The Writing Blog Tour

Writing is not a mystical process involving tea leaves and libraries of how-to books. At least, not in my (somewhat limited) experience. However, the choices individual writers make about what they write and how they write it can often seem inscrutable. I've always been interested in how other writers go about their business, mostly in the hope that their words of wisdom will somehow improve my own attempts. So, thank you, Mysterious Person Who Began "The Blog Tour". You are the reason why I am writing this post today. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I agreed to be tagged by Phill Barron, screenwriter extraordinary, and become part of The Blog Tour before passing the dubious honour of baring their writing souls to two more unfortunates - I mean highly-privileged writers. But first, let's talk about Phill. Phillip Barron is a UK scriptwriter who's had nine feature films produced. In addition to movies he's written for BBC3's BAFTA and Rose d'Or nominated sketch show,...
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Writers’ Tools: Tactile Spreadsheet

While waiting for various co-written projects to make their way back to my inbox and anxiously querying literary agents, I have decided to distract myself by remembering to update my blog. (I apologise in advance if this makes as much sense as monkeys attempting Shakespeare - I am full of lurgy) The contents of this post will be obvious to many of you. Writers love index cards. They love that they come in lots of different colours and can be written on with a variety of coloured pens. They love them so much that they peruse stationary shops looking for the perfect bulldog clips to safely secure them. However, beating out a plot is only one way to utilise those tantalisingly blank rectangles. I am going to present a more complicated system that some of you may seize as vital to screenplay composition, and which others will love because it adds another few hours of procrastination before actually having to write the damn...
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Sherlock: Pilot’s Progress

Previously on this blog, I discussed why I thought watching both Sherlock pilots was an excellent exercise for film-makers. A couple of weeks ago, I was afforded the opportunity to test this theory. My good friends at Realm Pictures had yet to see any of the Sherlock series and were therefore in an ideal position: they could watch the unaired pilot first, consider improvements, and then watch the aired version. ***As before, extensive episode content discussed beyond this point. WATCH FIRST.*** I shouldn't try to predict my friends' reactions. Also, seeing through fresh eyes and undergoing that experience with them gave me new perspective. The first thing was that they felt the cab connection was obvious early (I watched it with friends the first time and nobody got it, but I've always been terrible at murder mysteries). They also preferred the first Sherlock meeting scene in the computer lab, but they may be down to taste. They were not fond of the little text labels...
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Darling Goals of May

Having returned from a relaxing break away from my day job and my tech, it's time to knuckle down and return to work. Script Frenzy and Realm Production Meeting are over. The screnzy script is in a drawer and I've knocked together some audition sides for the Underwater shorts. So, what now? These days away have been great for percolating ideas and five brand new plots sprung fully-formed from my thigh...I mean, brain. But, like fine wine and decent cheese, these ideas need some time to mature. Therefore, my goals for this month are: - Final draft of The Greenwich Project, ready for sending to a comedy prodco - First draft of new children's tv project Origami Stories - Penultimate/final draft of horror short And now I've declared them, so I'm trusting the internet to hold me accountable. Finally, one more May resolution: do not attend production meetings before drying hair. Especially around sneaky DOPs. Evidence in video below: [Also, there are some awesome people talking about a breath-taking...
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Perfect Profiling

As my sit com script heads into major re-draft, the advice from all angles is the same: it's all about the characters. The situations may be inherently funny, but often the real comedy value is in putting extraordinary characters into ordinary situations - and watching them flail. To get a good grasp of character, I turned to a new book my in-laws bought me: Successful Novel Plotting by Jean Saunders.. While perusing in the tub, I came across her POV on character profiles. She used the example of her daughter and issued a string of random knowledge to encourage familiarity with the "character". However, I don't do well with random. Therefore, I codified her example thus and named it "Saunders Character Profile" (catchy): Open with a unique fact. Age, marital status/dating habits and progeny. Physical trait, personality trait and occupation. Personality trait, personality trait, and career history/aspirations. Vices and social life. Hobby, hobby and hobby. Holidays and travel. Relationship with friends and family. Tastes in film and...
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The slow steps of a journey

I'm working evenings this week. Basically, this means I get to do mundane things during normal working hours - like go to the bank and pick up my prescription - and then work an eight-hour day at the end. Disruptions to my schedule tend to go badly for my writing routine. I know that I write in the evening after work. I now need to get used to writing mid-afternoon with a cup of tea - but only for five days. Shift work drives me crazy. However, the first draft of The Greenwich Problem is finished. A lot of work to go and a month to do, but I'm letting it rest a couple of days. I've pitched another plot to Persona, so we'll see how that fits in. And my friends at Realm Pictures have a sexy new website and a sexier showreel. Watch out for the sneak peak at their upcoming underwater feature: ...
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Pilot signposts

Unfortunately, Real Life has been distracting me from blogging - and my pilot script. Yet John August's brilliant analysis of Premise Pilots dragged me back today. I was having this debate with my director friend about a TV pilot he'd like me to write. Basically, it involves an ordinary guy having his world turned upside down when he realises he's living in a secret dystopia. However, the problem is this: you need a lot of setup. It's therefore difficult to make a pilot that captures the action-adventure spice of the rest of the series because the first episode has to highlight his dull, vanilla life. Another interesting post is Bitter's commentary on capitalisation in action paragraphs. I like to capitalise characters' entrance in every scene - though, in my sit com pilot, it doesn't seem to be working. I also note important props and sound effects, which Bitter identifies as outdated techniques. Then there's Scott's answers on Act One length. This post is...
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Chaos theory

I've been immersing myself in my Laughing Stock entry. I've just hit the finale, though my pages are running way too long - used to a feature or drama-length and I need to rein it in. However, the thing that's surprising me most is this: I'm kinda funny. I've never been a comedian (or comedienne, if you prefer). I'm the one making the bad puns and not getting the jokes for a good two minutes, filling in with the fake laughter. I showed my partner a sequence of dialogue from The Greenwich Project and his response was "oh, you're a lot funnier on paper than you are in person". Charming. I've been watching a number of British comedy pilots to refresh my memory and seek out my style. This week, I've watched Gavin and Stacey, Spaced, Black Books and Yes Minister. There's quite a range in there, from the dramatic to the surreal, the surreal to the dialogue-dastardly. My style seems to run on...
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Along the byway

Of course, it's the time of year for summaries and conclusions, personal achievement counting and reflection. I have finished Steampunk Assassins. By which I mean it's with my beloved director and editor friends and I suppose there might be One Final Draft to complete. I have made a start on The Greenwich Problem for Laughing Stack 2011. I ran the logline past my director, extrapolated the plot of the pilot and shaded in the main characters' traits and tics. He was very enthusiastic - and, as I trust his tastes, this pleases me greatly. I'm also going to try my hand at a Rom Com feature spec - we'll term it Baking Lawyer. That has a beat sheet but nothing else at the moment. Military Monster needs a complete overhaul before it can have anything going for it. I need to take a step back on Asylum and write a beat sheet for the pilot before I sink further into the intricacies of plotting...
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December Deadlines

Happy Advent! Today, I change job description and work hours - hence, why I'm awake at this time of the morning. Ugh. It's also a month until my self-imposed deadlines kick in: two polished specs. As TBSR reminded us yesterday, it's all too easy to miss those targets. And I am two spec scripts down. One needs another draft and polish, and the other needs an overhaul draft. I need a Nano-style to get those done - but the holiday season also brings train journeys! (One day, I'll set up a carriage in my living room). Anyone else falling short on their deadlines?...
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