Monday, August 25, 2008

Albion - the once and future script?

Albion is a story of a modern-day King Arthur. Set in small-town New Zealand, it's the story of a nice guy and common man transformed into a visionary leader. The nice guy (Eric) starts behaving as if he is King Arthur reincarnated, and the various characters around him either believe him or try to persuade him of his insanity.

Eric is crazy, but that’s not the point. His craziness is useful and liberating – it shields him and others from a hostile world and gives Eric purpose in his life.

In some ways, Albion is a modern Don Quixote, but with more respect for the knight – the feeling that chivalry has good points as well as being foolish. Or maybe think Lars and the Real Girl, but with King Arthur instead of a blow-up doll.

At heart, Albion has always seemed a simple idea to me.

Hah to the idea of a simple idea. Nothing else has haunted my scriptwriting career quite like Albion.

Part of that is when I started it. Albion was one of the first scripts I wrote an actual draft for, begun around 1997.

Like several scripts in the 1990s, I wrote it with Hix – at least, I wrote the first draft with him, and always kept him appraised of the current state of play. (I greatly enjoy collaboration, though I have been a major pain in the neck to work with at times. But I want to talk more about collaboration elsewhere, so I’ll keep this series of posts to Albion.) Hix, if you want to comment during this series about your experiences with Albion, it'll be great to hear them.

Another reason that Albion haunts me is I feel I never quite nailed the tone – except in one notable semi-draft. Achieving the right sense of tone is much more difficult than I ever bargained on.

And part of it is something I discussed in this blog earlier – an ability to shift the goalposts of what the project actually was, so I never managed to fulfil my current level of ambition.

In future posts, I’ll go into some of my takes on Albion to both show the evolution of the idea, and key problems I was struggling with it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What I Write

Welcome to a new phase of the blog – hence the name change.

What I want to do now is explore the writing projects that have been most problematic for me. These are the perennial projects that will just not give up the ghost. They’re neither dead nor alive, but lying somewhere in-between. Some because they’re simply not the priority of the moment, others because I have no idea how to progress them from here.

Perhaps I can finally put them to rest. Or maybe I’ll be able to bring them fully back to life and then finish them off properly!

I’ve struggled long and hard with how to approach this subject matter, and whether to come here at all. Will it be interesting enough for anyone other than myself to explore my writing projects? I don’t know. I hope so. You be the judge!

The first of these ‘limbo’ projects for me is Albion, my King Arthur story.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why I Write: To impress

Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised to hear that one of the main reasons I got into writing was to impress other people.

At first it was very difficult showing my work to anyone. What if they told me that it wasn’t very good? That just seemed too hard to bear.

But my need to impress managed to win out over this fear.

So I did show my work to people. And often impressed them. Particularly if they were my age or younger, and were often just impressed by the fact I was writing at all.

Except my work in and of itself wasn’t that good yet. When I started showing my work to more independent readers, I was forced to realise that I still had a long way to go.

What I started to cling to as a defence for my ego was to embrace the gap between ‘professional’ writers and me as a beginning writer. I didn’t need to be a good writer yet because I was just a beginner.

Around this time I was mostly writing short stories, at a pace that amazes me now. I would always work to finish a story in one day – that way I didn’t spend too much time on anything (and I could always use that lack of effort as an excuse if someone didn’t like it).

The main defence was that I was always on to the next idea. My ego was protected by being a moving target. And I got to be a better writer quickly because I was writing so much.

I kept on applying this technique while working on my first film scripts and into the TV series Love Bites, where I think it started to become a problem. My unwillingness to revise an idea led to many different versions of the first episode, in an effort to continue to impress through new ideas.

After Love Bites I moved into a different space, which wasn’t necessarily better in hindsight – though it was a growth for me.

In this phase of my writing career, I wanted to get something ‘right’ before I showed it to anyone. I wanted to impress through depth and power rather than new ideas and the weight of fresh material.

One problem here was that I gave full vent to my perfectionist streak. When I actually had to stand beside a project and not just abandon it, it had to be pretty damn good to protect my ego.

And it was slow. I was afraid to put pen to paper, so I didn’t do anywhere near as much writing. As a result, I don’t think I’ve improved enough as a writer given the amount of time – roughly seven years since the end of the TV series.

So now I’m looking for a third way. Neither phase works for me now.

I want to move to a place where I can show others my work as it progresses, continue to work on stuff, and see an evolution in my writing. Getting drafts finished and getting them out there to be read is now a key goal for me.

And self-reflection is important too in helping me develop by looking back at my writing career. I can look at my strengths and weaknesses, and to see how I want to behave in the future. This blog is an important element in that self-reflection.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Coming soon!

So far in this blog I’ve reflected on my experience through the lens of listing the 'reasons' why I write.

Soon I’m going to start also exploring some of the writing projects I’ve worked on. I want to ask "why did I write this?", what problems I faced, and if I got through them.

I expect it’ll be a lot like what I’ve been writing to date in this blog, but coming at the topic from another direction. And there'll be more 'reasons' posts as I go.

I'm looking forward to it. I hope it’ll be fun!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Why I Write: To be honest about my personal experience

I've found that I like to write stuff that draws on my personal experience.

To take an example, Run (the script I'm working on now) draws on personal experiences and problems I've had in my life, and applies them to my characters. While also being a story about someone chased by a monster!

I find I enjoy my writing more when I'm drawing on personal experiences, and hopefully it makes the writing better as well.

My biggest problem with being honest is not so much around exposing myself, because I can always use the excuse "it's just fiction".

The thing I struggle with more is that when I use an idea, I can't use that idea in the future.

Every time I write about something that is personally important to me, I'm reluctant to let the idea go. Because I don't want to 'spend' the idea, particularly on projects that may not work out.

I'm the kind of guy who likes to have another trick up my sleeve. On the Myers Briggs scale, I come out as an introvert. Which means I like to figure out what I'm going to say before I say it. And one of the reasons I like to do that is that I like to stay in control, by keeping a little piece of myself in reserve. By keeping an idea or two up my sleeve.

When I'm writing in this honest way, I don't feel that comfort zone so much. I'm giving stuff away left, right, and centre. Which is scary for me, though it's exactly what I want to be doing. I'm scared of running dry and having nothing worthwhile left to say.

Honesty for me requires a leap of faith. A belief that the ideas I give away will be replenished, hopefully by better ideas... And so far that's been the case for me. The more I give, the more I've found to give.

So the worry that the bank will run dry has diminished for me over time. And I also kind of question what I'm saving stuff up for. It's not like I'm going to get to write forever!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Why I Write: Open post

Hix suggested that I should throw open a post to anyone who wants to talk about their reasons for writing.

So here goes! This is your post to talk about you. Why do you write?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Why I Write: To get better at writing

Writing is a long slow (and conscious) process of building my ability to write.

I’ve been writing for a fair while now. Though I haven’t achieved as much as I feel I should have in that time (due to my various struggles with writing), I have written quite a lot.

One of the main outcomes of all that work is my growth as a writer. Looking back at my writing history shows me how much I’ve grown. Which gives me hope that I will one day become the writer I want to be, and create the work I aspire to.

I want to be always growing as a writer. I’m disappointed when I feel I’m not continuing to evolve, and that’s been a source of frustration for me the last few years.

But ultimately I find the fact that I have gotten better as a writer incredibly exciting. It’s part of my journey through life. Who knows where it’ll end up?