Wednesday, April 20, 2016


On rare occasions, despite weeks of preparation, I find a screenplay isn't quite working.

It would be easy to sit there and fiddle with it, changing bits here and there in the hope that it all suddenly came together, but the reality is sometimes you have to take it apart, deconstruct and then rebuild, to discover what's wrong and to move it forward. I have a second draft at the moment which I reread the other day and have since come to the conclusion it would really benefit with being deconstructed. I could have tried to rewrite it like normal, but as it's such a great story I felt the extra effort of deconstructing it is a worthwhile effort.

By deconstruction I don't mean you should completely rewrite a screenplay from scratch, that would be terribly time-consuming and unnecessary. What I suggest is you separate each act, look closely at how it's constructed and rejig it if necessary. Yes, it is a little more work than simply going over and over your screenplay, again and again, rewriting the hell out of it, but it's worth it. So how do you go about it?

As I said above split your screenplay into acts, further splitting Act Two in half. It's far easier looking at a screenplay in smaller sections than it is as a whole.

Start with Act One and take a close look at where the beats occur. Are they in the right place? Are they strong enough? Then look at your characters. Are they appealing? Have you set them up sufficiently? Then look at your scenes. Are you getting in late and getting out early? Is there enough conflict?

The most common mistake I find in the first act, something I'm guilty of too with every single one of my first drafts, is that by spending so much time setting things up the act overruns by five to ten pages. Are there character bits you can use later in the script? Is there too much dialogue and exposition? Once you've looked at these things, rebuilt and rewritten, your first act will be in a much better place.

Then all you have to do is repeat this for the remaining three sections of your screenplay and you'll be laughing.

Sometimes it's necessary to revisit your original thinking, as your view on things will most likely have changed after you've written a few drafts. Deconstructing you screenplay is the best and most effective way to do this.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I've been quite lucky as a writer over the last six years.

The first year I went full-time freelance it was website work that kept me going financially, as it wasn't until the beginning of the second year I landed my first feature commission. From then on for the next four years, I was pretty much writing nonstop, going from one commission to the next until May last year. It was scary not to have another commission lined up for when I finished the project I was working on, but at least I had the time to write two of my own spec scripts and I had plenty of reading work to get on with. Still it was a worrying time and it began to play on my mind.

When would my next commission come? Would I ever work again? Was my career over just as it started? These thoughts and many other whizzed around my head, mocking, teasing, gradually eroding away my confidence in my writing ability and my career. Some of my commissioned projects stalled, others morphed, some transferred to different mediums and one almost went into production. But I kept going through all of it. I didn't have a choice.

I spent so many years chasing the Holy Grail of that first commission, I automatically assumed I had made it when I finally landed it and kept going. I was wrong. There's no such thing as 'making it'. During the quiet period last year I realised as a writer I'm only as good as my last successful project. It's not just a matter of being a good writer. My work has to get made and do well. Even then there's no guarantee I'll be working continuously when that happens.

There will be periods when everyone wants a piece of me, when everyone wants me to come in for a chat, when they offer me TV episodes, when they want to work with me. But like all things in life, there will be quiet times when there's not much going on. It's those times I have to work my hardest, keep plodding away even when some days I want to do anything but.

I think of myself as a shark. I have to keep swimming to survive. I can't stop... ever! If I do I'll die. Even when there's nothing around to feed me I have to keep going and going and going and going and going until there is. I can't sit back and wait for things to come to me. There's only one way to go and that's forward. There is no other direction.

I've slowly learned to make the most of the opportunities I'm given and not worry too much when things are quiet. It's not a matter of 'if' something else comes along, it's only a matter of 'when', but if I'm not working towards that it's never going to come.

Happy writing!