The idea is for writers to answer four questions about their work and habits. The man, the legend, Phill Barron was kind enough to nominate me for a turn - which puts me in pretty awesome company. Phill doesn't like John Carpenter's The Thing (I know!) but I don't hold that against him.
I'm sure you're already familiar with Phill's blog but if you aren't then check it out. His no bullshit perspective on writing and the filmmaking process is invaluable, and always a breath of fresh air. He's written a shedload of films what got made too.
So, on to the questions...
1) What am I working on?
Um... Well, I've almost finished decorating my little boy's bedroom...
But seriously, without getting all self pitiful (been there, done that), I've struggled to keep a good work routine since my little boy was born. There's been a lot going on for us and it's hard to be in full time work with a family and still bash out the words if you get some free time.
Yeah, I know. It's hard. Boo hoo. Anyway, he's a big lad of (nearly) four now and I've been determined that this year writing becomes a priority again.
Trouble is I'm out of my preferred cycle and I don't really feel like I'm working on any one thing. There are a couple of spec scripts rotting in rewrite limbo which are in dire need of taking apart and fixing. One is a pilot which I love but fear I may have been sat on too long. The other is a horror feature set in Wales which (I think) has the potential to be awesome but is nowhere near there yet.
I'm brainstorming a couple of spec projects which I want to take to script in the next month or so. They're both in mediums I've not really tried before which is cool. I hope the clickety-clack frenzy of a draft zero will be the nitrous injection I need to kick my writing process back into gear.
One is a radio comedy. I haven't written anything funny, (well, not deliberately funny) for years and (despite being a big fan of The Navy Lark, Hancock's Half Hour, Nebulous, Cabin Pressure, the works of Big Finish and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) I've never written anything for audio. Not ever. So I'm very bloody excited about that. I don't want to say anything about the other thing yet in case I break the magic, you know how fragile it can be.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don't think I have "a" genre. I'll write just about anything, same as I will read, watch or listen to just about anything. I guess if I'd ever had great success in a genre that might have changed but, as it stands, so far so good!
So lets ignore the genre thing and just ask how does my work differ from others? Oh shit, let's not do that. That's even worse.
As Ray Davies sang, "I'm not like everybody else". None of us are. What makes my work different is me. My experiences and perspectives. My hang ups and obsessions. My secrets and my fears.
And maybe an over-awareness of my place in the universe.
3) Why do I write what I do?
To see if I can. To test myself. I don't like to stick to comfort zones in my work so if I'm choosing between ideas for a future project I'm more likely to go for the most difficult one because that's the experience that will teach me the most.
Does everyone do that?
4) How does my writing process work?
First I find a successful writer, then I lure them to my stone altar...
This feels a bit pretentious. My process is nothing special. It's a mixture of things I've read in "how to" books, the insights of other writers and what I've found works, or doesn't, for me personally.
Still, the question has been asked.
First there's The Idea. Unless I've just woken up one day and said something like "Hey, how come I never wrote a radio comedy?" in which case first, there's the format. Then, later, sometimes much later, there's The Idea. In either case The Idea will be hurriedly scribbled in Evernote or an actual physical notebook and left to it's own devices for a while. Some ideas don't get beyond this stage. Actually most ideas don't get beyond this stage but they're probably just rubbish.
When an idea starts to actually look like a viable story then out comes the A4 notepad and I start brainstorming that sumbitch. At this point I'm most interested in the possibilities of the idea, whether it or something similar has been done before and whether it worked. Basically - is there any point writing this? If the idea were to explore the Cosa Nostra in New York City through the course of the twentieth century then I'm unlikely to think, "hey, I can do that better than The Godfather." Although, if there was an angle...
Actually, I'm aware that a personal failing of mine is to be too ready to think my idea is similar to something that has been done. If I'm not careful I can let that kill an idea dead before I've really considered its potential. At the end of the day, especially with specs and Hollywood, no one else will care if it's been done before if it's good enough.
After the storming of the brain comes a one pager. From there we go to some index cards or an electronic alternative.
Once I know who's who and what's going to happen then I'll want get into Draft Zero when I should be nailing the treatment. This takes some self control. I'm not a meticulous planner by nature, I like to busk. I can be so eager to get started (this is the fun bit - I'm actually writing!) that I go off half-cocked. So it's about nailing the story without going off the boil. I don't know that I've perfected this. I mentioned those lumbering rewrites, didn't I?
Once that draft is done then it goes on ice for as long as possible (my one NaNoWriMo effort still hasn't been defrosted).
I'll read it straight through first to see if it's any good and make sure it's not just a hundred pages of "I am a fish". If it's salvageable then I start making notes. Usually reading off the screen and making notes on an A4 pad.
It's pretty much rinse and repeat after that until I start to feel I could stomach the thought of someone else reading it. The first reader is always my wife. She's an English teacher by profession and damned good at spotting issues, from typos to plot problems. She'll always have notes and then it's back to work I go.
After a few more drafts, if I'm getting to be generally happy with the script, I'll start looking at specifics like dialogue only, sometimes looking at the dialogue of individual characters in isolation. Any dead pages? Any unnecessary characters or scenes? Are the action lines as sparse as Poundland on Boxing Day? If it's a comedy I'll count and categorise the laughs.
Alright, that's enough of that. This is all pretty obvious, isn't it? You'd be far better off reading what Phill or Piers wrote for this anyway.
Now it's time for my taggees. I'll let them introduce themselves...
Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor, screenwriter and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy at www.bang2write.com. Lucy’s script editing credits include the British Thrillers ASSASSIN , DEVIATION and ACT OF GRACE and she is the author of WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS and THE DECISION: LIZZIE'S STORY. A trained teacher, Lucy is Head Reader for The London Screenwriters' Festival's screenwriting competitions and schemes. As a script reader, Lucy has worked for funding initiatives and screen agencies, as well as literary agents and individual producers, directors and writers, new to professional. Lucy can be found on Twitter (www.twitter.com/Bang2write), plus her writing group “Bang2writers” is on Facebook (www.facebook.com/bang2writers) and at LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Bang2writers-4650546.
Lucy doesn't like John Carpenter's The Thing.
Rachael Howard introduces herself as follows:
Only 75 words? Cripes. Well I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon. Early success in a class Limerick competition gave me a boost, I won a pen so binned the crayon. I’m not a guru, just another writer pottering away. I tackle Film, TV, Radio, Stage and Novels. Some have been wrestled into submission, some are fighting on. Feel free to pop by and say hello at @rachwrite or my blog.
I don't know where Rach stands on John Carpenter's The Thing.
Check out Lucy and Rachael's blogs next Monday for the next stops on The Blog Tour.
Check out Lucy and Rachael's blogs next Monday for the next stops on The Blog Tour.