Monday, 23 August 2010

Pitching to the bloody squirrels: twitter not witter

My head hurts at the moment. Why? It’s that bloody world wide web and more specifically bloody, BLOODY social media.

I started this blog back in February as a way to give myself a bit of a kick in taking myself seriously as a writer, after all why should anyone else take me seriously if I don't recognise myself as a writer worthy of a blog and a url. I’m also not very good at talking about myself as a writer. I go on writing courses and hit the introductory moment, “tell us a little about yourself and your writing and what you would like to get from this course”. I hate talking in public let along talking about writing! So I usually witter on senselessly, expressing nothing about myself or my writing. So I thought blogging would be good for me, a chance to think it all through.

A couple of months ago I thought that really I should engage with my twitter account properly as a means to feed readers to my blog and attempt to raise my profile a little more effectively. Otherwise I’m just talking to myself and frankly I do enough of that anyway. At least in the morning walking the dogs, when I wander through the woods, talking to myself or practicing pitching my ideas, I know that the squirrels are listening.

So anyway, decision made that I should talk to the twitterverse as opposed to the squirrels.

I didn't consider myself to be particularly lacking in information before, I checked BBC Writersroom, visited a few blogs on a regular basis (Danny Stack, James Moran), I thought myself to be well versed on the world of script writing. PLEASE! The squirrels were more knowledgeable than me. In the space of a few short months I have found myself hitting complete and total overload of information on writing. Every time I open tweetdeck I find myself going on a little journey of writing knowledge. Which is good because stories are always about journeys, and overcoming obstacles, and conflicts and change. Now where did I see that again? Oh yes, every-bloody-where.

My desktop is littered every night with shortcuts that I've dropped to read later; to blogs, websites, article, that have been highlighted. There is just so much information out there, there is just no excuse, none for anything other than success. Admittedly it takes perseverance, bloody hard work and more hard work but there is advice out there telling you how to develop ideas, how to structure, the format to write in, where to send your scripts, what to do if your script is rejected, how to re-draft, and on and on and on. Pick a topic, look it up. The answer is there.

But it isn’t just the information that is out there it is the support too. I also quite regularly end up feeling like I've been given a group hug by the writers community and given little pep types on not giving up. In fact one writer this week (James Moran) did offer and give a virtual hug. Bloody hell that was lovely.

There are so many writers out there who happily share, FOR FREE, every bit of knowledge they have on writing scripts and how to succeed as writers. To me these people are like Gods. The ones who live the dream. They don't have day jobs, they fill forms in and put WRITER in the occupation box, they get commissions, they have agents, they have premieres of films.

Beyond that though is also the world of people like me who want to be able to put WRITER in that box, the people who enter the same competitons as me, who send their scripts to the same script reading services as me, and they too are happy to share anything they know, have learned or are in the process of learning.

This blog has ended up being much longer than I expected but that’s simply because I’m being fed so much to say. But to put it as simply as possible here are a few of the endless stream of things I’ve learned in the last week or so from twitter.

1. No swearing. Watersheds have to be considered. So what if the character would swear? Watershed won’t allow it. Take the swear words and put them elsewhere. (Write Here Write Now)

2. Script sprinting. Pick a project. Decide on timings. 30 minutes, 45 mins, 60 mins. Set a time to start and a time to finish. Then write, just write. No distractions. Just write. (Jane Espenson)

3. It isn’t just a myth, aimed to sell writing courses and writing books, that writers spec scripts can be picked up by producers. It really does happen that a writer without an agent can sell that script. (Kevin Lehane)

4. Script competitions with big cash prizes can be won by a good script (Andrew Carter) It was genuinely heart warming to see his tweet saying that he had won Scriptalooza

5. Writers work bloody hard. They write all the time. In the mornings, in the day, in the evenings, at night-time, in the early hours of the morning. If they’re working on something they write all the time. (Everywhere on twitter)

6. Writers work bloody hard getting writing work. They don’t sit around waiting for a phone call signing them up for the next big drama. They are pitching, meeting, scouring, developing, networking, whatever they need to do to get the next jobs lined up. If one idea is successful it isn’t enough you have to keep moving forward, marketing yourself, working the room. (Everywhere on twitter)

7. Rejection doesn’t end because you can put writer in the box on the form. Ideas will still be rejected, scripts will still be passed on. But writers get on with it, push another idea forward, re-work the idea. They don’t sulk for a few months and go on on-line forums complaining about why their script was rejected. (Everywhere on twitter)

8. How to make Swedish meatballs just like IKEA sells. Not strictly about writing but a very valid argument for engagement with twitter. (Lisa Holdsworth)

There is no doubting that the main advice to which any writer should adhere – if you want to be a writer then get writing, then write some more, then write some more. But there is also a very good argument for spending a little bit of your time each day checking out the world of writing on blogs, facebook, youtube, twitter and so on.

As for this over long blog, I promise from this point onwards twitter not witter.

Further blogs coming here soon
Why am I so scared of direct messaging?
Is twittering making me write more?
How can I be funnier, on twitter and in my scripts?
What the bloody hell is a #hashtag?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Writer in Search of Deadlines

Serious Screenwriting
2 page outline and 1st 10 pages for full length feature film
Tuesday 31st August

BBC Radio 4, BBC Wales, Radio plays Commissioning round
Proposals for radio plays
Before September 2010

Royal Exchange Theatre
Full length play for reading and feedback during the Script Window
October 1st - October 31st 2010

Pentabus Theatre: We are here
Call for full length plays for consideration for 2012 season
29th October 2010

Sherman Cymru, Script Slam
10 minute play to be performed script in hand at the Spring Script Slam
Deadline January 31st

Bruntwood Playwriting Competition
Full length play (1hr or more)
Will be launched on February 16th 2011

BBC Radio 4, BBC Wales, radio plays Commissioning Round
Proposals for radio plays
February 2011

Coming Up Channel 4
2 page treatment of idea for 25 - 30 min script, with a completed script of 10 - 60 mins
No more than 5 characters. Must be shot in 4 days on limited budget
Blog about last years workshops
Deadline tbc

Red Planet 2011
First 10 minutes of 60 minute TV screenplay either one off play or with potential for series
Deadline tbc

Sunday, 15 August 2010

What am I doing at midnight on a Saturday night, in an infamous dogging car park in Llangurig


Yesterday did not have the best of starts nor did it have the best of ends either.

It started with the inevitable rejection letter, a concise yet polite notification that I had not been selected for the National Theatre, Ty Newydd, Venue Cymru playwriting course, "I am writing to let you know that unfortunately this time you have been unsuccessful in your application to be a part of this course. I am writing to you later in the day than expected because we had so many submissions. They were all very interesting to read and it has been a very exciting job looking through them all. It is really wonderful to know that so many people are out there writing plays."

On the return journey from NTW06 The Persians the no-fuel light flashed on at 40 miles, approximately 10 miles short of the journey end. The perils of journeys through Wales are the lack of petrol stations open after 7pm and the lack of signal through most of the journey which means if you get stranded you would not simply be able to phone a friend.

In fact lack of phone signal is quite often a feature in my scripts as an element to heighten the danger surrounding a character.

We pulled into a car park in Llangurig the last reliable signal point and phoned a friend who agreed to drive out to pick us up. I was reliably informed that we were in an infamous dogging car park.

However taking a step back even the bad was good really, the rejection letter was for a piece of writing that I had barely a week to pull together due to clashes with the red planet prize. But the work I did on it was enough to give me an idea to develop further. I created characters that I really liked and want to re-visit.

Even the breaking down was positive because I am so grateful that I have such lovely friends in my life that are willing to get out of bed at midnight on a Saturday night and drive to pick me up.

So putting it all in perspective it was actually quite a lovely day.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

On to the next deadline

I've had my head down focusing on the Red Planet Prize, popping it up occasionally to try to think, "what the bloody hell am I going to write about for the National Theatre Playwrighting course?"

After a bit of dithering I've decided to pull from the deep recesses of my mind a very old idea about conversations between people involved in a motorway pile-up. Unfortunately my dithering just leaves me about 5 days to write 10 minutes.

I also want to explore the idea of the way, faced with extreme emotional situations, we actually leave out the most important words and dance about the things we actually want to say.

One of these days I should really try to make things easy for myself. Still what would be the fun in that?