Sunday, February 15, 2009


Look, 88% on Unit X, only five pages to go. That's first draft of course.

On my way from London to Manchester on Friday I found myself crammed into a table with a nice lady from MENCAP next to me. I don't know that she was nice, but as someone doing work for a jolly good charity like that, I am assuming she was nice. She had a computer too.

Let's talk about MENCAP for a minute.

It was a long time ago now, maybe 15 years (eeek!) a friend of mine came up to me and said "Want to do a charity bike ride in Egypt?" and I said "Yes." (Not having been on a bike in years.) But I did, on behalf of MENCAP, we rode across the Sinai desert, East to West. It was amazing. I know what it's like to be in the middle of a real desert, with heat in the 40s. Or desert mountains. I know what it's like to suffer from heat exhaustion. I'll tell the full tale another time.

A couple of years later I did it for MENCAP again. This time it was China, and I went without any friends - people seemed to think this was particularly brave. But you mingle better when you know no one. That was also amazing, in a very different way. Did you see the approach to the finishing line in the Olympics road races? Heading for the big gate in the Great Wall? I've ridden that road. I've ridden in China with heat in the 40s - and astronomical humidity - with intense pollution. I'll tell that tale another time too. But it was amazing.

Getting back to last Friday: Trouble is I couldn't write. For two reasons: (a) I didn't physically have the space; (b) I can't be creative when someone might be looking over my shoulder - I get very self-conscious. People might think I'm a real screenwriter and ask awkward questions like "what have you done then?"

So, instead, I spent the two hours going through Unit X and editing it. Which means I actually knocked maybe 1-2 pages out of it. There was one scene that had been superceded and was completely redundant. (A short scene.)

It has to be said my scenes are getting shorter. In Monsters I had 56 scenes in 57 pages, for Air there were 35 scenes in 25 pages, in Unit X I have nearly 80 scenes in 40 pages. So I've gone from 1 minute/scene to 30 seconds/scene. Though, to be fair, I have a lot of very short scene-setting scenes in Unit X. Like:

One after another the five planes take to the black
sky, each with a glider in tow.

But they are getting shorter.

Where was I? Oh yes. Shorter. Then this afternoon on the train back I wrote more. So here we are at 40 pages, and really I've got to the end. But that's okay, I'll leave it for a bit and then start in on the re-edit. It needs more emotion, it needs the Doctor's character being developed more and all sorts of stuff like that.

Meanwhile, I printed up the two reports on Air and went through a paper copy on the train this afternoon as well. Both readers had made an assumption which was not what I wanted to communicate in the script, and all because I gave "Air" (the main character) a single line which was very portentous and completely wrong. Silly me.

And both of them felt there was something wrong with the action at the end of the episode, "short-changed" was one comment. So that needs cooking up a bit more. A couple of the changes don't affect anything important so I'll just do them.

But I always like to do a good solid run-through on paper - years of experience with on-screen editing (even when it wasn't my own work) has taught me that you really can't edit on-screen properly. You have to do it on paper. I also need to do an out-loud read-through to see how the dialogue and action flows - you can do that on-screen because the technique forces you to read every word.

The big novel what I wrote a few years back - I read the whole thing out-loud. It took a while but it was amazingly useful.

After I've finished the edit of Air I'm going to get started on my Parkour SF story - Running.

Oh, this week, courtesy of Rob I acquired two hour-long interviews with Joss Whedon. Regular readers will know that for me "Joss is Boss". These interviews did nothing to dispel that feeling. in fact they did everything to encourage it, and were very pleasing in that I felt a lot of affinity with his writing process.

One thing of interest was that, in one interview, there was a pan across one of his bookshelves which had a lot of books on Shakespeare; a later comment in the interview was about the Shakespeare workshops he ran for the cast of Buffy.

You can't beat the Bard.

What's on the turntable? "Jóga" by Björk from "Homogenic" - I love this song. I love Björk, (though not as much as Kate).

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