Be The Best Writer You Can

Why Huge Scripts Notes May Not Be So Bad

I belong to a professional writers group on Facebook, and it’s been a great place over the last year. Writers spend so much time alone it’s quite easy to go off on unhelpful tangents in a lot of ways. This group has been a great help for a lot of us, to exchange news, to ask questions on how to deal with the politics of the whole thing, or, just on a general basis to hear that we’re not alone in various battles, and that, yes, it’s not just you – the industry really is like that!

Plus you get the chance to ask questions of other working writers to see how they deal with things. Priceless!

I thought one of the questions asked this morning was interesting:

“OK, so you know [when you are given] the note that says “Make Jim less X” and you’re thinking… Jim’s not X. He’s never been X. I’ve never known a character be less X than Jim. How do you deal with it?”

THEY DON’T SEE IT LIKE YOU DO

The writer was asking about the gap that seems to crop up all the time between what you, the writer, thinks is on the page, and what the reader sees there. They can be wildly different.

My approach, and a consensus that emerged in the forum is that it can be helpful to make the person who is giving the note show you the precise line(s), or section, or action in the script that is causing them to think this.

If they can’t do that, then, miraculously, the note often disappears and you’re saved a whole mass of directionless rewriting.

If they CAN do it, then look carefully at what they show you, and try to see it from their point of view. I often find that whole, sweeping notes like this can be generated by one or two lines of dialogue that can be very easily flipped, or altered very simply, and that sorts everything out.

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

There are a couple of reasons for that. Characters tend to change, and evolve, and sometimes you can lose grip on your character for a moment, and an earlier version of the character can surface for a moment or two.

Or sometimes you’re so in love with a specific line, or moment, that you crowbar it in regardless of whether it really belongs.

Or sometimes your thought is right, but you haven’t written it very well. Happens to the best of us.

Conclusion? An apparently big, nasty, major rewrite-y note might not be nearly so bad as you think!

Second conclusion – writing is a lonely business. It’s great to talk things through with other people. A good place to do that on this site is here.

MAD GIRL

Last year I wrote a play for Radio 4 play. You may remember that I blogged about while I was writing was finally broadcast yesterday.

If you want to hear it (and, you’re in the UK) you can listen to it here until the 20th November.

It was based on extensive interviews with two mental health service users almost two years ago now. One of them, Morgan, has a blog.

Do have a look. It’s a remarkable read.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS?

Philip Shelley and I are running two more Screenwriting Courses in January and March. The usual mixture of lecture, workshop, lively discussion, and all attendees get to meet either Tanya Tillet, literary agent at Knight Hall, or Ben Stoll (Head of Drama Development at C4) and Matthew Bouch, (Independent producer of “Big Fat Wedding”, “Being Human” and “The Sarah Jane Adventures” amongst others).

Find out more here

Tickets are selling steadily but there are still places available on both. Why not ask for a place for Christmas?

1 Comment
  1. Your R4 play is no longer available at

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ntfvx

    So often the case.

    I’ve asked them if they can’t afford the servers or what without answer. Tweeted my annoyance at least twice at why a massive media corp such as the Beeb which has invested so heavily in their website ends up with half their progs not there.

    Have you got an answer to this and have you discovered why progs don’t stay up permanently?

    What they are not thinking about is how many links out there which one comes across to progs that are no longer available. This obviously is not good for the BBC. I can’t see in the digital age why the lot shouldn’t be up, regardless of when they were first aired.

    Even more annoying is where a radio or tv series of say 8 parts has the earlier episodes pretty quickly lopped off. If you come late, you’ve had your chips.

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