Friday, 2 November 2007

Stolen Memes

Saw this questionnaire on Lianne’s the other day and it’s being co-opted all the place, so I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring as well. Interestingly enough, all it does is prove what I’ve thought about my writing for a while now, insofar as it’s worryingly random. Time to get back on the medication.

1. Do you outline?

Sometimes, sometimes not. I’ve written scripts with no outline whatsoever, and they usually fizzle out after about 70 pages. Then again, I’ve written from very tightly constructed outlines but get bored very easily. My ideal scenario is to operate in a kind of hinterland between the two – a very loose outline which gives me the opportunity to surprise myself, to let things go off on a wild tangent if they need to. This can be a very high risk strategy, but that’s half the fun of writing I think (I think Charlie Kauffman writes without reference to an outline at all, so if it’s good enough for him...)

2. Do you write straight through, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order?

I try and write straight through, but it never quite works out like that. What I tend to find is that the longer the script gets, the more I go back to tinker with previous scenes. This means that a first draft can often take anywhere up to six months to write, which can be an utter pain in the arse.

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer?

Both. I scribble notes in a notebook and often transcribe these directly to trusty old Word.

4. Do you listen to music while you write?

The only music I can listen to when I write is ambient (Eno, Biosphere, Sylvian). My attention span is rubbish at the best of times, so the fewer distractions I have the better.

5. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters?

I often flick through a book that I am reading, or scan bookshelves until something hits the spot. Sometimes character names come from work colleagues or ex-girlfriends.

6. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn’t want him/her to do?

All the time – my characters suffer from what is commonly known as ‘Screenwriter Tourettes’. They're a rowdy bunch at the best of times.

7. Do you know how a script is going to end when you start it?

More often than not, no. Or I have a very specific ending in mind that, come the end of the script, has been entirely ditched in favour of something else. As I might’ve mentioned above, it all gets a bit random very quickly round here.

8. Where do you write?

At home, on holiday: wherever. I can’t remember where I heard it, but a piece of advice I try and adhere to is to write the final scenes of your script in an unfamiliar environment. Sounds daft, but it works for me.

9. What do you do when you get writer’s block?

Surf the net endlessly and pointlessly, read a lot, update the blog, go to the gym, eat, go the cinema, walk the dog: anything.

10. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of word count, or as a percentage of the script as a whole)?

Sometimes it can be as little as half a page a day – other times I can crack on and get ten pages done, sometimes I’ll ‘polish’ obsessively for hours.

11. How many different drafts did you write for your last project?


12. Have you ever changed a character’s name midway through a draft?

Yes. Good old CTRL+F – solves a lot of problems.

13. Do you let anyone read your script while you’re working on it, or do you wait until you’ve completed a draft before letting someone else see it?

I always try and complete a draft before letting anyone see it.

14. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft?

The last ‘draft celebration’ I threw got me into a fight and almost got a friend of mine arrested – so I’m trying to give them up before something truly bad happens.

15. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once?

One project at a time (for god’s sake, I’m a bloke – we don’t multi-task!)

16. Do your scripts grow or shrink in revision?

They shrink to such an extent that I have to improvise wildly. In fact, the more I cut back, the more inventive it forces me to be. Some of my best writing has come from this often desperate hack and slash process.

17. Do you have any writing or critique partners?

I have a couple of trusted confidantes who usually kick me in the teeth when I’m least expecting it, but I love them for it really.

18. Do you prefer drafting or revising?

Revising. Once the basic building blocks are there, I love nothing more than taking a huge machete to the sheer awfulness that often comprises my first draft.

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