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Creative Writers on the UKFF


Shy Dad
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Evening everyone, hope all are well.

I'm kinda coming here for a bit of a discussion, but also looking for a bit of advice. So I know a few people on this board at one time or another have mentioned writing books, being in bands, doing poetry or stand up and all that's in between.

I'm currently in the process of writing my first full length screenplay having done some shorter bits for University/College/Free Time over the year. However I'm very out of shape, despite knowing how to format everything, and having a base idea on what I want included, at times I know I'm getting very disjointed and don't want to get too rambly, especially for a script that a team of us are already looking for me to finish in the next few months so that we can put in place a film team for the summer/autumn (one good thing of creative universities is everyone is connected now).

Basically, my question and advice I'm looking for is for anyone who's wrote something full length of near 2 hours, or a book, or extended prose, how do you find your best tips and techniques for making sure everything is planned out but not to such an extreme that you lose a bit of creative flair to it because something that comes to you at 2am may not fit your overall plan?

I want to hopefully have this thread as a place people can look for advice if maybe looking to do stand up or poetry or anything and looking for any tips. I've been to Edinburgh Fringe with a full length show and been writing stand up for around 5 years and did quite a bit of songwriting before that, so I have advice in those fields for anyone looking for any, that may be of some use.

Hopefully this thread doesn't die on its arse, it'd be good to show how creative the UKFF is.

Edited by Shy Dad
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First of all, there's no single way to do it. As with almost anything, you'll get people advocating for what works for them - what you actually need to do is figure out what works for you.

That said, for what you're talking about, I'd seriously consider looking at Scrivener. It's a word-processing package that encompasses the planning stage. Basically, you can split your document into chapters and scenes, kind of like a corkboard with cards on it. It also lets you keep character notes and general notes in the same file. It takes maybe an hour to get your head fully around, but it's pretty user-friendly. And you can have a notes page attached to the project for your 2am thoughts. For about £40, it's well worth the money.

Also, I'm a big advocate of writing groups. I've run one in North London for the last seven years (if anyone on here is nearby and wants to find out more, give me a shout). When they're done right, they're incredible in terms of motivation and feedback. However, be careful with them - if they're shit, they can set you back in terms of both. They need to be the right mixture of encouraging and willing to kick the shit out of what you've done, without treating it too much like a review group where you're the main course. If there isn't one near you, look at setting one up. I've run/been parts of one in a bookshop, a library and a pub back-room.

 

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Hope you don't mind me asking this in your thread @Shy Dad, but can anyone recommend any creative writing distance learning courses?

I've been writing blogs and film/product reviews for years, but now I fancy dipping my toe into fiction with the eventual aim of attempting to pen a novel. I have loads of ideas floating around in my head, but don't know where to start regarding the structuring etc... 

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14 hours ago, Shy Dad said:

Basically, my question and advice I'm looking for is for anyone who's wrote something full length of near 2 hours, or a book, or extended prose, how do you find your best tips and techniques for making sure everything is planned out but not to such an extreme that you lose a bit of creative flair to it because something that comes to you at 2am may not fit your overall plan?

Here's an analogy I always find very helpful. Think of your planning as making a map for your journey. You know where you're headed (the ending), and you know the places you'll be stopping off along the way (the important beats of story/character/theme), but make sure you give yourself the freedom to take some detours on the way. It may be that as you get into it, you go in a slightly different direction, and might even want to skip certain places, which are no longer relevant. But whichever route you take, if you keep focussed, you'll always be moving ahead, and eventually end up at the right place all the same.

Edited by Astro Hollywood
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Just now, cobra_gordo said:

@Astro Hollywood Have you ever started without knowing the ending though? That's sort of where I am.

I did it with my first attempt at a novel about 15 years ago, and never since, because it just didn't work. It's different for everyone, but for me, the ending is the culmination of everything that's led to that point, so it's super important to have it down before actually starting, so it can be properly seeded, and so you've got it in mind with every word that goes down. It's really the foundation.

But everyone has their own system. Stephen King famously has no idea where he's going when he starts something, and literally begins with "chapter one..." and writes completely linear, with no previous notes, until he's done, which is why his endings have a reputation for often making no sense, or coming out of nowhere. I made another post on here somewhere recently about the non-linear way I write because of my ADHD, but the important thing is finding your own system. Everyone will have their way of writing that suits them, and it's just a matter of noodling around and seeing what works and what doesn't work for you.

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The best system I've found for planning/outlining is the beat sheet system from Save the Cat! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Save-Cat-Only-Screenwriting-Youll/dp/1932907009 It's a good balance of structure and freedom for my tastes... It requires enough input to crack the story, but is slight enough to leave a lot of wiggle room when actually writing. The book is an easy read as well. 

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20 hours ago, Astro Hollywood said:

Here's an analogy I always find very helpful. Think of your planning as making a map for your journey. You know where you're headed (the ending), and you know the places you'll be stopping off along the way (the important beats of story/character/theme), but make sure you give yourself the freedom to take some detours on the way. It may be that as you get into it, you go in a slightly different direction, and might even want to skip certain places, which are no longer relevant. But whichever route you take, if you keep focussed, you'll always be moving ahead, and eventually end up at the right place all the same.

I would 100% recommend this approach. Very much the way I was taught with screenwriting, mapping is absolutely key.

Agree with @King Pitcos too, Save the Cat is a cracking resource. Very nice intro to screenwriting, and a really easy read. If you want to go deeper Screenplay by Syd Field or anything by Robert McKee are good resources too.

 

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20 hours ago, Astro Hollywood said:

Here's an analogy I always find very helpful. Think of your planning as making a map for your journey. You know where you're headed (the ending), and you know the places you'll be stopping off along the way (the important beats of story/character/theme), but make sure you give yourself the freedom to take some detours on the way. It may be that as you get into it, you go in a slightly different direction, and might even want to skip certain places, which are no longer relevant. But whichever route you take, if you keep focussed, you'll always be moving ahead, and eventually end up at the right place all the same.

I would agree with this 100% my first novel is on it's way to being re-published and not doing the above had made it an absolute headache of re-writes. You need to plan where you're headed, if you don't you'll end up losing your way without realising it. I did that and I'm paying the price now.  Your future editor will thank you for it.

Another tip, grow a very very very thick second skin. You won't always like the criticism you will get and some of it is pretty soul destroying.

Edited by Azrall
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18 minutes ago, Azrall said:

 Another tip, grow a very very very thick second skin. You won't always like the criticism you will get and some of it is pretty soul destroying.

This. I am still trying to get stuff I've written made, and while there's been a lot of positive, constructive feedback you have to be ready for the fact that in any creative endeavour you may get some pretty damning feedback, no matter how good you think your work is. Try not to take it personally, take the constructive elements and keep moving forward. So easy to be shutdown by negative feedback if you don't stay positive. 

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