Writing and pace

There are so many books on writing and getting the pace right but one writing/pace thing I’ve yet to master…

… pacing my coffee to last the session.

I buy the coffee, I boot up Final Draft, I finish the coffee, I start writing.

So here I am in Coffee No 1, Wellfield Road, having finished my coffee and I’m left with no decent excuse to take up my seat. Writing and feeling guilty. It’s not good.

I’m going to have to buy another… I need to make my coffee last longer pace costs!

Writers take note: steam rooms rock

My gym has an enormous super-steamy steam room. You can never see the edges and you can never truly tell if you’re in it alone or there are twenty others in there with you. And it’s the best place to listen to a wide cross-section of people’s conversations. Which – if you’re holed up in your local coffee shop – you probably aren’t.

Super-steamy steam rooms are great because the people in them totally forget – or simply don’t know – someone else is right in there with them. So they’re more natural.

So I get to hear a group of 20-something lads who work in a local hotel talking about how to “ask out the girl in laundry”.  Or the late-thirties post-stag weekenders who are ready to “drop all that going-on-a-bender shit” but don’t know how to tell their mates.  Or the women talking about “those scary Brexit signs on the M4 and the ads on the radio”. It’s a chance to dip into so many people’s lives and listen to how they talk, what they talk about … and I suppose it’s a bit creepy too.

Thanks super-steamy steam room.

WHO PUT THE “S” IN “ISLAND”? Jacob Rees-Mogg probably did…

Super entertaining news this week that Jacob Rees-Mogg (esquire) has written a memo to the cabinet informing his colleagues that they should NOT use the words very, ongoing, yourself, speculate, ascertain, disappoint … amongst others.  And he also went on to make it very (sic) clear that all non-titled males should have “esq” after their name, there are double spaces after full stops and there’s never a comma after “and”.

How ridiculous.  How can the man possibly think he can control the language, that he even thinks he has the right to control the language, and what sort of message is he sending out in trying to do such a thing?

Very aptly, given that JRM (esq) is jokingly referred to as the right Honourable Member for the eighteenth century, in that very period Boswell, Swift, Johnson and others wanted to ‘fix’ the language.  By bringing out his dictionary, Johnson wanted to ensure the language didn’t change or degenerate over time.  And his colleagues decided that English needed to look more Latin because Latin = classy.  So they “Latinised” Germanic words, for example by shoving the letter “s” into the world “island” …

… and they also shoved a “c” into “scissors”.   Thanks guys, English wasn’t nearly difficult enough to spell.

But what they failed to grasp, and what JRM (esq) doesn’t get, is that language is a liquid, not a solid, and it morphs and changes over time and bends to its user.   And that’s the beauty of it.  It’s a common to us all but the way we use it is personal and distinct.     We demand the right to use ascertain.

Having said all that, those people who litter their prose with “some” do actually need taking out and shooting…

If men could see us as we really are …

I was searching for a quotation to add some colour to a pitch I’m putting together for a highway woman drama I’ve written. Well … I really lucked out with this one.

When I read the quote it actually sent a shiver down my spine: not least because it’s as relevant today as it was when it was written 170 years ago and that’s actually really bloody depressing when you think about it.

Enough – here it is.

“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend”

Charlotte Bronte, Shirley, 1849

What would she have made of the film industry I wonder…

Writers are surrogates

Here’s a definition of surrogacy …

Surrogacy is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman (the surrogate mother) agrees to become pregnant and give birth to a child for another person(s) who is or will become the parent(s) of the child.

Which is pretty much what it means to be a scriptwriter…

Scriptwriting is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman (but usually a man) agrees to bring a script into the world for a Producer(s) who is or will become the parent(s) of the project.

Because being a scriptwriter means giving away your babies … and it’s so damn hard!  At the heart of it, a writer – just like any creative – has their own creative integrity.  And we have to hold on to it, defend it, but also let it go.   How am I supposed to defend it and simultaneously let it go?

OK so I could wrangle more control and become a writer/director … but then my actors will veer from the exact line of my script. And once the editor gets their hands on it …

The bottom line is … collaborating is a good thing.  My feature script has reached new height thanks to my producers and Ffilm Cymru’s feedback.  It would never be so rich and pacey and diverse if it wasn’t for their input.   I guess the secret to success is you just need to choose your collaborators with care – so when your script takes its first steps without you, it’s in safe hands.