Tag Archives: writing

Time To Write

We all lead busy lives and feel the pressure to cram every waking moment with useful activity. But sometimes, to really think deeply about our writing, what we most need is time without distractions.

We’ve all become adept at multi-tasking, but when we cram every hour with multiple tasks we can tick off our ‘to-do’ list, we’re not multi-tasking at all, we’re simply snatching tiny bits of time for each task.

nature - blue sky with cloud

Fitting your writing around a day-job is a challenge faced by almost all screenwriters in their early days. And while having a routine and writing a little bit every day is crucial if you want to get two spec scripts completed every year, sometimes you need more than that. You need time away.

You might be able to use your annual holiday to focus on your writing, although family and friends might have other ideas! Or you might decide to really get away from it all and go on a screenwriting retreat.

Escaping from work, chores, family and friends will help you to reconnect with your writing, whether you’re exploring new ideas, struggling with a knotty story problem or trying to find your characters. Sometimes you need to give yourself the time and space to nurture yourself and your writing.

 

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What Writers Can Learn from 4Screenwriting by Xandria Horton

One of the things that I love about Script Angel is its focus on opportunities for new writers, so the blog seemed an obvious place to summarise my recent experience as a Shadow Script Editor on Channel 4’s talent initiative 4Screenwriting – with some thoughts other writers can take from it.

4sw logoWhat is 4Screenwriting and why is it brilliant?

4Screenwriting is a broadcaster-affiliated talent scheme run by highly experienced script editor Philip Shelley, currently in its 4th year. For each year’s twelve selected writers, they are given six months to take an idea through two drafts of a commercial hour (46’) script, creating the first episode of a series or serial (ideally with Channel 4 in mind). The course also has a script editor training element; allowing shadow script editors a chance to develop their skills by working to industry-proven script editors.

The writers get a “sandbox” version of a script commission, with a small amount of funding, set deadlines and opportunities for notes from their script editor team at each stage – as close as you can get to a real script commission, without the production element.

Once the course is completed, writers can use their spec script as a calling card in the industry, creating a buzz with literary agents and production companies who are keen to be across talent coming through and hopefully resulting in meetings that further their careers. Success stories are numerous, most recently with alumni Anna Symon and Cat Jones, who have both gone on to write for primetime TV series.

So, with insights from me and my excellent fellow shadow script editors Carissa Hope Lynch, Harriet Davis and Joe Williams, I’ve pooled some tips writers can take from our 4Screenwriting experience:

Working with the professionals

The scheme introduces writers to the process of working with a script editor, which can be strange for writers used to working alone. It also introduces to writers the concept of the dreaded deadline!

What can you learn from this?: whilst you may have in place trusted feedback-givers, there’s really nothing like the impartial and constructive notes you will get from a good script editor or industry-proven consultant. In terms of meeting deadlines, it’s important that you make all and any writing deadlines you agree to. However, if something happens that is beyond your control, the best way to handle it is:

1/ to flag this as soon as possible to the appropriate person;

2/ tell them realistically what you can deliver and when; if one element is more urgent than the others, can you prioritise this and deliver within the original time frame?;

3/ agree a new deadline and move heaven and Earth to make it!

Network a.k.a. ‘it’s good to talk’

The scheme provides opportunities for writers to talk to others at similar points in their career, which can be greatly useful, both personally and professionally.

What can you learn from this?: Meet with your writer peers! Find or start a writer’s group on Meetup (they are all around the country) or attend events such as The London Screenwriter’s Festival or BAFTA Rocliffe and seek out friendly faces in the opportunities to mingle.

What’s in a TV idea?

Unsurprisingly, some ideas will only really reveal whether they will work in a series or serial format – if at all – after some exploration, so some writers had to use backup ideas or go back to the drawing board to find the right idea to progress to script stage.

What can you learn from this?: If you want to work in the industry, it’s essential you’re across British output; it’s as simple as that. Whilst it won’t ensure that every idea you come up with is a bona fide TV idea, you’ll get industry knowledge as to who is making what, and watching TV widely (UK, US, internationally) will develop your instincts on which stories intrinsically work in a TV format and which may be more suited to film or theatre. Even if it’s just the opening episode of every new series, it’s really useful to watch TV as broadly as you can.

Also, if you’re ever in a pitching situation (e.g. pitching to a producer for an episode commission on an existing series or pitching to a production company your own series ideas), however married you are to your favourite idea, it’s always useful to have a couple you’ve worked up a little as well in your back pocket, just in case you need them!

Writing to act breaks – a punctuation metaphor

For 4Screenwriting the brief was a script that would fit within a Channel 4 schedule, rather than a BBC full hour slot, so it was a new experience for many writers to write to ‘act breaks’.

What can you learn from this?: how this works this will vary depending on your story (and your broadcaster). However, we came up with a useful way of thinking about the shape of the story with act breaks:

If your story is a paragraph and each scene is a sentence, how you utilise punctuation is a great metaphor of writing to act breaks; ending those sentences before a break to ensure that the viewers’ interest is piqued. What’s the screenwriting equivalent of scene ending with a ‘?’, an ‘!’ or a ‘…’?

Many thanks again to the input from my fellow shadow script editors on this article; to the very brilliant and experienced script editor I worked to, Jamie Hewitt; to the three brilliant writers I was lucky to work with; and of course to Philip, for tirelessly working to make the course go as smoothly as it does each year. If you ever see him at a 4Screenwriting networking event, he won’t miss a moment to connect a writer to agents and production companies that might be useful to them. 4Screenwriting is a brilliant experience for writers and script editors coming through – long may it continue!

 

 

Investing In Your Screenwriting Career

We’ve all heard that it takes 10,000 of practice to become a virtuoso piano player or tennis champ. While the hours might be debatable there is little doubt about the principle behind it; to get better at something you have to actually do it, a LOT! Are you really investing enough of your time in your screenwriting to make the progress you want?

notepad and paperHere are some of the best ways to invest in yourself as a screenwriter:

1) Join A Writing Group (locally or online)

Pros: It’s probably free, you can use it to make commitments about how much writing you’ll do in between get-togethers and get your group to hold you to it, great for peer review of each other’s scripts.

Cons: You might be in a group of writers with less experience than you so might feel you’re not learning very much.

Tips: Be open to meeting new people.

2) Take A Class or Course

Pros: You can find courses running a few weekends or a year or more, it encourages you to make a time and financial commitment so you’re more likely to put the work in, good courses set homework which further encourages you to get the writing done.

Cons: Although many courses offer some feedback on what you’ve written, the time pressures on course leaders means the feedback can be very limited, teaching can be a bit generalised.

Tips: Figure out what you want to get out of the course and then find one that best suits your needs.

3) Go On A Writing Retreat

Pros: It forces you to invest a chunk of uninterrupted time you might struggle to achieve any other way, being in a different environment encourages new ways of thinking so you don’t keep repeating thought patterns, improving your chances of producing something new and different, chance to meet other writers.

Cons: It is essentially a holiday so it’s a relatively pricey way of getting quite a short chunk of writing time.

Tips: Decide what’s most important to you (location, retreat leader, feedback opportunities) and then research what’s out there.

4) Attend A Screenwriting ConferenceLondon Screenwriters’ Festival, Screenwriters World Conference (L.A or New York), Great American Pitch Fest

Pros: Most have great pitching opportunities, committing to it gives you a deadline to polish work you can pitch there, intensive, immersive, chance to meet lots of other writers and hear from industry experts.

Cons: Might feel a bit pricey for a few days, though LSF has a payment plan to spread the cost.

Tips: Commit early then plan a schedule to get work ready, building in time to get feedback on your scripts / pitches and rewrite accordingly before you go.

5) Get Professional Feedback On Your Script

Pros: Notes should inspire a constructive rewrite, screenwriting advice is tailored to you and your writing strengths and weaknesses.

Cons: Can be pricey and quality of feedback ranges enormously.

Tips: Get recommendations from fellow writers and check out the credentials of those offering feedback.

6) Find A Mentor / Coach

Pros: A good mentor will give you personalised script feedback on a portfolio of work, set goals and deadlines with you, offer support and advice, they are interested in helping you develop as a screenwriter.

Cons: Pricey, you need to put the writing in to make it worth your time and money.

Tips: Make sure you give yourself enough time every week to do the writing so your mentor regularly has work to respond to.

 

 

 

9 Tips On Creating A Following Online For Your Project

Lizzies_Story_Kindle_JPEGGuest Post By Lucy V aka @Bang2write

The savvy writer knows it’s not **just** about the project, but its following online that helps drive interest, thus sales. Publishers, producers, networks and film companies now talk of “transmedia distribution strategies” or “multi platform writing”. This creates ways of ensuring the story can go “beyond” its source material, especially online via social media, which has essentially become the modern “word of mouth”, drawing in projects’ potential target audiences.

It was with this in mind I created the transmedia series, LIZZIE’S DIARY, going live on Twitter and Facebook on March 1st 2014, to support my novel, THE DECISION: LIZZIE’S STORY , also published in March.

Already, my transmedia efforts have a following of about a thousand people, so how can you create similar, WITHOUT having to resort to buying them?

1) Start Early.

I cannot stress this enough. Most authors and filmmakers create a project, then launch it into cyberspace to the sound of **crickets**. You need to create a sense of anticipation BEFORE a project comes out and yes, this can include before it’s published or produced! Why not? It might even make your novel or screenplay more attractive in the marketplace. More on how to do this, next.

2) Go Multi Platform.

If you have minimal or zero platform online, know this: you need to be EVERYWHERE you possible can. You should have a website, Twitter and Facebook as an absolute minimum – and make sure you and your project are easy to find.

If you have an existing platform, like I do with B2W, feed your new project INTO that one: I chose Twitter and Ask.Fm, plus Facebook as The Decision Book Series and Pinterest as The Decision: YOUR Story.

Link up all your various social media profiles, so if you update Ask.Fm, Pinterest, or whatever it will also update on Facebook and Twitter automatically. Don’t worry about this being “too much”. It isn’t (and anyone who says it is will unfollow you anyway, don’t sweat it).

3) Find allies.

A no-brainer. This may include friends of yours (both real life and online), or it may include organisations that campaign on the issue you write about. I have teamed up with teen pregnancy/pro choice allies like @prymface @TracyEngelb and @NatashaVianna on Twitter, but also Paul Irwin’s amazing YA “Try Life” web series on Facebook. Blog-wise, amongst others, I’ve asked Hayley to host this guest post for me. Thanks Hayley!

4) Net any audience you can …

Another no-brainer. The average Facebook user apparently has 200 friends, so invite all of them to your page for starters. Link your Facebook page and Twitter account. Share interesting content from anywhere (ie. links) that form part of your project’s remit. In my case, I predominantly started off sharing articles about teenagers and social issues.

5) … NOW Identify your target audience.

After launching my social media profiles for my project, I took a look at the page’s “insights”: this is on the admin bar at the top of your page and tells you who your audience actually are. Unsurprisingly, at first the majority was not teenagers, but my age group … But THE DECISION: Lizzie’s Story is a YA book, so where to find young people? Answer: research. I discovered the majority are on Twitter, using hashtags like #teens #teenagers and #teenageproblems or on Ask.Fm. I read everything they were posting for ideas. Quite an education!

6) NOW start tailoring your approach.

So, I discovered the following about teens … On social media they are generally surprisingly conservative and/or switched on (no youth-based stereotypes, thank you), talking about the following with frequency:

  1. Music
  2. School
  3. Friends
  4. Parents
  5. Celebrities (especially Jennifer Lawrence & Harry Styles)
  6. Exams
  7. Bullying
  8. Depression and/or self harm
  9. Race
  10. Gender

I started to up the frequency of the links I shared on these subjects, but after seeing a number of retweets and shares for photographs with quotes on, I started to do those, too – and discovered my “online reach” went up by about 300%!! In other words, knowing your target audience pays dividends.

7) Give followers an opportunity to engage – and engage with them.

Ask questions, or for people’s thoughts on various subjects and situations. Use hashtags to open the door further and bring people to your project. Don’t ignore your @s and comments; even if it’s just to say “thanks”, DO IT. If someone is angry or disagrees, don’t accuse them of being a troll or block them; talk to them, but know where to draw the line.

8) Do whatever it takes …

Did you know that most RTs contain links? Or that if you write the words “please retweet”, you’re more likely to get one? Or that the majority of Facebook shares are infographics, photos and cartoons? Or that Pinterest has people pinning every imaginable niche interest going? Or that adults like the questions on Quora, but teens prefer Ask.Fm? Or that there’s a hashtag on Twitter called #TeamFollowBack, the etiquette being that if you follow a person with that #, they HAVE to follow you back? Or that some people will “hate read” your content, just so they can complain/counter everything you post (who cares, it’s a follow)! It’s all about research, again! Don’t skimp.

9) … But don’t ever SPAM.

Cross posting is fine and even desirable in various groups, as long as you follow the rules (if applicable … Though do know sometimes admins will be jobsworths because they can). Don’t ever copy and paste @s on Twitter: people will BLOCK you. It’s also counterproductive to post to people’s individual Facebook walls on a regular basis without an agreement in place first. Also, try not to post the same pictures or text over and over again if you can; try and mix it up. MORE: 6 Ways Not To Annoy The Crap Out Of People Online.

But most of all, be INTERESTING. And people will follow your project!

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BIO: Lucy V Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via Bang2write. She’s one of the organisers of London Screenwriters’ Festival and associate producer of the Brit Thrillers DEVIATION (2012) and ASSASSIN (2014), both starring Danny Dyer. To keep up with LIZZIE’S DIARY, “Like” the Facebook page.

Screenwriting Podcasts

Want to immerse yourself in the world of screenwriting? Listen to screenwriting chat and words of wisdom in these fab podcasts:

UK Scriptwriters Podcast – http://dannystack.blogspot.co.uk/p/uk-scriptwriters-podcast.html

Nerdist Writers’ Panel – http://www.nerdist.com/podcast/nerdist-writers-panel

What Are You Laughing At – http://www.comedy.co.uk/podcasts/british_comedy_podcast/

Script Magazine TV Writer Podcast – http://www.scriptmag.com/multimedia/podcasts/

John August Script Notes Podcast – http://johnaugust.com/podcast

Jeff Goldsmith Q&A – http://www.theqandapodcast.com/

BAFTA Podcast – http://www.bafta.org/

The Empire Film Podcast – http://www.empireonline.com/podcast/

On The Page Screenwriting Podcast – http://onthepagepodcast.com/

If you know of any others worth a listen share in the comments below.

Essential Reading for Screenwriters – and then some more…

Also well worth a read:

Writing Television Drama by Nicholas Gibbs

Writing Movies for Fun and Profit by Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant

The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J Michael Straczynski

Essential Reading for Screenwriters:

Poetics by Aristotle

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

Story by Robert McKee

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapeter by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook

The Insider’s Guide to Writing for Television by Julian Friedmann and Christopher Walker

 

Essential Reading for Screenwriters

Here’s my recommendations:

Poetics by Aristotle

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

Story by Robert McKee

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale: The Final Chapeter by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook

The Insider’s Guide to Writing for Television by Julian Friedmann and Christopher Walker

If you know of others that have really helped you, let us know by adding a comment.