Tag Archives: notes

To Keep or Not to Keep Notes

So this blog is more of a question really.

What do you do with your notes when you’ve finished a script/book if you’ve hand written them?

Maybe this is my bad for writing notes on notepads for so long but I have a whole wardrobe filled with notes for different scripts of which quite a few are completed.

It’s my hope that the ones that I’ve never really started, or are unfinished, I can scan the notes onto my computer and save them as PDF so that they don’t take up so much room anymore, but what of the notes for completed scripts.

I can’t decide whether I still need them or not. A lot of the notes will be irrelevant any way due to later drafts, re-writes etc, but there’s still a lot of information within them. If I sold these scripts and had to do another rewrite do I think I would go back to these notes or start afresh with the document in front of me. I’m just not sure.

I have folders and folders worth of notes that take up so so much room and just can’t decide whether they are still needed or not.

If I get rid of them, that’s that. No getting them back. But surely my script contains all the information I need about the project along with my outline and treatment.

I could scan them as well, but that feels very daunting. There really are a lot of notes and I’d rather spend the time writing new scripts or trying to get noticed the ones that are finished.

Part of me wants to just get rid of them. Like that’s done and I’m happy with what I’ve got and if anyone wants changes in the future I’ll be taking into account their notes not mine. But another part of me worries that I will need something.

But would that something be a make or break thing… Probably not. After all it isn’t factual. I can always decide something new for the character or story rather than trolling through 500 pages for a single detail.

And like I said I’m pretty certain half them notes are redundant. just part of the process to find the story and characters I ended up with.

I think I’m leaning towards not keeping them. I want to get rid of the clutter and scanning them all really is a massive job for work that’s already completed.

Am just keen to know if anyone else is in this situation with scripts or books and whether they kept their notes or not.

Stephen.

 

Writing A Book Not A Script

About two years ago I started work on a new feature script. I had this very clear idea in my head of the story and how it would play out. I worked on the notes for a few months creating the lead and supporting cast, went through a couple of different idea’s for the ending as I plotted the story and generally felt good about the whole process.

It was a different type of script for me, similar to the first one I ever wrote rather than the horror I’ve written in recent years. More a slice of life than genre. Was good to be writing something different, something I could maybe even describe as a little more personal. All in all the pre-work before the first draft was maybe the best I’d done at the time. Everything felt right.

Then I began the first draft… And it sucked!

Not in that all first drafts sucks way. I never overly care about the quality of the read on my first draft, it’s about getting the story and characters down and shaping it all to be as good as possible in later drafts. NO this was in the it actually sucks sucks way. Like I could write 5-6 drafts and this won’t get any better type way. Total failure. There where obviously ways to improve it, and later drafts would have helped, but every way to improve it would take it further away from the story I wanted to tell.

I beat myself up over this one for a while. I thought I’d made enough progress as a writer to be able to tell this type of story. It was out my comfort zone and a challenge but one I gladly accepted and dived head first into. So how could it have ended up so bad. I didn’t have an answer. Not one to get stuck with writer’s block or anything like that I moved onto a different script and kind of forgot about this one…

… Until a few months ago.

That’s when I got that eureka moment (Once again in the bath as apparently that’s where I do all my best thinking). The problem is simple. I’m trying to tell a very internal story in a cinematic format that’s completely show don’t tell. The problem is this shouldn’t be a script, It’s not a story for film… It’s a book.

So I got out the bath and wrote the first three chapters and sure enough I felt a million times better about what I was reading back. Yeah it still sucked, but that was because I’d never written a book before and just bashed these pages out. The important thing was it felt right, I was telling the exact story I wanted too.

At the time I was half way through another script and didn’t have time to take on a book so I put it to one side knowing that this worked. That I could come back to this and tell the story. I’d always be annoyed at not being able to carry on with that script and here was my chance to totally redeem myself.

Fast forward to the present and I find myself with some time spare in between scripts. First thing on my mind, go back to this book. So I have. I wrote up all my film notes into Scrivener  and started to work out idea’s for chapters as well as writing some. Everything is in one place and now being written in the correct medium. I don’t know how it will turn out, whether it will be any good or not as I haven’t written a book before.

But I do know this is the correct way to tell this story, and I want to tell it. If it ends up being just for me, or a free e-book, then so be it. But as a writer I have to get these stories out of me and if this is the way to do it, then this is the way I’ll do it. The bonus to it all is that I’m really enjoying it. Good at it or all I’m loving writing a book. I hope that feeling carries on because I have idea’s for others and maybe this could be another way for me to tell stories in the future alongside my scriptwriting.

But that’s getting ahead of myself. Let’s see how this goes first.

 

Stephen.

 

Watching Films for Research

I’ve always been someone who loves to watch films for research. I know there’s plenty of information out there and that I’m sure I could find everything I need to know via the internet and books, which I do use, but for me my research tends to come through films.

I love nothing more than to watch a bunch of films from the same genre when I start a new project. It’s not that my idea needs to be related in any real way, as often it’s not, it’s just the genre itself that I’m interested in.

I’m a big fan of conventions in films, especially horror movies. I like to fit a lot of the conventions into my script if I can find a natural way to do it and like seeing how others have. What I like seeing even more is where these conventions started.

Last time I wrote a slasher script I binge watched all the Friday 13th films and Nightmare on Elm Street, along with about 20 others. There was a line from Friday the 13th Part Four that I loved and somewhat adapted for myself but other than that what I really wanted to take from these movies was the general vibe.

I wanted to capture the attitude of these movies in my own way.

I wrote a Christmas horror script that I’m looking to get out there soon so beforehand I watched every Christmas horror film I could. I was mostly interested in the Christmasy way people died in the films and was slightly disappointed that there weren’t as many inventive deaths as I hoped. But there was beginnings, hints off, maybe the more modern Christmas films had them but there was enough there to inspire me.

That particular set of watching also led me to watch possibly the worse movie I’ve ever seen in my life. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. What happened there? I need the disaster artist book for that film.

During my exploitation script I watched a ton of Russ Meyer, Jack Hill and Lloyd Kaufman stuff along with a bunch of Grindhouse movies. My script wasn’t really akin to any of these, I just wanted to be in that frame of mind when I was writing.

For me film is my language. I can never get through a conversation without a film quote, I always reference films in my script notes and workings. I haven’t written decapitated in a script note ever, I write decaffeinated every time thanks to Hot Fuzz. If I’m describing a shot to a friend I’ll use examples from as many different films as I can until I hit on one they know.

I’m not sure if it’s a good process or not to watch similar genre movies to your idea before starting a new script but I’ve never read my script back at the end and find it to be a clone of the others I’ve watched. I’m inspired by movies in every other area of my life so it makes sense to me that the same would work for my writing.

For the new script I’m working on I’m watching a bunch of Hitchcock films. This time round I’m watching them for the way he builds tension in the final act rather than the story (although I love these films so will enjoy that part anyway). There’s always something to get from watching films in relationship to your own work and I fully believe that.

Stephen

Stuck on a Scene

I think I’ve got better over the years at knowing when not to hang around on a scene that’s not working for too long in early drafts.

I plan a lot before I start a script. I’m not someone who takes a blank page and goes with it. I know exactly what I’m going to write. But no amount of notes and index cards can read the same as an actual script so there’s always scenes that just don’t work.

I like my scripts to be tight. For everything to work together and towards the same goal so if this happens I know it can throw the whole script off-balance. This used to mean I’d basically get stuck until I find a solution and would occasionally mean abandoning the script until the right idea hit me.

While this approach didn’t overly cost me time because I’d always be writing and working on something else, it has meant giant gaps between drafts and being stuck on weird page numbers.

What I’ve learnt now is that simply you can always come back to it. Just move on to the next scene and get to the end of the script. Writing is rewriting after all and that applies to scene and structure as much as dialogue and action.

There’s always a solution and sometimes it means having to change other scenes or sequences but that’s part of redrafting anyway. Is better to have the whole thing to work with than part of it otherwise you could have a problem with a yet unwritten scene that directly affects this one.

The script I’m currently working on I’ve tried 3 different ideas for a particular scene. A different one in each draft because every time I’ve reached that point I’ve known the scene didn’t work. Took me a while to work out that actually the scene before needed to change a little and the scene after.

I’ve now gone back to my original idea for that scene that never made the first draft. Funny how these things work. The scene needs tightening as it feels like a first draft scene not a third. But it flows with the rest of the script now and that’s the most important thing.

Gone are trying to make each draft perfect. Just doesn’t work like that for me. That’s why they’re drafts. I’ve found it more Important to just always be moving forward. Everything can be fixed and corrected and made better at different times. Doesn’t need to be all at once. As long as it comes together for the finished product what does it matter.

This realisation has stopped me hopping around scripts so much. Like I said, hasn’t made me write more or less. Just means I’m finishing things one at a time rather than having nothing for a while and then a few things at once which I think will definitely help in the future when I have actual deadlines instead of self-imposed ones.

Great thing about writing. Will always be learning and improving.

Stephen

Can’t stop the Writing

So I tried to take a month off. Managed to last 2 days. Well 1 and a half. Then on went the MacBook, straight to final draft and the start of the third draft of my latest horror feature. Just can’t help it. Can’t switch off. And to be honest… That’s probably for the best.

I really wanted to switch off. More felt like I needed too after a long and difficult year, but guess I just can’t stop the writing, and nor should I. I’ve still managed to watch quite a few films these last few days in between my job job but my thoughts where never far away from writing.

Had idea’s swirling away in my head, was making notes on my phone for the next draft every spare few minutes I got. Was thinking about the structure of certain scenes on the way to and from work. All the normal stuff I do, while trying not to. Guess at this point it’s just instinctive and part of who I am.

So I’ve started the third draft. Although in truth it’s closer to the tenth. I’ve had this story in my head for years now and have reworked it plenty of times before I even typed the first word in the first draft so very much know what I want from it. Think that’s one of the reasons I can’t leave it alone at the moment. I feel like I can really crack on with this one and get it finished in relatively good time and ready to get it out there early to mid next year.

Have a lot of other ideas that I’m eager to move forward with but obviously away that I can’t rush a script. So instead of rushing it, it makes more sense to me to just carry on writing it when things are going well. Put in the time if I feel the quality is there, which at the moment I do. Having gone through  lean patch a few months ago it seems a waste not to attack my scripts when I’m feeling good about my writing. Kinda one of them situation when you have to cash in when things are going well because the last thing i want to do is take time off when I’m feeling good about my writing only to come back to it and find the moment has passed.

I’d still like to take it easier in December, I do need that rest, but think it will be more in the sense of not putting pressure on myself. Just consider that anything I do achieve this month is a bonus rather than any self-imposed deadlines that I normally live by. Still aiming to watch those 100 films despite not watching any today. On 12 so far as started a day early and watched loads on my day off. Finally caught Cool Hand Luke, a film I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t seen all of before, so least there’s that.

As always, just need to get the balance right.

Stephen.

 

Have 2 new reviews up on the channel this week I Saw the Movie

 

 

Writing Struggles

I’ve never really been one for writers block, mostly because I have way way way to many projects on the go at all times. But every now and then I do stop writing for a brief period of time. It isn’t through lack of ideas, but more a burnout, or struggle of motivation. I let things get a little on top of me and just struggle to write for a bit. Normally this lasts a few days, sometimes a week or two, but it always passes as writing is everything to me and something that i’m always eager to get back too. But as they say, you can’t force it.

It’s the not forcing it bit that i’ve struggled most with over the years because I always do try and force it, and what that tends to lead to is work that isn’t up to the quality I expect of myself. This in turn obviously gets me down more. Vicious circle. One i’ve fallen for more times then I care to admit.

So whats the answer…

Sometimes i’ve tried starting a new project, like a short script or something, but if the quality is still low then that could make a good idea seem bad. Again thats not really ideal. I often think writing myself out of one of these patches should help but in truth it doesn’t. I think taking a brief break from writing with maybe just working on some notes or something is probably a wiser idea. Although i’d always prefer not to have to do this, sometimes its the only way.

The thing i’ve tried this time is just to accept that my mind isn’t going to be able to write at the moment so just to enjoy some films and TV shows. Read up on some stuff and watch editing tutorials. Basically do everything except the writing so the i’m not wasting the time in anyway. Keep myself in the basic area of what i’m trying to do so that when my mood clicks back into place i’m already in the right space. That’s the theory behind it anyway. (My theory that is, maybe I should actually read up on it)

So i’ve spent the last 10 days watching films and shows, writing up some small notes on things that have naturally come to me rather than being forced and trying to enjoy the opportunity to catch up on some stuff i’ve missed. It’s not the perfect solution as really all I want to be doing is writing, but its something, and at the moment that seems a lot better than nothing.

Like I said, it doesn’t happen often, but it seems to me to be a part of my creative life. That these little burn outs and dips will happen. I still don’t think I deal with them well, but i’m working on it, and least I know that when it passes I will make up for the lost time, always do. Can’t stop writing, even when I have to stop writing.

Stephen.

Computer Notes VS Pen and Paper

Started writing a new draft for a no budget script this week that I’d love to direct myself sometime in the future (Hopefully within next few years). This is the first script that I’ve ever fully written the notes for on my Mac rather than pen and paper and have to say I think the notes have gone well.

I finally decided to give Scrivener a try using their 30 day trail and found that I could organise myself well on it. I’ve always preferred pad and pen because I’m quite instinctive with notes and tend to write out plenty of streams of idea’s rather than anything to precise, but the problem always comes with matching notes up to older notes as the process moves along. Searching through hundreds of pages for one thing you wrote at some point isn’t the easiest but the pro’s have always out weighed the cons.

But as I think more and more about travelling, and as it gets harder to search through my wardrobe full of note pads and folders, I’ve come to the conclusion that like my photography its better to have everything on the computer and backed up via Dropbox and iCloud. That news article the other week of the writer rushing back into his burning home to save his novel could so easily be me. (Well, probably not, but why risk it).

For me Scrivener works nicely as it doesn’t fill to formal. I’ve always found it harder to delete sentences on the computer than rip out a page from my notepad (No idea why) but with this I can link together ideas and colour code things and it just seemed to flow. I doubt it’s for everyone but it suited my style of note writing well. Part of me still wants to just sit there with a notepad but it doesn’t feel practical. Like I’d have to just write them up afterwards anyway so why bother.

Every time I look at the 50 plus full folders in my cupboard I wonder how I’ll ever find what I’m looking for. I’d love to turn all them notes into PDF one day (Maybe when I can afford an assistant) but that’s just not happening anytime soon. The other day while looking for a photo for Viewbug I found what I was looking for in minutes despite the photo being 10 years old and It just occurred to me that the same should happen with my writing. I spent a few hours looking for some script notes not too long ago and it involved moving around and searching through about twenty folder. That’s just too much hassle now. Would rather just have folders on my computer and Dropbox.

So I think i’m going to stick with writing notes on the computer for my next idea after this one and see how it goes. This current script is a second draft from an idea that’s a few years old where my next one is a brand new idea from scratch. Will be interesting to see if it works the same way for me coming up with all the initial ideas and story beats and characters. Hopefully will be fine. I’d miss pen and paper but as long as I can match the quality of my previous notes it just makes sense to move forward and use the Mac and obviously is much easier for backing up and never having to run into a burning building.

Stephen