Thursday, August 30, 2012

Endings, beginnings, a bit of quo vadimus

Feeling a bit quo vadimus today. That's due to a lot of things ending all at once. For example, the current cohort of MA Creative Writing students I help teach at Edinburgh Napier University leaves this week. They get final tutorials tomorrow. Most have been with us a year, part-timers two years. [One part-timer suspended studies for 12 months and has been around - off and on - since our course began back in Sept. 2009.]

In academia, the end of one cohort heralds the arrival of another. We've five part-timers returning for their second year, plus four new part-timers and more than a dozen full-timers. Due to a quirk in scheduling, the new postgraduate academic year isn't starting until the end of September. So there's a longer than usual lull between saying goodbye to a lot of familiar faces and hello to a class full of newcomers. Time to reflect.

This week I finished writing the first draft of a feature film screenplay I've been developing for eight months [on spec, nobody's paying me to write it.] The results are out with three professional script readers and my agent for feedback, so there's nothing more I can do on it right now. You can Read the first ten pages on the Akumu Facebook page. [Feel free to like the page - as with most writers I do crave validation.]

I first had the idea for this project in March 2008 while visiting New Zealand. It was triggered by a creepy painting hanging in the window of an Auckland art gallery. The story's been bubbling away in my head ever since, nagging to be written. I tried developing it for different media, but a feature film screenplay seemed the right choice. [I think it'd make a cracking graphic novel, but that's a discussion for another day.]

Writing the screenplay for a feature film has been on my To Do List for even longer. Every year I set myself a handful of goals to achieve in the coming twelve months. Every year I seem to have included writing a feature on that list, and epically fail. That dates right back to my screenwriting MA at Screen Academy Scotland. I planned to write a feature as my major project in 2007, but realised my project sucked.

A week before the deadline to hand in a final treatment, I abandoned it. That meant I had to devise, develop and write a new major project from scratch over the summer that year. The result helped get me a trial on the BBC TV drama series Doctors, and a much revised version of my script was a finalist in the Red Planet Prize two years later. I made the right choice in 2007, but it left a gap in my writing portfolio.

Having finally accomplished what I'd failed to do for five years, it does beg the question: what do I want to write next? Put it another way - where are we going? I've got a few opportunities I need to follow up. Some new media I'd like to explore, some writing media I'd like to revisit. And I definitely need to develop new story of the day pitches for Doctors, an area where I've let things slide this year. Choices? No problem.

But what's the big project I want to develop next? What's the story I'm most passionate about telling, the one I'm burning to write? I need to choose wisely, as it could well occupy most of my Copious Spare Time™in 2013. This is a project I'll be writing for me, not because it fits a particular brief. I'm not bad at writing within constraints, crafting a story with pre-created characters, worlds or narrative threads.

But my most individual work - the place where my voice as a writer is most apparent - tends to come when I'm not concerning myself too much with formats and constraints. Where I switch that editorial production tendency to invoke limits over imagination. Let my creative side out, ignore that tendency to worry what's possible or practical or preferred. A story only I can write, that's what my next big project has to be. Onwards!

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