The Writing Journal #30

“Just when they think they have all the answers, I change the questions.” Not only is this one of my favourite quotes from the incomparable “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, but it is also a sound piece of writing advice for anyone crafting a serial narrative. Jed Mercurio knows this, as do David Benioff and D.B.Weiss. Line of Duty closed out series five with an absolute masterclass in how words can sometimes speak louder than actions; answering some of the questions that have been building for the last six weeks before throwing in a shed-load more that have you cursing the fact that it’ll be at least a year until series 6 returns. In most other people’s hands, 90 minutes of (mostly) police interviews would be turgid and drab, but the intricacies and pacing had me holding my breath from the moment it began to the moment it ended (demonstrating a skill I never knew I had and have, ultimately, wasted for my entire life…).

Game of Thrones doesn’t even have to wait a year for new questions – it only needs seven days! The ice has barely melted from Catspaw’s blade and we’re already hurtling towards other clashes and conflicts with seemingly impossible resolutions (for a universally happy ending, at least). Whilst Thrones has spoiled us with some of the best battle sequences ever committed to film, that’s never what it’s been about at its core. It’s the political machinations and character examinations, of people making impossible choices and how they affect the world, that has made this epic saga so compelling for nearly a decade, and what continues to make it so compelling now. With so many loose ends left to tie up and two episodes left to do it in, I’m desperately excited to see where this journey ends in 14 days’ times.

Before then, something else has drawn to a close – April. That means there are some writing targets to evaluate, for better or for worse…

Target Number 1: Write a treatment for a drama feature.

Status – ACHIEVED 😊

With a concerted effort, I’m pleased to say that the drama treatment is finished, sent, and awaiting final judgement in the hands of the commissioning Gods.

Treatments are always tricky things to write, as they can sometime feel like they’re neither one thing nor the other. They’re not a novel or short story, so that level of depth and description is not required; and they’re not a script which makes it more challenging to “show not tell”. I suppose in a treatment there isn’t so much onus on the idiom, and telling is not so much of the cardinal sin it is in a screenplay, but this again provides its own challenges in knowing how to make this “telling” compelling and engaging (it is, after all, a selling document). Structure and pacing are important – short, snappy paragraphs, lots of white space – but I guess time will tell whether I’ve managed to get it right myself! They are a necessary evil sometimes, and there were some moments during its writing where I really had to slog through it, but much like scripts themselves, there are moments that are a breeze to write, and at the end of it all, you have a much greater understanding of your story for writing the treatment than you do if you just jump straight in (even with a detailed outline). I feel like I could write this script in a few days now because I know the story that well – hopefully, in the coming weeks, I’ll get a chance to test that theory out for real.

Target Number 2: Write a treatment for a horror feature.

Status – ON HOLD

In sending the drama treatment to my producer this week, there was still no word on the status of my involvement with this film. Having just been hired for a studio film, he is understandably swamped at the moment and only really had time to acknowledge the receipt of the drama treatment and little else. The ideas are still in place for this horror feature, and I will slowly add to them with some structural pieces so that, if good news does arrive, I can crack on with it without delay, but as far as this month’s target goes, there is no final treatment so no meeting of the goal.

Target Number 3: Research 5 Welsh production companies for potential collaborations.

Status – ACHIEVED 😊

I’m hoping that this research can be a shot in the arm for a project that is very close to my heart. It is perhaps the most personal script I have written to date, and whilst there was a lot of excitement last year around it potentially being picked up, that quietly ebbed away as opportunities came and went. The research here might, ultimately, be a dead end and not bring me any closer to getting this project greenlit, but there’s no way of knowing that until it’s tried, which is now what my producer and I can do in the weeks and months ahead.

As one set of goals fades into the past, a new set must come to take its place. I use the term “set” loosely this month, as there’s only going to be one target set for May…

Target Number 1: Decide where to go from here.

I’ve been both blessed and cursed these last few months with being able to get a number of plates spinning with some pretty decent momentum. A blessing because it is always difficult to get new, viable projects off the ground; a curse because I now don’t know which ones to pursue. Try to keep every single one spinning, and chances are they will all end up crashing; the best move now is to judge which ones stand the best chance moving forward, and parking the others for now.

Unfortunately, at this stage in my writing life, I am not blessed with being able to write limitless passion projects. That’s not to say there won’t be passion in the projects I write, I hasten to add – I can always find something to love in any piece of writing I do – but it is to say that I am in a position where I have to choose projects that stand the best chance of getting made and getting me sustained traction. In the last couple of months, I’ve been lucky enough to have those projects chosen for me – an ambitious, talented producer is always a God send in this regard – but with those projects currently moving beyond my control, I now have to consider where best to channel my energies in the coming months to keep myself moving forward. Is that into finishing the novel and branching out there? Is it into more short form ideas that can have a quicker turnaround time? Or do I jack it all in and start over with an ice cream van? All of them could work (apart from the ice cream van, if we’re being brutally honest), but all of them need a plan and a strategy in order to succeed, and for the first time this year I don’t have that. Hopefully, with a bit of headspace to think about it, I can achieve that.

I will be away from my laptop next Monday so The Writing Journal will take a brief hiatus for that. Hopefully, this will be the perfect opportunity to gather some thoughts and have some rough plans in place, ready to develop them throughout the rest of May.

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