Friday, November 28, 2008

How many Red Planet finalists?

Being the "why bother wondering when you can ask" kind of guy that I am, I asked.

And the answer was...

We have just over 70 finalists.

The standard was excellent this year.

So there we go. The Scribospheric Bloggers make up just under 13%.

Reasons why I'm unlikely to win: Lots of people are better than me (and clearly a lot of them entered); and my dystopian future world involves a 'flu'[1] pandemic that decimates (literally, I know what the word means) the world's population. Unfortunately who's going to want that after the Survivors remake?

Best get back to Winter and Air, and I have a premise for next year's competition to get started on.

[1] Misplaced emphatic apostrophes just for the Dancing Arnopp.

What's on the turntable? "Haunted" by Evanescence from "Fallen"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Script secrets

Bill Martell is great, he really knows his stuff. His daily script secrets are great too, that's where he reveals all the stuff he knows.

I spent the evening working on my One Page Pitch for Winter (see Adrian Mead's How to Make it as a Scriptwriter, Chapter 8 - honestly I don't get a commission).

Actually I am quite pleased with the way it's coming together, although the antagonist needs work.

You see it's like this: Bill didn't like Indy IV and I wasn't overly impressed by it, Indy II wasn't great either but Indy I and III were cracking tales. Why? Was it because I and III had Nazis in them? While II and IV didn't?

Mr Martell says yes and no. It's not because they were Nazis that they made great antagonists, it's because, as antagonists, the stakes were clear. The viewer understands why it would be really bad if Hitler got hold of either the Ark or Immortality.

In II and IV the stakes either weren't high enough (II, yes it was bad what they were doing to the kids but what would actually happen if they got all the stones?) or too vague (IV, so the Commies wanted psychic powers ... okay ... so what?).

This is one of the problems I have to fix with Winter, the antagonist has his evil goal but if he succeeds ... so what?

This is the "So what?" rule which is expressed by my other favourite screenwriting adviser, Jeff Kitchen in his "Writing a Great Movie" and I quote:

Harry Cohn, the founder of Columbia Pictures, ran his development process as follows: He would sit his writers down at a conference table and ask for their ideas. The first writer would lay out his idea and Cohn would respond, "So what?" The next writer would pitch his idea and Cohn would shoot it down the same way. An idea had to pass Cohn's "So what?" test before he was willing to pursue it.
I need a motivation and consequences of the antagonist's actions that answer the "So what?" test. Currently it's way too vague and ephemeral "something bad will happen".

The other thing that needs dealing with is the theme. Now it's true that theme often doesn't reveal itself until you've finished. But there are ways to divine the theme without writing everything, in this both Bill Martell and Jeff Kitchen agree:

1. How the protagonist resolves the story.


2. The main philosophical difference between the protagonist and the antagonist.

Which, for reasons I can't reveal, makes working out the theme in Winter quite hard, but I'm sure I'll prevail.

It's funny how things work out I had been wondering about theme (because Adrian Mead suggested I should for the One Page Pitch) and then I looked at Bill Martell's daily script secret which, if you don't know, you do by going here and then just waiting (don't click "Enter").

I got tip #144 which didn't excite me, so being a naughty hacky type lad, I deleted the "1" from the URL and pressed return. And lo! I got Bill Martell's take on Theme. The fates were with me this eve.

Writing blogs is a great way of prevaricating when you don't have anything to read.

What's on the turntable? "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell from "Hits". I love this song.

The Morning After

I must be turning into a real writer. Having a couple of days off work I went out this morning into Reading town centre and sat in a coffee shop planning.

I wanted to go into a coffee shop in a bookshop, there's a nice Waterstones in Reading, but surprisingly they don't have a coffee shop. I paused to admire Roger Ellory's paperbacks in the crime section thinking "He's my friend, he is, and he's got books in a bookshop." And he's got a redesigned website I notice.

Then went to WHSmith's which has a Costa Coffee.

I then made one of the biggest mistakes of my entire life: I had a large Mocha Flake. If any beverage deserves an OMG that certainly does: It's huge and very chocolatey with four flake chocolates on the side. Oh dear. And after the celebratory bar of 70% Green and Black's last night I am completely chocolated out. I alleviated the richness slightly with an Innocent Smoothie.

Anyway sitting in the coffee shop I got out my notepad and thought about the thing I need to create for the BBC and managed to get a few ideas down. I've based it on a short I did a treatment for a few years ago but never scripted (let alone had produced). It's got some tasty emotional opportunities, it's quite twisty and turny (like a twisty turny thing) and I added an extra antagonist to make it longer. It's a bit "coincidental" currently so that will need work. The code word and title for this project is "Winter".

(Originally I, very derivatively and very cornily, called it "A Winter's Tale" but I won't do that now, too many words. I like evocative single word titles.)

Now I need to send an email or two, send off the full script of Monsters to Red Planet along with the other bits they asked for and get on with some new writing.

What's on the turntable? "Weightless" by Mike Oldfield from "Tubular Bells 2"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh. My. God. #3

Thicker than the thickest of thick things, the OMGs do march upon the Earth.

The real OMG is listed further down the page but first things first...

Had my meeting with the BBC person today, nice person, nice meeting, nice soup. I really can't say much because even saying a little would instantly give away the subject but I seem to be in a very good position because of my experience, both in writing and other areas.

However the next stage is to translate that experience and knowledge into something that the BBC want to take forward. That's the real test.

They're talking to a few writers, then they'll select some to take their ideas forward to script (and pay them for it) and then choose one to produce. So, we shall see.

I have to say that Adrian Mead's monograph "How to Make It as a Screenwriter" (Chapter 17), was a huge help. It gave me sufficient understanding of the process that I didn't feel too nervous[1]. The meeting lasted about an hour which is a good time for something that informal and over lunch. (From previous experience in another life, formal meet-and-greet meetings are good if they run from 1-2 hours.)

The real OMG: My script "Monsters" is a Red Planet finalist. (I haven't quite absorbed this yet.) Loads more info at Jason Arnopp's Bloggery-Pokery: In The Red.


[1] Who am I trying to kid? I wasn't even slightly nervous, I've had enough meetings to last me a lifetime. It was just another one. But Adrian's stuff did help.

What's on the turntable? "Rain and Snow" by Pentangle from "Light Flight"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tension rises

Hopefully next week we'll find out who is and who isn't through in the Red Planet.

And tomorrow I have my meeting with the BBC person. Couldn't get more exciting.

What's on the turntable? "Quest" by Gordon Giltrap and the Birmingham Philharmonic, from "Perilous Journey". The CD has some interesting additions like GG playing Heartsong without just one guitar (except it sounds like three), Quest with the orchestra, and a 20 minute version of the entire album on Guitar and Piano. Cool stuff.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Elementary, My Dear Watson

This evening I lost another procrastinary device: I finished the 1,408 pages of the The Complete Sherlock Holmes Stories.


I originally bought it because of a collaboration/competition thingy on Shooting People, someone looking for an original Sherlock Holmes story. I needed to research so bought them in order to get a feel for the style.

It's actually a fascinating historical document, and there are some cracking good stories, although watch out for the longer stories, the second halves are always the back story which can be pretty tedious, even if they are historically interesting.

In my blog this particular piece of writing was referred to as the Bohemian Project. It came to naught and a good chunk of the reason for that was me not reading the brief properly. I completely failed to notice that the company wanted something very dark and possibly supernatural. Mind you, Holmes wouldn't stand for that, read "The Sussex Vampire" story.

It's a crime I shall never be guilty of again, because I mean to win.

Back to Holmes, as I mentioned in a recent blog the word monograph comes up reasonably frequently. However there were turns of language that surprised me by their modernity, such as referring to the USA as "the States", and (I know it's not very recent but still...) a criminal saying "It's a fair cop".

What's on the turntable? "Heartsong" by Gordon Giltrap from "Perilous Journey". Heartsong was his only charts hit, and it's a lovely tune. Gordon Giltrap tells stories in music without words.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ego Googling

I love the Royal Armouries in Leeds, I'm not a fan of war but I am a fan of History. Particularly Japanese history and they have a lovely Japanese section where I and the rest of my family will sit down and drool over the weaponry, costume and armour.

Discontinuity #1: About 20 years ago I was walking through the centre of London wearing medieval costume along with many friends similarly and dissimilarly dressed. (One of them wore beautiful fibreglass Ashigaru armour, the Japanese tourists loved it.) We passed a bookshop and my eye was caught by my name emblazoned across a book. A book about Samurai, which I hadn't written.

Discontinuity #2: Today, just for fun, we (the family that is) indulged in a little ego-googling (where you Google your own name). My wife's name comes up a lot, and much of it is actually her, she's had two major careers and made a significant impact with both. But there were others, of course, including a sculptress.

My daughter's name comes up too. Her name is quite unusual but there are others in the world, but again 50% of the entries are for her. (The boy was playing on his Wii, that he saved up for all by himself.)

Then I did mine. There are quite a lot of me. One of me is a sculptor in Australia who does some wonderful work, another is a web designer in Canada; both could be close relations as I have relatives in both those places.

And then there was the author of the book on Samurai. Who, it turns out, lectures at Leeds University and has a lot to do with the Royal Armouries.

The Jujitsu daughter (Jujitsu being the self-defence art of the Samurai) has come over all Wushu and wants to learn Kung-Fu. She's also discovered a Martial Arts competition she can enter.

What's on the turntable? "Never Be Mine" by Kate Bush from "The Sensual World"

The DVD Meme

I visit your house/apartment, and you spot me looking at your DVD/VHS shelf.

1. What's on there that you instantly force me to borrow, because it's a great movie and you figure I haven't seen it?

"Casablanca" not enough people have seen this film.

2. What you do also lend me, because even though it's not considered a classic, it's a personal favourite?

"Undercover Blues" Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner as spies on holiday with Tom Arnold and Stan Tucci, what's not to like?

3. What movie is on there that you have no rational explanation for owning, and which you try to slide under the couch while I'm distracted?

"Miss Congeniality #2". I love Sandra Bullock. But this is a monstrosity. Actually I don't even own it, but that's only because I discovered it was rubbish just in time.

(Hm, not a SF/F among them. Curious.)

What's on the turntable? All very quiet.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chapter 17

"No one trains you for this." - Adrian Mead, "How to make it as a Screenwriter".

I spoke to the producer in the BBC today and arranged a meeting for next Wednesday evening, somewhere in London (venue to be confirmed). An informal " get to know you" type meeting, which roughly translates as "I like your writing but are you someone I can work with?"

Chapter 17 of Adrian Mead's monograph[1] is entitled "Meeting Script Editors and Producers" and contains the above quote as the second paragraph. He goes on to say:

This [meeting] is rarely about making your script. Most likely they are meeting you for
one of the following reasons:
  • They liked your work and are interested to see more ideas.
  • They are checking you aren’t a neurotic type to see if you’re suitable for one of their existing TV shows or film projects.
You will do dozens of these meetings at the start of your career and it will seem like nothing comes out of 99% of them.

Well, I'm certainly not neurotic - arrogant possibly.

The truth is that nobody trains you, until now. Adrian spends the rest of the chapter explaining how to prepare for, and how to be professional in, the meeting; thereby increasing the likelihood that something does come of it. (Is [less than] ten quid really too much for this sort of information? Especially when the profits got to Childline.)

So I shall prepare well and behave in an appropriately relaxed but professional manner.

[1] "Monograph" is a sadly under-used word nowadays, yet its definition perfectly fits Adrian's little book: "a detailed and documented treatise on a particular subject". I have been, over the last few months, on and off, been reading the complete works of Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle. And the word monograph pops up every now and then. I read the stories picturing the amazing, iconic and sorely missed, Jeremy Brett, who made the role his own in the 41 stories he appeared in.

What's on the turntable? "Suspended in Gaffa" by Kate Bush from "The Dreaming". Reminds me of this: You only need two things in this universe Gaffa Tape and WD40. Gaffa is for stopping things moving that shouldn't and WD40 is getting things moving that should.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh. My. God. #2

The OMGs are coming thick and fast.

And I really can't talk about this one but I shall be having a chat about drama with someone who has the word "producer" in their job title at the BBC in the coming week. Of course, it may all come to naught. But it's the first real bite.

The opportunity has arisen from the person reading "Monsters", it's what spec scripts are made for.

On another matter, it's funny, one of the things people (successful scriptwriting type people) say is that writers should have a go at directing.

And I always think: Nah. Not interested.

Then I remembered, I already did. A few years ago I wrote and directed an action short featuring my martial arts daughter (the boy got a look in as well). I also played various monsters and the person needing rescuing.

Of course it was rubbish. Filmed in a few hours on a family camcorder without even a separate microphone. My brother-in-law was camera/sound/continuity guy. He also edited it over a year.

We keep a copy so that one day, when the daughter is famous, we can blackmail her out of her fortune under threat of revealing this early example of her work. Or sell it the highest bidder.

And then I thought some more. And remembered making a film (with real film) with a school buddy of mine. We made models and filmed them in the deep darkness of my parent's cellar.

No editing at all. And no sound.

So I've already done that bit.


What's on the turntable? "Shadows and Light" by Joni Mitchell from "The Hissing of Summer Lawns"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Air

Goodness me. I just completed the first draft of the first episode of Air.

I'd had a sticking point where I couldn't see how to introduce the father of the family that Air ends up staying with. Then I was thinking about it on the train coming home this evening and it came together, so I jotted down the entire sequence of scenes in my little black book as we trundled from Clapham Junction to Reading (actually it only took me from Staines - when I got a seat - to Ascot).

Having got in I made my dinner, handled some important money things, made a couple of phone calls, read a Sherlock Holmes short story, and with all the procrastination dealt with I sat down and blasted out the 7 pages in a little under 90 minutes.

Discovering various things as I went like: the bad guys are called the Witchbrood, and the people in our world are assuming Air has run away from an abusive home, taking refuge in fantasy. An amusing irony.

I'm pretty economical in my writing so I've still got another 7-8 pages to fill, which is great because I can put more emotional content into it.

The sticking point I resolved had some interesting features (I think). Initially I had made the Dad a Professor of History. This meant that I had to bring in Police to deal with the lost soul that is Air, and then have Dad be chosen as the person to take Air home.

It just wasn't working, I could not get my head around any sequence of scenes and dialogue that could make that work smoothly. So my first brainwave (last week) was to make the Dad a Police Detective himself, cutting out the middle man. Excellent.

Then I had to somehow make Air, as the Protagonist, do a protagonistic action in order to make the Dad take her home. I needed her to manipulate the action without that manipulation being "conniving" which is, of course, the trait of a baddie.

It was when I had the Dad walk into the scene wearing full plate armour (which fits the setting perfectly) that the solution flowed off the end of my fingers - naturally Air would look for a protector, a knight, and he just walked in through the door.

Problem solved: She chooses him, and he is duty-bound to accept. (It even works in the real world, Social Services don't work weekends so Air would have to be dealt with by the Police alone, and if she were 16, Social Services wouldn't even be remotely interested, so I get a free hand.)

It's true that I wrote down a whole load of stuff in my little black book but, in truth, I didn't write what I put in the book. But my initial inspiration would have worked, it just wasn't as good as what I ended up with.

Of course there is loads more going on, I have the two other major plot lines running through as well, all linked and interconnected so I'm quite pleased. I'll print it up tomorrow and work through making notes and seeing where it can be appropriately expanded.

What's on the turntable? "Refuge of the Road" by Joni Mitchell from "Hejira"

Monday, November 17, 2008

The solution...

... to yesterday's puzzler: What is it that links the films Silent Running (1972) and National Treasure (2004)?

Valley Forge.

The name of the spaceship in the former, the password in the latter (confused by the fact that it has duplicate letters hence the computer couldn't solve it).

I thank you.

What's on the turntable? "Sister Disco" by The Who from (in my case) "Greatest Hits"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quanta of Solace, Solitude and Soul-searching

How do you like your Bond?

I was in two minds about going to see "Quantum of Solace", although I really liked Casino Royale, critics have a lot to answer for. Luckily Bond is critic-proof. I thought QoS was superb - Paul Haggis does it again.

If you insist on your Bond having gadgets, or don't understand the words in the title, or a simple plotline, then I guess you might not like this film. The nonsense about "having to have seen Casino Royale" is exactly that: nonsense. There are references but nothing that makes the story impossible to understand - but it is a more complex Bond plot than your average. And I see that only as a good thing.

The sequence set against the music of Tosca in the opera house was magical; and how many people got the relevance between the fall from the building at the end of the sequence and the end of Tosca? Precious few I'll be bound. Not that it detracts if you don't get it, but it adds so much if you do.

Speaking of which: the first episode of the second season of the Sarah Connor Chronicles (so glad this got renewed, it is excellent) was an example of excellent and logical plotting but completely understated.


A group of the main characters are stranded in the desert and the nearby cell-phone mast has been destroyed deliberately. As they hike through the desert they meet a truck coming the other way. Lucky coincidence?

Not at all.

Completely unmentioned in the dialogue but this is the cell-phone mast repair truck, it says so on the side. Love it. Completely logical.


I like my long train journeys usually, (back in Reading from my nice weekend at home), but not today. I usually take a seat in First Class (cheap upgrades on Sundays) where no one can look at what I'm doing, it's bad enough if I'm programming, but I can't have people reading my scripts over my shoulder as I write, horrible thought.

Ten minutes before the train is due to leave, 5 times as many people get on as usual. Really, the train was packed, not even standing room anywhere. Killed my writing opportunity, and I had really been in the mood. So I spent 3.5 hours being annoyed at everybody crowding around, even though it wasn't the fault of the travellers. Not my worst-ever journey but it was bad. (See what's on the turntable.)

Apparently Euston Station was closed and people were trying to find alternative routes into London.

Anyway I got back to the flat and spent abut half-an-hour writing out some planning for Air and then writing a difficult scene which will no doubt change. (It's got way too many new characters in it: Huwie, Louie and Dewie - well, Hugh Bland, Hang Po and Dorothy Keen.

Apropros nothing at all: Huwie, Louie and Dewey were, of course, Donald Duck's nephews (you all knew that, didn't you?) They were also the names given to the little robots in the terrific SF movie "Silent Running". Which, incidentally, allowed me to guess the password used for the lift in "National Treasure", even though I'm not an American.

And if all that seems obscure. That's probably because it is.

What's on the turntable? "Reflections & Despair" by Gordon Giltrap from "Perilous Journey". How appropriate is that?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Halloween pictures

I forgot, okay?

I promised to post a picture of me and I thought I'd throw in the kids as well. The first picture is me with our little puppy, Toby, he's only about 8 months old. He can be a pain in the posterior but he can also be very cute.

Some might say including my kids pictures is a bad idea but honestly there's far more risk in crossing the road. And the news media seems to exist largely to terrorise the population - and I refuse to be terrorised.

Besides the girl is 2nd Dan Jujitsu and knows half a dozen ways of killing someone, never mind breaking bones and dislocating joints - and the boy is also a black belt Jujitsu so knows quite a few of those methods too.

Unlike some martial arts real Jujitsu is not a sport and is intended as serious self-defence - how to disable an attacker with minimum effort and swiftly, it covers everything from distance attacks (kicks and strikes) to ground fighting (half a dozen exits from strangulation, for example), and how to deal with knife attacks.

Besides, this blog is semi-anonymous, it's not impossible to find out who I am - if you don't know already - but it would take a bit of work. (Do you think I've justified myself enough?)

So the second picture is them in their costumes (they don't look like this normally). All the costumes and much more besides, is kept in our cellar ready for events like this.

The final picture is the kids looking cool, as done by professional photographer, John Nichols, when the daughter went to get some headshots done.

What's nice is that they almost never argue, and get on well.

I'll stop procrastinating now and get back to Air.

What's on the turntable? "Bright Evening Star" by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band from "Ringing the Changes"

Just a moment

I'm on my lunch break (cheese and ham baguette from Upper Crust) so I thought I'd take 5 minutes from my punishing schedule to throw out a blog. Plus the fact that accesses to my blog reached the lowest in ages yesterday so I thought I'd better write something.

In my day job I'm a contract web developer, the funny thing about developing websites is that most people have no clue as to what is difficult and what is hard. The usual rule of thumb is that non-techies think the easy things are hard and the hard things are easy.

Bit like writing really. I mean the actual writing bit isn't that hard, it's the planning and deciding what to write that's tricky.

Which brings me to Air - my kids TV fantasy series - I actually got down to some serious writing the past couple of evenings and I'm 7 pages in, a quarter of the way through a half-hour episode. Now that I've finished Russell T Davies's book I have no "research" excuse for procrastination.

I threw away my opening again and wrote a new one. Same basic stuff but just done in a different way, with the protagonist more at the centre of things, being more decisive. (And cut out a whole bunch of unnecessary speaking parts into the bargain, so keeping the budget down).

Then moved on to the protagonist's arrival here in the real world. It worked really well, not the way I originally thought it would play out but I like it - lots of action and emotion.

I can see people thinking this is "too heavy" for kids so I'll need something to lighten it up I suppose, but Tracy Beaker was pretty serious at times, so I'm aiming for that kind of level.

Anyway, better get back to work.

What's on the turntable? They never have music here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Oh. My. God.

It's who you know. Or, at least, it might be.

Just in case something actually happens, I have to be very careful how I say this:

I remembered I knew someone who had become a one of the top people in a TV Production Company. (I knew him properly years ago in another life, as it were.)

His company does not produce fiction TV but, hey, he might know someone who'd be interested in my work. Nothing ventured...

So I e-mailed him at 9:00pm, thinking that he might possibly get back to me tomorrow, if I was lucky, after he'd had a think about it - I was pretty sure he wouldn't just give me the brush off because he'd always been free with his time and advice before.

At 9:30pm I got an e-mail back: he's involved in something relevant, call him tomorrow.


Must. Control. Excitement.

Girlie. Scream. Escaping. Lips.

(Not much writing in the last few days, still adjusting to my new job schedule, up at 6:00am , into work at 9:00am, work solidly until 5:30pm, home by 8:00pm. Knackered. Spoke to the landlord who's okay to let me leave as soon as they can find someone to replace me here. And then I'll find somewhere closer to the new job. But having said that, I've done some good planning for Air while sitting on the train.)

What's on the turntable? "An Architect's Dream" by Kate Bush from "Aerial". Yup, still listening to it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale - a review

Oooh, that sounds posh. Once upon a time, when I worked on magazines, I used to write reviews all the time. Not so much in recent years.

I knew I had to buy this book, in its glorious hard-back, heavyweight and glossy paper configuration. It just exudes quality. But that's just judging a book by its cover (and production values).

I am a fan of Dr Who and my watching goes back to the second story in 1963 - the Zarbi made an impression on me. Not an obsessive fan, you understand, just someone who has enjoyed watching and would go out of his way to watch. (Except towards the end of the original run.)

Of course, Russell T Davies's revival of the series has created whole new generations of fans, recreated "appointment TV" and revivified family watching on a Saturday evening.

But these things we knew. And I've wasted valuable minutes telling you things you already knew.

So what is this book? It is the e-mail (and occasionally mobile phone text) correspondence between RTD and Benjamin Cook (journalist) through a year of the production of new Dr Who's season 4. It reveals the trials and tribulations of the show runner and chief writer, with excerpts of the scripts as they evolve; views of the production process that are seldom seen elsewhere; and a personal study of RTD as a writer.

Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know what happens in the Christmas 2008 special do not read this book. There are references to it in various places but mostly at the end. There is also some stuff on the special episodes for 2009 and Stephen Moffat's 2010 series (but not much).

I won't say this is an easy read. It's over 500 pages of fairly dense text. Though it is interspersed with illustrative photos from the episodes and scripts being discussed, it's tough going at times.

And heartbreaking in places. Such as when the actor who played Donna's Dad dies during filming; And if you cried at the end of the fourth season you'll cry again as you read the Bad Wolf Bay scene as it goes through three or four different versions until it becomes "true".

Does that sound pretentious? If there's one thing to learn about RTD's writing process it's the truth of the script. Or, less pretentiously, does it make sense? Are the characters obeying the plot or being themselves? RTD isn't pretentious at all, but he knows his way around a script. He hasn't read any scriptwriting books (he says) but you'll find that he agrees with many of them.

Which is good news for those of us who have read some. It will also tell you which of them are the better ones - because they agree with him.

As an "as-yet-unproduced" screenwriter I read it from the viewpoint of how useful this is to me. I haven't bothered to mention the missed deadlines, the writing through the night, the writer tortured by self-doubt and such like. But it does make the story more human.

But this book is unique. It's a year-long interview with one of the most effective, and most powerful, TV writers in the UK. If you think you want to write for TV then you are missing a fundamental piece of research by not reading it: Honestly? You'd be an idiot not to read it.

In his "Making it as a Screenwriter" Adrian Mead recommends "It’s essential that you constantly update your skills and knowledge of the industry". And there is nowhere that you'll get the information revealed in this book, short of firsthand experience and even then it would be better to read to prepare yourself.

Give yourself an early Christmas present, or make sure that somebody buys it for you.

If you're serious about TV writing you must read this book. If you just happen to like Dr Who, then it's a lovely book anyway.

Get it here. Buying from the big link will give me a commission if you buy, using the text link won't.

Oh yes and I was just reading the reviews on Amazon (after writing mine) and I forgot to mention that many of the illustrations are cartoons drawn by RTD. Damn him, he's a brilliant cartoonist as well! And this book is definitely not for kids - need a 15 tag I would say.

What's on the turntable? "King of the Mountain" by Kate Bush from "Aerial". I have all her albums, this is undoubtedly the very best (so far). Though, in truth, I love them all. Even the less popular ones (like "Red Shoes") always have amazing tracks.