Been a madcap three weeks of late in which I've done little writing of note. It begin with the final thrash to finish my Warhammer novel. I got that done the day before the local theatre workshop started performances of George Bernard Shaw's epic play Major Barbara. I say epic because we never managed to finish a performance before 10.45 each night. I had a supporting role in that, but was still left exhausted by the experience. From there the town plunged straight into the fourth annual Biggar Little Festival - nine days of events, performances and exhibitions. The festival now has 18 different venues and close to a hundred events - not bad for a town of only 2000 people.
Tonight I'm performing in Mostly Mozart, a workshop performance of popular opera excerpts. It's the third year this has been staged during the festival. First year I was helping backstage, last year I helped bulk out the chorus and this year I've been given a few lines in an ensemble. Never thought I'd be singing opera, even in a small scale workshop setting - strange the places life can take you sometimes. Mostly Mozart is my last performance for the year. I'm helping to produce the local pantomime, but am neither directing, writing nor acting in it. That's the first time in three years I've not been involved in at least one of those capacities, and I only missed it in 2003 because I went home to New Zealand to see the family.
I decided to withdraw from the panto and whatever the Biggar Theatre Workshop stages as its spring 2007 show due to pressure of work. It was starting the mentoring project that brought home to me how much more time, effort and creative energy I needed to put into my writing if I wanted to make progress with it. You have to make sacrifices in one area of your life if you want success in another. So I'm giving up acting and directing for the next six months, to make the most of my opportunities.
Yesterday was my third meeting with mentor Adrian Mead and the two other mentees. Had a horrendous journey into Glasgow, where a seven-mile tailback on the M8 forced me to drive through the city centre to reach the venue. I allowed 75 minutes for the drive, but it took double that time and I arrived an hour late - extremely frustrating. It kind of knocked me sideways and I struggled to focus on my own project, but I think I made some useful contributions to what the other two mentees are working on. They now have definite plots and structures for the scripts they're planning write, but mine still seems elusive.
I'm never comfortable on a project till I have my structure, my roadmap. Right now I'm vacillating between writing a premise pilot, telling the origin story of my lead character, or writing a typical episode as the pilot that teases out elements of the origin story as it goes along. I think the latter is the stronger option, but it's a tricky balancing act to pull off. Plus a cogent suggestion from Adrian has forced me to step back and rethink elements of my approach to the lead character. There's a danger the lead can become too high concept and cease to have a distinctive character of his own, stopping being somebody the audience can empathise with and care about what happens to him next. So, plenty of thinking to do before the next meeting.
Also developing the feature idea I'm writing for my screenwriting MA course. Back to college today, for a double session with tutor James Mavor. We had TV director Paul Holmes in last week and he pointed out something I hadn't noticed about my story, a weakness that needed addressing, so that was useful. I'll be missing at least three, if not four, of the next five Fridays at college. I'm on a radio drama lab the next three Thursdays and Friday, working with BBC Scotland development producer David Ian Neville. Then it's back to college for one week, before heading down to That Fancy London for the TAPS script editing course.
Somewhere in there I've got to write and submit two assignments at college; write the bulk of a novel for Black Flame; tweak a feature article for the Megazine; write a Phantom script for Egmont Sweden; and grud knows what else that I haven't remembered. And that's why tonight is my last performance on stage until next autumn. I've got six or seven months left on the mentoring project, and slightly longer on my MA course. I need to turn these opportunities into stepping stones. If this were a movie or a motivation talk, no doubt somebody would start playing Eminem's Lose Yourself in the background at this point. Anyway, this brief transitional period is coming to an end and hardcore writing resumes. Onwards!