Sunday, 21 October 2007

"Not waving but freelancing" OR "Blood, blood everywhere, but not a drop to drink..."

There are many truly wonderful aspects to being a writer, to being self-employed.

A regular income stream is not one of them.

If you want an easy, secure life devoid of last second borrowing, gnashing, wailing, acid indigestion, and sweaty-browed internet banking jazz hands, then move along, friend. This show is not for you.

It's why this is a frustrating day as I'm not quite sure I've managed to get all my ducks in a row on rent day. I'm relying on the great glowing tubes of bank fund transfer not to get clogged, or hold up the cash that is mine, and will cover everything... but only if it gets piped into my account today. Should do - the precedents are hopeful - but otherwise Mr Barclays will pocket thirty of my English pounds. Bah.

The goal as a jobbing writer, naturally, is to reach a point where commissions flow freely into your life, but, as writers are generally self-employed, this is never going to be guaranteed. And when you're down in the trenches at the start of your career, among the mud, tears and artillery shell detonations of yet more "encouraging rejections", this is even more the case.

And the biggest thing that every freelancer knows, of course, is that no one ever pays you on time. I do keep wondering if it's my next contract that will have a clause that reads "payment due on the very NEXT day after you absolutely, totally, utterly need it."

A bit like war, you wait and wait and wait. And wait.

And then everything happens all at once, at tremendous, sickening speed (often accompanied by hysterical screams)

For instance, I've got a job that I hopefully should be starting soon - all I can really say is that it's a script about vampires, and I'm really excited - but the contract negotiation has gotten veeeery complicated, for all sorts of boring reasons, and is taking far longer to sort out than anyone anticipated. Plus, real life intrudes: my agent just got married, and has jetted off on her honeymoon to the Maldives. Which is really, really fab, and I couldn't be happier for her as she's dead nice n that and a truly great agent... but does put another spanner in already creaking negotiational clockwork.

It's not even as if there's anyone to blame or get passively aggressively furious at (I don't do confrontation-- it's undignified. Oh, and it scares me. What if people shout and slam doors sarcastically. erk). The job is with good friends and the delays are due to perfectly understandable hold ups, as well as the sluggish nervous systems of large organisations.

The problem is with me, really, and what always underlines this stage of the commissioning process, the constant, niggling worry which most writers suffer, I'm sure... that until the ink is dry on the page the whole deal could fall apart somehow, at any moment, and again you'll be left with nothing... and having to start your endless, painful crawl back up Mount Doom in search of the next commission (always juggle eight potential jobs in the air at any one time in the hope that one will come good and make the trick all worth it)

But you just have to put that out of your mind, and get on with the NEXT thing while you wait.

Which is why I may talk in the next few days about... The Creative Process.

Or, at least, My Creative Process, and being stuck as I try to "break" (er, flesh out) my ideas for Channel 4's new talent PILOT drama scheme (if you're interested, it's here)

Think I've been hit by a doozy of a concept. But life is never just that simple, is it? (see above)

Also, I'm so excited I've now learned how to put in hyperlinks that I may go coloured writing densely linkable crazy!

Come back soon to see if the whole blog has become one big Link of Doom!

PS- tea tonight, home made cream of mushroom soup. I only mention it as a) I home made it myself, and I'm pathetically proud of things like that. Plus, b) Jane Espenson (writer of many great eps of many mighty U.S. genre shows such as "Buffy" and "Battlestar Galactica) always says what she's had for lunch on her blog, Jane in Progress, which is full of tremendously useful writing tips and worth checking out for anyone with even a passing interest in writing for TV (on either side of the pond, though it is quite U.S.-centric).

Thursday, 18 October 2007

"Things that go bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz in the night" OR "What's that comin over the hill... is it a heartbeat?"

I'm at my desk and I can hear a sound.

Just hear, that is.

This sound isn't even man enough to come out and let me hear it properly, godammit! It's there, a cowardly, constant needling itch beneath the fingernails of my attention.

I think it's coming from my PC speakers - or, actually, the weird device that calls itself a superwoofer or something which sits between my speakers that I bought because I liked the name - but when I put my ear right up close I can't be... quite... sure. It might be one of my hard drives, or a CD I've left in the dvd drive, idly ticking away. Ticking... and clicking... and ticking, clicking and. Softly, but endlessly.

I despise things like this. Perpetual noises.

I'm sure I'm not alone, but I've never been able to just unfocus my attention and drift on through. Can't make them go away. Simply forget and get on with whatever else I'm doing.

As a writer I'm home most days, working, and I've learned to dread that beastly neverending waaah-oooh-waaah wail of the house alarm. Almost worse if it's in the cloudy middle distance, rather than just outside your window, because you find yourself straining to check whether it's still going or not. Has it stopped yet?


What about now...?

And now?

But, you see, it's not just that these noises stick a knife-tip into my mood and waggle it. No, my perception of sound can be more... viscerally unsettling, than that.

I find any regular, non-organic, (most often) machine sound deeply... uneasy-making. Pistons, drilling, nearby generators humming. Yuck. There's something implacable and relentless about them which reminds me of an atmosphere you can find in some of the best screen horror stories.

Not when things go all splashy and screamy, before that. An atmosphere of something always just on the brink of a horrible explosion. Waiting, tipping- then tipping back, held in an awful, throbbing... tension over the brim.

These machine sounds represent mindless power just barely held in check, a force which could at any moment slip out of synch, its dumb regularity suddenly veering upwards into a chaotic, hysterical whine, a reactor spinning up out of control.

It's reminiscent of that wonderful scene in "Robocop", where our evil corporation is testing the huge ED 209 police droid in the board room. Of course it malfunctions, then continues its verbal countdown ("You have thirty seconds to comply... twenty...") and continued demands for the hapless volunteer to throw down his pretend gun... which he has already done!

And its not an intellectual thing, this unease of mine, over the sounds. It's in my gut coils.

I think there might be something in my childhood which accounts for this, though, if so, I can't pin-point it. One vivid TV memory still prickles at me, however.

It was an episode of "Blake's 7", of all things, in which our often enjoyably mercenary gang of galactic freedom fighters had been stranded on an artificial planet. One of the ways in which this place (in reality, probably a few fields somewhere in the Home Counties) was denoted as being a manufactured world was that... it had a heartbeat.

Every time they went outside we heard this unutterably huge, merciless, steady thump in the sky, like the heart of god. Which was wonderful, in a way, but I HATED it. Made my skin crawl inside and out, and still gives me goosebumps thinking about it today.

This distress isn't something I've explicitly exploited in the work yet, but since I still do regularly write horror, SF, it's sure to come out (though, clearly, it's something that would have only a fraction of the impact on the page).

Maybe it is just the fear of the sound in the distance, over the hill... that it's inexorably drawing closer, coming for you, chasing, chasing (certainly I've had dreams of being chased, eternally, by ever-nearing horror sounds, trying to run but never getting far enough away, or managing to shake the scent...)

Still, maybe I should just buy a new superwoofer, eh?

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

"Unused to public blogging, as I am..." OR "The Potentate of Potential"

Well, clearly I should say something, but not sure what (scuffs soles, peers at fingernails, puffs out a breath).

It needs a beginning. Everything needs a beginning, and as a writer I know that beginnings are important above all else. They set the tone of what is to come. They draw you in. They say - even if the point is only to mislead and set you up for a later surprise -

They say, "this is who I am."

There's definitely a saying in TV that goes something like "put a fight or a fuck in the first five minutes..."

And while that's all good advice in the blipvert attention span world of the holy gogglebox, I'm the only one here. And, anyway, I've never been much of an exhibitionist (oh, and if my mum is reading, "sorry, yes, there *will* be the occasional use of... brisk language" Swears WILL happen, though that's mainly to do with comic rhythms... which I'm sure is a topic we'll natter about down the line).

"I name this ship, Spleencray" and whizz, tinkle, crowd roars?

Maybe not.

If for no other reason than I'd have to explain my title. And I'm not going to do that yet, because suspense is a key tool in the kit box of a writer. And that, too - writing, writing craft, and what we've got in our tool boxes - is something I also want to talk about.

But not now.

So, I think I will just say-- this place - this space - it has... potential, that's it.

I'm going to fill it with things, dig up the soil, plant seeds, maybe sprinkle in some ideas, who knows?

Crack a few louche jokes? Lob the odd gag over the neighbour's fence?

Hang a few nick-nacks upon the walls then see who calls round for tea and a bun, a philosophical debate, an artistic tiff, or a quick game of Halo 3 perhaps? We'll see.

The door is ajar... I'm by the window peering out. That garden is rather overgrown.

But I think I kinda like that.

It's got Potential. Yeah.

(and night, night, now not so empty page...)