Cynical, moi?

This is perhaps a slightly cynical post. I’m putting it up for the sake of possible future visitors, who may never get directed here. Put like that it sounds decidedly optimistic… something is out of character round here, anyway.

Truth be told, I should have done the googling six months earlier than I did. After taking an extremely enjoyable ten-week course of evening classes at City University, on Writing Television Drama, I should have been on the look-out for a writing group near me. I had signed up for the course on a bit of a whim, for the enjoyment of it and for its own sake; but it was a stimulating set of classes from Edel Brosnan, and I resolved to keep writing, with a view to seeing how far I could take it.

And then of course I did nothing for nearly six months. Well, next to nothing: I was ill, work was busy, and there was an intermittent possibility that my fellow class members would re-assemble as a writing group. This looks like it might be about to happen on a small scale – two people plus me is hardly a group, more a gin appreciation club – but it’s a start. Still, what were the chances of a writing group existing within walking distance of me, in West London?

The answer to this question was in fact: actually rather good, if I had but looked. So it was that, belatedly, I ambled along Acton High Street last night to hear a section of my work read out loud for the first time. For when I say I did nothing for six months… I just about managed to complete two drafts of the screenplay idea I had been working on as part of the course, so by the end of 2008 I did at least have something to show. I’m not going to spell out what it’s about here – Steven Moffat once said something about it losing the magic if you say it out loud, which is almost the same thing – but for ease of reference it’s called Who’s Laughing Now?

By this point I had spent so long on it I had no idea if it was any bloody good or not. The group was given a section of seven pages or so, and parts were allocated to helpful attendees (myself, I ended up playing a cockney wideboy and one of a set of identical twins later in proceedings as we went through other scripts). I had heard a lot of horror stories about hearing your stuff out loud for the first time… but actually it was, to say the least, OK. There was laughter from the readers at the funny bits, and afterwards there were a lot of questions about what would happen next, and suggestions for what other bits would be good either before or after the extract.

This was pretty heartening, but also made me think about the things I need to be sure about in other parts of the script: the motivation of the central character needs to be clear, which is stating the obvious a bit, but it’s never an unhelpful reminder. Now, I deliberately chose the section of the script I’m happiest for the read-through, as in other sections I think I can see problems and want to fix them myself before getting feedback from others – no point getting other people to point out the issues I’m already alive to… But it allays a nagging doubt that I might have been on completely the right track.

It also shows there is a lot of work still to do. Firstly, I need to re-write the script (90 minute, a TV single) into a 45-minute radio play for a competition that closes at the end of February. Nice and easy, then. After that, the TV version needs another draft, after which it probably needs to go in a drawer. Then I need to write some different things, amass a portfolio of scripts and implement a selling strategy. Oh, and somewhere in among all that I need to get good.

The selling strategy is the reason for the cynicism of this post, incidentally. Many writers blog about their work, in extremely entertaining terms – a selection of my favourites are linked on the right, but I’ve got at least 20 in my RSS reader. Having a web presence is, according to all the best advice, a good way of convincing possible future commissioners that you are a professional and can be trusted – so, this blog needs to be populated with some posts about writing as well as the usual nonsense!

And I now join the honourable tradition of updating my blog when I should be working on my script. Professional to the core.

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