At the end of last year I made a promise to myself. I'd just lost my job and as I started filling in endless job applications, I realised I didn't want any of the jobs I was applying for. Instead, I decided that I would do whatever it took to make writing my life. I would only take on freelance work as and when I needed it to ensure writing could be my main focus.
In what follows, I am sharing my experience so far in the hope that it will ring true with some of you and help you to avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. I have benefitted hugely from various writers’ groups and websites and if you’re new to writing I hope you will find some of these as helpful as I have.
So, where did I start?
Well, not where I thought I would. Those first days of freedom were exhilarating as I re-read things I’d written in the past, explored and joined various writers’ groups, trawled the net for anything and everything to do with writing...
I started my novel. A new one, not one of the old ones. The story I chose was one I’d wanted to write for a while but was too scared to start. This time it came easily, proving one of my long held beliefs; you can only write certain stories when you’re ready.
The new luxury of time allowed me to really think about my story, to live and re-live it. The more I imagined it, the clearer it became that this wasn’t a novel, it was a film.
“But I know nothing about screen-writing!” my inner voice screamed.
“I don’t care, it has to be a film!” came the unequivocal reply.
I’d read enough to know that structure is important, as well as certain conventions around layout and script format. I also knew that if you don’t know something then you need to learn and do your research. I signed up for online writing courses (some great free ones available on FutureLearn). I found so many useful resources on the web that I effectively wrote my own course based on what I knew I needed to learn:
Find out what a good screenplay looks like. I read as many as possible. I learned so much from this and continue to read screenplays both for pleasure and to learn how other writers have dealt with similar themes or problems.
Second was to watch as many movies as possible. I found that I got the most learning if I read the screenplay first and then watched the movie to see how it was brought to life.
How do I structure my screenplay? I found a wealth of information and advice on various websites and keep returning to those I found most useful:
Understand the ‘rules’, consider whether each applies to me, only break them intentionally and with good reason, create new rules that work for me.
Write, re-write and re-write...
My new life as a writer had begun.
Tomorrow - Why do I write?