Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My report card for 2010 - part 2

There's a lot of things I didn't do, or choose not to do this year. I stopped writing prose fiction after getting mucked about royally for much of 2008 on two proposed novels. To be honest, I haven't missed it. Teaching has filled that space, perhaps. I still have novels I want to write, but for now I'm enjoying other media too much.

I've also gotten out of the comics writing habit. Must be nearly two years since I scripted a new adventure for the Phantom. It got lost in the shuffle, thanks to teaching and TV drama commissions. But I'm working on a couple of story pitches this week, so it's likely I'll be squeezing some comics writing into 2011.

Didn't do a lot of non-fiction during 2010. The publisher of The Complete Inspector Morse sold its list to another company and I've been in discussions with them about an updated edition. There's been a lot of Morse activity, with eight new eps of Lewis [plus four more next spring], and a Morse stage. So that's another project for 2011.

I started a new TV drama calling card script, but it got sidelined by pressing deadlines for paying gigs. That has to change next year. My present calling card isn't bad, but needs rewriting. Plus it's a period piece. Downton Abbey may have taken the curse off period drama, but only if you've got big name talent attached to it.

My new spec is a contemporary piece, a project I'm really passionate about. Being away from it for several months has given me a clearer perspective [as is often the case]. Suspect that when I revisit it, I'll find it's over-stuffed with storylines and needs paring back to give the characters some room to breath, to establish themselves.

I marked a lot of student work in recent weeks. Nothing like seeing the flaws in somebody else's story to make you think on the niggling issues of your own. When in doubt, I've a tendency to add extra plotlines and story threads, rather than digging deeper into the characters I've got, their attitudes, their needs, wants and flaws.

So I have to keep that at the forefront of my mind when I return to my spec. Happily, it's got no further than the scene by scene. I can take it back to treatment stage, strip away the extraneous crapola and get to the heart of my characters. That's where I need to make the writing shine for the calling card to work on my behalf.

What else didn't I do in 2010? Didn't apply for the BBC Writers' Academy. Agonised long and hard about that decision. I knew I needed a new writing sample and didn't have one that felt good enough to submit, for a start. My knowledge of Holby, Casualty and EastEnders was a bit rusty, so that was another factor against going for it.

Getting in the academy is one in 100 odds. In the unlikely event I ever did get in, it would mean three months living hundreds of miles away from home with no chance of commuting. It would mean giving up family, friends and teaching. It would mean writing Doctors, Holby, Casualty and EastEnders - and nothing else. Total commitment.

The academy route isn't the only way forward. I got on to Doctors without it, and am making progress with my career goals, my ambitions. But I'm taking the long, slow route. Getting in the academy effectively turbo-charges parts of your writing career, offers shortcuts that circumvent the long, slow route. It's an alluring option.

In the next month or two I need to make my decision again - go for the academy in 2011, or stick with my own path. Guess that's a watch this space not. In the meantime, I need to set myself some goals for the coming year. Can't guarantee they'll all be specific, measurable and the rest of the SMART acronym, but I'll do my best.

So, what are my key objectives for 2011?

1. Write a new calling card TV drama script.

2. Get at least one new commission for Doctors.

3. Secure a commission for children's TV.

4. Write a feature screenplay.

The calling card TV drama script and screenplay are done to me. The commissioned-based goals do rely on other people for the vital yes, but will only happen if I devote time, wit and creative energy to preparation and securing opportunities. All these are achievable, but require hard work and discipline. Twas always thus. Onwards!


Philip Palmer said...

Sounds like a hugely productive 2010...good luck with the feature screenplay! And your point about the Academy is a good one - SUCH focus. In my day (yeah yeah, I'm an old fart) the regulars on shows like that did so much other stuff as well. OR they came from theatre (Jimmy McGovern, or my friend Lisa Evans, still one of th best Casualty writers of all time). The Academy is an amazing thing and I'm sure it's a force for good; but it's changed the ecology of TV irrevocably.

Hey, is it snowing up in Scotland??

Christine said...

Yes Good luck!