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 5: Random Research – A Valedictorian Speech

This week, I started a new job. That meant getting back to my daily train commute.

Each day I spend around 2 hours travelling to and from work. And each day, that two hours is the most inspired I feel. The notes section of my phone is filled with random thoughts, ideas, even chunks of writing. But by the time I arrive home, that inspiration has faded.

Why does the inspiration hit on the train? It’s the only time of day where I have nothing else to do, no distractions, no procrastination. It can be very dull to be sat in a carriage full of strangers with limited internet access for 40 minutes. And so, I fill that time with the writing and research I put off at all other times.

This week, I set myself one of the more random research tasks: How to Write a Valediction Speech. 

I’m British. In England, we don’t have graduation from high school, or valedictorians, so writing a valedictorian speech for a high school character in the latest episode of my script, is proving harder than I originally thought it would be. Having no idea where to start, I turned to the internet. A quick google (what did people do before google?) led me down the path to reading the valedictorian speeches of New York high school students I will never meet. I am grateful to them for their wise and inspiring words.

The words of these students made me realise just how useful this one piece of writing could be to the entire script. The one speech can not only provide the audience with background information that they need to know before the next set of episodes, whilst also hinting to future scenes.

My phone is full of notes containing things to include in the speech, but now on this sunny Saturday afternoon, my inspiration has disappeared. And I’ve realised that it isn’t a usual valedictorian speech I need. It is a fictional, scripted one that suits an American teen drama. That brings me to my plan for the rest of the afternoon.

There are shows I have grown up inspired by, hoping to one day make a show as good as those shows, a show that will one day help someone like me decide that they want to grow up and make their own programme, and so on and so on.

I have a plan to follow the valedictorian speeches of these great characters:

Hayley James Scott (One Tree Hill)

Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)

Taylor Townsend (The OC)

Troy Bolton (High School Musical 3)

One day my character Millie Evans, will be added to this list. But for that to work, I have to actually write it. Stay tuned.

Cx

Chapter 4: The First Chapter

I realise the title of this post doesn’t immediately make sense.

After posting yesterday’s blog I spent my entire day writing. The first chapter of my as yet untitled project took the entire day, but by bedtime, it was written. I’m sure I’ll re-write most of it, that I’ll tear it apart being hyper critical. But for now, it’s done. I have started.

The chapter is 3000 words. It was a very start-stop process, I wrote a few hundred words, got distracted by something, came back a while later and added another paragraph. I found a spurt of inspiration later in the day, helping me to reach the finish line. And hitting that final full stop of Chapter 1 felt like an achievement.

Then this morning, doubt started to creep in. What if none of it was any good? What was the point? Would I ever really make it beyond my usual stopping point?

If I’m honest, after all that writing the bit I am most happy with is the opening. Hours of writing and the beginning was the best part. This is what I struggle with, that crushing disappointment that I can’t help but feel, when a story that my mind creates, never quite matches with the words on paper. Surely confidence in my own skills will come with time, with practise, with editing, at least that’s what I hope.

A plan for Chapter 2 arrived on a train this evening, it’s sitting on my phone ready to go. And suddenly I was refilled with confidence, excitement, inspiration. I walked home full of ambition, a plan to write another entire chapter before I go to sleep.

But as I sit here now, my fingers want to write, to stay up for hours and push on, give Marie Austen more in her life. Meanwhile, my mind is tired from the first day of a new job, the TV is playing and my resolve to write is waning.

As I try to decide whether to continue my story, here’s the opening for you to read.

Marie Austen lay staring at the ceiling, the soft blanket draped loosely across her curvy frame. She stared at the off-white ceiling, her curly brunette hair scrunched below her against the pillow, her own gentle breaths the only sound she could hear. She closed her eyes and sighed, already aware that she would regret her decision. 

Rolling onto her side, closing her eyes, Marie pretended to sleep. The bathroom door opened, her lover done with his post coitus shower. He pulled the cover back slightly, climbing under the blanket beside her. His muscular arm snaked around her waist, his legs intertwined with hers, she could smell the sweet scent of his watermelon shampoo. He held her close, softly kissing her shoulder blade as his wet hair left cold drops of water sliding across her skin. Together they lay silently in each other’s company. 

Chapter 3: Meet Marie Austen

Do you ever have a character who you keep returning to?

Marie Austen was born a teenager almost 10 years ago. She was created as a secondary character in a fan fiction I wrote. Based on what? The Disney Channel made for TV movie Camp Rock. At the time, I was a teenager, desperate for a writing project and for some sort of reaction and feedback from readers. FF.net was my place for that. What started as a short term project turned into 6 months intense planning and writing, over 94,000 words and created the lives of Marie Austen and her older, more successful sister Eliza.

Intrigued? The story still exists at Who I Am fan fiction

As I was driving the other day, Marie Austen popped into my mind. I could hear her voice, asking me to make a story about her life. Give her a chance in the spotlight. It’s been 6 years since I last wrote about Marie’s life – in a sequel to the original fan fiction, which I regret writing as it wasn’t as good as the original.

Who is Marie Austen?

Marie came into literary existence aged sixteen. She was her sister Eliza’s support system in the world of music. She was sweet, innocent and in awe of her sister’s career. I thought about Marie’s character. She deserved justice, she deserved a chance to have her story told. A story came to mind.

The story would find Marie in her early twenties, grown up. Having lived her life under her sister’s shadow, Marie was no longer the plucky, supportive teen she had once been. She was bitter and carving out her own life. If the story was to work, it wasn’t going to be a sequel to the fan fiction I wrote as a teen. It would be a stand alone, re-introducing the world to the lives of Marie and Eliza Austen. Marie wanted her own story, so a story I will write for her.

As Yet Untitled (I find coming up with titles is the hardest part) will feature on this blog. Hopefully this is the start of a beautiful story. Or it won’t. Let’s see.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Chapter 1: Procrastination is my best friend

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s procrastinating. In fact, writing this post is just another way for me to procrastinate from the script writing I’ve been meaning to do all day. I started writing, then found multiple other things to do in order to do anything other than finish writing. Nothing is easier than procrastination.

I write lists every day. Lists of task for my day job, lists of scenes to add to my current script, lists of character names to use in the future. List after list after list. But very rarely do those lists amount to anything. Why? Because they’re just another way for me to procrastinate.

House work = procrastination

Netflix binge = procrastination

Shopping = expensive procrastination

Walk = Healthy procrastination

All things I could do another time, but instead, I do them right then, in that moment, just to put off writing.

Seriously, I wish I knew how to stop myself procrastinating. I have wasted so many hours of my life doing things that really didn’t need doing, just to put off writing. Each time I promise myself that next time, I won’t do it. Problem is, I’m normally hours into procrastinating before I’ve even realised I’m doing it.

 

The only time I avoid procrastinating? When writing is what I’m doing to procrastinate!

Maybe that’s the solution – perhaps if I make the tasks I procrastinate with into the tasks I have to do, and the writing my procrastination, I’d be much more productive.

We’ll have to wait and see. Right now, I’m off to finish writing… ooh look Master of None season 2!