Submitted my entry for the Red Planet Prize yesterday. Opted for the first ten pages from Taking Liberties, my TV drama serial pilot. It's had several drafts, been through the power of three twice and is easily my most polished work to date. Taking Liberties tackles some big issues, but tells them through a small, personal story. Should the first ten pages prove good enough to get me into the next round of judging, I've already got the rest of the script in hand. It could do with a dialogue pass to punch up a few key scenes and better delineate the characters' voices, but it's in pretty good shape.
The Red Planet Prize winner gets £5000, a script commission on a Red Planet Pictures show and guaranteed representation. Much as I'd love to have all of those things [I mean, who doesn't need five grand? Besides J.K. Rowling], I'm just as interested in the contest's small print. For a start, the final judging panel includes Stephen Fry, Mark Gatiss and Julie Gardner, head of drama commissioning at the BBC. Even if you don't win, it's the chance to get your work read by some key figures within the industry. And there's more: The finalists will all spend a workshop day with Tony Jordan and receive mentoring from Red Planet Pictures.
This sounds like my idea of heaven. Over the past year I've found I love group writing and collaboration, being in a room with others writers throwing ideas around. The way one person's idea will spark off three others. The creative energy this kind of gestalt entity can generate when well motivated and well managed - it's exhilarating. I'm finding the act of solo writing an increasingly tough discipline. Maybe I'm pining for office life or simple human contact, but staring at a screen alone for months on end is somewhat soul-destroying. A necessary evil, but still somewhat soul-destroying.
That's probably why I'm a sprint writer when it comes to first drafts of novels. I try to frontload all my preparation and research, so when I need to bash out a first draft, it's as quick a process as humanly possible. Leisurely honing 500 words of purple prose a day would drive me mental. My brain simply isn't wired that way, it's why I'll never be a literary novelist or even a prose stylist. My novels are plainly written, no great poetry to be found in the pages. I'm all about the storytelling. Get that right and my work soars. Make an arse of the story and the book sucks. As an editor once told me, I have no poetry in my soul. Somebody put story there instead.