Thursday, 30 December 2010

Writing Software for Windows: Scrivener Beta

I have tried a couple of writing software packages, and so far haven't really felt at home with any.

Too much time trying to figure them out, rather than getting on with content. But I don't intend that as a criticism, just an aside:

So I like the idea that Scrivener (so long only available to Mac users) will soon be released in a version for Windows.
ScrivenerIndeed, if you like early-uptake, and don't mind beta-testing (i.e. finding bugs and not complaining about them to the manufacturer - just reporting them as feedback) then you can already download it and get going. Beta Test Download here

As software goes, it has always seemed really cheap (£30-40) and (even better) if you 'won' on NaNoWriMo this year you get a 50% off coupon, too!

Monday, 20 December 2010

It ain't easy

I did finish the rather bad book for NaNoWriMo, and it would take a lot of work to really shape it up, as this year I struggled. Every year seems different with this challenge (I have done it four times now).

As it happens, serendipity helped motivate me to catch up and cross the line in the last few days, in spite of having a cold and all that. What helped? Going to a gig in London and meeting Robert Rankin (without even knowing it was him, until he was already off at the bar buying another round) and chatting all evening.

While he was gone, my friend Michael and I had let our hair down, so when Robert came back with the drinks, he let his hair down, too, and Per took this picture! Heh heh. Toby Philpott, Robert Rankin, Michael Nielsen Robert and I later left that room where the volunteers were letting their hair down, and found a quieter bar, where we could hang out with Mr Kenny Baker (R2D2 for those who don't know these things).

I have gone off and joined The Order of the Golden Sprout, as I have enjoyed Robert's books in the past, although I am not a completist (yet!)

So although I could despair of my own writing after reading his latest, it remains helpful to remember that these magical things called 'books' are actually written by real people!

It was also a delight to meet his partner Rachel Haward. I hope they got away on their cruise...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I Made It!

I finished "Does Not Compute" !

Everyone wins who crosses the line, so it's not the first person to finish, or the one with the most words...

Congratulations to every one else who shared this journey!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Downhill all the way

And as we come into the final straight - still slightly off the pace, but getting second wind, the writing becomes more reckless as I throw myself towards the line.

Far too late to make it all fit together, ideas tumble out that may have to go get retro-fitted to all that went before.

That edit, that series of edits, happens once I have all the words in the can. The editing suite is a whole other life for a director than the shooting process, of trying to capture stuff on film.

If I had the control-freak approach of having an outline, plot and characters story-boarded, then the edit just tidies up what was visualized initially, and what finally ended up as the raw material.

During the edit we might find we need to re-shoot some stuff, even recall the cast and shoot some newly-scripted bits, but finally we have to compile what we have, and then try it out on someone.

I really don't want this run by a test group in some little suburban cinema in middle America.

I need a crowd who knows its a rough draft, a stab in the dark, just one more attempt to created something which might actually change the way we see things, do things. Over-ambitious, no doubt, and falling far short at this stage, but we can't let that inner critic out just yet (even if we secretly feel that we agree).

The critic, after all, is cruising along in one of the support vehicles, making some sort of documentary about the creative process, while I still slog on - nowhere near as tired as Eddie Izzard on his 40th marathon...

But he remains a role-model of gritted-teeth determination to complete something that he made a commitment to himself to conclude. My ambitions remain far below that kind of target, fairly achievable, after all, but also without a support team. All I have going for me is a swarm of other crazy folk, all over the planet, writing their hearts out to hit that target.

Be lucky, folks, the end is in sight. Why quit now? The time to quit came in the early stages, or maybe halfway, when you could retire having made a serious attempt. Now it would just feel sad to get so close to the line and not make it. Let's just finish this, OK, and I'll see you in the bar in four days, or so (given the time differences around the world).

Go for it! One last push!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

I've been writing for 23 days, now...

This year I really thought I might have gotten myself into something I couldn't complete in time.

Stubbornly, in the face of interruptions, this cold that has made me woolly-headed, the usual slump of despair and resistance to the problems such a project entails, and all the usual - that NaNoWriMo contributors know only too well (the inner critic who finds it all boring and tedious and badly-written, the curiosity of people I mention it to - actually using the public declaration as a way to drive myself forward - as to why I should bother, and all that...)

And incomplete sentences, and distractions, and other projects, and the sad eyes of my dog who wonders why I am not walking as much, or why I stare at the screen so often), etc, etc.

I know from previous experience that I learn a lot in this process. Ending up with something that may not entirely make sense (not a lot of time for research, or re-reading) I still find it a very fruitful process, and it feels great to know so many other people enjoy it too.

Each time I face a blank page (if scribbling in a reporter's notebook) or screen, I decide on a different approach or task.

Invent a character, describe something in detail, elaborate on the story so far, spend an evening letting the characters just talk to each other, throwing people together unexpectedly, hinting at secrets that even I don't yet know the answer to, etc. I learn something from each and all of these exercises.

No-one pretends they will end up with a smooth and finished product. Looking back, I feel a bit sheepish that I wanted to follow through to holding a hard copy in my hand, but it led to me learning how to use Lulu, and layout a book, commission a cover, etc.

Learning all the time.

So, I only have a week to go, and have still fallen behind sustaining the right average daily number of words to get through the process smoothly. I have almost clawed my way back to the 'par for the course' word count.

by now I should be at 38k, strictly speaking, and I have only made it to 34k, but I can feel that easing of the tension, too, that can sometimes lead to an increase in pace. The finishing line has become a real possibility, now. I seem to have got through the dreadful 'hitting the wall' phase of such a marathon. I even find time to stop and write a blog post like this.

I have spent some time updating a Wiki we made for one of my favourite books, Illuminatus!

In previous years I made encouraging videos...The creative process has spin-offs like that which make it even more rewarding.

I may even find that the half-understood book from last year, which I never went back to edit, and this year's, may eventually blend, with some savage cutting into something else again.

I quite enjoy not knowing, now, quite what I hope to achieve. Writing forward into the unknown means I sometimes hit passages I actually enjoy writing, transactions that surprise me, and ideas that make me laugh.

All that makes it seem worthwhile, as an adventure, an exercise, a challenge.

One week to go, and more distractions on the horizon, a gig in London, travel (but train journeys do offer an opportunity to write, one good reason for not driving, for instance).

And my worst case scenario? I don't actually complete 50k by next Tuesday. I hope it doesn't happen, but I will still have learned all this...

Wish me luck...just don't pray for me, I don't think it works. On the other hand, why not?

Do as you Will.

[You see? There's 600+ words I'll never see again.
I guess I write half a million words a year, in blogs, emails, FB, etc. So why does fiction seem so hard?]

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Something like that...

"Chandler has also influenced my way of telling stories; all my fiction tends to follow the Chandler mythos of the skeptical Knight seeking Truth in a world of false-fronts and manipulated deceptions. (Of course, this is also my biography, or that of any shaman.) "

Robert Anton Wilson from an interview you can find online

Friday, 19 November 2010


I realise now one of the reasons I have trouble writing this year. When I did Infinite Monkeys I wanted to write something without the gimmicks that often sell books: misery, violence, sex, angst, adrenaline and all that. I deliberately wrote something that pottered and meandered along (although one rude word slipped in, I notice!)

I guess that comes from my previous life as a 'children's entertainer' when I eliminated ambiguity from everything I said and did in public, deciding that (without going Disney) the world was quite full enough of innuendo, prurience and dirty jokes, etc, and I would avoid such stuff.

This year, although it hasn't quite worked as planned, I wanted to write a conspiracy thriller, and this 'tameness' wasn't helping at all. I guess there's the fear of being judged (as ever) but no-one (let's face it) might ever read it. So I decided to let my characters swear, think about (and perhaps even indulge in) sex and violence, etc.

We'll see how it goes, but it gave me a couple of thousand more words, and they all count. What might have to go in the editing remains to be seen.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Blahs and Doldrums

It was great to receive a pep talk email from Chris Baty (founder of NaNoWriMo) this morning. It maybe explains why I do this with the group, and not just any time of year when I think I will have time, etc.

To know that you have hit the same problem as thousands of others seems reassuring, even as people quit and fade for reasons of their own (and no-one sneers at someone who can't run more than ten miles in a marathon...)

That's still ten miles further than most people... I hope he won't mind me quoting chunks:

Bah. Those of us who are grappling with sluggish stories and dwindling mojo? We're having the real NaNoWriMo party---the Struggler's Party! I've been hanging out at this low-energy fiesta for the past week, and I've been hearing some familiar laments around the punch bowl.
"I think I picked the wrong story.""Work ate my word count.""Nothing seems to happen in my book.""My main character is getting on my nerves." The most common refrain at the Struggler's Party, though, is that we're just feeling Blah. Our stories are Blah, our writing is Blah. We've spent the last two weeks mining our creative depths, and many of us have emerged with too few diamonds and way too many lumps of coal. [...]

1) Incite change. If your story is losing momentum, juice it up by inflicting some major changes on your characters. Crash the spaceship. End the marriage. Buy the monkey. Change is scary because we have to figure out what comes next. But feeling afraid is ten times better than feeling bored, and your book will benefit from your risk-taking. Go big this week! You won't regret it.
2) Trust the process. If you're doubting yourself or your story, just keep moving forward. It will work itself out in the end. Every year, NaNoWriMo authors who press on to 50K are treated to the equivalent of NaNoWriMo's northern lights. This is the electric moment when the tangle of plots and people we dropped into the first half of our books end up forming unexpected connections with what we write in Weeks Three and Four. Themes develop. Arcs emerge. As we fly out of the 30,000s and into the 40,000s, a current begins to flow through our writing. Things crackle, then hum, and, at the very end of the month, enough circuits connect that the whole story lights up with a charmingly bookish glow.

Thanks Chris!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Our Hero

When I tried to analyse the thrillers [see July post] that I was reading I seem to have missed out the most obvious cliché or stereotype.

The man who can do everything.

Whether he's sexy like James Bond or a paranoid loner (damaged by something in his past) he will have been in the SAS, or some secretive service. He can speak all languages, kill people with his thumb, appear equally at home in an illegal poker game in a warehouse, a Baccarat game in a high-end casino, or a sedate Bridge game in a country house. He can cook, drive fast, fly planes and helicopters, etc. He can hold his liquor, do martial arts, break codes, run fast, etc. You've met him in almost all thrillers aimed at men...

It all sounds a bit like Heinlein's list, which also struck me as odd male fantasy:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.”

But unlike most of my generation I didn't read Stranger In A Strange Land, because there remained something I didn't like about Heinlein, and I couldn't put my finger on it.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Why Don't I Listen?

Sometimes it feels as though I don't listen to myself!

Only six weeks ago I highlighted a distinction between showing and telling which I thought helpful, and I already fell into the trap.

I wondered why my word count had fallen so low (in spite of visitors, and other distractions) and realised that I had started telling again (which is very compressed, rather than showing all the little details). Doh!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Does Not Compute

A year went by, and NaNoWriMo came around again. Having completed three times I dived in, only to suffer the whole anxiety of the first week again - what am I doing? Why did I start this? Who would care if I quite?

I haven't got quite as far behind as the indicator might imply (I needed to have reached about 11,500 by Sunday night to stay on track) because I have some stuff pencilled into a reporter's notebook on the train (didn't feel like typing).

I will try to get those scribbles digitalized ASAP, so that the thing looks less scarily behind, but I know I need to keep pressing on...

It's currently called "Does Not Compute" though that may change.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Easing the tension

Well, finally I got a couple of characters going, playing scenes, thinking their thoughts, getting on with activities.

That helps.

They haven't started talking to others yet. I haven't even spent a lot of time describing the surroundings for one of them.

I even have a couple of announced others, waiting in the wings.

I've kept the word count up, and now look forward to finding out what these characters do.

That helps a lot. G'night.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

I don't get it

No, this year I have really no idea what I have set out to do.
  • Year One: started as semi-auto-biography, only slowly getting brave enough to make stuff up, and end up with more fiction than fact
  • Year Two: deliberately set out to break down into chapters, make everything up, not base characters on friends, or events on my experiences, etc
  • Year Three: began to fall apart (thinking too much) and although I have several sections I enjoyed writing it never totally shaped up, and I have never re-written it (so much of it needs cutting)
  • Script Frenzy: broke the pattern, having to write a 100 page script in a month - and I enjoyed it, plotted it, tried to give it structure and tension, etc.
  • This year's NaNo will not get going. It seems so abstract. If this falls into the category of a 'novel' we might have to stretch the definition in all directions, from Tristram Shandy to Naked Lunch. I could do with, at least, a few 'routines' - and I could certainly attempt to use the self-referential, if it isn't going to go away. (sigh) Just keeping the word count up, and gagging and hoodwinking the inner critic...

Staggering along, but not yet despairing. Maybe this year I will dive into the forums (fora?) and ask for help.


Friday, 15 October 2010

Serious Literature

After all my recent dabbling in popular conspiracy thrillers I have enjoyed settling down with Zero History by William Gibson... He may not appeal to everyone, but I like the stretch I can feel in the brain cells, as he makes me work to understand...rather than spell it all out.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Whether or not I will spend November trying to write something a bit more swashbuckling than my previous high-speed novels remains a moot point. As in previous years I have already begun to feel the adrenaline rush anxiety about whether:
  • I can sustain the writing pace in the face of other demands on my time
  • I can stay motivated
  • I can think of anything at all to write...
Two weeks to go... At least I have the bonus of telling myself I have managed to complete the challenge successfully three times already.

My profile at the NaNoWriMo site.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Pottering along

I recently discovered the Blog2Print site, and although it seemed great fun for the family it might involve a little too much expense for my own online writings.

To grab OM (Only Maybe) into PDFs (potentially to turn into hard copies) involved making two books. That covers about 4 years. I like having them as PDFs but doubt I will manifest them.

I suspect that to turn my main diary blog into book format could perhaps involve about 4-5 volumes. The PDFs don't cost too much, but making them into hard copies would cost more than my pride (or vanity) can afford.

  • I have started a timeline, at least, for a history of NoFit State Circus, but it will involve a great deal of time and effort to compile a really good collection of posters, programmes, pictures and anecdotes...I wonder if I should try to set it up as a shareable document, or Wiki or something (initially) so people could add jottings. The shared photo album on Facebook has uncovered some gems.

  • Then there's my own autobiography, which limps along...

  • Will I do my 'thriller' for this year's NaNoWriMo challenge?

        I have compiled a bunch of articles and stuff, which I hope to put on Lulu, but it will cost a bit to do it all in colour...we'll see.

        Currently called 'Scattered Thoughts' although that may mutate to 'Thought Processes'.

        I need some time off, both to think and to write...

        [update Saturday 9th October 2010]
        Well, if I want colour throughout, Lulu wants to charge £18.50 for an A4 edition of Scattered Thoughts. I will make one, as a test, and offer the PDF, but basically that's too expensive. I might try a Black and White edition...

        Friday, 24 September 2010

        TV Tropes

        For viewers and readers, writers and creators - a quick riffle through the TV Tropes wiki can always stimulate thought!

        This witty and informal wiki contains all kinds of references to clichés and stereotypes, of both plot and characterization, in the media.

        For example, and at random: Magical Gestures

        Tuesday, 21 September 2010

        Showing, not telling...

        Most writing books advise that you attempt to involve the reader by 'showing' rather than merely 'telling' the events and people, but not all how-to books agree with that advice.

        I like this attempt to distinguish the two modes, and explain how they both have their uses - from the Advanced Writing website...

        • Please note how much more efficient “telling” is than “showing.”
        • Please note how much more vivid “showing” is than “telling.”
        • Now here’s an important point: You want to “show” the interesting parts of your story and “tell” the uninteresting parts.

        That seems like a very useful distinction, to me. Follow the link for more detail.

        Monday, 13 September 2010

        Welsh blog awards

        This blog did not get submitted to the competition, simply because the writer had not even heard about the competition.

        Maybe next year (sigh).

        Wales blog Awards

        Tuesday, 31 August 2010

        Very helpful guidance

        I just read a book called Writing Tools, which led me to the Poynter site.

        Great stuff!

        I recommend the book as an easy read(!), wise, witty and informative.

        You can find a brief version of the 50 tools online, and can even sample them as podcasts (two minute sessions to listen to).

        Highly recommended, and I will get back to you for further comment - just wanted to share!

        Monday, 19 July 2010

        The Story of My Life

        Does the world need another story? You may well wonder - whether we understand that to mean something made up around the camp fire, or the ‘true story’ of just one little life form.

        The only reason I set myself this task was that my family remains scattered, and we don’t get much time for fireside story-telling. I never knew much about my own father’s past, and it remains intriguing. So little got recorded of ‘little lives’ up until now that I have trouble reconstructing the past he lived through.

        Future generations may have a bottomless resource to rebuild their own past from. Events shot from dozens of angles by camera phones. Snapshots, blog diaries, FaceBook entries, twits, you name it, the archive will be there for trawling. Still, like any researcher they may come across conflicting descriptions or edited or censored versions of ‘the truth’, which they may have to resolve to their own satisfaction.

        Coming from the last of the unrecorded generations, I just wanted to capture a few of my experiences, if possible, as they might reflect on my generation, too, and provide clues not just for my own descendants, but anyone interested in the period.

        As well as describing events, as best as I can remember with my unreliable memory, I may put in a couple of chapters of rants and opinions, as they also colour the way I lived, the way I experienced events and even the way I remember things.

        As many of the people involved in my story still roam the planet I may not go into too much personal detail (without their permission) so don’t expect revelations, sordid details or unkind thoughts. We lived as best we could, and perceptions and intentions change all the time.

        When young most of us have a very limited worldview, but we slowly grow and our world expands, along with the information we have to base decisions on. Some of us travel widely, some stay put – and those adventures can involve actual movement around the planet, through other cultures or life styles, or simple mental journeys through all human history, creativity and endeavour, without moving from our place of birth.

        You can already find a simplified biography on Wikipedia, compiled by journalist Colin McEvoy from all the online interviews, blogs and websites I have already put up. In fact, playing with online resources seriously slowed down my desire to write this up in book form, but I feel the need to expand those bare bone details into something a little warmer and more personal.

        I hope you may find something of interest here, and, of course, with the modern forms of publishing it will prove really easy to make a later edition, if anyone wants to add any corrections, anecdotes or other comments.

        Friday, 2 July 2010

        Still reading thrillers

        A while back I discussed with friends why my own novels might prove almost unreadable (well, being written hastily in a month might contribute to that fact!)

        Anyway, as people seem to think I lean in the direction of Dan Brown territory I decided to look at blockbuster thrillers in the conspiracy realm, just for an experiment, and began to make a list of essential ingredients.

        This was my original post, back in February. These are the main points:

        • Famous Location(s) - Tourist attractions, cathedrals, special cities, etc. which might (or might not) like the publicity your book generates.
        • Famous People of the past - Who's been done? Mozart (Freemasons), Van Gogh, Gaudi, Da Vinci (or rather Leonardo) of course, Jesus and Mary, Shakespeare, Kennedy Bros, Elvis, Marilyn.
        • Imaginary organisations (or imaginative alternative uses for existing ones) or very secret societies - [eldritch rising organ music]
        • Scary events - Bond villain plans for the world – religious prophecies – natural catastrophes – alien invasion – ritual murder – abduction
        • Alternative Historical interpretations of source of civilization/religion, etc
        • Money (almost infinite resources to jump on planes, etc)
        • Religion - and esoteric belief systems of magic(k) or witchcraft
        • Espionage – codes and cyphers, cryptograms
        • A MacGuffin everyone is looking for (manuscripts, formula, Holy Grail, magic spear, etc)
        • Ingenious methods (technology from Q, magic from Jonathan Creek)
        • a couple of investigators - partly qualified but a little out of their depth [edit: I seem to have overlooked the 'man who can do everything', so 'partly qualified' seems a bit weak. Check this update.]
        • some innocents dragged into the whole thing – often in jeopardy
        • plenty of disposable villains (for getting their come-uppance)
        • the Grinning Sadist – boss’s sidekick or lone wolf?
        • a worthy opponent for our heros (curiously charming - but dangerous - Big Boss, or terrifyingly unhinged tyrant)
        • Special helpers (Mycroft Holmes, professors, etc) - usually die, too
        • Anonymous super-rich people (malign or benign) – provided with helicopters, forts, wodges of cash, etc
        • Celebrities (who, like police and spies, have access all areas – assistants, second homes, etc – disadvantage – easily recognised)

        Anyway, currently reading The Cult of Osiris by Andy McDermott and it certainly ticks the boxes: female archaeologist seeking to restore her reputation; ex-special services boyfriend (only kills baddies, but seems to cause collatoral damage wherever he goes); disfigured baddie; secret society/cult; Egyptian treasure under The Sphinx, etc.

        At least the hero attempts some Bruce Willis-type sidecracks during the contrast to the total lack of humour in many of these type of books...

        Tuesday, 8 June 2010

        Easing my way into writing

        Although I have now written 3 flash novels and one flash script, I don't really have aspirations in that direction.

        Still, they count as finger exercises in different modes of writing, and I hope that when I settle down to focus on the 'autobiography' that all this practice may prove useful.

        Structure ("lives have a beginning, middle and end, but not necessarily in that order"), tempo, conflict, characters, dialogue and all that - tricks to make my own story more interesting, perhaps.

        More news on this project soon. I do think it could prove a saleable item at conventions...

        Tuesday, 25 May 2010


        Although I have self-published right through to paperback with custom cover, I have not really settled into producing the book I feel proud of yet.

        All just finger-exercises and experiments, to me, at the moment.

        Still I stumble over occasional interesting links. Will expand on these later.

        Indie Author Guide

        The Indie Reader

        Friday, 7 May 2010

        Maybe a couple of self-referential movies, too

        The library offered me The State of Things - Der Stand der Dinge (Wim Wenders backstage movie) and The Fall (frame story and movie references).

        Now I just have to find time away from regular tv programming, to watch obscure movies...

        Thursday, 6 May 2010

        Reading those books, again...

        The spin-off from writing a script has turned into browsing the shelves about Hollywood, and movies, and all that. So as well as straight books on screen-writing, and histories of the Moguls, etc - I have also found my way to The Day of The Locust, and F Scott Fitzgerald and other items I have never felt drawn to before.

        My education seems endless...

        Monday, 26 April 2010

        And next...

        I implied that I only intended this blog as a supplement to Script Frenzy, but now that I started I figure it might as well tick along as a general writing blog.

        I didn't spend my childhood writing fantasy stories, and indeed, I didn't spend all that much of my adulthood reading fiction (I have read far more non-fiction) - so quite where the writing bug came from I don't know.

        Maybe because (bottom line) it only needs pencil and paper, no elaborate set-up or tools, and as story-telling it only needs a voice. Not that I expect the end of civilization as we know it, or to run entirely out of resources, but somewhere in there the simplicity does seem part of it.

        Simple, however, as I used to say when teaching juggling (you could describe the cascade pattern as 'simple') does not necessarily mean 'easy'. I see simple as the opposite of complicated, and easy as the opposite of difficult.

        Not that many people in talent shows try becoming jugglers, or animal trainers, piano players or tap dancers, because they look difficult. Almost everyone appears to think they can sing or tell jokes, though (and since soap operas cast for type, act). It looks 'simple'.

        I guess writing also looks like something a lot of us think we can do...

        So anyway, I soon got tired of the finger-exercises in 'How To Write' books, and have had more fun plunging in. So far I have written 3 novellas (50,000 words) with NaNoWriMo, and a film script at Script Frenzy. Not necessarily honed, or rewritten, but done. As I still don't quite know what I want to achieve, it seems a good idea to just keep going.

        People have suggested autobiography (I seem to have had a colourful life) but somehow I can't get a handle on that. Too many people still alive who I might upset, too much soul-searching, perhaps too much honesty. Who can tell?Magical Means

        A few years back I even tried to compile a 'script' for a comic book (sorry, graphic novel) called Magical Means - and although it never got completely manifested, still I turned it into a short story and got some illustrations to go with it, and published online.

        • Graphic novel - think visually, with minimum dialogue

        • Film script - think visually, but practice dialogue exchanges

        • Novels - play around with POVs, and the balance of plot, description, character arc, etc.

        I will be amused when I find out what all this adds up to...

        Saturday, 24 April 2010

        I have a certificate to prove it!

        Today Script Frenzy turned on their measuring devices, and proved that I had 'won' by completing a 100 page script!

        Like The Scarecrow, I may not have any brains, but at least I now have a certificate!

        And like him, I might consider myself a Doctor of Thinkology!

        "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side. Oh joy! Rapture!"

        Monday, 19 April 2010

        Sunny day reading

        I read "The Whole Equation", a quite wonderful book about the 'whole ecology' of Hollywood films, by David Thomson - all 400 pp of it.

        For light relief I read "Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher (hilarious and a touch sad).

        Having completed the first draft so quickly I went into a kind of limbo, and just dropped the whole thing. It seemed far too soon to re-edit.

        However, I am still thinking about it all. The other book I read this weekend was Crafty Screenwriting by Alex Epstein (subhead: Writing Movies that Get Made). However, I don't kid myself.

        All of this seems like doing finger-exercises to me, practising writing. I really don't set out thinking I am going from rags to riches. The whole idea makes me chuckle. I didn't expect to go from street performer to Star Wars puppeteer and although that happened (a) I didn't plan it (b) I didn't remain in the 'rich and famous' world, but was just one more disposable Private in the film army.

        The only reason I say all that? When I say I am writing a script, friends seem to assume that I am trying to make money or get famous or something.

        Otherwise, what's the point?

        Well, I never have had very good reasons for doing things. They have to amuse me. Whether or not they ever amuse anyone else seems neither here nor there.

        So writing a paranormal movie might have some small chance of getting made.

        Writing a movie saying there are no paranormal levels to existence, and that people are just kidding themselves, and conning others, seems doomed from the word go (like an atheist running for President of the USA). Hey ho. It may change in the re-write, of course, at least in the direction of ambiguity.

        I think I want to amplify my 'baddie' who is currently a medium who is in it for the money, originally more of the 'sweet little old lady' type, but I want to move her in the direction of Madame Blavatsky, sitting there like Jabba the Hutt, rolling her cigarettes with haschish in (although modern Theosophists might skim over that aspect of HPB), a blatant and unrepentant charlatan who also seems to have had immense charisma, and a worshipping circle of followers.

        As it happens, I have a soft spot for Madame, without her influence on my dad I suspect I wouldn't have been a vegetarian all my life, with a leaning to Hindu/Buddhist approaches to life (I didn't get that from The Sixties).

        Monday, 12 April 2010

        the luxury of having time to read...

        ...and maybe even watch a movie or two.

        This first run only involved watching much less tv for ten days, so hardly a sacrifice, but even so, now I have this first run, I feel free to spend a little time browsing.

        I will be adding random links for myself're welcome to browse them, too...for me this post is just a set of bookmarks.

        Wikipedia on Screenplay

        ScriptWriters Network on format, etc

        ScriptWriters Network on Hollywood Outreach (yeah, it costs money)

        FinalDraft on Script Rules

        First Draft is in the can!

        I had almost got there, so did a bit of hacking away during my early lunch, and have now got 100 pages of film script!

        Just as it is, sufficient to claim success at Screen Frenzy, but I have the rest of April to get it up on the board as index cards, and tweak it around. If, in the process, I hack too much away, I can always post this version come the Great Reckoning.

        Almost the whole thing

        I have gotten to the end but fallen slightly short.

        I have 96 pages, but I already ended the story.

        it might prove the 'natural' length, of course, but I feel sure I can find room to expand, either with the stage directions, or the descriptions of settings, etc.

        Or add expanded scenes.

        Essentially, I have a rough draft! Whoopee!

        Sunday, 11 April 2010

        Coupla late nights...

        ...and apologies to the dog about his missing the end-of-the-evening walk.

        Actually I fell asleep early last night, then got up in the small hours and zoomed to page 75. This morning I have edged it to 80 pages. I managed to:
        • create a bit of jeopardy for my hero(s)
        • get the clock ticking (increased urgency for them to act)
        • amp up the baddies, so that they are capable of murder, and guilty of more sleazy backstories, etc.
        • reveal a hidden ally
        I may need to improve the buddy banter, and although one of the women has revealed new depths and a hidden side, the other remains a cypher at the moment.

        Although Script Frenzy targets 100 pages, Blake Snyder suggests 110 pages as some sort of average or standard. This does mean I haven't necessarily got all the beats in the right place just yet, but I have used his beat sheet as a skeleton at least, and it has helped.

        In fact, Script Frenzy offer their own version, trimmed to 100 pages (the Hollywood Beat Sheet) but I can't finesse right now.

        I have predominantly written in dialogue to start with, as I felt the danger of writing too much action might turn it into 'fiction writing' again. Likewise I have hardly ever suggested shots.

        Designers only need a hint, actors don't like being told how to play things, and directors don't really need my suggestions for shots. At least, that's how I decided to approach it for now.

        Once I hit the target, anyway, I will have to proofread, and may add some action or description to clarify what I meant, just as some dialogue may work better 'acted out'.

        As I seem to be on target for finishing the first draft really quickly, I can use the rest of the Script Frenzy month trying to hone it up a little. I will put the script into cards on the board (currently it is covered in almost random posts) and shuffle them around a little.

        I may re-read Save The Cat, to check I have covered most of the issues (and he has a specific chapter for tightening up slack scripts, a check-list for improvements to make in the edit).

        I am also reading a little wider in the screenplay writer blogs that I have come across (see blog list to the right of the screen), which make more sense now that I have actually started.

        Saturday, 10 April 2010

        Don't delude yourself

        Writing a script has made me search new places on the web, and (let's face it) more people are interested in television and film than read fictional books.

        This does also make it a very competitive space, and anyone who knows me realises I don't have a competitive bone in my body.

        Either what I do seems good to others and they employ it, enjoy it, reward it, exploit it, etc.
        Michael Dare's joke
        Or they don't get it.

        And my dabble in the film business in the 1980s gave a real glimpse of the shark pool, the scripts that never get made, the people who make their living in pre-pre-production, and all that.

        I came across a hilarious Poster Guide on a Screenwriter's Life, that Michael Dare did for the LA Weekly, which you can find full size here.

        It puts it all in perspective. Don't give up the day job.

        Floundering slightly

        I have hesitated, and lost tempo, but, still staggering forward, I have reached page 61.

        I suspect I may have to make the baddies badder, and the jeopardy worse, and all that - but for the first draft it may still have to suffice to simply get to the 100 page mark, and not worry too much.

        It feels harder to keep the internal critic at bay when you lose the rhythm of writing (this seems to happen if you stop writing to 'think', and wonder if you should go back and tinker/edit a bit).

        Especially as scripts are almost all dialogue, I just have to keep them talking. Maybe I should try reading the scenes aloud (?)

        Although, I guess, (aha!) I could try writing an action sequence with no dialogue.

        Now that seems like a good idea to get through the next few pages...

        Tuesday, 6 April 2010

        Some kind of whoopee!

        I put my head down today, and have crossed the halfway point (52 pages out of 100).

        I didn't know (using Blake Snyder's map) if the halfway point was going to be a high or a low (false victory, false defeat) but it turns out to be a high for my Protagonist.

        He seems on top of his game, and the baddies seem overwhelmed for the moment.

        All of which can only bode ill for him and his associates in the second part of Act Two.

        Apparently the Bad Guys Close In, now, and we head to the All Is Lost point (around about page 70/75) which is the flipside of the HalfWay Point.

        I don't know if I'll stick to his map, but it offers a loose structure to may shapeless thinking...

        Friday, 2 April 2010


        Well, I skimmed through the 130 pages of Wizard of Oz script, and it did seem to align itself better with the beats, though I'd be hard-pressed to give you exact page counts.

        It opens and closes in Black and White, of course - opening images (The Set-Up) contain all the characters who will re-appear in the contrary (colourful) world. The good companions, and the genuinely evil witch, as well as the incompetent but benign wizard. Also the themes of Courage, Brains and Heart get introduced, but I guess the Theme Stated must be Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Aunt Em tells her to go look for a place where there is no trouble)...

        The Catalyst arrives bang on page 12 - as Toto escapes back to Dorothy but she knows her Aunt and Uncle will give way to the evil one, so has to choose to run away.

        Now we get the 'debate' section as she meets the Professor who tries to get her to turn back from such a decision, but by page 33 we reach the Break into the Second Act ( and into colour, of course).

        I am not sure about the B Story (in Snyder's model) but Dorothy meets and builds up relationships with three 'helpful creatures' and they merry along the road to the MidPoint, which uncannily arrives (as Snyder says it should) on page 65, exactly half way through - where Dorothy sees the Emerald City, but has fallen asleep in the Poppy Field!

        The baddies then do close in for quite some pages, and their first meeting with Oz turns into a 'False Victory' (All Is Lost) as he sets them a daunting task that throws them back to the baddies lair (the Dark Night of The Soul).

        The Break into Act Three seems like the moment when Toto escapes and (like Rin-Tin-Tin) goes to find the Helpers and lead them to rescue Dorothy, by using the aspects of themselves they didn't previously believe in.

        In the Finale they overthrow the witch and all return to find the Wizard, who grants them their (non-magical) rewards. He then appears to help Dorothy get home with his hot air balloon, but it escapes (false ending) but Glinda arrives to tell Dorothy she has the power within herself to return...she just has to want to "There's No Place Like Home".

        And the final image, of course, in Black and White, she is home, but hasn't had to say goodbye, as it turns out that Zeke (Lion), Hunk (Scarecrow) and Hickory (Tin Man) are still there, in human guise, and even the Wizard/Professor pops his head in...

        Yup, I can see why it works.

        Beats working

        I still feel I haven't quite grasped the significance of Mr Snyder's Hollywood beats, so I dug out my old Labyrinth script, and read it through with beat sheet in hand.

        I couldn't quite figure out the elements he mentioned, but then again, Labyrinth proved a box-office failure, so he still might have something!

        Perhaps I need to look at a successful movie?

        At 130 pages it does seem long, and I remember when watching it that it seemed to sag here and there. I never felt the right to criticize, but now I have to bring something like a critical mind to it.

        It has an episodic structure, but these 'set-pieces' don't seem sufficiently well linked for the drive and urgency of the quest to keep going. This isn't helped by the lack of clarity about 'goodies' and 'baddies'. The Goblin King, and the goblins get the role of baddies, but compared to (say) the flying monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West in Oz, they seem quite tame (because comic).

        So just as the baddies aren't scary enough, the helpful animals seem quite ambiguous (apart from Ludo and Didymus). Hoggle, I suppose, has one of those 'character arcs' but he seems to wobble quite a lot, and all the other characters met in the labyrinth remain more confusing and confused, than (say) working for the Goblin King to thwart her.

        I may come back to this later. It has helped a little in clarifying that although you don't need old-fashioned black hat/white hat distinctions, you do still need more clarity and dynamic drive, not just a series of sketches.

        Um, perhaps looking at Wizard of Oz with the beat sheet might show why it 'works'.

        I've taken the plunge

        Purely in terms of pages written, I have got ahead of the game. I have introduced my 'buddies' - a sort of Holmes and Watson double act. I have introduced the 'baddie' - a daunting and powerful medium, and her henchmen entourage, plus her loyal followers. I have got a victim, and her protector/helper, currently like a damsel in distress, but I suspect she will reveal hidden strengths.

        However, at 16 pages already it has already got a bit flaccid and slack, but this is not the time to tighten up and edit. Blake Snyder builds his 'grid' on a scale of 110 pages, and Script Frenzy asks only for 100 pages, so the exact breaks may vary, but I definitely have to move the Catalyst (Call the Adventure) back a bit.

        1. Opening Image (1): A dodgy seance, that our heroes treat lightly

        2. Theme Stated (5): Do harmless lies that keep us happy (foma) need to be challenged, can suspect beliefs sustain us?

        3. Set-Up (1-10): My Buddy duo go to investigate this murky world, the one (Sam Hill) to see if he can find evidence of something useful and interesting, his side-kick (John Watts) to prove to him once and for all that the dream and hope of telepathy (let alone survival of death) is an illusion, and a dangerous one.

        4. Catalyst (12): A young woman (Daisy) asks for their help to get her elderly aunt out from under this malevolent influence - a mediumistic circuit dominated by Eve Vera Poulter.

        5. Debate (12-25): They investigate the true nature of this movement, and duel verbally about whether there is anything of value in it at all. They are under observation, and rightly paranoid.

        A rare photo taken of Madame Blavatsky with Masters Kuthumi, El Morya & St. Germaine.
        6. Break into Two (25) This will be where Sam enthusiastically determines to help Daisy and her aunt, if he can - and John reluctantly agrees to help, too.

        7. B Story (30): I hope I can introduce here a young female medium who foxes them both, scares and attracts them a little, and is part of the 'school' of EVP.

        I won't bore you with my very sketchy plans to reach the halfway point (let's face it, I still can't quite decide on it being a high point, from which they descend into the maelstrom, or whether it should represent the lowest point they reach, and from which they have to climb out).

        Fun to do, so far.

        Thursday, 1 April 2010

        It's a start...

        As ever, I have no idea what I have started - when you switch off your internal critic and just go for it, anything can happen.

        Apart from anything else, it's great shutting off that f***ing voice of authority.

        Do you remember 'playing' as a kid? Well, the fun with a script (as opposed to a novel) is that it seems a good idea to act it out, or make a Gilliam animation to help with the process, or...or...

        So as well as getting a script started (for the hell of it) I might find myself in other areas of creativity and modern tools and toys.

        I know when I finished early on one NaNoWriMo I found myself contributing little video comments, and even a radio interview, just because...

        It's not too late to join in, on Day One. Script Frenzy.

        Tuesday, 30 March 2010

        How to pitch your movie

        No point feeling timid about this.

        After all, I only have to think of it as a rough draft.

        Still, you can't waffle on like you can with a bad novel, so some sort of structure feels necessary.

        I have adopted Blake Snyder's 'map' or grid to start with, just to give me a shape.

        And although selling the damn thing is the last thing on my mind, he makes it very clear that it helps to have the 'logline' down before you start.

        He means "the pitch" - and even if you never confront a Hollywood producer, you know what he means when he describes it as the one-liner in the TV Guide film review or the way you describe it to a friend if you want them to come to the movies with you, etc.

        Mine doesn't feel quite right yet, but currently I describe it like this:

        One White Crow

        An optimistically romantic paranormal researcher and his cynical sidekick finally come across a medium who seems to have real powers, but she gets them into trouble with the Psychic Mafia.

        Having a go at writing a movie (why not?)

        I have decided to try writing a film script in a month.

        Not just randomly decided, you understand.

        Having written a 50,000 word novel in a month three times now - as part of the NaNoWriMo community, I decided to accept the challenge or dare to attempt a script, instead.

        You have to produce 100 pages of script (no word count) in the month of April.

        As my online presence, and writing, and sub-personalities, and circles of friends, seem so varied I thought I might enjoy separating out this particular venture/adventure, and created myself this whole new blog.

        Most of my writing seems to have appeared with the nom-de-plume of Bogus Magus (the origins of that avatar already seems like a long story, or perhaps tall story).


        So you can find me on Script Frenzy, here.

        The novels got written on the NaNo site, here.

        Just for laughs, and to manifest the writing in tangible books, I investigated Lulu Publishing, and commissioned covers from my artist friend Bobby Campbell, just so I could hold a copy in my hand, not because I consider them good (or even readable) novels.

        To try the different formats possible, I also added a posthumous book of a friend's that I edited, and some notes on voice that my mother never got published. Check out the Lulu store, here.

        You may think of it as vanity publishing, but I think of it as playing. My play has turned into paid work at times, but I don't do it for that. The trick remains to enjoy yourself. If you never turn it into an income then you had some fun and learned some stuff. If you do end up making some money you will find yourself getting paid to do something you love (not a position many people find themselves in).