Craft Work and Magic Pennies

Craft Work and Magic Pennies

Phew. This summer had roller skates. Creatively, it was wonderful, and then whoosh! There I stood, messy making everywhere I looked, enough mucky creative output to dance in for months!

And so. Back to school, while devouring new drama on t’telly, in the wicked playhouses and yet more in those moving picture theatre halls.  And here, in the imaginarium?

  1. Draft Two (caps intentional) of the spec TV pilot I’m obsessed with (an elite public school in the Scottish wilderness is the battle ground for parental titans, demolishing the society around them as they war over their dead son’s legacy.)
  2. Tour planning for Glitter Knickers in 2017 – a wee show I might have mentioned once or twice.
  3. Sleeve-rolling collaborations with writers, makers, and creative entrepreneurs.

There’s two tunes playing in my mind that I want to inject into yours: the beautiful clockwork of dramatic structure, and the joyous Play-Doh Barber’s Shop game that happens from generous collaboration.

First of all, I’m just loving learning how my craft makes my writing so infinitely better.  PEGGY’s first draft grew from a well-critiqued treatment, and then ten pages (thanks to script editors Philip Shelley & Yvonne Grace respectively). I left it well alone (very tough) for 6 weeks and have gone back to edit like a mad editing monster.  I could now see the problems, the (very) weak spots, the frankly cringe-making things that needed sorting.  And then I set myself the kind of challenge I could never have done without (a) a lot of learning from cleverer people than I, and (b) that 6-week break.  Eh? What? Or, yes, sorry – to solve the problems!

  • THAT’s no good as an excuse for his behaviour – WHY?
  • Oh, come on – his character is weak! What’s he up to? Make him work!
  • Ah. Great antagonist motivation. But now your heroine is nothing by comparison! Even out the score – fight that fight!

The first draft’s OK…BUT, nowhere near good enough. But I’m confident enough to know it’s still like a wobbly clockwork thing. It needs several wheels taking out, binning, replacing, moving…. Heck, I might have to lay the whole thing out on the kitchen table and put it all back together again. But that’s OK! Because if this story is worth telling – and it is! – then getting it right is going to make it absolutely marvellous!

Now, the other thing. The magic pennies of the title. I;m going to save that for my next posy (a) because you’ve read enough and (b) there’s more stuff to do before school pick-up and this is the luxury!

A voice is for….?

A voice is for….?

Tale Man tell me what’s wrong with my life, am I only here to question? No, sir, you are undoubtedly here to cajole and make suggestions.

Julian Cope – “These Things I Know” – ‘Black Sheep’ album

Excellent day yesterday at the Soho Theatre, where they held (yet another) great training session for writers, in collaboration with Spread The Word.

This time, it was about developing your writer’s voice. I don’t want to undercut them when you could be going yourself (£40 for the day: pretty unbeatable value) by spilling all the secrets, but suffice to say I feel charged up with some really sensible advice and some great tips for making sure what I write is true to my own style, taste and serves my urge to write.

We touched on one of my favourite issues for playwrights: having something to say (this game ain’t about collecting brownie badges or filling time). We looked also at how asking questions can help us talk about our work – so, instead of saying

“This is a ground-breaking work of genius about what a cat can do to a ball of string,”

we might say,

“What happens when an everyday tabby cat finds it is inexorably attracted to string, in spite of the opprobrium of its peers and a chronic household string shortage?”

I came home and caught up with some telly before falling fast asleep (it had been another travel & baby-related 5-am-er). I watched Horizon’s clips show (ahem) all about Science v God. (You can catch it til 17th Nov ’11 here). Looking at the legal challenges in the US about teaching “intelligent design” rather than evolution in schools, it was clear that good scientists keep asking questions and ignore their prejudices and their faith.

As an artist, then, “with something to say” (and believe me, I have enough), I felt a bit ashamed and thought, where are my questions fitting in? They mustn’t just be plopped in after the script’s completed, as a way of selling a piece (and that is absolutely not what the course was suggesting, before you get the wrong idea).

We have to start with our questions: and that is a big lesson for me. The BBC Writers’ Room’s Paul Ashton said yesterday that with great writers, you can see an ongoing internal conversation (or debate) running through their work. Questions, questions, questions (beyond those that vital questions about your craft and form)- and that, I think I realise, is what I need to use my voice  for, more than just saying what I think.

So, a quite intense thanks, Soho Theatre, Nina Steiger & Paul Ashton, and if this interests you more, here’s what it was and keep your eye out for more…