No Risk, no Art. No Art, no Reward.


I had just come back from a noisy family holiday. Sun, fun but not much time to think or work. Guess that’s why they call it a holiday. But I’d found it hard to unwind. I was looking forward to some alone time as I picked up my mail and wandered upstairs to my flat.

Something was bugging me.  I had been working so hard for the last six months and was on the brink of a breakthrough. I was taking lots of meetings, my script was coming on nicely, I had new projects and contacts coming out of my ears. And yet something was missing. Something in my head hadn’t shifted yet. I was still in ‘Make it Happen’ gear.  Was it all even worth it?  These tired thoughts were not far away  as I poured a gin and tonic and set down to open my mail in front of the TV.

Trade magazines, a bill – leave that til morning – and a bright pink envelope. It looked like a birthday card – only it wasn’t my birthday and I didn’t recognise the handwriting. I flipped it over and opened it.  As soon as I saw it I knew what it was. It was a handwritten postcard and this is what it said:


You are an amazing human being.

You know 22 amazing women.

So get on with it!

The writing was my own.  On the last day of the WFTV mentoring scheme we had been asked to write a postcard to ourselves reminding us of our goals and of how we all felt when we were together.  Like we could do anything, I thought at the time, as I scribbled an exhortation to myself.  Each postcard had a quote on the front.  I flipped mine over.  This is what it said:

No Risk, no Art. No Art, no Reward.

(Seth Godin)

And looking at this in my room at night, a month after we all said goodbye and went off to go it alone, I realised it was true.

The risk I took is now starting to bear fruit.  Producers are asking to read my feature script and I know now it’s been worth it.

So hang in there. Magical things can happen if you trust yourself enough to take a chance.


You can share your thoughts and experiences below or find me on Twitter @emlin32

Inner Space – How to Protect your Thinking Time


Like most of you I’m not just a writer, I wear lots of different hats.  This week I have been acting producer on my feature and a new short, researching an industry talk, doing interviews and other promotional duties.   So how to protect that ever shrinking window of thinking time when I can percolate ideas and write new scenes for my script?  Writers always feel guilty about not doing enough, like a working Mum, we enjoy our trips into the outside world while longing to return to our baby. So how to carve out that time and not feel bad? Or put another way, how do you create the illusion of thinking time when you really don’t have any?

1)  If I feel oppressed by my ‘to do’ list I go to a café and read a paper.  Just taking half an hour out of my schedule relaxes me and frees me up to have ideas.

2) Go for a walk – I love walking by the River Thames at Hammersmith – whether it’s a fifteen minute or an hour long stroll, looking at the water and the boats always calms me down and I go home refreshed and able to think.  Processing time is as important as sitting down to write.

3) See a friend. I am always keen on this option! Although going out for dinner and drinks or to see a movie or play might feel like bunking off,  it gives you fresh ideas inspired by what you’ve seen or the conversation.

4) Talk to another writer.   Much as dieters love to compare their nibbling sins, most writers are convinced everyone is working harder than they are. So your idea of ‘laziness’ is another person’s ‘hard at work’ and you can reassure each other – or spur each other on if you need a bit of a nudge.

5) Write a blog or script diary. Seriously. I started this blog to make myself write my feature and if I am struggling to write the script, I can explore my feelings in the blog or ask for help and move on.  And you can always play them off against each other –  ‘so if I work on the script I get to do the blog’ (and vice versa)….

6) Cut yourself some slack. Anxiety only goes so far as a driver then it’s counterproductive to creative flow. Get away all together – go away for the weekend, or take a holiday and leave the laptop at home.  Hard I know but you’ll get so much done when you get back….;)

7) Show up at the page. Everyone always says this but even fifteen minutes looking at your notes or revising yesterday’s pages keeps you thining about the project so when you get real free time you can jump straight in without having to remind yourself where you left off. And routine is everything when you’re writing.

Back to those brilliant working Mums (and Dads) who find time whenever they can to write, if they can do it then so can I….


How do you protect your thinking time? Leave a comment below or tweet me @emlin32 on Twitter.

Love, Second Time Around


After the puppy love excitement of the first draft, the pleasures of the second draft are many.  Although each writer faces different challenges at this stage, the great thing is you already have a story you can play with.

So here are the good things about rewriting at this stage:

1)   It’s still fun. Whether you’re working alone or to a producer, the material still feels fresh, your energy for the project is high and you (hopefully) haven’t lost sight of the wood for the trees yet.  It’s all still to play for.

2)   There’s new stuff to be found. While some scenes may need trimming, other characters or storylines will need expanding so opening the way for new scenes and fresh discoveries about how characters behave and feel.

3)   Research can help you now.  While the first draft is often a lone flight of the imagination, now you can step back and take your time to flesh out the realities of the world that you’ve created.  Read around your subject, call up experts and ask their advice, you need more fuel for the fire so look outside for inspiration as you define your hero’s journey.

4)   Don’t lose heart.  The first set of notes may be extensive but that’s to be expected. Use your reader(s) to move forward.  Mine their brains for where to go next with the script and listen to their criticisms and questions with care.  Alongside this…

5)   Follow your instinct.  If you know you missed a trick on that first draft, put it right now.  If there are characters you can go deeper with, then follow them to find out how the story unfolds.  Keep your plot organic not contrived.  But –

6)   Keep your structure in mind. Creating a step outline of your first draft and updating it before/as you rewrite the  next draft will help you see the shape you’re creating and work out where those new scenes fit in the overall pattern of the story.  It also helps you follow the thread of each character’s journey so you can see where they’re heading.

7)   Give yourself a deadline.  If you don’t have an outside deadline from a company, create your own.  Line up new readers – or ask your old faithfuls to expect the new draft by a certain date – or find a competition or scheme to enter so the work doesn’t stretch on into infinity.

Believe in your story and enjoy the fact you can still work on it to get things right.  You only get one shot, so make sure your aim is true…


How do you create your second draft? Any thoughts welcome! You can leave a comment below or tweet me @emlin32 on Twitter.

Happy rewriting!