Slammed through 14 pages of my MA screenwriting course final project yesterday, slinging enough ink to cover most of act three. It's a TV pilot script, divided into four acts as if it were a 60-minute show on a British commercial channel. [My target is 60 pages, which is actually too long for an hour-long drama on ITV or Channel 4 - those commercial breaks can eat up to 10 minutes out of an hour.] So yesterday was all about building the tension to the final commercial break, as the stomm hits the fan bigtime.
When I'm writing this quickly, there's always a danger of flying past obvious or good plot points as they pop up. So I try to give myself a clear hour of thinking time at the end of the day, looking over what I still need to write. All those little things you need to set up for paying off later, that's when they become apparent. So I'll scribble notes down the side of my scene by scene, or on post-it notes.
Do this long enough and my desk is awash in post-it notes. Things I need to do, things to investigate or research, things to remember. Here are today's random words, thoughts and moments I need to retro-fit into what I wrote yesterday before progressing the script: Insert Dante in back of pub scenes Act 3. G - show more affection as he leaves to protect cafe. Cut go through me line. Renata offers to fetch police - G says no.
These are not unlike the notes I scribble when I'm directing a play, or the notes I get when I'm acting. Strictly amateur dramatics, but a lot of fun and a good way to stretch some different creative muscles. If you're a writer, I recommend trying your hand at acting or directing.
It offers you the chance to get on the other side of a script, to experience what it's like for the people who need to make your words work. I'm in rehearsals for a Neil Simon play at the moment, a great comedy writer. But there's a couple of lines I'd dearly love to rewrite.
Even if you're in no rush to make a twit on yourself on stage, taking an acting class or two won't hurt. If nothing else, you get off your chair and out of your house, making a visit to the real world beyond your four walls. The humiliation and embarrassment factor can be high [you should see the state of my hair at the moment, yikes].
Still, acting somebody else's words gives you a fresh perspective on writing your own. Unless they're trying for an Oscar or some other award, no actor will thank you for long, long speeches. Especially if they have to learn those sides for the next day's filming. Less is almost always more.