Friday, May 29, 2009

Writing tips from Robin Kelly's blog

The greatest UK blog for writers is without any doubt Robin Kelly's legendary Writing for Performance. I look every day. Today, for example, I found not one but two motivational blogs Robin has collected from elsewhere:

"13 Tips For Actually Getting Some Writing Done"
By Gretchen Rubin:"One of the challenges of writing is...writing. Here are some tips that I've found most useful for myself, for actually getting words onto the page:
1. Write something every work-day, and preferably, every day; don't wait for inspiration to strike. Staying inside a project keeps you engaged, keeps your mind working, and keeps ideas flowing. Also, perhaps surprisingly, it's often easier to do something almost every day than to do it three times a week. (This may be related to the abstainer/moderator split.)
2. Remember that if you have even just fifteen minutes, you can get something done. Don't mislead yourself, as I did for several years, with thoughts like, "If I don't have three or four hours clear, there's no point in starting."
3. Don't binge on writing. Staying up all night, not leaving your house for days, abandoning all other priorities in your life -- these habits lead to burn-out.
4. If you have trouble re-entering a project, stop working in mid-thought -- even mid-sentence -- so it's easy to dive back in later.
5. Don't get distracted by how much you are or aren't getting done. I put myself in jail.
6. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that creativity descends on you at random. Creative thinking comes most easily when you're writing regularly and frequently, when you're constantly thinking about your project.
7. Remember that lots of good ideas and great writing come during the revision stage. I've found, for myself, that I need to get a beginning, middle, and an end in place, and then the more creative and complex ideas begin to form. So I try not to be discouraged by first drafts.
8. Develop a method of keeping track of thoughts, ideas, articles, or anything that catches your attention. That keeps you from forgetting ideas that might turn out to be important, and also, combing through these materials helps stimulate your creativity. My catch-all document, where I store everything related to happiness that I don't have another place for, is more than five hundred pages long. Some people use inspiration boards; others keep scrapbooks. Whatever works for you.
9. Pay attention to your physical comfort. Do you have a decent desk and chair? Are you cramped? Is the light too dim or too bright? Make a salute--if you feel relief when your hand is shading your eyes, your desk is too brightly lit. Check your body, too: lower your shoulders, make sure your tongue isn't pressed against the top of your mouth, don't sit in a contorted way. Being physically uncomfortable tires you out and makes work seem harder.
10. Try to eliminate interruptions -- by other people, email, your phone, or poking around the Internet -- but don't tell yourself that you can only work with complete peace and quiet.
11. Over his writing desk, Franz Kafka had one word: "Wait." My brilliantly creative friend Tad Low, however, keeps a different word on his desk: "Now." Both pieces of advice are good.
12. If you're stuck, try going for a walk and reading a really good book. Virginia Woolf noted to herself: "The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature. It is a mistake to think that literature can be produced from the raw."
13. At least in my experience, the most important tip for getting writing done? Have something to say! This sounds obvious, but it's a lot easier to write when you're trying to tell a story, explain an idea, convey an impression, give a review, or whatever. If you're having trouble writing, forget about the writing and focus on what you want to communicate. For example, I remember flailing desperately as I tried to write my college and law-school application essays. It was horrible -- until in both cases I realized I had something I really wanted to say. Then the writing came easily, and those two essays are among my favorites of things I've ever written.


5 Scene Tips for Screenwriters
Here's today's 5 tips for screenwriters on scene structure. When rewriting your scenes, ask yourself the following questions...
1. What is this scene about?
2. What do the characters want?
3. What is the "turn"?
4. What does this scene contrast?
5. Is it a duplicate?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sony Award winners announced

Big news! The Sony judges agree with me! I insisted Mr Larkin's Awkward Day (Chris Harrald) should win the prize for which I was co-judge and, lo and behold, last night it wins the Gold Drama Award at the Sony's.

The judges said: "Assured direction, excellent performances and concise, skilfully-researched writing all made this deceptively straightforward story a masterpiece. Funny and touching by turns, a single, seemingly insignificant incident in the life of Philip Larkin brought out the humanity and humour of a poet whose personal life is not commonly associated with either."

(Note to self: if that is counted skilful research, I should be a shoo-in every year!)

Silver Award went to a dramatisation, which is absurd though I'm sure it was a decent job (Patricia Cumper's dramatisation of The Colour Purple) and the Bronze Award went to Peter Souter's ambitious Goldfish Girl.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Another historical lesson for our times

From the Times Review, Saturday May 9, p. 4:

"All banking crises back to 1825 have been caused by pretty much the same thing: gross vanity leading to absurd risk-taking, too much lending suddenly turning nasty because of unforeseen circumstances, undermining confidence first in a few institutions, then the system itself. Equally, the 1890 crisis, in particular, was met in the traditional manner by the authorities: complete ignorance that anything was wrong, followed by refusal to get involved, followed by blind panic."

This is Ian Pears writing in connection with his new novel about the Barings Bank crisis of 1890, Stone's Fall. The big difference with the crisis in question, as Pears eloquently points out, is that the directors of the bank met the losses out of their own pockets.