Developing Creative Discipline – part 15

September 30, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Okay…

Today’s post is the last of my book recommendations but ‘eyes up’ as there are a few must reads among them – not sure why the photo came out blurry? (User error presumably!)

The Coffee Break Screenwriter  (Pilar Allessandra) –  really useful guide to plotting, structuring and developing your script. Also, straightforward and informative as well as an easy read.

Reading Screenplays: How to analyse and evaluate film scripts(Lucy Scher) –  insight into the industry from the Reader’s perspective and what they look out for when reading a spec script

Writing Screenplays that Sell: (Michael Hauge) – a great book from a wise old head. He sets out  his stall to educate writers as to how their scripts might be made exciting,  entertaining and a must read.

How not to write a screenplay (Denny Martin) – easy to read, I worked my way through this book and learnt invaluable lessons as to what to avoid when writing and watch out for when editing.

Maverick Screenwriting (Josh Golding) –  a detailed book that exists to help writers create scripts that are different. It’s an easy read and (for me) provided a helpful insight into the different outcomes one should expect when developing concept driven and plot driven ideas (among other things).

Til next time….

Developing Creative Discipline – part 14

September 24, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

This week we consider an aspect of creative discipline that is often not adhered to. I refer of course to time spent at the computer – and I will confess here that I am not that great at disciplining myself to the 20-30min writing segments with a break to exercise or divert eyes away from the screen. If you’re anything like me, when you’re in full creative flow and the egg-timer beeps rapidly or you notice the last few grains of sand falling into the 30 min hourglass, this is the last thing you want – after all, you’re in the moment and words are flowing.You don’t want to stop now. And yet, if you don’t stop now, then when? An hour? Two hours? Lunchtime?

Truth is we need to take breaks from the computer because sitting too long is not good for our circulation, posture, core muscles (etc). Likewise, straining our eyes as we continually focus on a computer screen does not help us either – and can I add here that if you work on a computer a lot, you would do well to invest in eye drops to keep your eyes moist as staring at a screen will dry them out.

Whether it’s an online timer from the Internet, an hourglass or kitchen timer, we need to find ways to bring healthy discipline into our day so that our epic is not written the at expense of our eyesight, health and fitness. That way, we can be creatively in the game for the long-haul.

For that 5 minute break – removing yourself from the computer,  going into another room, actively engaging in exercise and/or looking out into the distance to reorientate eyesight, are all useful ways to make sure your break happens away from the computer. All the best!

Til next week….

Developing Creative Discipline- part 13

September 17, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

A few more books you might consider reading.

Now, at the risk of doing down ‘The Seven Basic Plots’ let me say its a well-written book which is more suitable to a university course than a handy guide to writing. Other than that…

up of the list is

The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Writers  (Karl Iglesias) – some really useful insights into how to improve your writing from the reflections of those at the chalk face.

The 21st Century Screenplay (Linda Aronson) –  everything that is not  3 Act structure. I found its tips and advice helpful when writing a biographical screenplay. Deserving of its place on any book shelf.

The Writer’s Journey (Christopher Bolger) – a must read but set aside some space in between as there is a lot to take in.

Just Effing Entertain Me (Julie Gray) – invaluable advice from someone who knows the industry and how to make your script a hot sizzle on the barbecue rather than a damp squib in the sink.

The Anatomy of Story (John Truby) – this book offers interesting insights and thinking that some may find overly prescriptive but well worth a read as there’s a lot of good teaching within it.

Til next time….

Developing Creative Discipline – part 12

September 10, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Well…

…it seems like the ideas for the ‘Developing Creative Discipline’ strand just keep coming. This week, we consider what to do after the script is written – and let me be clear here,  I am not talking about sending it out to agents, producers and competitions (though that should happen a little further down the line).

No. What I am talking about is taking that fine tooth comb and ‘editing’ your magnum opus to within a millimetre of its literary life. Strangely, it is in this last phase  that a lot of writers fall down. Possibly, the effort of completing the umpteenth draft of a script  makes the writer rather jaded when faced with the daunting prospect of then going back through it all with a fine tooth comb to edit. And yes, it can be a struggle. I know this from my own initial reticence to engage fully with the process. However, these days – having gone to the effort to come up with an idea, plan, plot, write and do multiple rewrites – I am determined to make sure that I take as much time as necessary to make sure I have not left any typos and grammatical errors (etc) in my script which may suggest I am less than professional in my writing and approach. So what to do?

Well, currently, I have amassed  a number of resources from across the Internet which fill my ‘After it’s done’ file – if you don’t know what that is, you can check out that post by clicking here.

Okay, here is a resource that will get you started: https://dianaurban.com/words-you-should-cut-from-your-writing-immediately

My advice is to use the ‘find’ function ( CTRL ‘F’ ) on your script and type in each modifier/word suggested. For example, the word: ‘really’ to see if you are using words that would be better deleted or replaced with another.  Making your way through the script, find each occurrence of ‘really ‘and rethink, rephrase  or delete that word altogether.

The link above gives you all the ones on Diana Urban’s site but start today to be on the lookout for others – build a word bank of terms and semantics that will assist you when editing your script.

Lastly,  to any of you who think finding redundant words and modifiers in a script and removing them is unnecessary because your story is brilliant and that’s what counts, remember that those writers who do scour scripts and remove unnecessary words will always be a few steps ahead of you in terms of their presentation, readability and professionalism. No reader wants to come across the word ‘really’ twenty times in as many pages, if at all. Why? Because, there is always a better way to phrase a sentence in order that the word ‘really’ becomes redundant. Which in turn will show to the reader, the wide vocabulary/lexicon of the writer. Yes! Really! (intended)

And if you find any links to words to avoid, please do send them to me as none of us ever stop learning or developing.

Til next time…get editing

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 11

September 3, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Hot on the heels of finding time to write, we consider the value of reading. This week – the importance of books that will help you to become a better writer. Interestingly, three of the books (in the photo) are on film director Ron Howard’s list of ‘must reads’ for his Directing Masterclass – fancy that? If you know which ones, why not post your answers below the post on Facebook or (if reading on Twitter)  post as a tweet.

Okay, now let me add these are just a few of the books which I have found useful in advancing my understanding of screenwriting – I will follow up with more books in the next post or three. In the meantime, in the photo above, moving left to right we have:

Screenplay (Syd Field) – a solid book that will help you understand story craft and structure.

Making a good script great (Linda Seger) – a fantastic book that needs to be read cover to cover such is the depth or writing and editing insight offered.

The Art of Dramatic Writing (Lajos Egri) – this will lay a foundation of how premise and key question are the fundamentals and develop it from there.

The Negative Trait Thesaurus (Ackerman and  Puglisi) – invaluable resource  to aid your research and decision making about what character flaw to use and why.

One Hundred Ways to Improve your Writing (Gary Provost) – a book that will help develop a writing habit but also advance the way you do it as you develop your craft.

While there are no hard and fast rules  (for myself) I do try and read a t least three screenwriting books a year though (I’m a light weight and) you can do better.

 

Til next time….

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 10

August 26, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Well….

I never thought we’d get into double figures with this series on developing creative discipline but here we are!

And for this tenth blog in the series,  we return to something posted on previously which is about understanding ourselves and the best time of the day where our creative mind is on full tilt. Note: this is a great time in which to find solutions to resolve those problems with plot/script/series ideas/character issues that are hampering your writing.

Now – just as we are all different – one thing that unites us is sleep – and with that,  the ability to dream as this has a unique function of utilising the right-hand side of our brain with all its imaginative, creative and problem solving aspects. And although some may not remember their dreams in the morning, the reality is that for the majority of us, our brain with be right-hand orientated and ready to be creative – through also note the warning posted at bottom of page.

As a result, when we wake – particularly if we find ourselves in a place of semi-sleep – our brain is aligned perfectly to unleash our imagination which in turn will provide ideas and solutions to the issues in the script we are struggling with. I have found this to be so effective that I now keep a large A3 sketch book beside my bed in which to make notes – see photo above which is this morning’s jotted ideas for a TV series ‘Elodie’ and the character issues which came to me in a 5 minute window.

[REALLY IMPORTANT – use a pencil rather than a pen as nothing stifles the creative process more than a pen that dries up when writing in an inverted position for longer than a minute (especially if it elicits anger as you shake it vigorously]

I also use a hard covered A3 book as it offers plenty of room to write (without turning on to other pages) while also allowing me the space to hold it upright while lying down.

Okay, over to you. Be creative –

WARNING – if you start thinking about all the things you need to do when you wake, the creative muse will disappear from you in an instance! Make notes- then worry 🙂

ps photo inspired by Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’  installation  but somehow I just couldn’t manage that degree of untidiness 🙂

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 9

August 19, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

…and welcome to part 9 in this series of Developing Creative Discipline. I must confess I never thought there would be this many things to suggest but I just keep finding resources which I think are really useful. Today, I offer you a way to utilise your screenwriting notes to organise yourself with a start to finish system for planning, writing and editing screenplays (and other formats!)

Initially, the idea came to me when writing up notes taken at screenwriting events. My problem was how to file them as the nuggets contained within the notes would often be an amalgamation of:

  • what to do at the start (planning your screenplay, research, developing characters arcs, plotting ideas),
  • tips for writing it (visceral v vicarious, midpoint, show don’t tell, etc)  and
  • editing with a view to presenting your work flawless for when sending it in to others (tips, dos and don’ts, active verbs, punctuation, etc)

So…one summer…I determined to print off and place into a (physical) folder system  that which was currently stored on my hard  drive and seldom referenced. The result being a systematic storage of useful information in 3 folders to accompany the stages of:

BEFORE: Every note and idea taken that is relevant to planing it out – in other words: the ‘before’ stage of writing a screenplay

DURING: Every seminar/course attended and book I read about problem solving your screenplay – in other words, the process that occurs ‘during’ the writing of it.

(and lastly)

AFTER(WARDS): Every session attended where I made a note or left with a handout as to the different things to watch out for when editing a script. Plot holes? Unresolved arcs? Active verbs over passive ones, Spelling etc – everything  you need to address before even thinking about sending it out.

For myself, the process of organising the material into a comprehensive system of planing, writing and editing has been an invaluable experience. A means by which I am more confident these days that my creative endeavours – however they fare in a competition or submission – are better planned, executed and edited.

I know this post won’t appeal to everyone but for those of you who are serious about stepping up as a writer and having a more professional approach, I do believe creating an organisational file/system that keeps you true to the process of planning, writing and editing, is a positive step forward.

All the best and (without the split infinitive this week) boldly go!

Developing Creative Discipline – part 8

August 12, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Following on with our series in developing creative discipline, we look today at  ‘the edit’.

Obviously, there is a lot more to editing then what I am going to say here but I think (for myself in particular) this is an area I find myself continually having to return to.

You see, the problem is while I love to write the story, the nitty gritty of tidying up the script afterwards – particularly grammar and vocabulary  – is not something I relish. Truth is, like all disciplines in life, there are some we take onboard quickly and others we don’t.

Recently, I have been getting down to the nitty gritty of the final edit – in particular, making sure I avoid the careless error of settling for verbs like ‘walk’ and ‘look’ in my script when a wealth of other ACTIVE VERBS might be used to convey a greater depth of meaning and emotion – for example (walk) could be ‘strides, creeps, edges, marches’ and (for look)  ‘peers, squints, gazes, stares’

Now, in my search for active verbs, I did come across a useful resource on the writers helping writers website which you can find by clicking here.  

If you have read this far, I now designate you as active verb editors (first class) and commission you ‘to boldly go!’

(ps split infinitive intended)

 

 

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 7

August 7, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi

Sorry for the late blog but it’s been a busy week. Obviously- with it being a Friday – it’s likely this blog won’t be read by many. Apparently, Wednesday is the day to post blogs for maximum views but it’ll be there as a resource reference that I can link to in future.

Okay, I came across this really helpful blog by Screencraft’s Ken Miyamoto on ‘Five things to remember before starting a screenplay.’

Now, while most people at this point will roll eyes and yawn at the prospect of being offered yet another blog in the ‘How to’ series, I did find this really useful.

And while, it is not a practical thing like putting up white boards  in your room, keeping records of competitions entered and work sent out, etc I do think it offers something in regard to the discipline of not just writing but editing afterwards.

If I tell you I was so taken with it that I immediately condensed it down into a 2 page guidance sheet for checking my scripts before sending them out, you’ll get an idea of how useful I believe it to be.

Obviously, what with it being  another writer’s work and without  permission to copy, edit and share my notes this time round, I am providing the link to his short article which can be found by clicking here. Personally, I think it may well revolutionise the way I prepare to write and edit in future. You can decide for yourselves.

Til next time…

 

ps His blog is rather wordy (sorry Ken) so I edited mine down to that which was useful to me and that might be something you want to do also?

 

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 6

July 22, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi There

Following on from last week’s post- Developing Creative Discipline 5 about  utilising your contacts application as a memo reminder, today we look at organisation in the creative process.

Truth is that we writers (despite our protestations) love to write. Or put another way, we prefer to write over other aspects like networking, the physical effort of producing work, chasing up on potential collaborators and/or recording the who, what, when and where for future follow up?

How do I know this? Because like most creatives, I also struggle with these aspects of admin. You know, things like:

…emailing the person who gave you their card – you never know when she or he might have their own film company?

…following up on the director who liked the script that you emailed but never heard back from them?

…recording and updating the successful and not so successful placing of your scripts in competitions?

…devising rotas to ensure that a timetable so that projects will complete on time?

…ensuring that your creative writing is not rehashing the same old worn projects but including new ideas to be developed. (and so on and so on)

Now, while I’d like to say I’m hugely successful at doing these things. For me it is and will always be a work in progress but I am slowly getting better on the organisational side. After all, it’s providential for writers to have a record of  what script was sent where in 2018 and 2019 before you send in the same script yet again to the 2020 BBC Writersroom or wherever.

Okay, recently, I have started to use a board for admin purposes – see image above. I also  record the fate/success of projects in a book – not with some morbid reflection in mind like in the ‘Sufferings of Young Werther but because it’s also a record of how active I am, irrespective of end result. As such, the board (featured above) shows the state of play of

my short films and what needs to be done next towards completing them (Bottom RH)

my competition entries in 2020 (Bottom LH)

project completion – new and old (Top LH)

(and) self-generated project opportunities (top RH)

Hopefully, this will inspire some…til next time!