2018 so far: Productivity Up. Quality…

I started this blog with all the best intentions. I thought that if I had a place to talk/write about writing then that might inspire me to write more. Turns out, actually writing inspires me to write more, yet here I am with another sporadic blog post.

At the turn of the year, I decided that I wanted to write more and that I would force myself to be more productive with my writing in 2018: I wanted to enter more competitions and in doing so, would be forced to write things outside of my comfort zone which is important for anybody who wants to be creative. Break out of your safe zone. So this year I have put forward entries in flash fiction, poetry and short story competitions. The feedback I have had from those entries has been more useful than you could ever imagine. What’s more, when I’ve read said feedback, I have found myself wondering why I didn’t spot those “improvement needed” areas before sending them off in the first place.

Anyway, whilst working on smaller projects in the background (a short horror story for another competition), I am also writing my first feature length screenplay since leaving university in 2013. Maybe it’s not my first since then actually, but I intend to make it the first I have finished. And it may be down to the passion that I have for it.

I love superheroes and everything the stories about them teach us and tell us about society. The script I am working on at the moment (potentially titled Rust) centres on a man with a unique gift – a superpower if you like – but rather than being a galaxy-exploring, shield-wielding billionaire playboy with big explosions and super-suits, I’m attempting to make a more grounded and a more personal story. That being said, I am having some trouble injecting the level of emotion I’m after, but that can be amended in a later draft. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

For Christmas I received Write a Script in 10 Weeks by Tim Clague and Danny Stack which has come in super handy. It’s helped me to break down a daunting 90-100 page screenplay idea into manageable chunks week by week and it has influenced me in making a definite writing timeline that I can stick to easily, no matter what is going on around me. And my writing is all the better for it.

I’m about halfway through those 10 weeks now and I have 47 pages of my first draft written and am reasonably happy with the direction in which the story is heading which is a real positive for me. I’ll keep on writing short stories on the side, but I’m looking forward to completing Rust within the next five weeks too.

Why I Give up Writing.

There’s a fine line between love and hate and depending on the day, my relationship with writing could fall either side of that line. On one hand, I really enjoy coming up with new ideas, creating good characters with interesting relationships and building a world for them to inhabit. But on the other hand, there’s the stress, pressure and self-doubt that comes into play when I sit down to type at laptop or when I pick up a pen and put it to paper.

Today, I have come up with a new novel idea. I have sat at my desk to try and write a second draft of my favourite short story that I’ve ever written. And I’ve also said that I am giving up writing, that I’m no good at it and that it is pointless for me to even continue to try and write. I’ve not had much success.

In fact, the only success I have had from writing came from being a ‘highly commended’ entry in a writing magazine competition. This might be part of the problem: when I sit down to write I don’t see any end game in sight, and I don’t see myself making any great strides or progress towards being a published author. Though, when I don’t write and I spend my time instead playing on the playstation or reading articles about films instead of writing, I feel angry with myself that I’ve not done anything to help my writing.

So I’ve got myself a schedule of where I want to be at weekly intervals with my writing after picking out a few competitions I think I can enter. This afternoon, I sat down to redraft my favourite short story and I hated it. A couple of days ago I went through the story, highlighted the good parts, pointed out the bad and decided what changes needed to be made. Rather naively, I thought that would make writing the second draft a lot easier.

I didn’t even get halfway through the second draft before I gave up. It was awful. In no way was it better than the first draft. The characters weren’t jumping off the page like they had the first time I’d written the story, the world didn’t seem as interesting after the changes I had made to the structure. It was a bad story, it was poorly written and it was incredibly inferior to the first draft.

Maybe I had sat down in the wrong frame of mind, just wanting to get it redrafted and out of the way, but this is how I feel a lot of the time. As I mentioned before, the fun part for me is having the idea and crafting it into something that can become a story, but when I try to write any of them I feel like I’m doing them an injustice. I have so many ideas in my head that I struggle to focus on any one of them for a long enough time to ever make the progress that I want to see.

Last year I finished the first draft of my novel, Queen of Hell Rising, and what have I done with that since? I’ve made an effort to read through it and evaluate the chapters, see what makes sense and what doesn’t, but I don’t have the passion or motivation to do that. The worst part is that I don’t know why I don’t want to do it because actually writing the novel was greatly enjoyable and I do think it’s a genuinely good piece of writing.

Maybe I just need to sit myself down and focus on a long term project, or maybe I should have a stern word with myself and get better at redrafting. Or maybe I just need to give up on my dream of being a writer altogether, which seems a lot easier and a lot more desirable at this point in time.

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.