A New Writing Year

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I remember a few years ago sitting in the living room telling a friend of mine that “next year is the year I’m really going to do something with my writing” and of course, said year came and went without me making any significant inroads in my writing career at all. This has been the case for the past four or five years now and I have said it again about 2018, but something feels different about it this time. Perhaps for the first time, the sentence has meaning behind it and, more importantly, passion.

A few months ago I found myself wanting to give up on writing and just try and get on with having an ordinary career and forget about the dizzy heights of publication and Hollywood. I could finally throw away that Oscars acceptance speech which had been in my drawer since I finished the first draft of my first ever screenplay.

As I sit here at the beginning of 2018 though, I am hesitant to call the feeling I have right now optimism. My girlfriend bought me a few writing books for Christmas which has helped to ignite the dormant spark inside. In my new writing diary I have made a list of competitions that I intend to enter throughout the year. I have selected six focusing on short stories and flash fiction (I feel like the length of flash fiction will challenge my writing styles so I want to give it more of a try) but I am also aiming to enter all twelve of the monthly flash fiction competitions ran by Writer’s Forum, my favourite magazine about writing.

Whilst I am not expecting to win any of the competitions I enter I am looking forward to having deadlines for my writing and embracing the challenging limited word counts. This will also force me to come up with new ideas which I could then even expand and build up to become something more.

All the time I’m working on submissions for competitions I intend to have a larger project going on in the background: projects I have had in mind for some time. There are four main tasks I want to complete for what I deem to be “bigger projects”. The first is completing the first draft of a novel I have been working on since November and should really have finished by now. This will be followed by a screenplay for a television pilot influenced by the works of Tony Jordan (Hustle, By Any Means). Waiting for me for over a year has been the first draft of a fantasy novel that I need to revise and polish into a more coherent and better developed second draft. And the fourth project on my list is a screenplay for a children’s television pilot that pays homage to the likes of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and W.I.T.C.H (an animated series from the mid-noughties based on the Italian comics of the same name).

I must admit, writing this it appears to me that I have a lot that I want to do. And that is just my writing, I’ve not even mentioned that I’m looking to also get a board game idea developed into the prototype stage by the end of the year. It looks as though I’ll have less time for LEGO, the PlayStation and watching TV this year, but here’s hoping that by the 31st December 2018, I will have achieved all of my writing aims for the year.

Happy new year folks!

How Many Ideas Actually Exist?

Writing has a lot of questions but very rarely does it provide concrete answers. Like the short story post I wrote recently, if you google this question you’ll get answers that range from 1, 2 or 7 to 36 or even hundreds.

Take Avatar for example. The highest grossing film of all time. Is it not very similar to The Last Samurai, which in turn is very similar to Pocahontas which is probably very similar again to a film that came out before that. Ideas are recycled, reused and resold. And audiences love that.

Hollywood has taken this idea very literally in recent years by churning out sequels, prequels, spin-offs, adaptations and remakes like nobody’s business. Hollywood being lamented for a lack of originality is becoming as common as Meryl Streep bagging an award. Yet the types of films mentioned above – more often than not – become hits.

There’s something to be said for being similar to other projects, especially successful ones. Despite the fact that agents, publishers and competition hosts will often ask for something different, what they seem to really want is a new slant on an already told story. Think about it, when Twilight was all the rage, how many more Vampire television programs and films were made? They all – as far as I know – had a different slant on the Vampire story but I’d wager every one of them featured a human falling in love with a Vampire as is so often a trope of the genre, but because they were similar to something successful, they were given a shot. If people like one Vampire project, why wouldn’t they like another? It’s logical at the very least.

The reason I bring this up is because last night I discovered the film Splice. The plot of which “concerns experiments in genetic engineering being done by a young scientific couple, who attempt to introduce human DNA into their work of splicing animal genes”. For those – if there are any – that read my blog regularly, you may notice that sounds incredibly similar to the short story I’m writing at the moment. I have never seen Splice before, yet I fear now I may be inadvertently ripping it off.

I think there are two ways you can go when this happens. Either let it put you off and try (and inevitably fail) to find a brand new story that’s never been done before, or you use it as inspiration and motivation to make yours the best version of the story there can be. The latter is what I hope to achieve, but I feel like I should watch Splice first.