This is one of those chain letter blogosphere things. I’ve never done one before, but there’s a first time for everything.
The blogger who tagged me for this tour was fellow Australian screenwriter Henry Sheppard, whose post you can read here. (Note: Link contains hilarious photo of me from 10 years ago, during my filthy backpacker phase.) Henry’s a great blogger, and I recommend subscribing to his site.
The general idea of this game is that I answer some process-related questions and then kick the ball over to three writers who I admire. So, without further ado, on to the questions:
What are you working on?
Right this second, I’m working on the bible for a TV show. I’ve written plenty of pilots but this is the first bible I’ve ever attempted, mostly because no one’s ever asked me to before. I tend to write fairly detailed pitch documents that lay out the tone, characters and broad-strokes plot moments for every pilot I develop; it’s the first thing I do on any new project. I’m finding that a bible isn’t so different from my trusty pitch documents, only this time I have a completed script to work from. It’s fun sketching out what these characters might be getting up to one, two, three seasons into the future.
I’m also breaking down an outline for my next feature spec, a near future science fiction thriller with a dark, twisted and scarily-plausible central scenario.
How does your work differ from others?
This is a great question. It’s the million dollar question, really. And since there’s no good way to answer it humbly, I hope you’ll forgive me if I dispense with the false humility for the duration of my answer:
I’m better at coming up with big ideas than most writers. It took me years to realize it, but this is my biggest strength. I have huge, interesting, weird, emotional ideas that most people would never come up with. My reps once told me, “That’s what we like about you; you always bring us something we’ve never heard before, not just another variation on Die Hard.”
It’s a skill I’ve actively developed. I read widely — weird history, cult fiction and obscure artforms. I collect a lot of information, generate a lot of ideas, and then ruthlessly weed them down to the most interesting and marketable ones. As a result, my scripts tend to be ahead of the curve. Often I’ll read about a project and think “I pitched that exact idea years ago”.
Also, my scripts have fewer spelling and grammar errors than most.
How does your writing process work?
It doesn’t! Har har. But seriously folks…
I mentioned that I collect information, by which I mean that my writing process starts in Evernote. This is going to sound like an advertisement, but Evernote really works for me. I clip bits and pieces from all over the web, or I scan handwritten notes, and sort them into various notebooks and tags. When it seems that a project is getting serious, I give it its own Evernote notebook. Everything related to that project goes in the notebook: research links, inspiring art, character notes, outlines, first drafts of pitch documents, even first drafts of long emails to producers or my reps. Then I have a living record of the project which I can refer to at any time, from anywhere.
The next step is Fade In Pro. This is where the magic (read: the actual writing) happens. It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece of software and I couldn’t live without it. If you’re still using Final Draft, I feel bad for you son.
Then comes the rewriting, the Skype calls, the notes, the more notes, and the even more notes.
The final step is mostly drinking and crying.
Why do you write what you do?
I blame THE X-FILES and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
Also, when I was 15 years old I won a state-wide competition called the “Young Writer of the Year Award”. There was a ceremony in which a man read out my short story and everyone clapped, after which I was given a trophy, a check and a framed certificate. That was it. I had been given a taste of approval and encouragement, and I wanted more. I was a goner.
And now for the part of the tour where I nominate three other bloggers. I’ve decided to pick three writers who I know and whose work I admire. They’re all fascinating to me as people and as artists, and in my opinion they’re all unique voices — nothing they write could ever be mistaken for the work of someone else.
Josh Hechinger writes frankly awesome comics with punching and bears and jokes in them.
Julie Bush writes deep, dark, emotionally-infused screenplays that are also meticulously plotted.
Ales Kot writes liminal comics and screenplays that are jagged, unorthodox and hard to forget.