So if you read my last, did you decide you would never look back at any old material of yours? Because I thought I wouldn’t. Too painful.
But you know where this is going, don’t you? I’m trying to get some material out there: I’m planning a pitch or a submission every day in March and so far I’m doing brilliantly. March 1, 2, 3, easy. March 4… I’m struggling already. But there are a couple of international screenwriting competitions coming up and I’ve done encouragingly well in those before yet then lapsed for years. So partly because I want to un-lapse, partly because it’s a Sunday so there’s no one I can phone to pitch to, I’m planning to spend today getting a submission ready and, well, submitted online or something.
Only, all the comps I can find are for feature-length scripts. Everything I’ve done lately is either rubbish or hour-long, quite often both, so I’ve just braved it and had a arms-length dig through my very own slush pile.
I didn’t say this to you last time because I was too embarrassed but that first script of mine was dated 1996. Eleven years I’ve been at this lark, it’s not very impressive. But eleven years ago I was unimaginably bad. And I’ve just found an old piece that doesn’t have a date but must be at least eight years old and it’s actually really good. It’s a piece called Embers.
You know there are things I want to change, of course, but Embers has good characters and it works. Suddenly the dialogue is good: it’s as if there’s a Tuesday some time when I learnt how to write dialogue. And I’ve said this often: if you can do dialogue, it papers over practically everything else you get wrong.
I’m a bit chastened that I didn’t do anything with this piece at the time. Well, I obviously did, the copy I found had a “for the attn. of” bit on the title page and the name of some long-forgotten BBC drama executive. But I abandoned it too easily and I’m an idiot. You know, naturally, that once you’ve finished writing a piece you should go straight on to the next and I think I was actually so caught up in the idea for the next one that I let this piece go. If I can face it, I’ve got that next one right beside me to read now. If I can face it.
I’m currently rewriting that 1996 script as part of a bet, to do a rewrite or develop an old, long-held idea in 15 days. (I take part in a regular script challenge, the idea to keep you working, to give you deadlines, to make sure you end up with at least something written down instead of months of prevarication. The current challenge – hang on, I’ve forgotten how to do links – is with Christine Patton and Piers Beckley. By all accounts they’re having a fine time reworking their stuff, I’m staring blankly at mine for hours at a time, wishing I had a dentist appointment.
And yet if I’d elected to rewrite Embers instead, I’d be delivering the rewrite this afternoon.
I might just change the names and pretend Embers is the old, bad one that I’ve brilliantly improved. What do you think?