Friday, 24 July 2009

...but no cigar.

Didn't make the finals of Bluecat, which is a shame, as this is the stage where cash prizes are involved, and I need a new laptop! I'm happy with the run I had though, and there's still Page.

Congratulations to the finalists!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Writing Full Time In your Spare Time Pt 2

So last time we left out intrepid hero (me) at a turning point - having to give up writing full time and get a proper job. That was late 2007, and disappointingly no one has given me any large sums of money not to work since then (the selfish swine.) So I write part time.

I work from 545am till 3pm,* which in theory gives me extra time to write. In practice, getting up at 5 every morning (and sometimes only getting a ¼ hour break!) is surprisingly tiring, so more often than not I tend to flop and/or sleep in the afternoons.

I aim to write 20 hours a week. I don’t succeed very often. When I was really fired up, after last years Screenwriter’s Festival, I blogged every week how many hours I did. It was kind of motivating to think I‘d have to report failiure to the blogosphere if I didn‘t get it done, and to get all the “wow, well done” comments when I did.

Of course it didn’t last. Last week was the first time in ages that I managed to get 20 done in a non bank holiday week. It’s hard enough dragging my sorry arse up every morning to work for T***o. If you factor in the writing then that’s a 60 Hour week. Every week. It doesn’t leave much time, or energy, to have a life, a relationship, or mooch around watching cricket/ DVD‘s.

I don’t say this looking for sympathy. I know there are people who work even longer or more unsociable hours, who have long commutes and family commitments who manage to write. Adrian Mead’s story is an inspiration - he managed to write while working two jobs (hairdresser by day, bouncer by night) six days a week. If that’s possible, anything is.

Quitting the day job and writing full time really isn’t practical for most people unless they have a private fortune, or a rich and very understanding partner they can sponge off, or they go live under a bridge and write. The latter option is the only one open to me, and then I’d have nowhere to plug in this battered old laptop so that wouldn‘t work so that wouldn't work.

Bottom line is if you want to write, you’ve gotta write. I remember someone at the first Screenwriter’s Festival asking what if you had a really good idea, but you didn’t have time to write it? I can’t remember the exact answer, but I’m sure it wasn’t ‘get a note from you mum and we’ll give you some money to write it. No actually we‘ll give you money and write it for you.”

We’re all grown ups here. I’m sure we all know the world doesn’t owe us a living. Screenwriter Dan Reed, also at SWF 07, said he remembered getting up to write at some ungodly hour when had the flu, thinking if he didn’t do it, then there was someone else out there who would. That really stuck with me.

It’s a competitive business out there. There’s a lot of talent around. Last time I checked the BBC writersroom get 10,000 scripts a year. I’m sure not every un-produced writer sends a script in every year. I’ve sent scripts in 2 out of the last 4 years, so using this ever so slightly unscientific sample lets say there’s 20,000 of us out there. And then there’s the season pros you’re competing against…

Now you could rely on being better than them, or luckier than them. Trouble is, you can’t control how talented or how lucky you are. What you can control is how hard you work.

You might say that this is easier said than done, and you‘d be right. Next time (Sorry I didn’t intend for this post to turn into an epic 3 part trilogy!) I’ll answer the $6 million question - How?

In the meantime, how do you do it? What motivates you? Do you set yourself targets? If so, in pages, word, hours? Is there anything you’ve changed that’s increased your productivity?

Now, all that talk of working hard is tiring, I’m going for a little lay down. ;)
* I’m a Space, Range and Merchandising team leader for Tesco. “Working at Tesco” seems to have reached the culture as a kind of nadir. There was an article in the Mirror a while about those teenage suicides in Bridgend. They asked a lad what it was like being young in that town, why so many kids thought the only way out was to top themselves. He told them that it was crap, there was nothing to do, no future, and the topper was that the best he had to look forward to was working at Tesco. The Observer had an article about the credit crunch where some posh bint who’d lost her job said “I’d even work in Tesco!” as if it was like going on the game. (Actually if you go on the game the pay’s better, and you get to lie down while you’re being fucked ;)

Monday, 13 July 2009

Writing Full Time in Your Spare Time Pt 1

Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a fighter pilot.* Which is a round about way of saying it’s been a long time (baby) - I’ve probably wanted to be a writer since I was 11, 12, so over fifteen years (Alright, no sniggering at the back, well over 15 years.) I don’t remember when I decided this, or even why. All I remember is that, like a lot of people, I wanted to write for Doctor Who. Probably wouldn’t say no now if the Moff called.

For a long time, there was one slight flaw in this masterplan: I didn’t actually do any actual writing. Then in my last year at uni I slipped a disc, and I was on the sick for a year after I left. I was bored, poor and immobile, so I started to write. I had an op, the DSS said I was fit for work (bastards!) so I got a summer job as a live in pot scrubber in an activity centre.

That was, er, an experience, ** so I wrote a script about it. It was my first vaguely - and I mean vaguely - coherent script. Then the DSS said I had to get a job (fascists!) So for the next 10 years I worked full time (In Littlewoods, then Index.)

I sort of vaguely planned to start writing in my holidays. I even occasionally dug out some of the scripts I’d written and thought hey, these are pretty good. (I was wrong.) I thought about writing, about being a writer, I even imagined I was a writer, but I never got round to any actual serious writing.

Then in 2005, I got made redundant. I was Management by then, I ’d been there ages, and I’d just got a raise, so I got a pretty decent redundancy settlement. Bottom line was, if I was careful with the money, I could get away with not working for 2 years. Good times, as the young people say.

This was my big opportunity. If I didn’t write now, then I was never going to. So I started to write. I built it up until I was regularly writing 45-50 hours a week. More if I had a deadline. People were impressed when I told them this, but I figured if I was capable of working silly hours for a company that would, frankly, sell me off for body parts if they could get away with, it then I could do it for myself.

Eventually, the bank decided that I didn’t have any money left (of course, we all know about there accounting practices now.) So I had to *shockhorror* get a job in the real world. I’d have to write, like most of us spec monkeys in my spare time.

So how’s that working out? Well I’ve already gone on too long, and as I worked till 4 AM last night I’m gonna do a little bit of proper writing then go for a nap. Part 2 to follow soon. Soon-ish.

*I also wanted to design the planes - I used to do elaborate drawings of made up planes with cool names like the Phantom and Lightning. These may be the names of actual planes, I’m a bit out of touch with the whole fighter plane scene. I used to have loads of model aeroplanes suspended from the ceiling (I know you‘re not supposed to, but I was a kid, sue me.) I used to spend hours making them with my Dad.
Then one day, I decided I was too old for model aeroplanes. So, rather than pack them up and put them in the loft, I chucked them out the window, one by one, to see them smash. For some reason, the memory of this really upsets me. It almost feels like my teenage self was smashing up little me’s toys, and makes me want to go back and give the skinny (!) little bastard a clip round the ear. (And while I’m at it, tell him to stop sulking and learn how to talk to girls.) Sorry, wandered a bit off topic there.
** don’t ask okay? Just don’t

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Yet more competition news!

I've reached the Quarter Finals of the Page International Screenplay awards, which is the top 10% (or so they claim - it's actually one of 553 scripts remaining out 4394 submitted, which is 12.6% if you want to be pedantic.)