January 2009


You’ll find an interesting piece about rewriting at Robin Kelly’s marvellous Writing For Performance site this morning, another interesting article he’s found god knows where.

I can never read enough about rewriting. I yearn for that rewriting epiphany.

Rewriting is that alchemist process that transforms your wobbly jelly-like ramblings from base metal to stardust. But I still don’t altogether understand the process, and I really don’t know whether I’m an efficient rewriter or not.

Every time I pick up one of my scripts  I can see how it can be improved, – how it can be made leaner, how themes, character or a plot-point can be teased out. But I’ve never made wholesale changes to a script, taken it apart and rebuilt it from the ground-up . Which worries me somewhat.

Am I rewriting or simply tinkering?  What constitutes a rewrite? 

I hear writers discuss the eighth, twelth or twentieth-fifth rewrite of a script many years down the line, and my blood chills.

How do they know when it’s finished? At what point do they say, I think I’m there, that one’s done and dusted.

Because at some point, I really would like to send out some specs.

I guess I’ll have to keep reading about rewriting and trying to find my own method. There’s plenty of time, no hurry.

What’s your rewriting method?

I’ve just written a script for a short-film.

It came to me in a flash – not much comes to me in a flash, as a rule – and I wrote it, or at least the first-draft of it, in the twinkle of an eye. At least, I think I did – the cup of tea at my side was stone-cold when I picked it up afterwards.

I’m very pleased, because I know little about short scripts.

The script is about four-pages long, four minutes, which counts as short in my book, and it’s very visual, which I think is the name of the game, and I believe it can be made very cheaply.

Now what the hell do I do with it?

Other Half and Little Boy are heading north for half-term to see the In-Laws.

For various reasons, I’ll be left at home holding the fort. A few years ago it would have been the perfect opportunity to get on the blower to mates and get shit-faced as many times in a week as I could.

But this time round, I thought to myself, oh good, I’ll have plenty of time to write.

That kind of thought has never occurred to me before. The thought came naturally to me, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

And that makes me kind of happy.

But maybe, just maybe, someone will be around on the Friday night for a quick drink. Just the one, you understand.

A man’s got to live, right?

A change is, as they say, as good as a rest. 

So thanks to Lianne over at Light And Shade for pointing me in the direction of the Tate’s Short Story competition TH.2058.  You’re invited to share your vision of the year – well, I think you can guess – and upload it onto their site. You’ve still got time – the competition ends February 1st, I think. 

My own 1,500 word story, A Question Of Sport, pepped me up last week just as my energy on a couple of specs began to flag.

The curious among you can check out my suspect science-fiction sensibilities by clicking here.

It’s been a good week. I’ve managed to write each and every day. I’ve finished the first draft of a script I’ve been fiddling with for far too long. Wrote a short-story and a play treatment, Another first draft script is well on its way  – should get that done this week with a bit of luck .

On the TV front, Battlestar Galactica’ s back on, and soon me and the Other Half will be sitting down to watch my own favourite guilty pleasure. Two hours of…

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Oh yes. Man cannot live by Casualty alone.

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I love writing dialogue, I love it. I could write it all day, and probably do. 

I’m not saying I write  good dialogue, but I like writing it.

I know it’s what characters do that’s important – and in all the marvellous scripts I read the dialogue is usually sparse and lean – so I know I should be hacking away at all this stuff which tangles up my pages like knotweed.

But pruning it is a problem because my ability to self-edit is nowhere near fully-functional.  I need to get a ruthless streak.

How do you approach dialogue? How do you manage to negotiate the old equation: Less = More.

Do you listen to music while you write?

A lot of people like to have something on in the background, and some even create a special compilation, a kind of audio moodboard for whatever they’re writing – Russell T., in his Writer’s Tale, explains how he’ll crank up the volume on a single track and listen to it again and again as he writes.

Me, I can’t work with music during the day. It jars my concentration. It’s not that I must have silence because I can work quite happily in a crowded cafe, although the attention can wander… The other day I became mesmerised by a woman’s phone conversation in which she explained, in a cracked voice, that she was having a coffee before going to a flat to “remove the body.”

During the day I can’t listen to music, mostly because I can’t enjoy the music and enjoy writing at the same time. My poor mind, feeble at the best of times, gets a bit flustered.

But in the dead of night , when a deep silence permeates the house, I need some background. So I’ll put on something soothing: a bit of mindless Classic FM, perhaps, or a gently lyrical album, like  Bon Iver’s stunning For Emma, Forever Ago.

What about you?

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