Sunday, January 04, 2009

The first meme of 2009

Lara Greenway has tagged me with a 'scribo-meme'. Lara's a screenwriter, director and sometime presenter and her blog is always an interesting read. Here's the meme:

When it comes to writing, what do you know you're good at, and what aspect of writing are you worst at? (Procrastination is not permitted as either part of the answer.)

Right. So what am I good at?

I suppose it depends what kind of writing I'm doing. For years I wrote novels and bunged them off to publishers and agents in the vain hope that I'd written a competent book. They were all rejected so quickly I don't think that they even grazed the 'Reject' tray on the way to the mail room. Then one day someone said to me, 'You mostly read non-fiction ... so why don't you write non-fiction.' So I gave it a go and sold the first book I completed. So I guess that my main strength is non-fiction writing and the skills that go with it; research, interview, collation and structure.

Because I'd had no joy with the world of fiction, I resigned myself to a life in non-fiction. But then a couple of scripts that I'd written caught the attention of a BBC script editor and she liked the way I wrote. As the result, she encouraged me to continue writing and I am now in the process of developing a TV series with her giving me excellent feedback on each rewrite. Consequently I'm getting better and better at it. At the same time, I was asked last year to write a screenplay for an independent Irish film company. Their reason for asking me? They'd read a short script I'd written on a similar subject and liked my way with dialogue. So who knows? Fiction may elude me but maybe I will find that I can write scripts. I do enjoy the process of scriptwriting ... although I miss the opportunity to write descriptive passages. This does manifest itself in me writing far too many stage directions so I'm learning to cut those right back. I do have a very visual mind and can 'see' an entire story - even down to the costumes and soundtrack - and that helps when writing. So maybe that's something I'm good at too?

So what am I bad at? Plotting. I have a tendency to get all excited over a great idea and rush straight into typing without any thought about where the idea will lead me. Which is why I have around fifty unfinished scripts and novels kicking around. I need to learn to take a step back and develop the whole story (or even just have some idea of where I'm going) before I touch fingers to keyboard. I also need to learn to cut the waffle at an earlier stage. I usually find that by the fifth or sixth rewrite, my scripts have halved in size at least. That's an awful lot of wasted time spent typing. I need to become leaner. I need to become a 'bottom up' writer, to use a sculpting metaphor. There are two types of sculpture: Bottom Up and Top Down. The bottom up sculptor starts with nothing and builds something from scratch - such as with clay, papier mache, steel etc. In contrast, the top down sculptor starts with something - a block of marble or a chunk of wood for example - and hacks away the bits they don't need. At the moment I am a topdown kind of writer and I need to become more of a bottomupper. Does that make sense? If not, maybe I'm not as good a writer as I'd like to believe I am!

Thanks for the meme, Lara.


SweetPeaSurry said...

I write poetry and bad poetry at that. It's really terrific you found your niche though, sometimes it takes people EONS to do that.

I don't believe I've found mine!

Lara said...

The pleasure was all mine! x