WHO’S ON YOUR TEAM? – 23 JANUARY 2013

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WHO’S ON YOUR TEAM?

Who makes you feel alive and listened to?  Who are your support team when you’re writing – and when you’re not?

I am lucky to have a very creative family – film-makers, artists and songwriters to name a few, and we are all avid consumers of plays, films, art shows and (whisper it) books.  Our family dinners are hugely invigorating, a gathering of friends excitedly arguing about the merits of the latest release.

Not everyone has family like this. Yours might be supportive of your writing or not. Or you may feel they like but don’t really understand your work. Your family might in fact be refreshingly uninvolved in your creative life.

Family comes in other forms.  Maybe you teach?  My other community is at the Met Film School, Ealing Studios – a great place to meet other writers and directors and compare notes on how your script is going. My students keep me up to date by showing me what they’re watching and inspire me with their enthusiasm and can do attitude.

Maybe your friends outside work are the ones you have the best conversations with? They let you unwind, be yourself, forget your overactive brain – or stimulate you with fresh ideas, opinions, must-see movies.  My friends are extraordinary individuals who give me continuity in a freelance life that is one long series of new beginnings.

If you need more people on your team, join a professional society – or start your own writers’ group. Writers are not natural ‘joiners’ but, as Groucho Marx didn’t quite say, if you can bear to join a club that would have you as a member then the wins become clear.  I am hugely proud to be part of this year’s Women in Film and TV Mentoring Scheme. Not only do I have the advice of an excellent mentor, I have twenty new friends – my fellow mentees. Twenty talented and lovely women in my field whom I can call on when I need someone in my corner.

And it’s a two way street – the more people I am there for, the more my life has meaning.

You get my drift.  It comes down to this.  Don’t do it all alone.  I’ve said it before, we are alone when we write, and we need that space to think.  But we also need fuel for our engine. Energy. Heat. Argument. And love.

Who’s on your team?  Make a list of the top ten people in your corner.

You can share your list below or tweet them a shout out on Twitter @emlin32.

Happy writing!

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7 WAYS TO DEAL WITH FEEDBACK – 17th JANUARY 2012

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Tally so far: 32 scenes, 16 pages in 17 days…  Pretty Good!

HOW TO DEAL WITH FEEDBACK

Dealing with feedback is tough – especially when you’re mid-draft.

I recently asked for feedback from a producer I like and respect and, an hour later, left, feeling like a sprinkler – full of holes.  Or maybe that was my story?   The following morning I was writing again, having processed the comments, knowing what I had to do to move on and grateful someone had taken the time to think about and be honest with me about my treatment.

Here are some ideas on how to deal with feedback on your script or treatment:

1)   LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

Choose someone you like and trust and preferably someone who knows you and your work. A friendly script editor or producer can be your best ally in getting a project ready for market.

2)   DON’T GO IN TOO SOON – DON’T LEAVE IT TOO LATE.

Work hard on your project – don’t send it to your reader until you have something that has a shape, a tone and a clear character arc that they can react to. But don’t hang onto it too long. Better to know sooner rather than later how your story is coming across and where it sits in the current market. So you can adjust it as you go.

3)   LISTEN.

We often remember what we want to hear and disregard the rest.  Ask questions to clarify exactly what’s being said. Make notes during the meeting or straight afterwards and make sure you address everything – how you do that is up to you.

4)   TALK IT OUT.

Find a friend who’s a writer or script editor and talk through the points raised. Don’t just ask for sympathy or launch into a defence of your script. A proper debrief will help you start to process the notes without obsessing. Then take the evening off. You’ve earned it!

5)   SLEEP ON IT.

I woke up next morning and carried on writing. I finished my daily scene target and then resolved to go back to my treatment and address the issues raised.

6)   ADDRESS EVERYTHING

This goes for your rewrite and in your marketing strategy. The best kind of advice is both creative and market aware so re-think your target producers, audience and budget as well as your story and characters if that’s what it takes to get your movie made.  Don’t hang onto stuff that isn’t working for you.

7)   DON’T GIVE UP

Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell we all know how many hours of ball practice it takes to become a world-class tennis player. Why should writing a screenplay be any different? Put in the time, listen to your feedback gurus, and remember your reason for wanting to write this story in the first place – and for wanting to make it better.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given on a script? And did you take it? Leave a comment below or tweet a reply to emlin32 on Twitter.

Happy writing and may you have many truthful readers.

THE POWER OF SOLITUDE – 10th January 2013

Arizona 2What do we need to write?  A room of our own said Virginia Woolf, which still remains true, but more importantly we need headspace.  Whether you get that by walking (or running), listening to music, sitting in a cafe or just being still, you need to tune out all the white noise and listen.

Last week, stuck at home writing, the world still asleep after Xmas and New Year, it was both easy and hard to write.  Easy because there were no distractions, no internet calling, no meetings, no teaching, and so I focused and had time to think about my story.  Ten scenes.  OK, some of them borrowed from the treatment but I was inside the story moving forward.  Hard because it was lonely.

This week, the world awakes and life is more fun but my thinking space is significantly reduced. Emails are returned, people are back in their offices, walking the streets, meeting for coffee. Screenings, drinks, networking, accounts! I am suddenly directed outward, enjoying being connected to the world again and yet my writing decreases, the silence disrupted.

Is there a correlation between loneliness and creativity? Anthony Storr wrote a book about the creativity of Solitude.  And much has been written about the loneliness of the long distance writer.  When I am socialised out I crave the silence and solitude that lets me write.  When I am writing I exist in a kind of happy depression, engaged in my task, yet after a few days wilting from the lack of light and air companionship brings.

Never satisfied is the modern condition.  The internet allows us to be both alone and yet connected but without the headspace we need to create that vital original content we wish to talk about and consume.

‘To thine own self be true’, a motto my mother lived by and which was written on her wall.  I know I need both the silence of endeavour and the energy of life in the world to sustain me.

What sustains you? How do you create space to write? Tell me your thoughts so we can have a conversation.

In between finding the time to write of course.

Leave a comment here or find me on Twitter @emlin32. Happy writing!

A SCENE A DAY – A feature film diary

ArizonaI get an idea for a movie.  I am about to sit down and write it when a job comes calling – five months filming a TV Series in the US.

FIVE MONTHS LATER:

I realise I still want to write this story. I have an image that won’t go away, stolen from a newspaper. I am already scared the idea is no longer topical. But start to write it anyway.

I now have a solid six page treatment.  And a window of time in which to complete a first draft.  But I am slow.  So I’m going to give myself a timeline.

A SCENE A DAY – FOR TWO MONTHS

I am not the first person to think of this but I like the randomness of this idea. It’s also the opposite of how I write. I tend to think about a sequence or a moment for a few days (I told you I was slow) before finally writing a scene or two.

But I do like a deadline. And I am vaguely competitive…!

Writers are fascinated by process – especially other writers’ process.  When they meet other writers they say ‘How many hours a day do you write?’  Mostly so they can then beat themselves up about how lazy they are by comparison. The other writer then feels duty bound to say, ‘Oh but I am terribly slow, I never get enough done, I am so easily distracted.’ To which the first writer replies either, ‘But you’re so prolific!’ (no pressure there then) or, ‘Oh I know, it’s so hard when you’re working/have children/a dog to find the time to write.’

My good friend Hilary, an excellent – and prolific – writer told me she once attended a prestigious literary conference. One of her favourite Irish novelists was there and, at the end of the event, gave her this invaluable piece of advice about writing:

‘Just put your arse on the chair.’

Follow my progress week by week- and mark your own progress too if you like!

Twitter @emlin32  #scriptsmart