Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's behind you!

This is my first round-up of a year since I only started blogging in April. And I already sort of did this a little while ago, though it covered my life in writing.

So, 2008.

This time last year I lost direction and wandered in the wilderness for 5 months as far as writing was concerned. I was working at random, treatment for a major Hollywood feature that no one had asked for, a feature script that was rubbish (okay, it's only first draft but it was totally unlike anything I've ever written before). Then I got back on track with my spec TV script Monsters and it got short-listed for Red Planet. Plus it has opened doors in the BBC, and someone is very interested in actually trying to get it made (the thing we all hope for but realistically have to know probably won't happen with spec scripts).

Day-job-wise I did pretty well, but I'm currently without contract which is worrying. I have to get a paying job in the next three weeks.

Most of the year I lived away from home and I am heading back to Reading this Sunday after spending all of December at home. Which was great.

My son moved to secondary school and is learning to play the saxophone. It sounds so cool when he plays, and he really likes it. He also plays the tenor horn in various brass bands, but he likes the sax much more, apparently the tenor horn is too easy. Plus he has been shortlisted as one of the teams to go on the TV show Bamzooki, and he's being used for something on the CBBC website (apparently it was noted in his BBC file that he has brilliant telephone manners, is very clear and easy to talk to). He amazes us.

My daughter did her AS level exams and came away with As and Bs, and if her acting career doesn't work out she's going for Zoo Biology, she's been accepted without interview to four universities and she didn't want to go to the fifth one really anyway. She's also auditioning at three drama schools. And has her first real boyfriend. I have been oiling the shotgun.

My wife continues to manage the entire Foundation and KS1 at her school, though she hates the bureaucracy and would prefer to just teach. Unfortunately she's too competent at management to be "just a teacher".

So, that's the year gone, tomorrow I'll be looking ahead.

What's on the turntable? "Revelation" by Gordon Giltrap from "Visionary" (music inspired by the poems of William Blake)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Man-flu and Multi-tasking

I've not been well for the past few days, having caught whatever it was my wife had. Some sort of nasty cold thing.

Being male this had a serious effect on my ability to function, and I was laid up in bed for half a day. But this morning I had a revelation, the apparent difference between men and women who have a bad cold or flu? It's down to multi-tasking.

Women can be ill and do other things, while men can only be ill. Obvious.

I watched a fair amount of TV, but not an excessive amount: The obvious, of course: Dr Who: The Next Doctor. Yes, quite liked it. Not ecstatic to the point of geek-gasm, but good. Essentially I was disappointed by the cyber-shades. And I felt there was some missing logic as to why the kids were operating the engine, but weren't needed after things got cooking. I like my logic to exist even if it's throwaway. (Perhaps I missed it.)

There is a brilliant line in Big Trouble in Little China, near the end where the good guys are escaping from the lair of the bad guy. They've been split up and somehow one group (A) have got much further than the group with the heroes in it (B). And (A) is in a position to rescue (B) from certain death ... but how did (A) get into their superior position? It's a problem and it needs explaining for the audience. The writer solves it brilliantly in two short lines:

B: "How did you get up there?"

A: "It wasn't easy"

Problem solved.

This issue also came up in the Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (been around a few years but I had't seen it) last night. In case anyone is wondering, this was an original story, not a Conan Doyle. I should know I've read them all. I also quite liked this although, as my daughter said, it was more like an episode of Criminal Minds. (By the way, I was a bit surprised when they referred to the CID Criminal Investigation Department, but it turns out the London CID was formed in 1878.)

The story contained many little splashes of genuine Conan Doyle which I recognised, but there were various issues, such as the fact Holmes never worked so closely with the Police. It needed justification. As did the throwing of the Ball by a family that had lost a daughter three days earlier and the mother in a sanitorium due to it. It just wouldn't have happened. And there were so many ways around it (Holmes insisting they hold it to trap the criminal would have made a nice scene).

But on the whole, I liked it.

I can't say the same about the new The 39 Steps. There was so much wrong with this, not least the machine guns mounted on the biplane in 1914, and the plane's insignia completely wrong. I'm not a plane buff but I know my Biggles. And used to thumb through Jane's Military Aircraft in our local library when I was young.


But the end: After the bad guys have either been shot or taken away Hannay is talking to Victoria, and one of the dead huns suddenly rises up and shoots Victoria, Hannay then shoots him dead, properly dead this time. Hannay spends time trying to find her body in the loch but fails. She's dead and gone.

Except she isn't. It was a trick, she's really alive and going undercover as a spy in Germany. What?

Look: How did they know the German wasn't really dead and was going to shoot her, so that they could set up her fake death? Did they put blanks in his gun to ensure he didn't actually hurt anyone? Or was he really a double-agent primed to pretend to kill Victoria? But if he's a double agent that makes the whole plot meaningless, and Hannay has just killed him.

It's utterly preposterous whichever way you look at it.

#### END SPOILER ####

I don't mind them doing their own version, book adaptations require changes, but at least let's have some internal logic. Read the book or watch any of the film adaptations instead of this.

Back to Christmas Day. Am I getting curmudgeonly in my old age? I felt there was something missing from Wallace and Gromit's A Matter of Loaf or Death. Compared to the others it felt superficial, there were the movie references which are always fun, particularly to Aliens at the end.

The household received dozens of DVDs and books this year, which was great, Mamma Mia was fun and you can't knock the music. Watching the DVD extras revealed the interesting fact that although the cast pre-recorded all the songs in the studio, much of what appeared in the movie was them singing live on set. Meryl Streep goes up another few notches in my estimation - there aren't many notches left. Pierce Brosnan is not a bad singer, it's just his voice isn't designed for ABBA songs.

The Dark Knight: Pretty good. Heath Ledger was impressive though I suspect he wouldn't get an Oscar is he wasn't dead.

Moonstruck: Cher deserved her award for this, she is superb and it's a brilliant movie. Very Italian. And a very young Nicolas Cage. The daughter had never seen it, and is now quoting it.

All the Indiana Jones: And then we watched them all back to back on Boxing Day. In previous years we've watched the entirety of the extended Lord of the Rings (set aside 12 hours), but decided to do Indiana this year. Next year we might do Studio Gibli...

Spirited Away: I can't decide which Gibli film I prefer.

Oooh, and Santa left me a copy of the Watchmen graphic novel, I read it when it first came out but hadn't seen it since. It stays with you. I do hope they get the movie right.

What's on the turntable? "Metteng Excuske V1.2" by Squarepusher from "Go Plastic" (I'm eclectic me.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

...and many of them

Merry thing!

So I spent a few days in Birmingham with friends and had a jolly good time. Came home to wife, kids, cats, rabbit, giant African land snails and dog. And have been working on various Christmas related activities ever since.

I had vaguely hoped to get some script written for the as-yet-unnamed new project, which for the sake of argument I shall refer to as UnitX. According to those that know it's a seriously commercial idea so I'm putting lots of thought into it. Unfortunately it involves a lot of research so that I get the feel of the period (post-WWII) and location (USA): Paranoia, Nazis, Commies, racism, sexism, post-War depression: luvverly stuff. And so Christmassy. So no script was written but I have managed some major planning on the pilot.

Here's to a happy Christmas for everyone. Remember to relax.

What's on the turntable? "Join together" by The Who, originally just a single but later put on the Rarities compilation

Thursday, December 18, 2008


There's a thing I say, which I might have got from someone else but I don't recall: "Ideas are the cheapest things in the universe". People have ideas all the time, 6 billion people having ideas every moment of the day (dreams are just ideas too).

Ideas also weigh nothing: Get a memory stick, weigh it, put every work of fiction, every work science, every work of art on to that memory stick and weigh it again: It's the same weight. Yet ideas change our world all the time, sometimes quite radically. They are simultaneously the most powerful things in the universe. (I could get very philosophical at this point and suggest that if that's the case then there must be something more to life than just "physics" - but that's not the point of this blog.)

So. Yesterday evening I had an idea about a TV series. It's new but also leverages existing productions and audience (that's management-speak for "spin-off"). It's also based in America. I'm not a student of US history (which would be required), but I know someone who is.

Then I started thinking about the argument that writers often have which is "which comes first plot or character?" (closely allied to the "which is more important plot or character?" which I gave my opinion on here, but can be summed up as: "Who cares? As long as you have a great story.").

For me it seems to be neither, it's always setting that comes first. I think of settings that can have interesting characters and lots of plot. So where do my settings ideas come from? Anywhere, random thoughts, whatever. Last night I mis-heard what a couple of friends were talking about and a whole string of thoughts went through my head like an express train. And I ended up with an idea. Then this morning, as I was getting up, I refined it, added the "spin-off" factor and realised I suddenly had a very saleable product.

I have absolutely no idea how to proceed with it, but that's what connections are for. E-mails to follow.

As for the week's resolutions: I finished the wine pages yesterday, have almost finished the coding I needed to do on my pet project, but haven't touched "Air" yet.

Off to Birmingham later today for a weekend with friends. Not sure whether I'll get time for any writing but my office will be going with me, though it'll probably be back to "Rubbish Internet" (tm).

What's on the turntable? "Monday Morning" by Pulp from "Different Class"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How to succeed

This is not about me, this is about all of us.

I was inspired to write this entry because of Danny Stack's final posting about how to succeed in writing, which has rather less to do with talent than some people might hope, and rather more to do with keeping at it, and keep pushing despite every barrier life puts in your way (and it will).

There was a certain serendipity about it because I had just had an e-mail from my novelist friend Roger Ellory, I'd been telling him about my bits of luck and he'd been telling me about his, zooming all over the place, selling lots of books, lots of new distribution contracts and so on.

Let's face it, Roger is a success.

But he wasn't always. He told me once how it began for him I shall summarise the writing bit here, but the full story is on his website. (Though I have some information that's not there.)

In the late 80s he started writing. He wrote 22 novels in six years, mostly supernatural thrillers, he even got an agent or three. but the rejections just piled up. He kept 300 of the most interesting rejections. Can you imagine how many rejections he must have got to have kept 300 of the most interesting? I have no idea but it's a scary number.

Then he stopped, for almost 10 years. Then began again, but things were different.

He was doing a job that most people would regard as having unsocial hours, working with people who needed help. But for one hour every day when he got home (usually after 10pm), without fail, he would write. His wife made sure he had the space and the time to do it, even though at the time they were living in one room in someone else's house and had a son.

And he got his breakthrough, only 5 years ago, now he has an ongoing contract for a book every year, though as you can imagine, he could write a lot more than that. The rest is a tale of success, his popularity and readership grow, his books are tough, uncompromising and a joy to read. (But that's just a fan talking.) One day I'd like to have the honour of turning one of them into a feature film.

On the bio page of his website it says this:
Recently he read a book called 'How Not To Write A Novel' by David Armstrong. His favourite quote from this book went along the lines of 'The harder you work the luckier you get'. He agrees with this principle, and thus has no intention of retiring from anything, ever.
Which finally brings me to what Roger wrote in his e-mail:
When I am asked at events what it takes to get published, it's just one word: persistence.
And that's how to succeed.

What's on the turntable? "Train Song" by Pentangle from "Basket of Light"

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Hard Day's Night

Which was a surprisingly good film considering it was a vehicle for the Fab Four. It has some brilliant talent in the supporting cast, but it's the writer, Alun Owen, who deserves the credit for building a real story into something so blatantly commercial. Owen has an impressively huge list of TV drama credits in a 30 year writing career, as well as being an actor. It just proves you can do a good job even when faced with major constraints - he was nominated for an Oscar for the film. And it was a taste of things to come: a mockumentary.

But that has nothing to do with this blog.

Last week I said my main concerns were: Job interview; finishing and sending the 1p pitch for Winter; promoting myself as a writer; and writing 13 x 300 words on French Wine for a website.

The job interview did not materialise (the company decided they could do it themselves), so I've been applying for jobs again, hum-de-ho. I did finish the Winter 1p pitch and sent that - I was told it was fine and passed up the line, so I need to forget that for now. I did the promotion thing (two producers and Red Productions), received suprising and good news from my old producer friend and I also got a rejection from an agent (I have no problem with the rejection, but I was amused by the irony that he felt he couldn't represent me because "Monsters" was too "youthful" in style, not his thing, when I happen to know he's 20 years younger than me). Finally I have written eight of the French Wine pages, which my business partner has popped up on the website. Oh yes and, not in my list, I have been working on my pet programming project, preparing it for launch.

Why is this blog titled the way it is?

Yesterday I drove 450 miles, waking at 5:30am and on the road within the hour. It was the annual Christmas present run, so with wife, kids and dog packed into car we headed south. But the first stop was way beyond my parents house, as I went to Reading to pick up clothes and other stuff from the flat - including my notes on the Air script. We reached Reading at 10:00am (one short stop on the way).

Must say that our dog, still a puppy but now a "medium sized" dog was very good and slept most of the time.

We spent half an hour trying to escape from Reading. I've only driven in Reading twice before and I don't know the one-way systems. Every time I tried to go in one direction I ended up going a different way. Eventually we left by a completely different route.

Spent quality time with my parents, saw my younger sister, husband and kids: The puppy was by now hyper, luckily my parents have a good garden which is puppy-proof so we were able to give him a run in the garden.

I have had three sisters: The younger one is an optician, she's 10 years my junior and we have always got on. It was her husband who was part of the crew who made my 10 minute, really bad, short. (Actually, he was the crew.) My next sister, Caroline, is 10 years older than me (yes, really) and she is an artist in Australia.

I had another sister, Susan, a year older again, who also lived in Australia, but she died of Pancreatic cancer. The particular trouble with this form of cancer is that by the time it's noticed it's usually untreatable and kills relatively quickly.

Anyway. We had a nice chat, a delicious dinner and came home by a slightly more direct route. We drove past a very nasty multi-vehicle crash on the other carriageway somewhere near Nottingham. It was a long, tough day especially as my driving muscles are out of shape. I was shattered and had an early night.

So, this week: Apply for more jobs (though I'm not hopeful this close to Christmas and I'm in Birmingham Thursday to Sunday visiting friends); Finish the wine pages; Get the first draft of Air wrapped up to the full number of pages; finish the amendments to the Pet Project; watch the DVDs I ordered for research purposes.

What's on the turntable? "Guitar & Piano" by Gordon Giltrap from "Perilous Journey", a brilliant album originally but this is a rehearsal extra which contains all the themes from the entire album played in one go on piano and guitar (surprisingly). Complete with the occasional bum note and Gordon saying the entries and key changes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Not a game anymore

I am not a serious person. (Though I like to think I am a sincere person.)

But I was thinking about this screenwriting lark last evening and reviewing what's happened with me in the last few years.

I had toyed with scriptwriting a few times in my life, but really done nothing serious. The end of Buffy had prompted me to write a series bible for a British replacement (just as the end of Blake's 7 in the 70s had prompted me to write the outline of a proper final episode). I hawked it about a bit, there was some faint interest, but I had no idea what I was doing. So I did nothing else for a few years.

Then Heroes came along and I was inspired. I took my series bible and started writing. I researched, I read, I joined online screenwriting groups. It was April 2007 when I used Scriptfrenzy as the impetus to make me finish four full episodes of Monsters, the complete story.

I had to know that I could finish a script, and I did.

That's when I contacted Lucy to script read (How many pages?!! was her comment [dramatised]) and I began to work in earnest. I felt there was something good about Monsters. Then I entered it into Red Planet 2007 and didn't make it past the first cut.

After that I went through a bad patch. I wrote a novel during Nanowrimo 2007 which made me feel better. But Monsters went on the backburner, I did work on it but I wasn't a happy bunny. I messed around with some other stuff and wrote a feature film during ScriptFrenzy 2008.

It was about than I started this blog.

In May 2008 I contacted Philip Shelley and got the most astounding feedback: He thought it was good, he thought I could write. To be honest I was quite rude to him, because I didn't believe it. I mean, I knew I could put one word in front of another in a way that made sense, but to be good at scriptwriting?

So I worked on the script with him as well, and pulled in David Bull too. And he liked Monsters as well.

Then it got shortlisted for Red Planet 2008.

Then it got me into the BBC.

Now another experienced TV guy is interested in it.

I can't ignore what's happening. I can't pretend this is just a game anymore. I have to take it seriously.


Anybody got any idea what that means?

What's on the turntable? "Nocturn" by Kate Bush from "Aerial"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh. My. God. #3.5

Only my first post today. I'm trying to cut down.

Back in "Oh. My. God. #1" I had some excitement over the reply given to me by someone I knew from years ago - I just wanted to see if he could pass Monsters to someone who might be interested if he knew anybody. But he was interested.

After that I got complete silence. I wasn't downhearted, that's unfortunately how this business can work. So I decided to pop the script over to him anyway, with a note saying that I understood he was probably busy.

That was five or six weeks ago. Then today, up popped an e-mail from him apologising for the lack of communication and asking me to call.

Now, I'm not getting over-excited here, we had a chat. He said he really liked the Monsters script and that he'd like to work with me at some point in the future, but he's just sorting some things out. Might be sooner, might be later and, of course, it might be never. But the thought is pleasant indeed.

That's why this is only a semi-OMG, but it's a very nice one.

He did leave me with an interesting tidbit of information which I shall pass on: in this age of limited budgets and global markets you are far more likely to get backing for a TV project if it has international appeal. And the things that have international appeal are the so-called (I grit my teeth[1]) genre stories: SF and Cops mainly.

[1] Read this to explain why I grit my teeth at calling SF a genre.

What's on the turntable? "Somewhere in Between" by Kate Bush from "Aerial"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bite me

The WGGB blog has a poll on writer's block, as I write this 7 people have voted and none of them "believe in" writer's block. And I'm one of those 7.

(I'm apostrophising before the 's' because I'm interpreting it as the block of one writer, as opposed the block of many writers.)

Back in October in my Inspirations #4 blog I mentioned, in passing, that I'm a bit unsympathetic towards people who say they have writer's block. I should probably qualify that as being unsympathetic to people who become "helpless" in the face of "writers block" as if it's a disease. Partly because I come from a journalistic background which doesn't permit such luxuries and partly because misnomers annoy me.

I want to make it clear that I am aware of the apparency of writer's block and how upsetting it can be. The following is my opinion of what it really is and what you do about it. Feel free to disagree.

I was writing a fantasy novel and hit "writer's block", I got stuck, I just couldn't move forward even though I knew where the story was going. Now I didn't go "oh I've got writer's block, I can't write", it's not in my nature to be stopped by things.

Instead I analysed the situation to nail down exactly what the problem was. Eventually I realised that I couldn't write because I didn't know what to write - it wasn't that I couldn't write at all.

In my fantasy story the protagonist had arrived in a society that was utterly different to human society, and I hadn't worked it out. I had no idea how the characters in this society would behave, what their architecture looked like and so on. So I spent some time deciding on the important details of the culture and suddenly the words flowed again.

The next time it happened I knew what I was up against, and quickly solved it. It has happened more than once when writing screenplays since then: If I'm stuck then there is something missing from my understanding of the world I'm creating (doesn't have to be fantasy, it can occur in any writing).

The solution to not knowing what to write is: find out.

It might be research, it might be creating a society, it might be watching some TV for "inspiration" (I'm not a huge believer in inspiration either, though we do need original creativity obviously). Whatever it is, it is something to fill in the blank so that you can keep moving forwards.

It works for me, perhaps it could work for you if you have this problem. So next time you get stuck, work out what it is you don't know, find out, then move forwards. It's worth a try.

What's on the turntable? "Perfume Exotico" by Vangelis from CD3 "Bladerunner 25th Anniversary CD set"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Ticket sales are now open for SWF09.

Apparently I'm the first person to buy a ticket.

What's on the turntable? "Furry sings the blues" by Joni Mitchell from "Hejira"

No return

Just a quick update, the one pager for Winter is now on its way to the BBC.

I hate that moment of clicking "Send". I had read and re-read the text a dozen times, tweaked it here and there, removing one word lines from the end of paragraphs; re-editing bits to sound less pompous. (Pompous? Moi?)

But there comes that moment when you carefully compose the precise wording of the e-mail to imply you're totally confident with what you're sending - but if they want it done different you're happy to do that.

Then there's that final moment, the decision to click send. Then remembering to actually attach the document otherwise you end up looking like an unprofessional prat when they ask for it.

Then that final moment (again). Pointer hovering over the send button as your finger hovers over the mouse button.


It's too late to do anything else about it now. For better or for worse it's on its way.

Many years ago a friend was working in our computer room (we've always owned a lot of computers) and wanted to plug something in. She yanked an existing plug out of the socket - and all the machines crashed. Desperately she shoved the plug back in, as if she could save the moment...

But there's always that point beyond which you cannot return.

What's on the turntable? "Visionary" by Gordon Giltrap from "Visionary"

Rejection is just business

Well, other people are doing stuff about rejection (Lucy for one).

Most advice boils down to "it's not personal" and "it does not reflect on your skill". Which is right.

I thought I'd mention that at one time I was on the other side of the fence, though in a slightly different area: I was an editor of computer magazines in the 80s and 90s. There was a time when we would get contributions of articles and computer programs (these were the days of "type-it-in-yourself" computers).

There was a percentage, about 90%, which were rubbish, most of the other 10% fitted into the "we've already got or had one of those", some were effectively replacements for regular columnists so could not be allowed, and maybe 1% were usable. And of those most needed re-writing, either for style or English. Sometimes we rejected because their programs, even though they worked, were so badly coded they would be bad examples.

So we had a standard rejection letter with the most common reasons for rejection listed with tick boxes, a space for the name and the article. And we would spend time each week going through the submissions, reading them, testing the programs and sending back the rejections.

We did not care who the people were, and we appreciated the fact that they wanted to contribute but we couldn't take them all, even if they were good enough. Every industry has its financial constraints, many people thought we could just "add pages" to make the magazine bigger to fit their articles and programs in. (It really doesn't work like that.)

Yes it's true that every now and then something would come through that was so appalling we would make jokes about it. Sometimes there would be the arrogant bar stewards who thought they were god's gift and we owed it to them to use their work. In those instances, where we could tell, we would reject because their attitude implied future trouble, no matter how good they were. But they were few and far between.

So we sent out our standard rejection letters, we never ignored people (unless they forgot to put in their address, it happened). I'm sure some of them took it personally, but how could it be personal? We didn't know them, the judgement was based purely on whether the submission was something we could use or not; and even if was brilliantly written it still had to be appropriate for the magazine.

As an aside, my wife was also a magazine editor at that time (we worked closely for 13 years while married, and loved every moment of it - we only ever had one domestic in the office, it was amusing watching people backing away). Anyway: She launched a new magazine intended to educate parents about computers with respect to children. It was announced in Writers Magazine with a very clear statement of intended content, which did not include stories (it was a techie/education magazine at the end of the day). Yet she received handwritten stories about cute little pussy cats and whatnot. Unsurprisingly they were rejected - one of those rejected authors actually complained. (Living in the real world, not.)

I made some great friends during that time from the submissions we did accept and people who wrote for us regularly, and by a strange quirk of fate one of those people is also a finalist in the Red Planet Competition: William Gallagher. If he wins, I taught him everything he knows. If he doesn't, he wasn't listening. (For the avoidance of all doubt, the preceding sentence is a joke.)

So that's what it's like on the other side of the rejection fence. It's just business.

What's on the turntable? "Ricochet" by David Bowie from "Let's Dance".

So far so good

I've sent out the first ten pages of my Monsters script to the producers I have on my list. I decide to have a rummage around for other possibles and discovered that Red Productions in Manchester (Queer as Folk, Clocking Off, Casanova, Second Coming, and loads more really good stuff) have changed their policy on unsolicited submissions, so sent them the whole script.

Must admit I almost didn't want to mention Red, thinking "but if I tell people then they'll all be doing it and reduce my chances" - as it turns out I can't be that selfish. Besides, if Red don't like Monsters, or my style, they won't use it anyway - doesn't matter how many other scripts are there. And there are plenty of people better than me (I am now allowing myself to consider the possibility that I can write scripts), if they get a chance then that can only be good. (Dig that karma, baby.)

So that's one step of my week's priorities dealt with.

The job interview continues to be vague, which is irritating. I think they're probably prevaricating until after Christmas. Question is: would I prefer a job in Milton Keynes as opposed to Preston? If they do delay until after Christmas then that will be the choice.

I had some feedback from Philip Shelley on my one page pitch for Winter which means that it needs a bit of re-working. You might ask why I paid for feedback on a one page pitch? Because I hate writing them, which makes it so important that I don't put a foot wrong. I don't know enough to know what to say and what not to say.

As it happens, in just those few paragraphs, he spotted my recent arbitrary addition to the plot (that's experience for you) and pointed out the story is, in essence, a retelling of Frankenstein which I hadn't even noticed. But which was excellent and allowed me to remove the unnecessary additions and streamline it conceptually.

And that's why I pay for advice on a one page pitch. As was commented at last year's Screenwriters Festival, the job of a script reader/consultant is to help the writer find the story.

Getting back to the week's priorities, I haven't done any of the wine pages for the website yet, I'll finish up Winter today and write a wine page or two. That's the plan.

What's on the turntable? "Fair Wind" by Childe Rolande from "Foreign Land". You can read about Childe Rolande here, I happen to know of them because their lead singer, Alice, is the wife of a friend. There's always room for folk-rock in my world.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Domestic bliss

Well I'm settling back into home life, and it's great to see wife and kids every day instead of just occasionally.

Trouble is I'm not writing as much even though, theoretically, I have loads more time. Reasons for this include:

(a) snow, kids and wife at home half of last week;

(b) finding a job, which is looking promising (I have a job interview some day this week but they're not sure exactly when);

(c) dog, he's still just a puppy really though he's big, and very demanding. I read the puppy book yesterday so things should be a little easier - he keeps trying to challenge my authority as alpha male, I hate having to slap him down but it's for his own good;

(d) business partner wants me to write 13 web pages about wine (I have a website here which generates some cash that I am developing with an old friend);

(e) web developing my pet project which is nearing readiness;

(f) being generally domestic (washing, cooking, ironing - I can do all these things).

However I have been working on the promotional side of my writing, an important aspect of the business, and I have let a few more contacts know about my Red Planet success, plus I have the addresses of two producers to send "Monsters" to. I also have the one page pitch for Winter to send off to the BBC.

I have to buy a couple of DVDs featuring Parkour as research for the project with the working title "Running", this is for a contact I made at the last Scriptwriters festival. And I still have to wrap up for first draft of "Air", trouble is the copy of the script that I made all my notes on is in the flat in Reading and I'm not there. (We've decided that, on the way to see relatives next weekend we'll swing by the flat and pick up stuff - I hope the car can take it all.)

So my priorities this week are: Job interview; Winter; Promotion; 13 Wine pages; that should do it.

Speaking of ironing: I was working through a mountain of it yesterday and watching the "making of" DVDs that come with the 25th anniversary Bladerunner boxed set. This is really good stuff, it's actually interviews with people today and nobody is hiding any of the trouble that went with the production of, what I believe is, a seminal cinematographic work.

What's on the turntable? "See me Feel me" by The Who from "Tommy". Cool.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Watch this

Got this from Laura Anderson, every hopeful TV writer should watch this.

I wish Graham Linehan hadn't compared writing to having a poo - it's such a perfect analogy I shall never be able to forget it.

What's on the turntable? Nuffink, I'm watchin' telly.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Snow Day!

For the first time in 20 years we were nearly snowed in. The boy stayed home because it was easier and the girl made her own way to college which involved a lot of walking, and sitting in buses that weren't moving. (Though she only has one lesson today but it's English which she loves.)

I've been meaning to put a picture in the blog of the view from our house. So here is the view from the back...and the front...

The front is nicer, especially when the back isn't covered in snow. What you see (or don't see due to low flying cloud) is the Pennines. There are a couple of houses on the hill but after that it's moors for the next 20 miles.

That's actually a main road out front (the van belongs to next door) but even during the rush hour it's not what you'd really call "busy".

The line running left to right, going up, is another road heading up to a cricket club. On the side of the hill. (They did find a flat bit.)

What's on the turntable? "The Remembering High the Memory" by Yes from "Tales of Topographic Oceans".

The story goes that Rick Wakeman had so little to do in this work (he left the band shortly afterwards) that on one occasion he ordered a curry delivered to him on stage at the Corn Exchange in Manchester. But he tells the tale slightly differently, he did say he wanted a curry and said so to a roadie, who brought it. But Rick actually meant
after the performance.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Yup, it's snowing here at home. The real home. Situated high in the mountains. (No prizes for recognising the reference in the title of this blog to snow, but if you don't know it the answer is at the end.)

Bit of a Monday morning ramble...

My most recent contract is complete so now I wonder: Do I try and get another contract before Christmas, the money would be useful, or do I stay at home and go back to being a house-spouse?

Must admit I'm at a bit of a loose end. It's not that I have nothing to do: Apart from the writing, there are numerous house things, plus dog-sitting, and my pet web project which is pretty near ready.

No, it's the fact that the house runs like clockwork without me. I'm not needed, no it's worse than that - I don't fit in. It's very weird. If I had a car it would be different because I could be taxi, but we got rid of the second car as (a) it was falling to pieces but (b) it wasn't needed and was just an unnecessary expense.

Oh, it's stopped snowing now and the sun is coming out.

We had a French guy staying with us a few years ago, Gael (pronounced Gayle), lovely chap. Anyway he didn't understand when we said "Britain has weather, not climate", until the day it did everything (rain, snow, hot sun, storm).

Guilty pleasures: I like X-Factor because I like to see people with talent succeeding. I'm not interested in talentless weirdies or people with unpleasant attitudes, and the way the production team try to add "stories" I find gauche and irritating. But I like seeing people with talent.

Like Diana Vickers; after her first song my attitude was: "If she had an album out tomorrow I would buy it." This is still my attitude, and I'm getting really impatient, I want an album! (Of course, I like Kate Bush and Tori Amos, 70s prog rock and other strange stuff.)

I shall also admit I used to really like Blind Date, but I didn't watch it for the silly questions and answers, or people filled with hate, I watched it for those rare moments when two people really liked each other.

I can be such a softie. I cry watching movies and TV.

Which brings me to Survivors: I like it. It's not perfect but it has some really excellent moments which are left beautifully unexplained. The instantaneous hug between the mother Abby and the boy Najid; Al bursting into tears in the chicken run. That was good writing; and the Abby/Naj moment brought a tear to my eye.

Then there's Apparitions: I think I like it. The second episode got a bit boring in the middle, I was watching online so I let it run while I did other things, coming back to establish the scene. Still, it's different, the acting is very strong and the writing is clearly well-researched.

In our family we have noticed something. The quality of a film or TV programme is reflected in the degree to which we talk about it afterwards - the better it is the more we discuss it.

Wall-E left us almost silent, Space Chimps had us chatting all the way home (yes, I know, Wall-E is suppose to be great and Space Chimps is the poor relation, sorry, we don't agree). National Treasure we talked about well after we got home.

Survivors has us talking a lot about the characters, the plot, what would happen if... (I'm the only one talking about Apparitions, as the others haven't watched it).

And finally: "Tiddly-Pom" is from the little "hum" that Winnie-the-Pooh made up about snow in the story about Eeyore's New House. As recited by Pooh with Piglet doing the Tiddly-Pom bits in between.

What's on the turntable? "Lucifer's Cage" by Gordon Giltrap from "Visionary" (based on the poem by Blake)