Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Knowing when to let go

Despite not having blogged for a few days, I've got plenty of stuff lined up that I wouldn't mind thinking and writing about:
  • Stephen Daldry's production of An Inspector Calls: looking at an old idea in a new way to give it a fresh lease of life

  • Mother Courage at the National Theatre: more wittering about naturalism and Brecht's theories about drama and the audience

  • New ITV crime drama Murderland (preview and Q&A at the BFI)

  • Various new series piling up on Sky+: Warehouse 13, FlashForward, True Blood, Eastbound and Down
However, for the past few days I've been focusing on Care and Control, the spec social work drama I've been co-writing. We're currently on our third major draft and have realised that eventually we're going to have to throw it in the air and see if it flies. So, we've set ourselves a mid-November deadline and are packing in the meetings and activity.

Despite sharpening up the script and making a few breakthroughs, the process of constant restructuring and rewriting has left me a bit concerned that I can't see the wood for the trees any more. While the script is clearly getting stronger, I worry that I can't quite focus on which bits work and which don't.

Does anyone else get this 'snowblindness' when they're rewriting? And how do you cut through it? Paul Valery said that a poem is never finished, just abandoned. How do you writers out there know when something's ready to go out into the world?

In other news... script progress will be halted briefly this weekend as I jet off to New York for a couple of days to cover the launch of Braveheart on BluRay for Orange. (Psst - Did I manage to sound sufficiently casual about that?)

It's probably going to be a bit knackering (arrive Saturday night, leave Monday morning), but it'd be a bit churlish to turn down a free stay at the Soho Grand and the opportunity to meet Mel Gibson and double Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll. Wouldn't it?

Hopefully I'll get chance to pitch Mel with my Secret Jewish World Government script...


David Bishop said...

Going script blind? Oh, yes. Been there, suffered from that, got the T-shirt. I've a trick that won't help you on this project, but might work in future...

When you first get that moment of inspiration, write it done in a sentence or three. What the great idea is, what it's about and why you want to write it.

Then seal that in an envelope and store safely. Months later when you're hip-deep in the umpteenth rewrite and you can't remember why you're writing this story - that's the moment to break open your envelope and remind yourself what prompted you to start writing in the first place.

Since you're already stuck in the midst of a major rewrite, why not take a step back and write yourself a one-page pitch doc for the project?

Alternatively, open a fresh document and write out what happens in your story as a mini-synopsis or treatment. No cheating, no looking at any other document, just write out the story from start to finish in brush strokes as if you're telling it to a mate in the pub.

Works for me.

Tom Murphy said...

Hi David - many thanks for the tips (and the rest of the insight you've offered on Vicious Imagery down the years). Coming up with a strong log-line can certainly light your way down the dark roads that lie ahead.

We're lucky with this project in that we do have a clear idea about what we want to say, as well as considerable passion (especially on the part of my co-writer, who has got plenty to say after around 20 years as a social worker).

My main concern is with the technical aspects - ie, I worry if I'm tinkering with the mechanics of a scene or sequence just for the sake of it, and whether the approach we tried a couple of drafts ago might have worked as well.