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

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.

My valedictorian speech

There’s be no time to write this week. My job has taken over all of my spare time and my characters are in my brain screaming at me to set them free, to let them live and develop their lives. In the meantime, I wanted to share what I had so far for my latest writing piece.

A few weeks ago on this very blog I wrote about the research I was doing into Valedictorian speeches. So here, for those of you who have been kind enough to keep reading my ramblings, is that very speech. Feedback is always appreciated.

Picture, if you will, a crowded graduation ceremony. The year: 2007. Our characters, Evie, Logan, Seth and Brandon, sit amongst their follow students, whilst Millie, a blonde cheerleader with something to prove, strides confidently onto the stage. She stands, looks out to her students and begins:

“Principle Harris, esteemed faculty members, family, friends and, most importantly, my wonderful classmates, I would like to thank you all for letting me speak to you today. I may be blonde, and a cheerleader, but I am not a stereotype. Standing here today, as your valedictorian, I feel it is important for you all to know that we are not what people label us as, we are what we can achieve. I hope that is one of the many lessons that we are able to take away from the four years we have spent here at Hunters Ridge High.

To our parents who are here today, supporting us as they have throughout our high school lives, through our best days and our worst, thank you for always being there, for standing beside us even when you may not have agreed with all the choices we have made. We wouldn’t be here without you.

To the teachers who have gotten us to this day, who have shared their knowledge and helped us learn all that we now know. To Ms Fields, who taught us to always read between the lines and to Mr Golding who encouraged each and every one us to see that it is more than knowledge we gain through our high school years, it is a better understanding of who we are as people.

And my fellow students. Every day for the past four years we have spent hours together, learning from our teachers, but also learning from each other. I will never forget what you have all taught me.

Logan taught me that love is not something you earn, but something you give with all your heart, to those who mean the world to you. Seth’s support and wise words, even in the face of his own struggles, helped me through the toughest times, for which I am more grateful than words can express. Evie made me realise that strength comes from those who are by your side, no matter what. And Brandon Parker showed me that it is possible to actually enjoy a game of football.

Above all else, what we should take from our experiences throughout high school, is that success is not something accomplished alone, but together we can achieve greatness. Our time at Hunters Ridge High has had its ups and downs, but it is these moments both difficult and joyous which we will forever remember. Our high school experience will help us to handle the complications that life throws at us in the future. Whether these are the best days of our lives, or just the beginning, is yet to be seen. But no matter whether your next chapter is college, or your own different adventure, we should all be confident that our time at Hunters Ridge High has prepared us to face anything.

Now as we sign each other’s yearbooks, take our diplomas and say our final goodbyes, I hope we can all agree that we will never forget each other, that the friendships and love that we have experienced over these past four years, will stay with us forever.

Finally, Douglas Adams wrote, in ‘The Long Dark Tea-Time of Soul’, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Our journeys through the halls of Hunters Ridge High may not have been those that we expected, but I am proud of where we have come to be.

Family, friends and faculty,  would you please help me in congratulating The Class of 2007.”

The crowd cheers as they graduate to the next stage of their lives.

Thanks everyone!

Jx

Chapter 6 – Editing

This week has been all about editing. I hit a stump in my inspiration to write anything new, so I took the opportunity to read back through the past 5 scripts I have written. It made me realise two things:

  1. There are always edits to be made. No matter how finished you think a piece may be, you can always find something to change and improve. As I’ve been writing these scripts over the past year and a half, I’ve gotten to know the characters as if they were real people. Now, when I read back through older episodes I realise that lines of dialogue I have written, no longer sound like the characters they have become.
  2. It’s important to re-read previous episodes before continuing. In a few of the old episodes, I noticed that some of the situations I had put the characters into, or the dialogue I had written, contradicts something that happens in later episodes. I have an entire scene I now have to re-write because almost the exact same scene already occurs in an earlier episode, I’d just written it so long ago I had forgotten.

It’s all well and good reading back through a script, but the real editing doesn’t begin until you’ve gotten out the red pen. There is something deeply satisfying about scribbling all over a piece of writing, in that lovely shade of red, knowing you are looking at it from a totally different angle. The editing process can be vicious, it can completely change a piece of writing, but it can hold that revolutionary moment when something that you have struggled to get right, suddenly clicks into place, when the excitement and thrill of writing is reignited by just one change.

So today I begin the  detailed editing phase of my current work on Hunters Ridge. I have six episodes to go through and I hope, after this latest edit, I will start to get to the point of having  piece of writing I am happy enough with to start trying to make something of it. That is my goal.

Chapter 2: Hunters Ridge

My current major project is Hunters Ridge – an American style TV programme that I have so far written 5 x 1 hour episodes of.

Hunters Ridge is my baby

My current major project is Hunters Ridge – an American style TV programme that I have so far written 5 x 1 hour episodes of.  It’s probably the longest I have spent on a single project without giving up or completing it, but I won’t give up.

The project was born after a trip to Los Angeles in January 2016. On the return to work, I was inspired following the holiday and had some down time in my office. For a while I had been wanting to start a new piece of writing. I took a notepad and write down every idea I could possibly think of. Most were terrible and held no promise, but one idea caught my imagination. At the time I called it ‘Never Be Alone’ due to an obsession with Shawn Mendez’s first album, but as the project developed and grew, it became Hunters Ridge.

Over the next year I wrote 12 x 1 hour scripts, sculpting this entire world around 6 core characters: Evie, Logan, Jeremy, Seth, Millie and Brandon. Their lives developed and filled my mind until I felt like there was no more space in my mind. With 12 episodes completed, something I had never achieved before, I began to re-write.

My house is now filled with notebook upon notebook of hand written notes, full character profiles, each 20 pages long with every character trait I could think of, whilst other notebooks contain the full back story, up until the start of the first episode. I have plans for 5 series of this TV show and my mind constantly races with new ideas.

When I had finished re-writing the pilot, my friends (who’s help I am so grateful for) gathered at my house for a read through. Each person had multiple roles and it took much longer than the 1 hour I had written it for. But what came out of it, was a revelation. My friends hated one of the lead characters, they felt no sympathy for him and they argued that a very core plot just didn’t make sense. These were things I would never have seen on my own and they started me on a new journey with Hunters Ridge.

I went back to the drawing board, right to the very beginning, to the very heart of the story. I tore everything apart and for possibly the first time I was very brutal to myself. I took a blank sheet of paper and re-crafted the very heart of the story. One tiny change to a key plot point and a whole new and much improved Hunters Ridge was born.

With each re-write, the characters develop, the story lines change and I feel like I’m a step closer to my ultimate dream of one day having a TV show I created picked up.

A lot of this blog will feature the developments of Hunters Ridge, extracts and moments of inspiration. Right now, I’m off to continue on Episode 6, which has been stalled for a few weeks but is finally moving again.