The Writing Journal #35

There are few feelings better for a writer than coming across a new idea. The rush of giddy excitement as new characters, story worlds and set pieces flash across your mind, propelling you into a mad scramble to capture them all before they disappear into the ether once more. During this time, you don’t have to worry about things making sense or loopholes that could see it eventually collapse into a logical black hole; that’s a worry for a later date. In that moment, you’re free to gorge on ideas of unlimited potential, and how this is going to be “the one”; the project that will etch your name into pop culture history alongside such luminaries as J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg and Dave Benson-Phillips.

When a completely new idea hits you, it’s incredibly tempting to ditch everything you’re currently working on in favour of carpe-ing the diem and capitalising on this momentum. If you’ve been slogging away at a story for months, focusing on the small details to make the story logical, sensical and engaging, a new idea, with its bells and whistles, can seem infinitely more exciting and therefore even more of a tempting fruit to savour whilst you can. But, in my experience, this way madness lies, as well as career dead-ends littered with hundreds of unfinished, half-cooked ideas. After all, every project you ever undertake will start its life as one of these effervescent ideas before the hard work sets it, but if you constantly chase that “quick buzz” of the new idea, you’ll never end up with anything meaningful to show for it. As is to be expected, the incomparable Richard Curtis put it far better than I ever could when he said the following in his BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture –  

“Films can’t be infatuations, they’ve got to be relationships. And I suppose this is my first observation, that I think the difference between having a good idea for a film and a finished film that you like is the same as seeing a pretty girl at a party and being there when the same girl has your third baby. It’s an incredibly long journey, and a good idea is only the tiny little spark at the beginning of this immense process.”

However, is the same true for a new interpretation of an already existing idea? One where you’re already engaged and stalling on setting a date until you discover the wonderful venue to make the perfect wedding day of your dreams. Do you abandon the relationship you’ve just taken past third base in order to focus on the wedding, or do you try and get engaged for a second time and see that one through to a third child instead (to labour the rapidly buckling metaphor for all its worth)? This is something I’ve been grappling with this week, and something that has had a direct impact on my writing targets for this week and the months ahead…


Target Number 1: Spend a minimum of 20 hours editing my novel.

With one week of June left, my current running total for novel edits stands at 11hrs 12mins. The silver lining here is that I’ve passed the halfway mark – hurrah! – but beneath that is a rather large and ominous dark cloud; namely that I now have one week to do what has previously taken me three! Despite all that, I don’t think it’s an impossible task and, with a couple of dedicated days, I’m relatively confident that I can meet the target, especially with the added pressure of the ticking clock at my back as well. Breaking into a new chapter should also give an added momentum boost to see me over the line.

Target Number 2: Write a first draft pitch document for a TV show.

Whilst the novel has been relatively unaffected by my musings on new projects this past week, the pitch document has been dealt a mortal blow by my infidelity. There’s been no further progress with the pitch from last week, both as a word document and as a thought process, and it appears increasingly likely that there won’t be before July. Usually, being so close to the end of the month, I would hold off on working towards new writing targets to focus on the current ones, but the time sensitive nature of the new ideas means I’ll need all the minutes I can get, and therefore an effective end to meeting this goal right now.

Targets aside, I’m not overly heartbroken about this. I’ve still made a good deal of progress on this project to put it in a healthy position moving forward. The first draft of a pitch document may not be written as intended, but I have given the show as a whole more detailed thought than it has had before, and come up with an outline that will help to shape the proposal when required. That is much more than I could say at the start of June. Having a HETV idea ready to pitch when needed is still a long-term ambition of mine, but for now the new ideas are more likely to get me more immediate exposure, which is where my efforts need to be focused right now.


With one target almost certain not to be met now, it’s important to crack on with the novel to make sure that June’s targets weren’t a total write off (no pun intended). But with only seven days left, and other, time-sensitive projects coming to the fore, it’s certainly not going to be an easy week…

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