The Writing Journal #18

A huge and hearty congratulations to all the winners and nominees at last night’s BAFTA Awards. I was pleased to finally catch The Favourite last week, and even more delighted to say that all of its wins last night were richly and thoroughly deserved; especially Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz who, alongside the equally wonderful Emma Stone (can we make a statuette for her, too?), sold the story so wonderfully.

Yorgos Lanthimos is rapidly establishing himself as one of my favourite filmmakers, with an awe-inspiring imagination for films that are unique, inventive, and downright fun. The Lobster baffled and tickled me in equal measure, and this same sense of creativity breathed new life into a story in The Favourite that, in someone else’s hands, could so easily have gone down a much darker, more brooding yet overplayed route. It’s an important reminder to all filmmakers, myself included, of the importance of unique creative flair to a project, and how a different approach and perspective can make even the most familiar stories stand out from the crowd.

As these vastly talented people turn their attentions now to The Oscars in a couple of weeks, my thoughts turn to my own steps to one day (perhaps) joining them…

Target Number 1: Write 3 short stories

Having declared that this would be my “writing outlet” for February in last week’s Writing Journal, there was a part of me that waivered in this assertion when I actually sat down to start work on them. The doubting period kicked in almost immediately and left me fielding questions like is it any good? Who is the audience? Is this the right project to be working on right now, or is there something more appropriate to be working on at this moment in time?

I am now quite familiar with such questions, having started numerous writing projects over the years, and a part of me always knows that I can push past them (as indeed I have this time, too), but they’re always tricky hurdles to overcome that can hamper progress in the early goings.

Luckily, I was not starting from scratch as I had previously thought. I discovered that I had a partially formed draft of a first story from when I first had the idea that I had forgotten was so fleshed out. Sure, it wasn’t great and it still needed a lot of work doing to it (perhaps/probably still does), but it gave a slightly firmer foundation from which to get the project going, and has provided enough creative juice to end the first week of Feb with a completed first story and half of a second already. It’s a strong start that I can hopefully improve on, especially now that the “fug of doubt” has eased somewhat.

Target Number 2: Submit funding application

This was not so successful. I’d like to say that the decision to gain thinking time and perspective was intentional, but that really would be a lie to you, my dear reader, and indeed to myself. I have worked on some other things this week (as I will explain more below) which have detracted time from this target, but I do feel guilty for losing some momentum in this regard and will certainly be trying to pick this up with greater energy in the coming week.

Target Number 3: Find five companies to pitch my sitcom project to.

Similar to target number 2 above, I failed to do any meaningful work towards furthering this goal either. I did, however, receive some encouragement regarding this particular project, even if it came wrapped up in a wider rejection. I like to call such feedback a “good no”, as it gives you some assurances that you’re not barking up the entirely wrong tree whilst simultaneously giving you a firm rejection. Good nos are par for the course as a writer, and I’ve had several over the years which I, personally, see as a good thing. For one, they are better than a “bad no” (which I have also had to deal with in my time as well), but importantly they let you know that you are fundamentally on the right track with your work. So many weird and varied stars have to align for a story to be told, particularly in film and television, and the odds of you aligning them straight off the bat are astronomically low. Persistence, strategic planning and hard work shorten those odds, and all of those things take time and dedication to pull off.

This particular good no, which came from the competition that kickstarted my interest in this project all over again, said that whilst I hadn’t been nominated for the overall prize, I had made the top fifty longlist, and encouraged me to keep going with the project due to the strong promise the script showed. It’s never nice to get rejected, but encouraging comments like that show that someone other than myself thinks the project is worth pursuing, which will hopefully give me a large boost of confidence when looking for other potential backers in the weeks ahead.

Short story project aside, this week hasn’t turned out as productive for my monthly writing goals as others have been. Perhaps this is something to do with the changing nature of my goals, from weekly to monthly targets, affecting the way I work, but before I hit the panic button too soon, I think it’s more a result of another project sweeping in last week that I think needed to take priority.

As some of you may know, the script reading side of Script & Polish is what provides my bread and butter whilst I write my stories. While things have been ticking over in recent months, I was beginning to feel that perhaps the bread was starting to go stale and the butter past its use by date. That’s why I decided to try and inject some life into this side of things by sprucing up the website (as you’ve hopefully noticed by now, if not I’ve failed before I’ve begun…) and focusing some more attention into this side of my career.

If you are reading this journal entry as a break from your own creative project, or indeed you know anyone else who may benefit from a fresh pair of eyes on their scripts, please do consider taking a look at my script reading services and getting in touch if you think it could help in any way. It would mean a lot to be able to help more of you more directly with your projects, whilst handily keeping the funds in the “Keep Dave Fed and Watered Trust” healthy for the next few months too! Thank you all for your continued support of The Writing Journal, you all rock, and I hope you have a productive week until the next instalment. 😊

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