I was a hyperactive child. My parents are very polite about it, but I suspect I was an absolute nightmare and the surviving video from that era bears out my suspicions. When I discovered reading, I calmed down and learned to channel my energy more creatively.
However, I’m still easily influenced by orange juice or a sugar high, and I probably talk more than is strictly necessary or desirable.
When it comes to writing, I often struggle to focus. Not on time = words = pages particularly, but more on chasing my next project instead of actually finishing the one I’m meant to be writing. (As evidenced by the fact I’m writing a blog post instead of adding pages to my latest screenplay…).
But this even bleeds into those two writing basics: Format and Genre.
It’s the first words of your pitch – “a half-hour TV sitcom” or “a ninety-minute science fiction feature”. More recently, perhaps: “a two-minute horror web series” or “bi-weekly fantasy webcomic”. And the conventional wisdom, and a piece of advice I’ve heard repeated from multiple sources recently, is “when starting out, you need to be consistent in format and genre.”
To date, my credits have included an crime thriller arc of a 90-second app drama, a dark psychological short drama play, a comedy fantasy short film, and a series of epic fantasy short films – for which I’m currently co-writing a tie-in comic book series.
And those are just the produced things.
My pet specs include a steampunk action-adventure feature, a half-hour science fiction comedy, and a short horror play. My current project is a romantic comedy feature and I have a psychological horror short filming in August.
Under novels, I have two completed manuscripts: a science fiction horror and a serial killer mystery. In my WIP folder, I have an epic alternate history YA and a light-hearted supernatural fantasy.
I try to contain myself. I promise myself that I will pick three projects for the year and stick to them. Then I get sidetracked by collaboration offers or competitions or simply waking up one morning and thinking “whatever happened to that YA post office fantasy novel?”.
I argue that I have strong recurrent themes in my work – identity, prejudice, discovery. I love dialogue, particularly banter, and I love to batter my characters emotionally and physically. But, at the end of the day, my CV is at best unfocussed and at worst confused.
Then I went to hear Neil Gaiman speak at the Royal Society of Literature event in London.
Firstly, the man is a delight to hear – I highly recommend attending one of his events. But also, he has refused to be tied down. He has a dark adult fantasy novel coming out without two months of a comedy for children! He writes comics and novels and Doctor Who episodes. His work has been adapted for radio and cinema. The man is a walking advert for diversity!
So, I say, screw conventional wisdom. I like my portfolio. I like having fingers in dozens of different pies, and trying new genres and mediums. Maybe one day I’ll find my favourite and settle down – but I don’t think it’ll be any time soon.