Wednesday, October 18, 2017

TAKING NOTES

I get excited when I receive notes. I love to see what others think of my work, what they like, more importantly, what they didn't like and I can't wait to get into my next draft. But not everyone takes notes well. Here's how to do so.

Now some of this will be familiar, especially if you read my previous blog about seeking criticism. But it doesn't hurt to reinforce what I've said before, so here goes.

MINDSET

Firstly, notes are not a personal attack on you as a writer. They are not even a personal attack on your screenplay. They are simply a guide. This is how they should be viewed, as a helping hand and not a nuisance or unwanted invasion you have to put up with. Embrace them.

Never react badly publically to your notes. You might scream and swear vengeance in the solitude of your office, but don't do it in front of the script editor or the reader and certainly not on social media. Be polite and gracious at all times.

THE TWO TYPES OF NOTES

1 - Script Editor - A script editor works for the producer of the show and will work with several writers at a time. It's their job to make sure what the writer is delivering what the producer wants, that it not only fits with the tone of the show as a whole but also the characters and their motivations as well.

A bad script editor will try and rewrite your screenplay for you, even down to individual lines of dialogue.

A great script editor will tell you something's not working and ask you to take a look at it. Maybe a scene doesn't pack the punch the producer was expecting. The script editor will ask the writer to take another look and see if they can boost the scene's impact.

If you get bad, intrusive notes like the first example then contact the script editor, politely inform them how you would prefer to receive your notes and ask them about each of their notes and the reasons and thinking behind them. If they've rewritten a fight into one of your scenes because it lacked conflict, then go back and take another look at it and see if you can find another way to bring the conflict in.

Of course, these are the two extremes and you'll probably find most script editors fall somewhere in between the two.

2 - Reader - A reader works for the writer. It's not their job to impose their version of the writer's idea on them, but to understand what the writer is trying to do and help them toward that goal. They do this by pointing out things the writer might have missed and suggest alternatives for the writer to make their own changes. They will let the writer do the work and will just point them in the right direction.

WHAT SHOULD YOU LISTEN TOO?

As previously discussed in the seeking criticism blog, it's advisable to pay close attention to the issues that pop up more than once and to deal with them. The issues that are only mentioned once might not be so important and if you feel they don't work for your screenplay then you can drop them.

Whether you're working with a script editor or a reader it's up to you what you choose to implement and what you don't. Don't be too eager to action every single note. Also don't be too eager to dismiss them all as well. Read them, read them again and then pick the ones you think will work. But remember though, if you're working with a script editor you had better have a valid reason for why you don't agree with some notes and it's always best to discuss these reasons with them before you start your rewrite.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

ACTIVELY SEEKING CRITICISM

Why would you want to actively seek criticism? Why would you want to listen to people telling you where you went wrong and what they dislike about your work? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the positives? Actually, it wouldn’t and here's why.

If you want to improve as a writer you need to know where you’re going wrong. Actively seeking criticism helps you to achieve that. But it needs to be the right kind of criticism and from the right people. Here are some handy tips to getting the best feedback for your work.

THE RIGHT PEOPLE

That’s right, I said people, as in more than one person. Why? Because when you have more than one person giving you feedback the serious problems with your screenplay will be highlighted by at least two, if not all of them. It’s those issues that crop up more than once which are the ones that urgently need fixing. But who do you ask?

Avoid family and friends. Why I hear you ask? Because they won’t be objective and objectivity and honesty are what you want here. The people you should be asking are your writing peers, those with a bit of experience or training. Three should be sufficient.

YOUR APPROACH

Contact them and first offer to read and give feedback on their work. They will be more inclined to help you if you offer to help them first. Second, tell them you only want to know what’s WRONG with your screenplay and not what is right. Ask them to be brutally honest with you and assure them you can take whatever they throw at you.

IT’S NOTHING PERSONAL

Whatever they say about your work don’t take it to heart. It's not about you, it's about your screenplay. The aim here is to find out what doesn’t work, not to stroke your ego. So keep a clear head and look at what they’ve said and what they mean with an objective eye.

If someone says they hate something, go back to them and ask them to explain why. The more information you have the more prepared you are when you settle down to get on with your rewrite.

COLLATE FEEDBACK

Read through the reports at least twice and on the second time take notes of the points that crop up more than once. These are the main problems with your screenplay and have to be dealt with. Ignore them at your peril.

What you do with the minor points, those that are only mentioned by one of your readers is up to you. I’m not saying they’re not important but they may have only been highlighted because of the reader’s personal preferences, rather than because the screenplay is worse off because of them. However, my advice would be to look at all of your notes, decide which ones you think are relevant and action them.

REWRITE

When you’re finished do it all again. Try to repeat this at least three times, more if you can. The more you rewrite the better your screenplay will be. Don’t be a fool and send it out to producers before it’s ready, it won’t do you any favours.

IMPROVEMENT

Do the same for every screenplay you write. Don’t become complacent with this. If you do this religiously you’ll soon find the problems with your screenplays lessen and the quality of your work will increase rapidly.


Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

SPINNING PLATES

I'm busy. Very busy. I'm working on four projects, three for producers and one for a competition. All are due this month. It would be easy to tie myself up in knots. But I'm getting stuff done. And it's all down to planning.

The first is due by the 9th. Well actually it's due by the 10th, but I want it done the day before so it's ready in time and there's no last-minute rush. The second, a rewrite of a feature, is due on the 31st. The other two can be done anytime this month, as long as they're handed in by the 31st.

The most important one is the one due on the 9th. This is the one I have to spend the most time on this week. So 50% of my writing will be concentrating on that. That's my mornings taken care of then.

The next most important project is the feature. So 50% of my afternoon after lunch is set aside for that. The other 50% I'll work on one of the other projects, the one nearest completion, to keep it ticking over. There's no point working on all four at the same time. It's difficult enough working on three at the same time. I don't want to be running around in circles worrying about four projects and not actually getting anything done.

When the script with the earliest deadline is done, I can then spend my mornings working on the feature and my afternoons on the final two projects. Job done!

However, if it's obvious I'm not getting enough done on the first screenplay, then I'll drop the third and spend 75% of my day on it and 25% on the feature rewrite. It's important to be adaptable.

So if you're struggling with several projects at once, all with impending deadlines, work out a simple timetable, putting the most urgent ones first and spending the most time on them. All that work doesn't have to be daunting. It's all about priority and not overloading yourself.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

PITCH

If you're a new or unproduced writer pitching can be very daunting. I've written previously about how to best prepare for a pitch, which you can read all about HERE.

But what if you're a more established writer and you have a great idea but don't have the time to write it up? Can you pitch your idea even if you don't have a one-page pitch, series outline, treatment or pilot episode ready?

The quick answer to this is yes. If you're at a stage in your career where you are regularly taking meetings, or if you have formed a particularly good relationship with a producer or production company, then it's OK to pitch an idea you don't have written down.

Let's face facts if you're a working writer your time is at a premium. When you get a new idea you might write down a quick paragraph outlining the essentials, but you probably won't have time to work on a ten page plus treatment before you contact producers and production companies. In this instance, it's OK to take a meeting and pitch the idea without anything to leave them.

If the idea is a hit and you're asked if you have something for them to read you can easily promise to send them a treatment in a couple of weeks, which should give you plenty of time to write something great. The advantage here is that you won't have to do the work until you actually have to, leaving you free to focus on paid or more pressing projects instead.

Another advantage is if the idea isn't quite a hit you can work on the contentious points again before your next pitch. Someone else will always see holes in your well thought out, polished idea when you can't. So when the time comes to actually put words on the page your project will be a finely honed work of genius and much harder to turn down.

A word of WARNING though - this is really only OK for those producers or production companies you have strong relationships with, those who have made it clear they are happy for you to contact them with any new ideas you have and who you keep in regular contact with. It's not OK to do this with people or companies you only have a casual relationship with or someone you haven't contacted before. In those instances, it's still best to make sure you at least have a one-page pitch or even better a treatment or pilot episode or a good draft if a feature.

Just make sure your idea is well worked out even if you have nothing written down because any holes in it will quickly become obvious when you pitch it. The better prepared you are the better the chance you have.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

WRITING DIVERSE CHARACTERS FOR FICTION TV OR FILM - LUCY V HAY

Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film is a thought provoking, informed and well-presented book and Lucy's most assured to date, one you cannot do without. And I don't say that lightly.

Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays was a great debut and very informative, but as a writer, I got more from her follow-up Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays. Diverse Characters eclipses both of these and is where Lucy really comes into her element. But why is it so good?

It's good because Lucy knows her stuff and does her research. Did you see our 'debate' on Facebook recently about the Doctor being female? She really pushed me hard, countering all of my arguments with cool logic and well thought out points (even though I still maintain I won the debate). It's not easy debating with Bangers and certainly not for the faint hearted. It's precisely because of the amount of research she does that makes her so knowledgeable and there's an absolute ton of it in those pages, all of it used to great effect.

A quick question. If the spec pile is full of white male protagonists saving the world and your screenplay is diverse, which script do you think is going to stand out? That's exactly why this book is a godsend as it explores why so many screenplays are overlooked, even if the writing is great and how you can make yours stand out. And who doesn't need that kind of help?

The book is split into five sections so you can jump in where you want to and come back at a later date to refamiliarise yourself with whatever you want or need. Those sections are - WHAT IS DIVERSITY? - HEROES, SHEROES AND VILE VILLAINS: THE PROTAGONIST AND ANTAGONIST - SECONDARIES, SIDEKICKS AND SUBORDINATES - PERIPHERAL POINTERS - LAST WORDS.

Instead of waffling on like some books on characterisation I've read, Lucy is kind enough to keep sections short and sum up after each insight with a handy 'IN A NUTSHELL' or 'THE SHORT VERSION' paragraph. It's a great way to recap what you've just read and reinforces the information and her arguments. I find reading large paragraphs of information difficult as I get distracted quite easily. If I have to put a book down for some reason I have to go back and reread some of it to pick up the thread again. So it was refreshing to find Lucy has written this book in little bite-size chunks I could quickly read, leave and come back to when I liked, without losing any of its impact.

I also love the 'HOW TO FLIP IT' paragraphs that look at ways to avoid stereotypes and tropes, to help us writers find the 'same but different' producers are crying out for. These sections are especially thought provoking.

Lucy covers every angle as she explores her subject, even taking a look at the origins of story telling to understand why so many spec piles are full of screenplays with tired, overused stories and populated with the usual overused characters. She also explores what diversity isn't as well as what it is. And she doesn't just argue for more diverse stories and characters but also warns against positive diversity, as she advocates normalisation and banishing stereotypes and familiar plots. Writing Diverse Characters is much more than just talking about introducing characters of a different race, colour, gender, sexual orientation or disability into your work.

After finishing the book I had to go back over my old spec scripts that either haven't done so well or which weren't liked as much as others. With some simple changes, I can now see how I can easily improve those screenplays and make them fresh and appealing. It's also helped me look at the stuff I'm currently working on differently, providing me with new angles to try and helping to increase the chances of my specs being picked up. Most of all Lucy has shown me the importance of researching the types of characters and stories I want to tell, to identify those that have been overused, so I can avoid them.

I have to say, I enjoyed Lucy's book so much I've immediately started reading it again.

Diverse Characters isn't about telling the writer how and what to do, it's about making the writer think about how they approach their screenplay, the story they want to tell, the characters they choose, the reasons why they choose them and why some screenplays are successful and why others fail. Lucy often asks, 'Is there another way?' or 'Is there a better way?' There always is and Lucy guides the reader to find their own solutions to the questions she poses. In short, Writing Diverse Characters for Fiction, TV or Film isn't preachy but incredibly informative. Do you and your writing a favour and buy the book.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

FOCUS

You might have heard of the saying, 'don't look back, look to the future'? I've certainly always been told never to reflect on the past... but sometimes looking back is exactly what you should do.

Listening to the UKSCRIPTWRITERS PODCAST LIVE on Monday evening I was reminded of how important it is to remember where I have come from.

DANNY STACK and TIM CLAGUE were chatting about feeling down about lack of career progress or being unhappy at the slow progress of certain projects and how as a writer you shouldn't focus on negative things like this. Instead, they advocated looking back at previous achievements to see how far you had come and using that as a measure of your success.

A few weeks ago I had a minor setback and to be honest it hurt. I moped about it for a few hours and questioned why that particular project wasn't going forward as I thought it deserved. But after listening to Danny and Tim I took a retrospective view of the last twelve months and realised that despite the occasional setback it's been a fantastic journey full of marvellous opportunities. I've made the last ten of two competitions, placed in the quarter finals and semi-finals of several others, was interviewed for the BBC Doctors shadow scheme, been recommended to two big productions companies and championed by two wonderful writers. One minor setback pales in comparison. It's all a matter of focus.

Sometimes we spend too much time looking forward at our targets, dreams and goals and forget how far we have actually come. Remember the BUZZ JAR? Making note of my achievements is exactly why I keep a Buzz Jar on my desk so I can dip into it when I'm feeling a bit down about my writing and motivate myself to crack on. I looked for it Tuesday morning and found it hiding behind my wi-fi router. I grabbed it and put it dead centre in front of my computer screen so I can see it all the time. I'm determined to not let it slip out of sight again.

If you've had a rejection or things aren't going quite as you planned, have a look back at the last twelve months and how far you have come, how much writing you managed to do, how many competitions you have entered and how many connections you have made. I guarantee you things will look a whole lot brighter.

To hear exactly what the lads said about looking back HERE.
you can listen to Danny and Tim's live podcast

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

INTERVIEW - DANNY BROCKLEHURST

In September 2016, thanks to the London Screenwriters' Festival's TV Drama Writersroom, I was lucky enough to spend a whole day with legendary TV writer Danny Brocklehurst. You can read my blog report about it HERE! Danny was just brilliant, very patient with us and very giving with his knowledge and advice. It seems only fitting then to fire off a few questions for Danny, which he was more than happy to answer.

How did you get your first screenwriting job?

I'd been writing plays and scripts for years without success. I was working as a journalist for City Life magazine in Manchester and went to interview Paul Abbott for a feature. We ended up getting pissed together and I bravely told him I was a wannabe writer and would he read a script - he did and thankfully passed it onto Nicola Shindler at Red productions. She loved the writing and asked me to pitch for Clocking Off 2. I spent a week working up three stories and they bought two of them. I was staggered. But I have cut short here the many years of knocking on doors and being rejected.  It wasn't a quick process and took an enormous amount of will power to not give up.

Have you ever been fired from a job and what was the lesson you learned from it?

I'm pleased to say I haven't ever been fired. But people do and when they do they need to reflect on what went wrong and whether they were to blame. Sometimes it's just a bad fit, not everyone can write every kind of show. Doesn't mean they are crap.

Was there a specific rejection during your career that still hurts today?

Rejection hurts every time. Even now.  If you put your heart into a project and someone turns it down, it hurts. But I endlessly got rejected by channels for a Black Mirror type idea BEFORE Black Mirror, so that one is still painful.

What is a typical writing day and week for Danny Brocklehurst?

There is no typical.  But I write EVERY week day. I usually start out with coffee, perhaps in a cafe and then go home to work in my office.  Sometimes I'm just storylining and go for long walks and think out problems, other times it is nose to grind writing the script. But I always allow a little time for my mind to wander and reflect on the work - so that might be a swim or a walk or a beer!!!

What was it like working with legends Paul Abbott on Shameless and Jimmy McGovern on The Street and who were you the most intimidated by?

They were both amazing.  I worked with Paul for years - on four different shows (Exile, Shameless, Clocking Off and Linda Green) so I stopped being intimidated and just enjoyed the chaos.  Jimmy was a real hero of mine so that was more intimidating but he's a genuinely lovely man - and very collaborative so I enjoyed my time on The Street and Accused.  Even if he did cut out my jokes.  It has been a dream to work with them both.

What’s your favourite genre to write?

Social realism.  BUT I do also love high concept stuff.  I just don't write much of it.

Have you ever been tempted by Hollywood?

Yes. In fact, I'm currently working with Amblin. On a sci-fi show.

Of all the screenplays you’ve written which is your favourite and why - produced and unproduced?

Exile - such a hard show to get right. It's a thriller and a family drama and a show about Alzheimer's.  People wrote to me afterwards to say it moved them very deeply.

The last few shows you’ve written have been solo efforts, do you find it easier or prefer working on your own, or is that just the way it happened?

I like collaboration because I like talking out ideas BUT sometimes you need a singular vision.  It depends on the show.  It's good to jump between the two.

If you were to give new writers one piece of advice what would it be?

Keep going.  Keep writing.  Find your voice.  Read scripts.  That's four pieces of advice.

What's next that we should be keeping our eyes peeled for?

Come Home next year on BBC1 and Safe on Netflix with Michael C Hall.

Thanks, Danny.

Episode 1 of IN THE DARK is available on iPlayer until 22:00 10th August 2017. Catch it while you can.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

YOUR NEXT SPEC

"How do you choose your next spec wisely, knowing how much of an investment of time it is?"@KoshaEngler on Twitter.
Great question! It's especially pertinent for me having been lucky enough to be commissioned for six features in a row. For a long time I didn't have much free time to work on my own ideas and when I did I had to make sure the screenplay I chose was the right one. So how do I choose the right idea?

Don't write what is current. Once you've written it, polished it and sent it out, the subject matter or genre will be yesterday's news and everyone else would have moved on to the next big thing.

Write what interests you. This is especially important if you have very little time. You're more likely to drag your heels if you're not 100% committed to what you're writing. There's nothing worse than finding yourself working on a new screenplay and you're not enjoying it. It doesn't motivate you and you're more likely to end up with something that isn't your best work. If it's a subject, genre or story that interests you, you will automatically work harder at it and it will show on the page.

Give it everything you've got. Don't write the screenplay with an eye to selling it. This sounds daft, right? Actually, it isn't. I know that if I deliberately try to write something commercial it tends to be watered down and the screenplay ends up being not as strong as it could be. Be bold with your writing. Forget budget restraints. Don't hold back. Give this screenplay everything you have. Why? That's simple.

I wrote my spec feature FAITH while I was going through a really tough time in my personal life. I poured all of my feelings, my angst, my anger, my dispair and my disillusionment with the world and people in general into the words I put on the page. FAITH won an award and it's still the screenplay that gets me all of my commissioned work. It's my calling card script and it does a fantastic job as an advert for what I can do. What I'm saying is, the screenplay might never sell, but if it's a shining example of your work people are going to read it and sit up and take notice of you. It'll get you work. It will lead to other opportunities. It will be that career boost you need.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

BLOG REWIND - WORKING AROUND THE KIDS AND SCHOOL HOLIDAYS

The summer holidays are almost upon us. For those of us who work from home having our children off for six weeks can be frustrating, especially if we have work deadlines. So how do we survive the summer, ensure our kids have the best time ever and still manage to get enough writing in, all without losing our sanity?

Here's an updated blog post from Wednesday 3rd August 2016 which will hopefully help everyone stay calm and enjoy their summer.

WORKING AROUND THE KIDS AND SCHOOL HOLIDAYS

At a recent writers' event, I was chatting with a lead writer on a continuing drama who was telling me he and his wife had just had a baby. "How the hell do you get any writing done when you have kids?" he asked as he yawned so hard his jaw nearly dislocated.

We're already two weeks into the school holidays and I'm surviving... it can be done. Working from home with the kids on holiday, getting under your feet, asking for snacks every five minutes, begging you to take them up the park, screaming at the top of their eardrum shattering little voices a millimetre from your face demanding attention, moaning that they're bored and constantly trying to kill or maim each other, can be very frustrating for a working writer.

The ideal solution would be that you're earning enough money you're able to hire a childminder to keep them out of your way while you write your masterpiece. However, if you're like me and you don't quite have the money for that and you don't like palming your little terrors off on other people, then the school holidays can be a very daunting time. You're not allowed to tie your children up and stick them in a dark cupboard until school starts again, sell them to gypsies or even use chloroform to keep them quiet... I know, I've checked... apparently, the police and social services get a little cross with you if you try. So with those options restricted I've had to adapt my writing style over the years to ensure I can get my work done, keep the kids occupied and happy and retain my sanity. Here's how I do it.

Goals! What, sticking one in the back of the net for your team? No... just as your characters have goals in your screenplays, you have to have goals in order to survive the holidays without running the risk of a mental breakdown. That's goals for you as well as for your spawn. And there's one rule... we'll come to that in a second.

First things first. As a responsible parent, I will constantly monitor my children, check what they're up to and that they're safe. Dumping them in front of the TV with a bag of sugar is not good parenting. It's the school holidays. The kids are meant to be having fun. They're meant to be having that fun with you. And yes, you're meant to be enjoying it too. They've worked hard all year and now it's time to spend quality time with their parents, doing the crazy shit kids love to do. They're not really interested if you have a deadline. They are not an inconvenience. They are a privilege. They are your responsibility and you have to ensure they are safe and entertained at all times. So... to the rule!

The Rule: My boys know if I'm in my office working, or I'm on my laptop, I am not to be disturbed... under any circumstances... unless it's an emergency, or they've accidentally set fire to the dog. Of course, the one rule is not really a rule as it's going to be broken a billion times a day anyway, but as long as the children KNOW and UNDERSTAND the rule, they are aware they run the risk of encountering Shouty Daddy if they interrupt me. You also have to be aware and accept that even with this rule you are going to be disturbed, but hopefully, it will only be for important things and less often. The rule is there to help make things a little easier.

Goals For You:

  • Set yourself writing targets, smaller ones than you would normally, so they are easier to achieve. When my boys were younger I aimed to write in five-minute sprints when they suddenly went quiet. Now they're older I can write for longer periods.
  • Set times for lunch and dinner and stick to them. Routine is a great help.
  • Aim to spend quality time with them for at least two hours a day, either taking them out somewhere special as a treat or enjoying a quick kick about in the back garden. My usual pattern is if they let me get on with my writing undisturbed during the morning, the afternoon is theirs and when we go out and have fun as a family. Whatever you decide to do, make it an adventure... kids love adventure.
  • Stay off your phone and actively enjoy this time with your kids. They'll enjoy it too and then they'll be more likely to leave you alone while you writing.
  • Prepare to be flexible and try and change your routine. Work in your office one day, in the back garden/down the park on your laptop the next.
  • Get your kids to help you prepare lunch, engage them and then sit down and eat with them. Talk to them while you do. Ask them what they would like to do in the afternoon, or the next day and what they enjoyed doing that morning.

Goals For Them:

  • Set up a points system. Give them a point for good behaviour and take away a point for bad behaviour. I start every day by giving them ten points each and then taking off points for bad behaviour during the day. At the end of the week if they've had more positive days than negative ones they get to spend a day or half a day, depending on how busy I am, with me uninterrupted doing exactly what they want to do.
  • Give them tasks to do during the day. At the moment I'm giving my boys one task a day they have to complete between 9am and 10am, which gives me an hour of solid writing every morning. Yesterday's task was to draw an invention. Alex (8) drew a factory that made rainbows. Today's task was to build a rocket out of lego. Dylan (5) built a sports trophy instead.
  • Ration their TV and games devices to two hours a day. I find one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon sufficient. If they know how long they have it avoids arguments. Make a big issue of how you're such a great parent when you give them an extra half an hour because they've been really good that day.

The holidays are survivable and you can get writing done with children around. Remember, children are for life, not just for Easter and happy children will mean you'll get a surprising amount of work done.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PRODUCERS V AGENTS

No, this isn't the title of my latest spec feature, although I'm sure it would make a brilliant movie. It is, in fact, a question suggested by Craig Howells in response to my request for topics people would like covered on this blog.

The easy answer is 'producers'. But why?

Agents are in the business to make money. If they can't see a reasonable chance of an immediate return for their time and effort, they are unlikely to take a writer on as a client if they don't have a track record. Very rarely will an agent take on a client who only has one screenplay to their name and hasn't yet made any money. They will only do so if they see exceptional promise in either the writer or their work. To attract a good agent, a writer will need to prove they can go out and source their own work. Too many new writers chase agents when they're clearly not ready.

The easier way in is by forming relationships with producers. So where can writers find producers?

Forget about the big names. They have layers of protection writers can only dream of. And everyone wants to work with them. Try and get in touch with the smaller names, or producers who state they actively support new writers on their website. Hunt down producers of your favourite indie films and TV series.

Join LinkedIn. They have a keyword search facility to make it easier to look for producers, script editors and directors. Go to a local library every week and read Broadcast and other media publications for free. Make a note of producers who have left other production companies to start their own production company. Get in there first. Contact them and form a relationship. Also keep an eye out for Development Execs, as they will quite often become producers and decide to branch out on their own and at some point form their own production company. And remember, when contacting producers always remember to be polite, don't bombard them with stuff and be prepared to play the long game.

Speaking of the long game, there are places a writer can go to get unrestricted access to up and coming producers. I once attended a 'How To Make A Low Budget Film' workshop with Richard Holmes, organised by Industrial Scripts. I was the only writer there, shut in a room all day with directors and future producers. I still keep in touch with as many of them as I can. I never know when a contact will eventually pay off. The London Screenwriters Festival is also a great to place to meet producers, but remember to do your research on who's attending before you go.

Writers shouldn't just stick to writers groups. They should join producer and filmmaking forums or groups on Facebook and other social media. The more they do, the more likely they will make connections that will pay off five, ten, fifteen years down the line. Showing an interest in what producers do can only help progress a writer's career.

I don't think there are any quick solutions for meeting producers unless the writer knows someone who can introduce them. A writer will always have to work as hard at making connections as they do their writing

, forming relationships and keeping themselves in that producer's mind for when s/he is looking for a new writer for their latest TV series.

Hard work pays off... always!

Happy writing!

Friday, July 07, 2017

DIVERSITY

It got a little heated on Facebook yesterday because I dared to suggest I would stop watching Doctor Who if the next regeneration was female and there wasn't a valid reason for it other than the BBC wanting to tick a diversity box. But was I really so wrong to question the reasons for a female Doctor?

This is what I said...
"The new Doctor - "Looks like it's Phoebe Waller Bridge!" 
I have nothing against a female Doctor, but it should only happen if there's a solid story/character based reason for there being so. If the producers can't come up with a very good reason for this then it'll just be because the BBC want to tick the diversity box. 
If that's the case I'm afraid I'll stop watching it. 
*ducks for cover*"
And here's the link to the responses to MY ORIGINAL FACEBOOK POST if you want to have a look for yourself.

I was called a sexist, emotional and anti-diversity amongst other things. It was mostly a good-natured debate though. I was even told that insisting there was a reason for the change had nothing to do with me being a writer. Wrong! It is exactly because I'm a writer that I'm concerned about box ticking.

To be ultra clear...

****I WANT A FEMALE DOCTOR****

****THERE SHOULD BE MORE DIVERSITY IN TV AND FILM****

There I've said it, so why am I complaining about the possibility of the Doctor becoming a woman? It's simple. As a writer, I take time and great care to create my characters, to shape them, to make them believable so the audience will want to invest their time in watching them.

If a producer then turned around and asked me to make a male character female because they thought there should be more female characters on TV, I would simply say no. However, if they gave me valid story or character reasons why the character should be female, I would think on it. If I agreed with their reasons I would be happy to make the change. If I didn't, I would give my reasons for why I thought it was a bad idea and ask them to reconsider. After all, I made the character male in the first place because I felt he was the best choice to tell that particular story and changing his sex for diversity's sake would lessen the impact I intended.

In the Facebook post, I kept asking, 'show me WHY the Doctor should be female?' I was continually countered with, 'WHY NOT?' But that's not a valid reason, that's just laziness. The characters we remember are the ones that are well thought out, the ones who fit their environment and drive the story and conflict because of who they are. Change that without a valid reason and you weaken your story and risk losing your audience.

Some change can be for the better. For example, I joked in the post that if I were to write an action movie with the lead as a female Muslim, the first question I would probably be asked by a producer is 'WHY?'. Lisa Holdsworth said I should totally write that movie as she would watch it. The thing is I am. But I didn't make the lead character a female Muslim because I wanted to tick a box (or two), it's because she is the best character for this particular story.

The original idea was to have a male character in his late thirties. But I asked myself, 'WHY?' and I soon realised he was the wrong character. So I examined the story I wanted to tell, the situation, the location and time it was set and asked myself, 'who is the best person to deal with this?'. Diversity didn't come into it.

I'm not questioning the drastic character change just because the new regeneration might be female, but because it is eaxctly that - a drastic 180-degree change. I would question the reasons for any character that changed that drastically, regardless of sex, race or religion.

There has to be a reason why the Doctor is female, not just because people want more diversity. Diversity is great, but if the Doctor is female simply because of 'why not', then not only does it not do justice to the character, but also to the actress who plays her. It just becomes a novelty that will quickly wear off, rather than a strong female character we can believe in, who empowers diversity rather than diminishes it. More importantly, box ticking also insults the audience. We (the audience) aren't thick; we can recognise change for change's sake. We want to be drawn to a character for the right reasons, not put off them for all the wrong ones.

If, as a writer, you put a diverse character in your screenplay for diversity's sake, don't be surprised it the screenplay doesn't work.

The post was not about objecting to there being a female Doctor, it was about being true to the character of the Doctor.

It'll be interesting to see what Chris Chibnall decides. Whatever the decision though, I'm sure we'll be debating it for a long time to come.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

AND THERE IT IS

After last week's blog rewind post THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY I was delighted to receive a brilliantly inspirational comment from GILL KIRK.

It made me think!

It made me shout, "HELL YEAH!", out loud!

It put a great big smile on my face!

And it made me happy that at least one person got a boost from my post. That one person's day was made a little better. That one person turned a negative into a positive.

That... exactly that!  Boom!

Gill's comment says far more than the blog post I had planned for today,  so I'm just going to leave it here... enjoy!

What perfect timing. Thank you, thank you, thank you (and for pointing me to Lisa H's post). You made it much easier to explain my grumpy mood to a 6-y old in his bath just now (this afternoon brought two emails with, "it's great, but not for us right now").  
And in telling him, I added this to what you & Lisa gave me. Hope it makes other readers smile:
"In lots of jobs, when you get them, you're through. And maybe once a year, you'll have a big test. 
"But artists are always making up entries for tests that might not even exist, and quite often, the judges don't even really know what will pass and what won't. 
"And THAT is how brilliant art gets made. Because someone has to be brave enough to take the risks. And that - ma boy - is us." 
;)
Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

BLOG REWIND - THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

As it's National Writing Day today, here's a blog post from 4th February 2015 about rejection, handling it and why writing is so flipping awesome.

There have been times in my career when I've seriously considered packing it all in and walking away for good. Where the promise of a regular income and a steady job seemed a whole lot better than the continuing struggle to get anyone to like my work, surviving on nothing but a few pennies a week.

Yesterday (03/02/2015) I read Lisa Holdsworth's excellent blog on rejection - read it HERE - where she nailed what it's like to be a writer and how we deal or fail to deal with rejection. Every one of her points hit home and at the end of the blog post I was actually sniffing back tears.

She actually got me, got what it means and feels like to have my work rejected, and for once I felt I wasn't alone. That's the hardest part I think, the feeling of being alone and isolated with your 'shame' and 'anger', knowing that your family and friends, even though they mean well, don't really understand the crippling effect of being told 'NO'.

All writers face rejection, it's an occupational hazard. Every writer will at one time or another have to face it. But whether it's a project you've been working on for months that gets rejected or you're dumped from a project in favour of someone else, the mark of a great writer is that they learn to deal with it and move on. Yes, the bad times can hurt as much as a kick in the fluffy bits - I've even had to sell my book collections and DVDs just to be able to eat on a couple of occasions when money was so tight - but I've learnt that nothing is forever.

Sometimes as writers I think we set up ourselves for most of our falls, happily telling everyone that will listen about a possible new project that physically and emotionally excites us, only later for it not to go ahead. It's hard not to share our excitement over possible projects with others. We see people so rarely that when we're asked what we're up to the temptation to blurt out every little detail is overwhelming.

Some writers are better at keeping things to themselves than others. Personally, I'm crap at it and I'm sure it makes the rejection harder to deal with when you're asked..."What happened to your Vampire vs Robots project you told me ITV were interested in?" and you have to inform them ITV decided not to go ahead with the idea.

But it's not all bad. Us writers wouldn't do this for a living if it was.

There are days when you feel like nothing can dent your armour, that you're invincible and everyone loves you and what you do, when you just want to sing from the rooftops and tell everyone how well things are going. Those precious moments when a development exec says, "we really love your writing and we'd love to work with you," are the highlights that have us punching the air, strutting down the road as if we own the world. And for those few treasured moments, we do.

We are giants! We are superheroes! Our words are platinum! Our ideas genius! And the world is a beautiful place once again..!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

As I've said many times before, it's advisable to read as many screenplays and screenwriting books as you can to improve your writing. Learning and constantly topping up your skill set helps keep you one step ahead of most new writers. However, sometimes you just have to trust your instincts.

Thanks to the hard work I've put into my blog over the years, I'm lucky enough to have publishers send me screenwriting books to review. There's a pile of about eight sitting on my bedside table at the moment, waiting for me to find the time to wade through them. Some have been sent to me and others I've bought because they interested me. Since January I've read four books. But I've just decided not to read another one for a month or two because I'm finding they are becoming a bit of a distraction.

Over the last week, I've been plotting a new feature. But it's been slow going, not because the idea doesn't work, but because I've found myself trying to implement various techniques I've read about in those four recent books. I've spent more time thinking about hitting turning points, growing character arcs and some other less conventional writing methods than actually just writing down the plot and seeing what I have.

I'm lucky in that structure and character arcs usually come quite naturally to me, more so than dialogue does, that's for certain. Sometimes I forget to trust that natural instinct of mine, to just get on with the writing and not over think things. Just seeing what I come up with, without dissecting every little detail, is very liberating and helps me to get on at a much quicker rate.

So I've stepped away from the books for a while to let my instincts take over again. I'm not saying these how-to

books are a bad thing, they're not. They're essential for keeping your writing on the right track. I'm just saying that sometimes too much of anything is a bad thing and the occasional rest does you the world of good.

Learn to trust your instincts, they may not be as bad as you think.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

FIRST DRAFT - FINISHED DRAFT

As stated in my previous two blogs, my aim this year is to write one script a month for a year. Fellow writer Sally Abbott questioned whether this was a good idea. She pointed out that if I wanted my screenplays to sing then I should invest more time in them. So who's right?

The answer is both of us.

My aim is to write twelve first drafts, not twelve finished screenplays. The rewriting of those twelve first drafts will come later. For now, I just want to get twelve new ideas down on paper and see what works and what doesn't. After all, it's easier to rewrite a pile of poop, than it is to sit and stare at a blank page waiting for the perfect words to come along. If you have sixty pages of poop, you still have something to work with. If you have sixty blank pages and only an outline in your head, you have nothing. Getting it written is the most important thing.

Lucy Hay suggested I write treatments instead, as it would save me some work. But if I'm being truthful, I hate treatments. I only write them when I'm asked to. For me, getting that first draft down on paper helps me to work through my ideas and puts me in a better position when I come to write the second draft, much more so than if I write a treatment first. The first draft gives me a better picture of what I have and what I need to do to get where I want to be. This is why my first drafts are the equivalent of most other people's third or fourth. However, Lucy is also right. Treatments work very well for some people. But everyone writes differently. It's important to find out what works for you.

Going back to Sally's point, the majority of the work is done in the planning stage. For me, this usually equates to about 60%. 10% is then spent on the first draft and the remaining 30% is rewriting it until, as Sally says, it sings out and shines. But the thing is you can spend 90% of your time preparing and still find your idea doesn't work when you come to write it. Sometimes things just don't work on the first attempt.

My latest script took a bit longer than I wanted. It was partially down to some of it not working, partially because I realised I was giving out too many clues too early and partially because I took several breaks to reassess how I wanted the first episode to work. In truth, I probably spent five to six weeks actually writing the draft, rather than the twelve it appeared to take, or the four I actually wanted to complete it in. And thanks to this I have something that is now more advanced than a typical first draft. I also know the next draft will be bloody awesome.

Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. You shouldn't be afraid of this, you should embrace it.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

GETTING IT FINISHED

Earlier in the year, I challenged myself to write a new screenplay once a month for a year. Added to this I also planned to rewrite another screenplay each month and write my first novel until it was finished.

January and February went well - one new spec TV drama pilot was completed and also a rewrite of a sitcom. Then it all went a bit tits up (it's a technical term)!

March started well. I had the spec TV crime drama pilot all plotted out in three days and the first act flew from my fingers onto the page over the next couple. Then I stalled. A week went by and I worked on nothing but my novel. Then another week passed with no work on the spec. I went back to it in the fourth week, rejigged the first act and managed to get another twenty pages done. Then I went on holiday to Spain for a week... massive mistake.

On my return, it took me a further week to catch up on my emails and get back into the swing of things. By the end of April, I had both the first and second act done and was about to start on the third. It was then I realised my problem. I should have spent more time plotting.

The first two weeks of May were spent going over what I had written and replotting it and the last week and a bit rewriting like a rewriting ninja on speed (Dear Police, no actual drugs were taken in the writing of this screenplay unless you count tea and coffee and the occasional chocolate digestive). Today, finally, the first draft will be finished.

So why did I have such a problem with this screenplay?

It's my first multi-protagonist story. I've never written one before. There's a lot more to think about. I tied myself up in knots trying to get it right. I also didn't know my characters well enough. I struggled. But I learned fast. And now I'm confident when I write the next one I won't have a problem. Sometimes, things take a little longer to get where they're going.

And the novel progressing brilliantly, even if I have no idea how it ends.

Writing surprises you constantly. It's one of the things I love about it.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

BREAKING IT DOWN

They say that everyone has at least one novel in them. I don't know who 'THEY' are, but they sound like idiots who don't know what they're talking about. And that's what's I've been trying to do... write one novel... for the past eleven bloody years.

I read somewhere recently that Mark Dawson (author of the John Milton assassin series) has written twenty-five novels in the last five years. Sounds impossible, doesn't it? But is it really? Let's break that down.

Twenty-five novels over fives years - that's five novels a year - if they average 60,000 words each, then that's 300,000 words a year - or 25,000 words a month - 5,769 words a week - if you're writing only five days a week, that works out at 1,154 words a day - in other words, just over two pages of writing a day.  Even if you're a really slow writer, it shouldn't take you more than a couple of hours at the most. Doesn't seem so much now, does it?

Yet I've had several failed attempts at writing my first novel and can't seem to get beyond 17,500 words. It's a bugger, I can tell you. I have the first three acts plotted, but the fourth has a nice fat gap of nothingness between its start and the end of the novel. The last three months I've been sitting staring at those blank index cards (five of them) refusing to restart the novel until they are filled in. Stupid! Why don't I just get on with it? After all, I have three-quarters of the novel plotted. So really, there's no real reason not to get on with it. Am I scared? Am I an idiot? Or am I just lazy? I genuinely don't know.

Yesterday I decided enough was enough. If Mark Dawson can write twenty-five novels in five years (two and a bit pages a day), then I can bloody well write one in a year (that's just under a page a day). So I've rewritten the first chapter... it was easier than I though. And I enjoyed it. I'm determined to get it finished by Christmas, if not before. I will! I will! I will!

I guess the message of this week's blog is this: Stop titting around and get on with it! As 'THEY' also say - Writers, write! Talkers, talk!

Which one are you?

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

READ, WRITE AND LEARN

READ

Usually, when I'm about to start a new screenplay I'll hunt down and watch TV episodes or films in the genre I'll be writing in, to get myself reacquainted with their format, how and why they work and how quite often why sometimes they don't. This helps me to avoid common errors and write the most interesting, original screenplay I can.

The next feature screenplay I'm gearing up to work on is set mostly in one very claustrophobic space, where two people will face off against each other. This is quite different to anything I've written before, so research is vital to ensuring the tension and conflict are gripping enough to hold the reader's attention for ninety pages. To help with this I've downloaded and printed off three screenplays - PHONE BOOTH by Larry Cohen, LOCKE by Steven Knight and BURIED by Chris Sparling.

Two of these films I have seen, which means I can directly compare how scenes were written in the script and how they played out on the screen. A valuable insight into getting the best out of my own screenplay.

Of course, this research is just to help get the tone and feel of my screenplay right, not to steal scenes or ideas from other screenplays. That would be stupid and lazy and very wrong.

It's also worth mentioning that whatever level of writer you are, you should be continually reading all sorts of professional screenplays, at the very least one a month.

WRITE

Writers write! If you just talk about it then you're not a writer. You don't have to write much, a page a day will do, just make sure you do something every day. We learn best by doing after all.

Rewriting is also very important to improvement. I've known writers write one draft and think their screenplay is good enough to send out. And they wonder why they get rejected every time.

The more you write and rewrite the more your writing will improve. It sounds so simple... and it is. The more you write (and read), the more you'll recognise what doesn't work and what does. Gradually over time, you'll learn to distill and refine the words you write, to the point you will eventually learn to use the minimum to make the biggest impact. Words are power after all.

LEARN

This is something I bang on about repeatedly. To learn screenwriting you don't need to go to university (although you can if you want to), you just need to do the two things above and read as many books on screenwriting your grey matter can absorb.

Eventually, after reading a few, you'll naturally take what you need from each to shape your own voice and the way you write. No one book offers the RIGHT way to write. What might be right for someone else might not work for you. So read as much as you can, take what you need and forget what you don't.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

FEAR

Following on from my post two weeks ago, I thought I would take another look at networking and specifically the associated fear and how you cope with it.

THE SCENARIO - YOU'RE AT THE LONDON SCREENWRITERS FESTIVAL AND A TV PRODUCER YOU WANT TO CONNECT WITH IS STANDING JUST A FEW FEET AWAY.

(A) HOW YOU WOULD LIKE IT TO GO:

You stride over with confidence and a smile, say hello, introduce yourself, tell them you loved the last thing they produced and then ask them what they are working on. Ten minutes later you're laughing and joking and talking about your shared TV/FILM likes and swapping business cards. "Send me something," they say to you and you promise to keep in touch.

(B) HOW IT ACTUALLY GOES:

You want to go and talk to them but you don't know what to say. Your palms are sweaty. Your mouth is dry. You stare at them. They spot you staring at them and are a little bit freaked out by it. But you can't help yourself and continue to stare at them with an air of desperation. It's now or never, but your legs just won't work, let alone your voice. Your hesitation stretches from seconds to minutes and then when you finally decide to make your move someone else beats you to it. You go home beating yourself up, because it was an opportunity missed, even if you are secretly relieved.

Why does it have to be (B)? Why can't it turn out like (A)? The thing is it can.

I'm not going to write a three-hundred-page post about how you can get rid of your fear and become the most confident person in the world, I'm no self-help guru, I'm simply going to explain three truths about fear instead.

1 - Fear is a good thing. It prevents you from behaving like a twunt.
2 - Everyone feels fear, even the producer you're staring at. He's there to meet writers like you and is currently wondering why you haven't come over and introduced yourself.
3 - The majority of fear we experience is utterly wasted.

The last one is so simple and yet the one most people (including myself) overlook. I came across a great video on Facebook a few days ago that sums up number 3. You can find the link to it HERE! It perfectly illustrates how and why we spend far too much time worrying about stuff rather than just getting on with it.

Feel fear when you need to, not when you don't. Then when you do feel the fear, use it and go and do the thing that scares you anyway.

Jump in! Be awesome!

Happy writing!


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

BLOG REWIND - HOW TO NETWORK LIKE A PRO

First published - Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HOW TO NETWORK LIKE A PRO


I'm off up to London tomorrow for a day of meetings with TV types, so I thought it would be a great idea to look back and revise a previous post on networking and how it will benefit your career. So here we go...

NETWORKING 

I have found by years of trial and error that the best way to get work and make great strides in my career, is to put myself out there and meet and connect with as many people as possible. Am I just talking about producers and directors? No...I mean everyone, everyone even remotely connected to the entertainment industry, actors, casting directors, script editors and fellow writers at all levels.

And it's not good enough to just show a passing interest in other people's work, I believe you have be genuinely interested in what they're working on. If I'm not genuinely in them and their career then those people I'm talking to will soon start to suspect I'm sucking up to them simply to further my career. Luckily I don't have that problem because I have a passionate love of film and TV and a general curiosity about people, so I find it a pleasure to talk to others (even if it does terrify me sometimes) and talk about what they are working on.

Remember it's all about them, not you, so never, ever go begging for work. Remain helpful, polite and never pushy. Talk to them, ask questions and avoid talking about yourself as much as possible. If you're asked a question try and answer it as briefly as you can, before you ask them another question. If like me this comes naturally to you, then it's a great advantage, otherwise you'll have to work very hard at it.

I used to keep a spreadsheet of people I made connections with, now there's a handy little app for the iPhone called CONNECTED that reminds me who I've had contact with, when and what we discussed. I couldn't live without it, as it can get quite confusing when I've have met literally hundreds of people, especially as I'm rubbish at remembering names. Some days I even need help remembering my own.

Signing up to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help with the process, but you must remember everyone will read what you write so keep a separate account for personal use and gobbing off, and one for professional. You are what you write after all.

Personally, I chose to only have one account on each site, as it would take too much time to keep up with separate accounts. Therefore I have to be very careful not to Twitter or Facebook when I come home from the pub and think it's funny to post a picture of my bum. General personal stuff is fine, it makes you appear human, just as long as it's not offensive.

There are plenty of other places to go and meet like-minded professionals including festivals, such as the London Screenwriters Festival, held every October in London. Not only will you meet a ton of writers at various levels, but also producers, directors and script editors. LSWF has now become so big it is now the most 'must attend' event on the calender. If you're thinking 'I can't afford to go', and you're serious about your career, then what you should actually be thinking is 'how can I afford NOT to go?'

There are also many other festivals, workshop and other great opportunities to network, set up by various well known and respected media bodies you should be looking at. You might even want to consider going on courses aimed at up and coming directors and producers... why? Because you'll probably be the only writer in a room full of hungry people who can get you screenplays made.


Writing ten or fifteen short scripts and offering them free to up and coming directors is a great idea to get your name and work out there. Plus if any are made it will give you something to be proud of and a credit on your CV. A good place to find directors is on Shooting People, Twitter and Facebook. Always remember to check out the directors previous work first to see if it's of the quality you want your short to be and if they are intending to place the finished film in festivals. That last bit is important as this will increase your exposure.

THE CALLING CARD SCRIPT

This is the one that best showcases your writing. It is not designed to ever get made (you're lucky if it does) but to show others what you can do. Make sure it is the best it can be before you send it out, as a sloppy, poorly written script will not impress anyone. And you need to send it out...to everyone - production companies first and places like the BBC Writersroom and Industrial Scripts, and then to smaller producers and directors and actors and just about everyone, but with this second group of people only if they request to read it first.

And this is where the networking comes into its own. If you've done your job properly people will also be genuinely interested in knowing what you are up to and might ask to read your script. If they like your work they might even offer you some work.

It's really all about building relationships, making friends and creating an awareness of your work. Do this and eventually people will come to you when they need a writer and one day you might even get paid for it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

CHALLENGE YOURSELF

Forgive me, for I have sinned. This is my first blog in a month... naughty Dom!

The reason I've been so lax is because I have decided to challenge myself. But it's no ordinary challenge, oh no, I've deliberately made it hard on myself and come up with something that is going to push me to the limit as a writer. The challenge is this...

Each month I will start a brand new project and write it from start to finished first draft within the calendar month. Some of the projects will be TV pilots and others feature screenplays. When they are done I will rewrite them alongside a new project during another month, until they are as polished as they can be.

So now you're thinking I'll be writing two projects a month, one new and one rewrite... but I'm not stopping there, oh no. To add to the above I will also be replotting my young adult fantasy novel and finishing the first draft by the end of the year. Looking a lot more difficult now, isn't it? But that's still not all of it.

I will also be dealing with any paid work that comes in and even though it will have priority, my aim is to continue the spec work alongside it. Yes, I can see some late nights, early mornings and long, lonely weekends in my future.

So to recap, that's one first draft of a new project, a rewrite of a previous first draft, continuous work on my novel and any paid work that comes in. But why?

Well, last year started out with the best of intentions, as most January's do. I had a paid feature ready to begin, but as the year dragged on and the feature and life issues got in the way, I let my spec work fall away to the point I was only working on the feature. Silly!

This year I'm determined to complete as many finished projects as I can. I might not do all that I have planned, but I'm going to give it a damn good go.

In January I wrote and rewrote a spec TV pilot with my writing partner Anne-Marie Caluwaert which we entered into the Stage 32 Happy Writers TV Pilot Competition. We are so proud it made its way as far as the last ten.

In February I rewrote a sitcom I created with my other writing partner Lee Helliar, as well as plotting a new TV crime drama pilot to start writing in March. And that's where I am now, I have over half my novel replotted and I'm busy with my head buried in the first draft of the TV crime drama spec... which isn't going too great I have to admit (only 25 pages in), but which I'm determined to finish by Friday.

I had better get on with it then.

Don't forget to challenge yourself this year, push the boundaries of what you think you are capable of and then push them again. You can't afford to sit still... no one else will be.

Happy writing!