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

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.

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

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 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.