Monday, July 07, 2008

Short term goals and forward planning

A collision of circumstances has got me thinking forwards. The Screenwriters' Festival was an empowering experience, a bunch of paying projects I've been nurturing for months are shuffling towards becoming live commissions, and not making the BBC Writers' Academy has helped clarify where I'll be in the months ahead. On her blog Miss Read says what she hopes to write before the end of September.

So it's a good time to plot a course for the rest of 2008 and into next year. The past six months have been a barren period for paying work, but that's turning round at last. I've got some audio drama opportunities close to bearing fruit, another novel in danger of being commissioned and several other gigs on the horizon with fees attached. That will make paying bills that little bit easier, so big thumbs up there.

Paying work does cramp the ability to devise and scripts more speculative ventures, but everyone who writes for a living has to find the right balance of time for both sides of that equation. I probably devoted too much of January-June to spec scripts and not enough to paying the bills, but it's by no means an exact science. Grud knows, I spent plenty of time chasing jobs - now that effort's coming good.

But the rest of the 2008 can't just be about making money. I've got two particular spec projects I want to pursue. One is a TV pilot, a comedy thriller with plenty of sass and sauce. Most definitely a post-watershed project, I'm aiming for high concept gloss and a little hard-boiled grittiness. That's for the Red Planet Prize, but it's also for my portfolio, the sort of show I'd like to watch on TV.

The second major spec job is a feature. It's long past time I wrote a full-length screenplay, and I've developed a tale that deserves 90 minutes and cinematic storytelling. Most of my previous efforts have fallen into two categories - short films that couldn't be stretched beyond 30 minutes, and TV projects. But this new story needs room to breath and plenty of silence to satisfy its creeping horror.

Like Miss Read, I'm using a competition to give my writing impetus - there's nothing better than an external deadline to fire the synapses. Both the feature and TV pilot need to be finished and polished by the end of September, so I'll be folding those around paying work in the next three months. Thereafter I should be writing my next novel and a few other paying jobs, plus one last spec job for 2008.

That's right, folks, it's time to stop talking about another radio project and starting writing one. Every writer can always find an excuse not to tackle a difficult, non-urgent task. I'm been fannying about with radio drama for far too long, not giving my play the focus and drive I apply to other projects. Unless I get a TV commission, I will spend time from October-December writing a radio play.

What does that leave to do in 2009? Still need an agent. I did the rounds at the end of last year, got some positive feedback from several big London agencies but no offers. Frankly, my portfolio wasn't up to snuff at the time and my prospects were limited. What agent would take on a new client with a limited portfolio and little chance of making them money? Not me. So there's that still to do.

More projects on my to-do list: get another radio drama commission; get my first TV drama commission; get on to another script workshop and/or mentoring scheme. The first of these is part of my plan for Oct-Dec 2008. The second is something I devoted a lot of the last six months to achieving, and will be doing so again in the months ahead.

The last bears fruits later this month, but I'll so no more now to avoid cursing it. I'm not the world's most superstitious person, but there's no point pushing your luck, right? Right. Onwards.

1 comment:

Laura Anderson said...

Good plan, D. Are you coming to the radio thing on at the book festival?