All posts by nicktingley

Crime Writer in the first instance. Film maker, theatre and film director and musical director in the second instance. Love crime novels, great stories, super cinema and piano tinkering. Blogging about all things creative. Reviews, advice and random thoughts.

Midweek Tip: Learn to Read Out Loud!

Not too long ago, I was looking for short film scripts for my next directorial project. I advertised for screenwriters to send me a synopsis so I could determine whether their script would be appropriate for the type of project I had in mind.

Now two things happened that irritated me to high heaven which I’m going to share with you now. 

Tip Number 1 – Give Them What They Want

If someone asks to read your work, whether it be a play, a film script, a novel or a short poem, make sure you give them precisely what they want!

If they ask for a short synopsis of no more than 300 words and a brief biography, don’t send them your entire script, a copy of your autobiography and a collection of witty jokes. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your work is, if a director or agent is only interested in a short synopsis they are not going read 120 pages and you are more than likely going to annoy them. 

To highlight how important this, I’m going to recount something that happened whilst I was hunting for short film scripts to produce. 

A lovely chap sent me an application. I had asked for a short synopsis, nothing more. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to give someone with talent a chance, it was simply because I was after a very specific project and I didn’t have the time to waste reading scripts for projects that I wouldn’t want to film. 

This chap threw caution to the wind and decided that what I was asking for was not what I wanted. Instead he chose to send me a brilliantly (admittedly) crafted email in which he attempted to convince me that it would take less time for me to read the script than it would for me to understand it through a synopsis. The fact that it took me a fair amount of time to read his giant essay of an email had apparently never occurred to him.

He also put across the argument that his work would be the best thing I had ever read and that I would be completely blown away by its awesomeness…

Now, under normal circumstances I would normally ignore such an email straight off. Any person who tells you that their script is easier to read than their synopsis either struggles with writing a synopsis or has got such a ludicrously complicated script that it probably isn’t worth working on. And anyone who needs to tell you that their script is brilliant evidently does not trust that you will feel the same way.

However on this occasion I happened to be in a relatively good mood. I gave the chap the benefit of the doubt and asked him to send me through his script. 

Worst. 

Mistake.

Ever.

And one that I will never be repeating again!

Not only did this chap’s script completely fail to live up to the hype he created for it, but it also contained numerous examples of evidence that he hadn’t bothered to edit the script before sending it to me….

Which brings me neatly on to…

Tip Number Two – Learn to Read Out Loud!

There is nothing in the world that screams “I haven’t edited this yet” louder missing words, incorrect punctuations! sleeping mistakes, continuity continuity errors and sentences that don’t make tunnel. 

Seriously, it is so distracting when you are reading someone else’s work and you start to realise that they haven’t even bothered to read it back themselves. Even those with the best qualities of character would inevitably end up saying,

“If this guy won’t even read his own work, why the hell should I?”

And even reading it back isn’t enough sometimes. Our brains are fragile organs and our eyes see whatever they expect to see. It is the easiest thing in the world to scan through a sentence and not realise that you wrote “tow” when you meant “two”. My favourite mistake, and I seriously make this one all the time, is if I am writing a piece of fiction, I will frequently type “we” when I mean to type “he”. 

The solution is quite simple. 

Read your work out loud!

Yes, fine. The people in the next room will think you’re arguing with yourself and your housemates may think you’re going mad or the librarian will chuck you out of the library for talking, but at least you won’t let those silly mistakes slip through. Because if those mistakes get spotted, you may as well have not submitted your work at all…

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Poetry Book Update: Overcoming my Fear of Drawing

Well I’m off to a reasonable start with my War Poetry Challenge.

For those who haven’t been following, I recently set myself the challenge of writing an ebook consisting of twenty poems and accompanying illustrations on the subject of World War One to commemorate the centenary of the war starting. 

Why is this a challenge?

Well, poetry and illustration drawing are two creative disciplines that I believe I am not particularly good at so I am attempting this challenge to prove a point. Even if you don’t think you’re particularly good at something, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a go. 

The Update

Heading off to WarMy first poem, “Heading off to War” has been written and is now waiting for me to redraft it. I’ve also had a crack at drawing an illustration for it. It took me the best part of five hours and a lot of staring at pictures of trains, but I have finally managed to beat my fear of drawing. A seasoned artist will probably look at this and think very little of it but, for a first attempt at creating a proper illustration to be published, I don’t think its too bad. 

I have also drafted my second poem, temporarily called “I Digress”. So far so good. 

 

Running Count:

Poems Drafted – 2/20

Illustrations Drafted – 1/20

Completed Poems with Illustrations – 0/20

Days Remaining – 112 

The Challenge

In commemoration of the 100 years of the First World War, I’m going to be doing something a little bit out of my comfort zone.

Since I started this blog, I’ve had several people ask me about what creative activities I get up to on a daily basis. So I’ve decided to answer them here to give you all an idea of what my boundaries are:

Do I write fiction? 

Yes, absolutely. I love writing short stories and novels and have done ever since I was a child. I still have a copy of the first story I ever wrote at the tender age of 5 about a clown called Billy who was essentially stalking a girl named Jess…. Not my most inspiring work, but I will try to dig it out for a later blog post.

What about films?

I absolutely live and breathe films. This year alone I have written two full-length screenplays and I am currently playing around with a third. I have also directed four short films and I will discuss them at length in future posts. I have worked in the film industry in various capacities and worked on documentaries, promotional shoots, wedding videos, music videos… you name it, I’ve probably had a go at it somewhere along the line. I am probably at my happiest when stood on a set looking through the viewfinder of a camera.

Theatre?

I started off in theatre, working as a stage manager for a youth theatre company in Surrey. Since then I have worked in various places, including the National Theatre, and co-founded two youth theatre companies by the time I was nineteen. I have directed several theatre productions, although I have never gone so far as to attempt to write a theatre piece yet. I also work as a musical director; in a few weeks time I will be off to Kent for two weeks to write songs for a musical theatre piece with young people. But I will come back to that next week!

Non-Fiction

Article writing is something that I’ve started doing very recently. I currently spend a lot of my time pouring over magazines to work out whether there is a potential for any article I have to offer to be published. I currently have five proposals under consideration so I’m hoping to be able to report back here with some good news over the next couple of months. I write articles about history, film making and dogs, with occasional random extras chucked into the mix just to keep it fresh. My Friday Fact postings will usually have something to do with an article I am writing at the time.

Painting?

This is my major stopping point. I can draw and I can paint, but I find it ridiculously difficult to do so. I like my art to be as realistic as possible and I simply haven’t got the talent to get my artwork anywhere near where I would like it to be. For that reason, I definitely do not consider myself to be a physical artist of any sort.

Poetry

No. I have never attempted poetry in it’s purest form. Obviously, by the nature of occasionally doing song writing for theatre productions, I have the ability to create verse, but these tend to be comical in nature.

At no level would I ever call myself a poet.

Which is where this post has been leading to. My comfort zone.

My comfort zone definitely does not include writing poetry and it doesn’t include illustrating. So I have decided to use the 100 years anniversary of the start of the First World War to try to break out of my comfort zone and into a form of creativity that I would normally steer well clear of.

We are currently in July. I am challenging myself to write a book of war poetry by the 11th November, Armistice Day. This book will consist of twenty poems, complete with illustrations drawn by myself and will be made available as an ebook.

That is 20 poems, with illustrations, in 114 days!

I will be writing some very short posts (I’m talking one of two liners here) every Tuesday which will update you on how I am progressing with the poetry book. Will I fail miserably? It is certainly possible! But what’s life without a few little challenges.

Spread the word. Heckle me if you will.

The challenge is on!

 

 

Friday Fact: Richard II and the Peasants’ Revolt

King Richard II faced down the entire Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 at the age of 14. 

In a meeting with the Revolt’s leader, Wat Tyler, he allegedly promised to provide the poor of England equal rights to the landed nobles. However, before the meeting ended Wat Tyler was killed during a scuffle with the King’s entourage. The rest of the revolters were outraged and prepared to sack London. 

King Richard rode out to the angry crowd and instructed them to follow him. And they did just that. 

It just goes to show, the threat of violence can be ended with peaceful words.  

Unfortunately, having defused the situation, King Richard decided to have all the leaders of the revolt executed and the rest dispersed back to the countryside from whence they came… 

Well, it was nearly a good story…

Midweek Tip: Finding the Time around Your Job

It’s an age old excuse. And let’s face it, we’ve all used it. 

I would direct this short film but…

I would write this story but…

I would learn to play the piano but…

I haven’t got the time. 

And it’s true. We never have time. Most of us have a day job and, for a large number of us, it isn’t a particularly exciting one at that.

Maybe you hate the people you work for. After all, management sucks! You always get given that annoying bit of paperwork which you know you will slave away for hours to complete, only to have someone glance at it for two seconds before banishing it to the Filing Cabinet of Woe!

Maybe you hate the people you work with. You turn up everyday, do the best you job you can do, but there is always some self-centred idiot who sits in the corner criticising everyone else whilst doing nothing to help. 

Maybe you hate your job….

Whatever it is about your job that brings you down, the result is always the same. You get home after the long hard slog, crash on the sofa and contemplate doing some writing or whatever for the tiniest of seconds before turning on the TV. And thus ends your day. 

And why do we do this?

Because whether you’re writing your script, or directing your film or painting your picture or whatever it is you want to do, we all consider it to be our “true” work. It is the work that we would love to be paid to do, our career goal in life… but work nonetheless. And after a hard battle at our “day job” the last thing our brain can possibly handle is doing another bit of work, even if it is for the job we actually enjoy doing. 

So how do we get around this?

Fairly simply when you think about it. 

1. A Question of Definition!

Work gets us all down, it’s a fact of life. So don’t consider your creativity to be your work. You may want to do it as a career one day, but ignore that for the moment. As far as you should be concerned, what you do to get paid is your work and the work you do when you get home is your life! It’s amazing how separating these two will completely change your outlook. You’re no longer coming home to work, you’re coming home to play…

Take me for example.

Right now, there are builders beneath my flat trying their level best to put a hammer through my floor! If I was at work, I’d be cursing all over the place by now, and would probably have given in hours ago. But writing is what I want to do, and nobody is going to stop be from doing it…

Nobody!

2. A Question of Time

Time, as they say is fleeting.

Wrong!

Time is not fleeting, you’re just not using it right.

Time is a mental construct designed entirely so the people at the top can make sure we turn up to work on time. Period. Seriously, try to find another reason for time! I bet you whatever reason you come up with will eventually lead back to work!

So, at the moment time is the master of you. So change the rules. Take control of your time and use it wisely. If you’re finding that you get up at 7 every morning for work but don’t have enough time to be creative, get up at 6 and do an hour before you start your daily routine!

“But I’m so tired in the morning,” you say. “If I try to be creative when not awake, I’ll just produce drivel!”

True, but think of it this way. 

If you wake up an hour earlier, it not only means you have a set time everyday when you must be creative, but it also means that you start using your evenings to plan your creativity for the following day to avoid the inevitable early morning, “I have no idea what’s going on” syndrome.

And it has one added bonus.

No matter how terrible your day is, it will never affect your writing because that is the first thing you do everyday!

Neat, huh?

Anyway, the point is, if you’re using “I haven’t got time” as an excuse for not being creative, it’s probably because you don’t want it enough. Time was created to keep you under control, to make sure that you’re doing what other people want you to do instead of what you need to do. If you’re using time as an excuse but are still loyally going to work everyday, then you are playing right into their hands…

That being said, we all need a day job, so don’t quit on my say so…

Anyway, give it a try. Let me know how you get on…

Time for work!

The Creative Jack of all Trades

The phrase “jack of all trades” has always confused me. For some people, it is a derogatory remark  that a person is no good at anything in particular whereas for others it is more like a badge of honour. Whichever way you look at it though, it tends to imply that you are spreading your efforts over a variety of interests rather than getting brilliant at just one.

So for someone who wants a career as a writer or a film director or a contributor to a magazine, being a jack of all trades would (at first glance) seem like the worse thing to be. With everyone in the world trying to write their story or direct their movie and competing with each other, the last thing you want to do is split your brilliance between several different career paths, right?

Wrong!

I tend to take the saying literally. A jack of all trades literally means a person who does everything. It doesn’t say whether the person is good or bad at what he does, merely that they try. When dealing with a creative career, splitting your focus between different paths is possibly the most useful thing you do.

I style myself as being a creative jack of all trades but, in actual fact, anyone who wants a career in a creative profession needs to have a working understanding of all the other creative industries to succeed in life. So I suppose calling myself a creative jack of all trades is really just a more complicated way of saying, “I’m an artist.” In fact, if you look hard enough at your own life, I think you will find that everyone has the potential to be a jack of all trades…

“That’s a load of rubbish!” I hear some of you cry. “You’re just one of the lucky ones who can do lots of different things…”

Well, yes I am rather lucky. I have my fingers in a lot of different pies, whether it be film making, article writing or story telling and over the course of this blog I will be recounting stories from my life, giving useful hints and tips and sharing my successes with you. But the point I’m making isn’t, look at what I can do…

It’s look at what you can do!

Anyone reading this blog has the potential to be a jack of trades. You may not have the interest or flair to be a creative jack of all trades but I can guarantee that all of you have skills that lie dormant, just waiting to be unleashed on the world.