Be The Best Writer You Can

“How to Write a Script in Three Weeks” Day 26

That was horrible.

It’s done, but it was a real battle. And rather more than three weeks too.

The biggest problem I found was that pretty soon after I started, and every day since, I was working on the script with one eye on what the blog was going to say.

Sounds insane, but I was actually adjusting my writing practice so that I could ensure I had something different to blog about every day.

Which led to all sorts of dead ends, and lacks of concentration.

That’s the main reason that I stopped blogging so frequently about it – it had just turned from the kind of introverted immersion in writing that produces my best stuff into some wierd kind of trick I was (half) pulling off in front of an audience.

Writing in public? Never again!

But it’s done. So what did I learn?

Radio is very very different to TV. I think very visually, and it was a real battle to tell a story in dialogue and sound effects.

On the other hand, no worries about too many locations. I could go pretty well whereever I liked.

Radio is much much more free than TV. You can play with the form, you can weave in all sorts of meta textural devices, like voice overs, hallucinations, monologues, heightened language, in a way that would get slashed pretty damn quickly from the avowedly naturalistic TV.

There is much less intervention. They trust you as a writer. Though there will be notes – big notes even, maybe colossal notes – I’m sure there is a trust behind it all, in a way TV seemed to abandon about five years ago for most writers I know.

And finally, for the second time in a month, I learned that negelecting my own advice is never wise. As I got closer to the closing scenes I had the sense of the whole damn thing falling apart, that there were too many disparate elements, too many sides to the protagonist’s character, and none of it was weaving together.

I know exactly why this is – I skimped on the treatment phase.

That’s the bit where I write the prose account of the story up in some detail. There is something about this phase that is critical – once I’m writing dialogue I’m too close to the characters and without a very strong structure to rein me in things can get a bit random.

This time I thought, “oh, hell, I’ve done this enough times I can do without the detail on the treatment” and started writing on following a treatment that was little more than bullet points on the back of a napkin.

I certainly started paying for that around day 20.

Remind me if ever you speak to me: Write every day, and DO A PROPER TREATMENT!

But, it’s done, and I even managed to get an extension so that it can go off to the people it’s been written about for their take on the dialogue and the story plausibility. It will all add to the sense of accuracy.

Then it’s off to the Glasgow Seminar tomorrow for two great days with a room full of people, then next week is going to be spent reading other peoples’ work. Phil Shelley has been absolutely swamped this year by scripts in the Channel 4 competition, (over 3,000 scripts received – and I think they had c.600 last year!) and he has been calling in favours hand over fist to help him pick the short list. I’ve volunteered to help read, so over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be looking at a lot of scripts by writers I have never seen before. Looking forward to seeing what’s out there.

But anyway, that is the end of this particular experiment. Thanks for staying with me, and thanks for coming back after the radio silence of the last few days. Over and out!

  1. Congratulations ! this has been not only very interesting but also very inspirational.
    I admire your honesty and thank you for the example you are setting.
    Best wishes,

  2. i heartily second cornelia’s congrats. it was a bold move to do it in public, but a huge relief to me that even seasoned, experienced, organized and wise writers like phil exert mightily to wring a script out of mid-air on a timetable. and more golden advice from within the fray.
    thank you phil…gentleman and scholar you are.

  3. Cornelia thank you for your response. It is refreshing to read positive comments and expressions of appreciation. Do you know where one might get the entire plan for the three-week script?

  4. Nice blog. I enjoy your thoughtfulness and humor. Keeping plugging away for aspiring writers… and three weeks for a screenplay is possible.

  5. Phil
    I stumbled upon your website about a week ago and it’s already one of my favourites. Like others, I really admire your honesty about the writing process. I’m a novice scriptwriter and it makes me feel much more hopeful when I hear a professional admit that writing a script is by no means easy. By the way, I’ve learned the hard way that a fully realised treatment is essential!
    Looking forward to future posts.

  6. Hi,

    Great article, very interesting.

    I am not a writer but I am putting down on a blog, a true experience that happen to me. I have 3 chapters on the blog and many more in draft. Would this kind of story make a good screenplay?

    Thank you,

    Dave Perlmutter

  7. Dave,

    Actually, writing up true stories is sometimes harder than purely fictional stories. It’s often the case that you will desperately want to include material simply because ‘that’s what happened’.

    When you’re writing a screenplay you need to be absolutely free to use and discard material, to invent stuff, to change stuff, to make the script as good as it can be.

    So go ahead, but remember, you’re writing a story, not a diary.

  8. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for your comments.

    If you wish to look at chapter 1 on my blog, the link

    I have other chapters in draft that have been edited. The story is not as a diary.

    If you wish to view other chapters, get in contact.

    Many thanks


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