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.

The Weight of Self Pressure

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Over the last decade or so, becoming a writer has not only been a primary goal of mine, but it seems more achievable now for me than it has in the past. I can’t really explain why that is; perhaps its because there are so many ways now to get your writing out there, or perhaps it is because that everything I write teaches me something new – about either myself or the writing process. I know I’m still a long way of achieving my main aim of having a novel published or a script sold, but I feel I’m making progress, no matter how small.

One thing that I believe is stopping me is the incredible amount of pressure that I put on myself, which in turn turns into self-doubt, which then creates a negative impression of my writing that I just can’t turn off. This has increased over the past decade in tandem with the above. It is when I compare my experience of writing two feature length film scripts years apart that I can see just how much pressure I am putting on myself now. And how that is taking away the fun from a hobby that I used to enjoy a lot more. The two scripts in question were:

Navanho. Set in the fantasy kingdom of Navanho, King Gabriel’s palace is overrun by his half-brother who banishes Gabriel from the kingdom and takes his baby daughter to raise for his own, in his own image. Gabriel brings together a team of mercenaries – including old friends and new acquaintances – to take back his kingdom and rescue his daughter.

Beyond the Veil. A journalist investigating a series of kidnappings is thrust into the centre of his own story when his son becomes the latest victim. After finding out the children are being smuggled to a different dimension, our hero must visit the second world and face off with some familiar faces to find out why his son was targeted.

Oh… it wasn’t until I just wrote both of the synopses out side by side that I realised how similar the two stories are.

Navanho was the first script that I ever wrote (way back when scripped.com was a thing) and seems to have been lost in the ether now. It may have a simple story which is similar to many fantasy novels/films but it will always have a place in my heart because it was the first project I had seen through from start to finish and is exactly the kind of film that I would love to see on the big screen. I remember writing Navanho just to see if I could. To see if I had it in me to write a full length feature film. And I did. I think it’s for this reason that it will always be my favourite piece of writing I have ever done. The point is though, when I wrote Navanho I wrote it for myself, knowing that it was a project being written out of passion and was not meant for other people’s eyes. This completely sucked the pressure out of the project because if it was bad, what did it matter?

When I came up with the idea for Beyond the Veil, I genuinely thought I was onto something good. The basic premise, I believe, is a really good and really strong one. Some of the themes and characters of that script were solid. I’m not saying the final product was a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it was good. And when I look back on it now I can be proud of it. I wrote Beyond the Veil about three years after Navanho and was writing it with the intention of trying to get some interest from production companies (of which I did get a little) so while I was passionate about it, I wasn’t writing it just for me, which is where the pressure came from.

More and more I have found myself trying to second guess my audience because I want their approval. Not all writers will admit to wanting their writings to be liked, but I do. I want to be able to share my stories and ideas with people and for them to resonate and mean something to the people who read them like they mean something to me. I feel like I’m caught in a vicious circle of wanting to put my own work out there but scared of it not getting the reaction I would like. It’s a big thing, putting your work in the hands of someone else and not knowing how they’re going to react to it.

I put so much pressure on myself because I want my writing to be the best it can be that I think sometimes my passion and writing style gets lost in the mix. I know that I need to take this pressure and turn it into something more productive, like courage, motivation to do better, determination to succeed or all of the above.

Finally I’ve seen what the biggest obstacle I face in becoming a writer is. It’s me.