Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Agony Of Writing - Part III : The Synopsis

Yeah, I know. What happened to Part II? Well, I'm saving that for a little later. So, what is Part III?

The Synopsis

It is worse than writing the damned story. Harder. How the heck do I do this?!!!
...I'm hoping it gets easier. I suspect it won't. It's like having to do homework: a really tough essay for a subject that you previously loved.

You've been bashing your head into the wall for weeks trying to work out how the F to write one. You've read all the helpful notes other people have put out there on the subject. And it is still impossible. Your eyes are bleeding from the mental strain of trying to wrap your brain around it.

I was reminded of this last night by a panicked phone call from a friend of mine. He has written the most amazing, wonderful (you b*st*rd Clive! I'm envious!*) book and is currently wrestling with The Synopsis in preparation for sending it to an agent. "Help!" he cried. ... There may even have been tears?

He'd written out the plot, beat by beat, as you should. And then hit the wall when he came to shorten it.

What all the helpful suggestions from other writers don't really cover properly, is the fact that you need three documents.

1) The Plot document
2) The Emotion document
3) The Suspense / Surprise document

So you have** to go through your story again, and write all the emotion beats. Then you have to go through your story again and write all the cliffhangers and twists and interesting gripping stuff. ... and then shorten all of these documents into a manageable size - I recommend one at a time, otherwise the whole thing seems far too gargantuan to contemplate. ... And then somehow you need to merge all three documents into one. ... And then shorten that.

One of the good things about screenwriting is the art of "25 words or less". It's easier than the synopsis, by miles, but it teaches you a bit about being concise and boiling your story down to something bite-size ... which is the whole art of The Synopsis.

He says I helped. He now has a plan. I hope I did. And maybe this can help you too?

Any additional suggestions from others on The Art*** Of The Synopsis would be very welcome!

By-the-by, I think my eventual "Eureka!" moment was triggered by a post on Jane Espenson's blog (see the side bar for a link) which gave a 'how to' on incorporating emotion into the dusty synopsis process, in order to grip producers by the brains/balls and not let go!

*He's one of those annoying sods who can just sit down and it pours out, in order, without much need to plan, or go back and redo half the darned thing. Where as I have stories that sit in the corner of the room laughing at me for years, over a decade in one case - because I read them through and something isn't quite working. And then you realize you have to go back and fix THIS! which changes half the darned plot and you've got to rewrite half the b*gger from start to finish. And if only you'd planned it all out first! And ... I've become an advocate of 'The Plan'. My first screenplay, my very first screenplay wrote itself; and it was good. And it took me a lot of heartache through repeated 'it's not bl**dy working!' to finally realise the truth. 'The Plan' is a good idea. *Copious swearing*

**The word HAVE is a little strong, - like the French devoir - You don't HAVE to do any of this. It's just my opinion, and you should take it with a very large pinch of salt much like all my other witterings. It's just my humble suggestion, but the ego in me says YOU MUST!, which then comes out in my writing. Sorry. It's just my opinion, feel free to ignore it and make your own minds up. Do what works for you, that's the important thing with writing.

***It's a CRAFT! Just like writing... Daniel Martin Eckhart has a great post about the craft of writing. He and Philip Morton really speak to me. If you are searching for screenwriting inspiration / information, I recommend a look-see at both.

The Agony Of Writing - Part I : Self Doubt

Self Doubt.

We all have it. (And if you don't maybe you should hang up your pencil and go experience some LIFE instead?)

It comes on many levels, but I'm only going into the one that I'm being currently reminded of ... I'm nearing the end of the current rewrite, and shortly I will have to put pen back to paper to embark upon/complete a new story.

You've finally written something you really like (and rewritten it to death. ARGH!*). But now you have to come up with a new story. It can't possibly be as good as the last one. You can't write, heck, you've forgotten how to spell the word "and" - you know it's short and it's got three letters, and there's an 'n' in it somewhere; but can you remember how to spell it? No.** For that matter "it" is a little perplexing too.***

There is no way you can come up with something that is anywhere near as good. You've read the first story back, and you don't have a clue how you came up with it. There are words in it that you didn't even know you knew. It's far too good to have possibly been written by you. But you remember doing it. You remember the joyous little victories of coming up with the perfect word, that sentence structure that was so crucial to making the story flow perfectly, the weird dreams that you woke up with in the morning that allowed you to crack this or that character / plot problem, which you then feverishly wrote ASAP before breakfast. AND THERE IS NO WAY THAT YOU WILL EVER BE ABLE TO DO IT AGAIN!

It's so depressing, you should give up now!

Except you can't. Because then you'd go properly insane, rather than just be the weirdo nutter that you are now. And you know how twisted your innermost thoughts are. Releasing those upon the world in any form other than fiction ... well a gibbering drooling wreck in the corner of a padded cell is possibly a preferable option.

So you have no choice.

You have to keep writing.

It's who you are.

[One day I have to read Stephen King's book on the subject. Yeah, I know, I should have bought it when it first came out ... but it seemed that little bit too close to home for comfort. And I'm still preparing myself for that journey. - - It's probably no where near as bad as I imagine. But, what if it's worse? ARGH!]

So you write, because that's who you are, but you don't know how, and that not knowing is terror! It calls into question your very reason for living, for being. And, what if one day, today? you find you can't plumb that well? Except you force yourself to sit down. Bum on seat. And have at it! "Once more into the breach..." and all of that. You have to.

And that's just one form (among many) of The Agony Of Writing.

*I suspect rewrite will be Part II of The Agony Of Writing)

**The Ancient Greeks had a part of grammar called the optative. I wish we had it in the English language. I'd use it all the time. ... It allows you to write a question and an exclamation at the same time without having to faff about punctuation. I suspect it would also allow you to write a rhetorical question without any of the confusion of misconstrued punctuation, as well. Okay, I suck at grammar - and at Ancient Greek - but this is such a useful little writing knick-knack, we really should have adopted it. Like 'Zero' is such a useful little knick-knack for maths.

***This really happened to me, shortly after I'd completed my English Language 'O' Level, during a class assignment. I froze, stared at the page, eventually thought "B*gger it!* left a three letter space and wrote the rest of the paragraph figuring I'd remember how sooner or later. Sure enough, three paragraphs later (or it may have been one?) the 'spelling' inflicted itself upon my maladjusted brain. You try writing three paragraphs without using the word "and"....

Monday, 16 May 2011

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Check out the teaster trailer for Jason Arnopp's awesomeness....
(er, well, it sounded good in my head)

New horror film, that I plan to see/own.

In 2002, the military captured and imprisoned a supernatural entity:

So when's it out on DVD/Blueray Jason? Huh? Huh? Hurry up!

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Thursday - BBC2, 10pm.

Psychoville (series 2) - If you like surreal, dark/black humour it is well worth a look see.

Also currently available on iPlayer, if you missed it.

Now that series 1 has already set up most of the characters and their flaws, - I enjoyed series 1 a lot. - series 2 promises to be truly outstanding! - - Mind you, this is just a guess (from half way through the first episode via iPlayer). But I'm extremely impressed. :) And had to blog about it!

Monday, 2 May 2011


Exile - BBC1, 9pm.

It's running for three consecutive nights. If you missed the first one you can catch it on iPlayer, I expect.

I enjoyed it ... if that means anything at all to you.

It's advertised as a Thriller by the promoters ... certainly the drama is very good, with plenty of questions to ask yourself and encourage you to keep watching to find out the answers. :)
Great acting too - it's worth watching for that alone! But it has sooo much more. :)

Working towards validation

You find encouragement in the strangest places! ;)

"congratulations: You’re a writer, and the reason you’re good at it is because your life kinda sucks." Daniel Thomsen c/o John August

Of course, whether I am any good at it* is a matter for history to deliver a verdict upon. ... So far the signs are encouraging though.
Then again, I could be hallucinating again. :)

The whole post is worth reading (if you haven't already?), whether you are interested in writing for TV or film, so I recommend following the link and giving your eyeballs some quotable treats.

*writing - you gutter minds