Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Plotting (Again)

So I'm now plotting my new Romcom. Don't want to say too much about that at this stage except to say I'm working from two paradigms (yeah - how Hollywood is that?) so it's not as simple as usual. I'm taking my time about it because I really want to get a feel for this story before I write a word. Tone is very important in comedy, you can't just sling in few one liners and hope something will stick. The little kid inside me is impatient to get it written. Some of the scenes are already starting to play in my head so I'm feeling the stirrings of giddy excitement but it's best to keep a lid on it until everything's planned.

I saw this very good blog post today, singing the praises of a Mac programme called Scrivener which you may remember me going on about before. It also touches on the benefits of plotting before starting a project. Scrivener certainly helps with the process and it's the best programme I've found for storing your research and indexing and rearranging material.

The great thing about this stage - in some ways I love it better than writing - is nothing is set in stone. You can brainstorm to your heart's content. Of course that has to end eventually or you'd never write it, and that's a pitfall to watch out for. But at the plotting stage the Author is King of the Universe - anything can happen. Imagine the power! And it doesn't matter because I can change my mind in the cold light of day or once I've sobered up. I won't have written 1200 words of a scene that goes nowhere so nothing is wasted.

But I have to be clear about the shape of the story from start to finish. Clear and satisfied. There should be no niggly little doubts. These must be sorted before I start writing, because the problem could be deeper than just a nip and tuck - I may need to change something fundamental that alters the entire course of the story. Better to know that at the outset. So I'm prepared for this process to take a while. I mean months. What's the hurry? I'd rather get it right now than condemn myself to endless rewrites later.

Monday, 17 May 2010


In my research of the romcom format I've been downloading a few movie scripts (very handy on the new ereader) to get a feel for the shape of the genre. It's an interesting endeavour. First off was As Good As It Gets - the movie starred Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt as an unlikely pair of lovers. Astonishingly sharp and economical script which played like a movie in my head as I read it. So gripping I could barely put it down. Excellent example of how little dialogue you actually need to establish character.

Then I tried Notting Hill - not bad, but even without seeing the movie it was obviously relying on Hugh Grant's floppy-haired screen persona to carry the charm factor. Not a particularly gripping story, unlike its precursor Four Weddings And A Funeral.

Now I'm up to Shakespeare In Love and finding that interesting because it's trying to combine the historical genre with the humour, something I'm interested in trying myself. The Shakespeare angle gives it more literary aspirations too, so not so immediate as a purely contemporary story.

Anyway, the point is screenwriting is a very different process from novel writing - as you know - but it's a good exercise to develop some of the skills we need as authors. Scenes are just as important in books, as are character and dialogue. In fiction we paint the canvas with words, but the process of conjuring an image in the reader's head is exactly the same. We both have very little time to grab the reader's attention and must be conscious of finding ways to keep them interested.

I'm enjoying reading these screenplays, all of which were downloaded for free. Find some at these sites:

Simply Scripts
The Internet Movie Script Database
Drew's Script-o-rama

Monday, 10 May 2010

A confession

I've done something terrible and I'm wracked with guilt about it. Yes, I've gone and got an ebook reader. Sorry.

Have I contributed to the End of Publishing As We Know It? Will more bookshops and publishers go to the wall now they can't rely on my purchases? Maybe it's silly, but I'm losing sleep over this. When the day dawns that not one paper book can be found in the entire world, the blood - or ink - will be on my hands.

But it's SO COOL! It's slim and neat and downloading books is SO EASY! It's disturbingly easy, in fact. There are these cool sites that give away free ebooks - imagine that!! So as well as the hundred freebies that came with it I can download to my heart's content. I feel like a kid in a sweet shop, and all in the comfort of my computer chair. No more trudging up to Waterstones or waiting a week for Amazon to pop my order in the post.

I can't help wonder where this will end. If we don't need shops or paper what's to stop us all putting our books online for immediate download? How can copyright be enforced between national boundaries when the Internet is global? Will paper books be a thing of the past?

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A word of caution...

The internet is a big place with lots of free resources. I've written before about the benefits and advice we writers can glean but I've also written about taking care where you get your information, and I'd like to repeat that warning.

Always take internet advice with a pinch of salt.

OK, I have some lovely online buddies but let's face it, most of the people we encounter online are strangers who, however well intentioned they claim to be, could be using the net for their own agenda. I'm not saying everyone is, I'm just saying have a care who you listen to until you know you can trust them. Check out their claims. Google the hell out of everyone. Cultivate a healthy skepticism.

Last year I had my eyes opened in a shocking way when a very large and well established writers' board treated an acquaintance of mine in a very shabby way. It made me realise that self-appointed guardians of the writing community may not be all that. It made me wonder if they aren't being entirely honest with us to suit their own purpose.

Next time you are warned off a particular agency or publisher, take a minute to ask yourself whether the person warning you is acting purely out of altruistic motives or could they possibly be getting any benefit for themselves by thinning the competition. Beware of sites which act as judge and jury without giving you their sources and explaining how they arrived at that decision. It's easy for me to sit here and tell you Santa Claus is really just a great big scammer out to get your milk and cookies, but who benefits if that leaves only my chimney for him to drop down next Christmas?