Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sharps - The Writer's Cut (Get A Bandage)

So, how are other people getting on with their entries for the BBC Sharps competition?

With just over a week to go before the final posting date (entries have to be in by noon on Monday 16th June), I think I've finally got the content of mine sorted out in my head, though taking that swirly mass of ideas and actually getting it into some vaguely coherent string of words on paper is, of course, the big challenge.

I don't know how other people work, but I usually like to scribble down all the bits I want to put in a story in list form, then once I've come up with the story idea or structure that I think fits it best, and hopefully allows me to put in all the bits I like, then I decide the order of the scenes by shuffling them around until it all feels kind of right. Sometimes this is on post-it notes, other times on bits of card, and if the stationery is in short supply, then sometimes it's just the 'what goes in' list modified to some kind of running order.

I'm roughly at this stage now - I know who my main character is (her name's Carol, since you asked), the opening and closing lines of the piece, and pretty much what happens in between, but I need to put more flesh on this skeleton. Given the way my waistline's expanded in recent years, this doesn't appear to be a problem in literal terms, but I suspect it'll be slightly more work in a metaphorical sense (though both processes share the feature of me needing substantial amounts of tea and cake). I'm hoping to finish off the structuring bit of it by the end of today (Thursday), and that leaves me a week to pour the words and events out of my head, which I think should be feasible - they've been percolating there a while now, after all.

The above isn't always the way I work, mind; it tends to vary depending on a whole number of circumstances such as time and availability of tools and of course the nature of the piece itself, but at the moment, this one seems to be functioning okay for me. I'd be interested to know what methods you folks out there tend to use - longhand, straight to screen, lists, post-its, or are you all geniuses like Mozart who can just throw it down on the page and it's exactly as you envisioned without the need for any changes? Do let me know, I'm genuinely curious…

And finally (for now) on this subject, I was privileged this week to cast my baby clues over a draft of Chip Smith's script for Sharps (with his permission, I'm not some kind of weirdo… well, all right, I am, but not that kind of weirdo), and jolly good it was too. The standard, methinks, should be pretty high (not least because of the fairly broad nature of the brief allowing some imaginative leeway), so I think I shall have to try to bring a game, rather like on the last day of term at school..

Oh, hold on, the phrase is 'bring my A-game', isn't it? Ah well, I'm sure you know what I mean.


Stevyn Colgan said...

I suspect that your way of building a script is the same as many others'. certainly, most people I know work that way. I have a slightly odd system in that a lot of ideas and dialogue seems to suddenly appear in my head fully formed. My task then is to get it all down on paper as soon as possible. Then I can start tweaking it. Still, always interesting to compare notes.

Your waistline's not THAT bad ... at least you can still see your feet. I presume I still have two ...

The Factory said...

For my part I have a rough idea in my head of where I want to go, but I rarely make written notes or have too rigid a structure. This is simply because I often get a better idea as I'm going along than I had in the first place.

Other than that I just launch into it and see where I end up. Not scientific but it seems to work okay for me.

John Soanes said...

Two quite differing approaches there, which is part of why I asked the interweb about this; I've long felt that, on a similar theme, some school time could be usefully spent on trying to teach people how they learn (visual memory, mnemonics or whatever) before revision time; in the same way, I'm interested in how people make things (especially out of words).

Chip Smith said...

Thanks for the tip of the hat, John (and for the notes, they were super helpful) - more than happy to return the favour whenever you're ready (however, I would suggest getting your skates on though! 16th June isn't that far away).

I'm kinda like The Factory above, inasmuch as I have a broad theme and a couple of visuals in mind before I start. For my Sharps script I wrote it straight off in three days, then put it out to a few folks for a read. I usually labour pointlessly over a script, but with this one I wrote it quickly hoping that some of that nervous energy would be reflected on the page - a rubbish theory, but I'm sticking to it (for the moment) ;-)

John Soanes said...

Yep Chip, tempus is indeed fugit, and I'm typing as fast as I can though I may not have time to pass it over for comments (though I really do appreciate the offer).

Sounds like your caffeine and adrenaline-fulled way of writing isn't a million miles off David Lynch's reported coffee-and-sugar approach!