting you!

Yes, it's true. They are NOT rejecting you. You might think they are, but I can assure you they are not.

What they are rejecting is the work you sent them and this is not necessarily because it's the worse drivel they've ever read. There could be lots of reasons why they've said no. They may have a similar project in production, they may hate the genre, they may have had a blazing row with their significant other before they came to work that morning, their coffee might be cold, or they may just be an idiot. It happens!

So what you need to do is bounce back and straight away. My usual trick is to go online, research a few production companies and send them some of my work, get myself back out there. The more work you send out the more chances you make for yourself. Don't carpet bomb, but instead keep a steady stream of work flowing outwards. It also helps if you write something new now and again, as there's nothing worse than sending out something you wrote ten years ago that everyone and their mother has already read and rejected. Stay fresh!

Yeah you might be disappointed with the rejection, sometimes it does hurt, like it did for me last week. It was a big rejection and it hurt bad. I sulked around the house for an hour before I phoned my wife to tell her the bad news, because I knew she would say the right things to make me feel better. Then I did some research and sent three emails...and one of them paid off. I still felt bad for a day and half but, I didn't let it stop me from moving forward. If I had I would of missed out on something great. It's important to keep going, to not let rejection stop you in your tracks. Just think of it as a war of attrition. Keep sending a steady stream of your work out and eventually you'll wear them down.

Another trick I use is to keep all of my good emails or letters so that if I am feeling down about things I can just go back and read them. It's like a mini ego boost and it reminds me that some people do actually like my work. When I phoned my wife she reminded me of all the great things I had going on and that one rejection really didn't matter. And you know what, she was right...she usually is. It's important to focus on the positives when bad news comes your way. It's not easy, but it's something you have to do.

Remember, although rejection does hurt it won't kill you - unless they stab you through the heart with the metal bindings of your screenplay - otherwise it'll just smart a bit for a couple of days, then you can brush it off and get on with your career. You're in this for the long haul. Keep going!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Somebody asked me how much work I put into a second draft, which is a very good question as I may have over simplified the second draft process in my last blog.

For me the first draft is literally just one pass on the story. I may go back a couple of times to make a few quick, minor changes, but mostly I just write from the start until the finish, with very little editing. My second drafts actually consist of several mini drafts, usually ten, so that when I'm finished my second draft it will actually be draft eleven. This is how I do it...

  1. The first pass of the second draft is where I see if my story actually works. If it doesn't I need to rethink and come at it from a different angle. This is where I plug all those nasty plot holes to make sure the screenplay works as a whole.
  2. The second pass is all about structure. Does it work? Is it too fast, too slow, too confusing? Is it end heavy, or does it waffle on in act two? For the fist two passes I'm not worried about anything but plot and structure, because I don't want to complicate things and get myself into a mess. I find it best to concentrate on one aspect at a time. This is also where the first draft will probably change by anything from 25% to 75%.
  3. Pass three is all about my characters, are they believable, do they act like they should and more importantly are they necessary? There have been occasions where I have found characters to be superfluous, so I've had to get rid of them.
  4. Dialogue. Are my characters speaking with their own voice, is there too much exposition in the dialogue, does it sound clunky, do I get a sense of character, is there too much? Remember less is more! Obviously a feature will have a lot less dialogue than a TV drama.
  5. Language and imagery. This is where I lose superfluous words, delete repeating ones and look closely at all of my action description. I want to take out everything that can't actually be shown on the screen.
  6. Restructuring. This is really another pass at structure, but this time I look to see if I can tell my story a different way by changing the order I tell it in. This is also where I see if I am telling the story through the right characters' eyes. On several occasions I have found it more advantageous to tell the story through the eyes of a different character making it more powerful in the process.
  7. Conflict. This is where I check every scene has conflict in it and where I add more layers to ensure it does. Remember conflict is the essential part of any story.
  8. The opening pages. I always check to make sure the opening pages are going to grab the audience. If they're not then I need to change them so they do so.
  9. My second pass on characters, dialogue and action. If what my characters say and do doesn't match their character, then I have to change it so it does.
  10. My last pass is where I proof read for any glaring errors like calling a character by a different name halfway through the screenplay. You would be surprised how often this happens.
It's when those ten passes are done that I consider my second draft to be completed. I do it all over again for the third draft, but then it'll be easier because most of the hard work will have already been done.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


For me there's something about finishing a second draft that brings a sense of relief I rarely get with other drafts.

Why is that? It's because for me the second draft is where I iron out those major imperfections, correct the gaping holes in the plot and fix those one dimensional characters. It's the draft where the idea finally finds its shape and I know once it's done it'll be all down hill from there.

The first draft is all about getting the story out on the page. I'm not worrying about if this works, or if that works, I'm just concerned with getting it finished, because it's easier to fix something that's crap and written than it is to fix something that isn't yet on paper. For me the second draft is where the majority of the work will be carried out.

The second draft is where the screenplay's major faults are addressed and corrected and once done I know my screenplay will never again be as bad as the first draft. Every draft after the second will be easier than the last, with fewer and fewer changes and tweaks needed to be done.

I always hate starting a second draft, in fact they terrify me to the point where I sometimes actively avoid them with my own spec work. If I'm writing for someone else I can't avoid those silly little second drafts, so I just have bite the bullet and throw myself into them. I think it's the scale of work the second draft always involves which brings the terror. It's the fear that maybe somehow I won't fix the screenplay's problems, but actually make them worse. It never happens of course, but the fear always surfaces none the less.

The relief of finishing a second draft is like cycling up a mountain and reaching the peak, knowing you can now freewheel down the other side. It's the only part of a second draft I actually enjoy and I'm ecstatic when I see it.