And the winner is…..

The End

The winner of “Best Horror” at the 2014 Limelight Film Awards was no other than our short film, The End.

award

It’s been a long time since I worked on this short film script and saw it go into production. It was very a very surreal experience sitting in the gorgeously decadent, art deco venue, The Troxy, in London’s east end watching a clip of our film played as the nominations were read out.

There was so much talent at the award ceremony, including of course my fellow film makers – Director and Producer, Raj Pathak, from We Are Heroes Films, cinematographer, Louis Vella  and special effects aficionado Nik Karma from N-FX. The two actresses also attended the ceremony; Shelley Draper (who provided an immensely compelling performance of the mother in the film) and Eva Nicholson who played her daughter. Director, Crash Taylor unfortunately couldn’t attend the event.

(My one regret is that we didn’t get pictures of the event – we all went up as a team to receive the award and the official photographs have never been released of all the winners. Note to the organisers – there’s a lot of PR each of the film awards winners would probably love to generate for the awards, so its a shame these haven’t been available!)

Of course for us this isn’t The End – but only the beginning of the end. With a feature length film script already written, a crew that’s raring to go all that’s left is to gather together more investment – I say ‘all that’s needed’ of course this is one of the trickiest elements of getting a film made. I’ve no doubt it will be another long wait…. but it will be worth it!

 

 

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N is for Nasty

 Originally published on the Cafe Aphra blogsite

That’s right, I’m getting nasty. Why? I guess it’s just the way I’m feeling at the moment – and the way I’m feeling at the moment is that I need a pep talk. In fact, I need a good kick up the arse. I figure other ‘aspiring writers’ are feeling the same way; and if they aren’t they will, at some point. So, now I’ve got your hackles up, I’ll begin.

So, aspiring writers everywhere, the very first thing I have to say is stop ‘aspiring’. You don’t ‘aspire’ to get out of bed – you get out of bed. You either write or you don’t, simple as that. The only caveat I’ll give is, of all the things you should aspire to, being a better writer is one of them. I’m not allowing complacency here, don’t think I’ve started being nice, because being a better writer takes hard work – so register the aspiration and get toiling.

Almost everyone wants to be a writer, possibly almost everyone could be, so what makes you different? What’s your USP? (Don’t answer that last question, I don’t need to know.) What you need to know is that the only way to find your voice, to be different and to express yourself fully, is to write with integrity. Don’t try to become ‘like’ another writer, don’t force yourself to write in a style that isn’t you; however much you might want it to be. Just write, see what happens. That’s you right there on the page. If anything sounds corny, maybe you unconsciously stole it from somewhere. How would you say it? Write it again in your own voice.

Make sure you understand the rules though, don’t go thinking grammar is ‘old hat’ and doesn’t apply to your modern take on society. That’s great and everything, but unless you’ve published ten best sellers no publisher will touch you with a barge pole if you’ve not learnt the rules. Once you have, then start breaking them.

Now I’m going to tell you how to get published…. Right place, right time, right publisher, decent finished manuscript. You might be hailed the next Shakespeare ten years after you’ve snuffed it, that’s life. It’s a bitch. Point is, there is no true path, there is no magic wand. You have to keep trying and on the plus side, you probably have more chance of getting published than winning a million on the lottery. Don’t give up the day job and while you’re stacking shelves in Sainsbury, plan your next chapter.

You’re rubbish, I’m rubbish, that novel you just finished reading – that’s rubbish too. You will have days feeling like an amateur. You will look back at what you’ve spent months or years writing and think its the biggest pile of crap you’ve ever seen. Maybe it is, maybe tomorrow you’ll love it again. Maybe tomorrow you’ll still think it’s awful and at the same time a publisher will be reading it thinking ‘this is really good!’ That book you just finished reading; the author will probably have had these exact same thoughts somewhere along the line. Let it pass, put it down, come back later. Keep writing.

On the other hand, there are people out there who will reject you: Agents, editors, reviewers, readers, even boyfriends and husbands, will say things you don’t want to hear. Stop crying, take it on the chin, absorb the constructive bits of criticism and carry on. If you give up you’re no longer a writer – is that an option? No. Don’t fall for jealousy either. Some of your writer buddies may get published. Once you’ve had the party and slapped them on the back, brace yourself for the stab of envious pain – ‘Why oh why isn’t it me?!!’ You didn’t get lucky. Get over it, keep trying.

Keep writing and finish it. No I don’t want to hear how you’re unsure about the plot, or the characterisation, just finish it. If you don’t you won’t know how it ends or what you missed out in the middle. If you get in the habit of leaving things unfinished, pretty soon everything will be unfinished.

If you’re a writer, you write because you have to, because to not write feels wrong. It can be a thankless, solitary, badly paid, unsociable pursuit. On the plus side you will never have just one life, you will have as many lives and experiences as you want, in your mind and pouring onto the page. You are the lucky one after all.

So go on, get on with it!

Tina Smith

Long time…..

Anne of York, Sister of Edward IV and Richard ...

Anne of York, Sister of Edward IV and Richard III, Aunt of Queen Elizabeth of York, Great-Aunt of Henry VIII and his siblings, with her 2nd husband, Sir Thomas St. Leger (Photo credit: lisby1)

No see…..

Gosh it has been a very long while since I last gave my blog any attention. Life gets busy doesn’t it? I’ve never been too busy to write but I have been busy enough to realise I have to prioritise what I write and unfortunately the blog had to go on hold.

Some amazing things have been happening over the last few months,

Finding Richard III – OK I can’t claim to have ‘done’ that, but it was a fairly major piece of news in my life. It was only a few years ago that I became so very interested in this enigmatic character and began to attempt to write about him – a fact I mainly kept to myself and those I knew had an interest themselves. It seemed strange to see him suddenly propelled into such a spotlight. Before the discovery of his body I had come to the conclusion I was not a good enough writer to create the kind of work I feel would most aptly, in my own eyes, portray the complexities of his character. I still feel that way, but the ambition is not lost, just set aside to grow quietly in the background, until I’m ready to attend to it again.

More script writing – I never had any ambition to write film scripts and yet that’s what I seem to have spent most of my time doing, certainly in the last six months. One script, ‘Watching over you’ is in production – the casting has taken place I believe and another, shorter film (probably 7mins long) is now in pre-production too. We’re having difficulty finding a convenience store or petrol station shop willing to let us film there – so if you know of anywhere (esp in the Nottingham area) please let us know!

The novel – I just don’t know what to do about this ‘thing’. It is so close to having being finished and yet I’ve stalled. Partly due to my attention being taken by the script writing, but that’s not the full story.  I intend to send some pages off to a competition, but the closing date is drawing near and I haven’t submitted. I’m also going round in circles in my own mind about whether or not to send it for a second full critique – which will cost £100s – but might be the final push I need to get it good enough to send to agents etc. But I don’t want to waste money – Ive already spent a fair amount on it, in writing courses and the first critique – but then I should have faith that its worth it. So what should I do? Stop faffing I imagine!!

When do you know it’s ready to show the world? If you’re a published writer, let me know. If you’re not, let me know if you have a theory!

Keep going writers, never give up, never surrender 🙂

A girl interrupted….

It’s been a while, I know. I got interrupted. Life interrupted. Not only that, it made me face reality, which is never nice. That’s why I write fantasy.

The upshot is I had to increase my working hours; my paid for working hours, not the ones I spend bleeding onto the page and scratching letters in the blood. Now it’s all numbers, spreadsheets, policies and politics.

I’ve been sitting in bed at night, because they are the only free moments now available to me, thinking, ‘well I have about an hour, I could write something…’ and nothing comes. Nothing.

I feared my creativity had been sucked into a corporate void, I was being absorbed into the borg.

Then last night, I picked up an old script. It had been commented on by a guy called Erik Bork, who is, I understand, someone in Hollywood. I was supposed to have worked on it a while ago, but knowing the day of fiscal responsibility was looming I decided to use my last remaining days attempting, in vain, to finish my novel. I ignored the script. I re-read the comments and under “overall thoughts” it said:

‘this could definitely get real attention at festivals – and be compelling, emotional, entertaining and memorable’.

I dusted the thing off and began the re-write. Who knows if it’ll ever get made, who knows if it’ll ever get to a festival, but I should at least give it one more go. After all time is always running out.

clock

My heart is still with my novel, but it’s better to write something and delete it later, than to write nothing at all and never know.

Here’s to carrying on no matter what.

It’s not writers block…. I’m mulling.

Or at least I hope so.

I’ve been through my manuscript I’ve removed a whole heap of unnecessary words and paragraphs, corrected spellings and grammar. I’ve highlighted areas that ‘tell’ but do not ‘show’ and areas where I’ve scrawled ‘develop’ or ‘re-write’. I have also written a list of major issues to address:

One of these I discussed in a previous blog, is my need to develop a strong female character to replace the one that was cut in the last purge. A writer friend suggested to me to see if any of the existing male characters might be suitable to be altered to be a woman; something I’m now seriously considering.

Another issue was my need to be clear about the parameters of magic within the novel – I thought I had a good handle on this, but the more I consider it the more I tie myself up in knots. Related to this, I was advised to get a good back-story going for the character who has emerged as the (anti)hero of the book. Strangely I have back stories (in my mind) for all other characters but not him. He’s a mysterious character which is partly my excuse for having failed to do this a long time ago.

With all this on my mind I’ve now come to a complete halt.

I spent some time last week reading through celtic mythologies and looking at information on ancient world religions. I did this to try to get back ‘in the zone of myth and magic; something that never used to take much effort!

A combination of a lack of solid time-blocks to write in, and continuously switching my attention from one issue to another made this a very frustrating week. I have written a few new chapters, but I don’t think they’ll make the final cut. It occurred to me I might be so keen to get this book finished asap, I’m trying to tackle too much at once. Consequently I’m not thinking very clearly.

My only hope is that out of this chaos some great writing will emerge; I need to accept it won’t be this week, or the next. I’m going to take a break, do some reading (of some of the books you all kindly recommended last week, featuring strong female characters) then revisit my book.

Thank you all for your continued support and in advance for your comments and advice.

The Arvon experience – Part 3 – fears & dreams

Overcoming fears and making dreams come true.

Overcoming fears

A large part of the success of the Arvon format is simply that, for one week, it brings together a group of writers. At first this can seem a little daunting. After all, aren’t ‘other’ people so much more ‘sorted’ that oneself; more confident,  more experienced, more talented? What becomes clear, during the week, is almost everyone else is thinking exactly the same thing. It was great to spend time with a group of people experiencing the same challenges; difficulty finding time to write, difficulty in sharing the process with one’s nearest and dearest, feeling guilty for writing when there are ‘more important’ things to be done and so on… (if you’re a writer you’ll be able to add to the list!)

Testament to the power of Arvon in bringing writers together and facilitating the forging of relationships that go beyond the week itself, six of the attendees  had met on a previous course. This group set up, and encouraged others to join, student led co-mentoring sessions. I didn’t join myself, mainly because my aim on the course was to pull my sprawling novel together, rather than focus on specific passages. However,  those who did go found the feedback on their writing useful.

Every night three or four students read a five to ten minute passage from their work in progress. Each night I enjoyed the variety of styles and the sheer talent displayed – I also experienced a growing sense of panic about reading my own work. I considered simply not doing it, but I would have been the only one who didn’t. So, I put my name down for the last night and probably wasted a little too much time agonising over which passage to read. (If anyone is interested I might post the passage here; seeing as its escaped my clutches and wandered into the ears of real people already?)

Part of my initial reticence was that no-one else was writing fantasy (or sci-fi), although there were a few writing something with a fantastical element. Maybe Arvon should consider a fantasy writing course? That would bring the weirdos out of the closet – I include myself here!

When I finally did my reading the reaction was good. I was relieved to have got through the ordeal, for me that was an achievement in itself. The group gave me great feedback.

Making dreams come true.

Thursday seemed to be a turning point for a lot of us on the course. I spent a lot of time on my own, getting over the grief of my massive 80,000 word cull and going through a heap of self-doubt. I later discovered quite a few people were having a similar experience that day. Perhaps it was something in the air, or perhaps it was the fact the end of the week was in sight and we were all desperate to make some momentous breakthrough. The realisation began to hit home that however much input a tutor gives you, at the end of the day its down to you to make your dream manifest.

I had one dream of the outcome I wanted from the course. I didn’t mention it to anyone, because I felt it very unlikely to come to pass. To my quiet delight, on the last day of the course, in my last tutorial, that dream was realised.

I spoke again with Alan about my novel. He said some very positive things about my the depth of my character development and the story overall. He then told me that he felt my work might be of great interest to the publishing industry/readers if I could get it out in the next couple of years. He advised me to re-write over the next year and then send it to him. He offered to read the whole novel and then, depending on it’s state, pass it on to a contact of his; a prolific fantasy and sci-fi writer also involved in the publishing business. He felt this contact may well be interested in it or at the very least be able to put us onto someone who might be.  And there it was, my pre-course dream: that someone in the business would read my work and tell me they knew someone who might be interested.

Now the hard work really begins!

Lovely, supportive writers everywhere….

This will be a quick post as I’m mid panic about my imminent trip up to the Highlands of Scotland tomorrow.

I first joined twitter out of a feeling of necessity. As I mentioned in my first ever blog, one piece of key advice I picked up for budding novelists, was to get yourself a ‘following’ before you publish a book – because publisher or no publisher, the marketing is down to you.

I begrudgingly set up an account and stared at the list of unrelated, sometimes undecipherable comments, hashtag markers and dubious links, wondering how the hell anyone made any sense of this live, online dump of human thought processes.

I’ve since come to love the medium – nothing to do with amassing followers. I know that quantity will be deemed important by others, but quality, right now, is important to me. Amongst the hundreds of people I follow, there are a handful of writers who have been in touch to talk about our shared interests, our struggles, our writing projects and sometimes our personal dreams. I’ve critiqued other peoples writing, pointing out with some authority(!), mistakes/anomalies I undoubtedly make myself ALL the time!. I’ve also had my own writing critiqued. No-one (so far) has been rude, everyone is tactfully helpful. These wonderful, if not entirely selfless, acts of kindness are educational, encouraging and give one faith in the human spirit.

Thank you to all those writers who make Twitter so worthwhile for me. I can only hope I am as inspirational and helpful as you have been for me.