Trying not to skip ahead

This week, I figured out what I wanted to happen in the season finale of the script I’m writing. It’s all very exciting. Problem is, I still have 4 other episodes before I get to write that episode.

I found myself torn. I was so thrilled and excited by what I have planned, that I immediately wanted to write it. This has happened a few times across my two years of working on Hunters Ridge, but each time I have resisted, determined not to write ahead, because to me it feels like skipping chapters when reading a book, you’ll never really want to go back to those chapters you skipped.

But this is my season finale, it’s where everything is leading to and I found myself wondering if, for once, it was okay to break my rules. If I wrote where it all ends, then I can lead myself there easier. I allowed myself to write segments, including the very final moments. Then I forced myself to go back to work on episode 8.

It’s hard to believe that after two years, I’m coming close to the end of my second full draft. It’s still feels like there’s going to be a long journey to get it from page to screen, but for a project that started as something to do when I was bored on my commute, it’s come a long way. Here’s to the next two years

Rediscovering a love of reading

This week I didn’t do any writing. I tried, but I was distracted. What’s my excuse this time? Reading.

Last weekend, I watched the whole of Big Little Lies. I knew very little about the series. Everyone at work had been discussing the show and the book, I wanted to see what the fuss was about. I was instantly hooked. Fantastic characters, beautiful cinematography, a gripping story.

With the series complete, I went into work and was immediately handed the book. I haven’t read anything for a while, I’ve found it difficult to focus and get the to end of a book, mainly because most of the books I’ve been reading haven’t had good enough plots to keep my interest.

Big Little Lies was different. I couldn’t put it down. I was prepared to be disappointed, I already knew the plot, it couldn’t compare to the series, could it? Well it did. In 4 days, I read all four hundred pages. And when I reached the end, I was disappointed, not by the book, but by the fact it was over. I wanted more.

I’ve rediscovered the joy of reading. And now, I’m on the hunt for more good books. Any recommendation? I’m open to all suggestions.

Finding Inspiration

On Monday, as usual on the train to work, I was reading articles about selling your writing and getting an agent. One after the other the articles spoke about having not just one very good piece, but a selection of other options. It makes sense. But having spent the last two years working on Hunters Ridge, I don’t have a lot of variety in my portfolio.

So I set a challenge to myself: each day this week I had to come up with at least one new story idea. It didn’t matter what it was: novel, script, non fiction. And very idea I had, I had to write down. Something’s I came up with were terrible, cheesy romantic with not real strong plot. Others were too complicated, I could tell they would just lead down a path of unintelligible muddled plot points.

There were a few I felt excited by. Ideas that could have strong potential. In fact a few I have been working on developing to something more.

I wrote all of these ideas on the notes section of my phone. This morning I was looking through them, surprised by the variety and number of ideas I’ve had in just one week. 14 in total (in 4 days).

Each of these ideas had different sources of inspiration: a song on Spotify, a storyline in a TV show, an overheard conversation or a phrase said by a coworker. Some were just there, in my mind, waiting to be discovered. It’s made me remember that there is a wealth of ideas inside me and that inspiration can come from anywhere and anything. And it’s reminded me never to instantly disregard an idea. Everything has potential. Keep your eyes and ears open, you never know what will spark that one idea you have to write.

When bad days make things better

This hasn’t been a good week.

Sometimes I have days, occasionally an entire week, where the world just doesn’t feel right. This week was one of those weeks.

It started on Tuesday. It was a perfectly normal day, no reason for me to see it as any different to any other day. But then something small happened. Someone got offered something I wanted, and I didn’t. It wasn’t something I expected to get offered, but it was something I wanted and I didn’t get it. The minute I found out, I couldn’t stop feeling sad. Not ‘oh I’m a bit disappointed’ sad. I struggled to fight back tears the rest of the day, my heart beat raced, I felt uncontrollably upset, and found myself on a downward spiral of questioning everything about myself and my life. The logical part of my brain screamed at the emotional part that I was over reacting, that it wasn’t a big deal, and I knew it was right, and yet I couldn’t help my emotional explosion. It was almost painful.

Why am I am rambling on about this bad day I experienced? Because out of it, something brilliant happened for my writing.

I have been struggling with the seventh episode of my script for Hunters Ridge. It has quite a serious subject at the centre of it – the death of a lead characters father and the knock on emotional effect of his death. I have been trying to write this from a place of knowledge and experience – write what you know. Having been through a similar experience, I expected this to be easy. But for the past few weeks I have failed to get into the characters mindset, to understand how she would feel or why.

After my terrible day, I sat at the train station waiting for a train home (as I am right now, writing this). I opened the app I write my scripts on, and stared at the same page I have stared at every day for the past two weeks. And there it was, out of my terrible mood, the sudden spark. Finally I understood how she felt, understood the uncontrollable outburst of emotion. I felt her helplessness. It all felt real to me. And I used it. I started typing and I didn’t stop until my train pulled up at my local station almost an hour later. The dialogue I had struggled with just flowed from me, believable and truthful. My darkness sat on the page as beautiful, wonderful writing.

That darkness isn’t fun, I can tell you that much. But for once, I found a way to deal with it. I didn’t bottle it up and try to push it away, pretend it didn’t exist. I used it, to create something I can look back at proudly.

We all have our dark days, the triggers that set us off on the downward spiral. But for once, I realised that darkness doesn’t have to be all bad.

Now I’m off to have a weekend of doing nothing. Because sometimes, we need to give our minds a rest. Mental health is as important as physical.

Ageing of Amber: Age 5

Here you are – the beginning of my new short series. Enjoy.

Ageing of Amber – Age 5

Why does my mom insist on dressing me like this? Smile. Camera flash adjust, smile, flash, again. Every time we go out, it’s the same.

“You’ll want the memories” she tells me. I won’t remember this. Nothing about this is worth remembering.

My shoes are red. And sparkly. I like red. The glitter is okay. They’re pretty.

Off we go! Into the big car. Dad’s driving today, that’s different. Maybe they won’t fight this time, mom is better at directions.

The radio’s on. I don’t like this music, it’s old. I want to sing, but my brother says I can’t. He’s mean. He never wants to do anything with me and I don’t know what not. It’s not fair.

I don’t know where we’re going. It looks like it’s going to rain so I hope it’s not outside, I don’t like getting wet, it makes my curls go curlier and I don’t want them to, I wish I didn’t have curls at all. Mom says they make me look “adorable”, I’m not even sure what that means.

“Turn right” mom says. Too late, he turned right. It begins, the arguing and name calling. I get in trouble for calling my brother a ‘doo-doo head’ but mom says much worse and no one tells her off. Maybe I should…

“You’re not allowed to say that.” The words tumble out and now they’re staring at me, making me go bright red. I’ve said the wrong thing, again.

“Shut up Amber.”

“Don’t tell your sister to shut up.”

“Just said what you were thinking.”

Now mom and Josh are fighting, dad’s annoyed because he’s lost and I still don’t know why we had to go out in the first place. Everything was better when we were at home. I just wanted to stay there. I turn my attention to the window. Outside, cows sit in the field, birds float through the sky. The clouds look like the people in the show mom made me watch earlier. They were too cheery and allowed to sing whenever they wanted. They didn’t have a brother who always told them to stop.

“We’re here.” Mom declares eventually, with a much too pleased smile. Before I can protest I’m being pulled from the car and forced to walk across a muddy field. My red shoes aren’t so sparkly now.

We find a spot near the park and mom lays out our blue chequered blanket that normally lives in the garden. We sit, and mom starts to unpack food from the basket I saw her packing early this morning. Dad’s focus is on his phone. Whatever he is look at upsets him.

“You said you wouldn’t do that.” Mom complains at him.

“I don’t have a choice” He replies, not looking up.

Josh gets up and runs off to join a game of tag with two other, bigger boys. I wish I was like Josh, even if he does smell and tells me he hates me. He is much more fun than me. It’s easy for him. People like him.

“Why don’t you go play?” Mom suggests. Her tone is gentle and soothing, it makes me feel warm inside. But there’s a hint of concern that I hear a lot. She’s worried about me. She doesn’t think I’m happy.

I don’t reply, instead focussing on the cheese sandwich I had just picked up, pulling the crusts off and discarding them in a pile to the side. I know it will get me in trouble, but I don’t want to eat them. Josh once told me that if I ate the crusts, it would make my hair go curlier. I don’t want it any curlier. I don’t like it as it is. So now, I avoid crusts, at all costs.

“Go on Amber.” My dad chimes in. His voice is much sterner and I know not to disobey him. “Go play with the other kids, give your mom and I some peace.” Reluctantly I get up. I cross the field, carefully avoiding the really muddy bits, until I reach the playground. I look around, unsure what to do. It’s not as fun to play on your own, though I’m used to it.

The slide, I decide, is best. Carefully I climb each step one by one until I reach the top. Looking out over everyone else, I suddenly feel like I’m on top of the world. I watch as Josh trips whilst chasing the other boys. But he doesn’t cry, like I would, just gets up and carries on. He’s much braver than me.

I wait for my turn on the slide, but as the person in front of me goes down, I’m suddenly scared. It’s so high and steep and I’m not sure I want my turn anymore.

“Are you nervous?” A girl, who looks my age, her hair in two little pig tails with pink bows that I am envious of, squeaks. I shake my head, but also take a step back, away from the slide. “It’s okay if you are, I am too.” She admits, stepping closer. “Tell you what,” She is now beside me, in front of the slide. “We can do it together.” She takes a seat at the top of the slide, then turns to me, expectantly. “You sit behind me. Put your legs here” She pats the space either side of her legs on the slide and I reluctantly follow her instructions. Something about her makes me instantly trusting – she won’t let me get hurt, we’re in this together  “Now wrap your arms around me and hold tight”. Again, I do as she says. She’s confident it’s safe and I believe here. “Ready?” Silently I nod. “Go!” She pushes off and together we squeal as loudly as we can as we slide, collapsing in a fit of giggles at the bottom.

“I’m Tess.” She tells me, before I tell her my name, “Amber,” and we’re off, chasing across the playground, climbing on the jungle gym, soaring high on the see saw, our laughter barely stopping, our earlier nerves long forgotten.

“Quick, come with me” she instructs me, grabbing my hand and pulling me to the far end of the park, away from everyone else. We sit and huddle together.

“I want to tell you a secret” she whispers to me excitedly.

“I like secrets.” I admit, though I’m not sure I’ve ever been told one before. Tess looks around, checking no one is listening, before continuing.

“You’re my best friend!” I beam with joy. I have never been anyone’s best friend before. “And I’m yours too, right?” She asks, suddenly worried I won’t agree.

“Definitely.” I reply.

“Great! This is going to be so much fun.”

She was right, it was.

 

Chapter 7: Ageing of Amber

I know what you’re thinking, why start another project when I have so many on the go. Yes, it’s probably foolish, I’ll regret it and it won’t last. But it’s warm and I can’t sleep. I was inspired by another blog I read today (when I’m on my computer I’ll add a link) about issues with YA fiction and one thing they wrote about was characters never sounding their age. That got me thinking about this new project.

I’ve created a new character: Amber Thomas. She’s blonde, skinny, popular. But she wasn’t always that way, and she won’t always be that way. So what got her to that point,  and where will she go?

My new project will explore this. Whenever I get the chance (I’m hoping for once a week, we’ll see how that goes), I will write a new short story about Amber, each based at a different age, around a different turning point. Together we will see how she grows and developes with each story. I’m calling it The Ageing of Amber.

The first story is written (by hand, messily scrawled in a new notebook!) I’ll post it here tomorrow. We first meet Amber age five on a family day out. I hope you enjoy her journey through life, one short at a time.

The Ageing of Amber. Coming very soon.

Jx