As of last month, the 2010 Warner Bros. TV Writers' Workshop has come to a close. It was six months of the most ass-kicking writing instruction I've had since grad school. I am exhausted and thankful and humbled and pumped the fuck up.
I am hoping in the days to come to give you an overview of the workshop, as well as a recounting of everything that's happened since then: meetings with agents, managers, showrunners, etc. But all that's still happening and, as I predicted, this blog has fallen way down my list of priorities
As I posted earlier, you can read about our class here. I love each and every one of these people. I learned so much from all of them. We feel as if we've survived boot camp together, and now we're all headed to the front lines. Semper fi, gang.
And if you're looking to apply to this incredible opportunity, get going. The month-long window for submissions starts May 1.
I also told you earlier about the best book I've ever read on writing for TV: The Writer's Tale, by Russell Davies (showrunner of the BBC's Doctor Who) and journalist Benjamin Cook.
Well, guess what? That's old news! We got another champion that flat-out KO's that book. It's the expanded edition of The Writer's Tale: The Final Chapter.
What's new? About 300+ pages of detailed info & insights from Davies on how he writes for TV, and how he scripted the episodes leading up to the departure of award-winning actor David Tennant from the title role. Yes, it's well worth another sawbuck to get that extra chunk of book. Hell, I'd pay twice that for the gold in this mine.
I'd like to say that you don't have to know Doctor Who to really appreciate this book ... but I'm afraid you probably do. But in my opinion that's more than okay. Spend some time getting to know the longest-running and most inventive sci-fi TV show in history, and you'll reap ample rewards when you pick up the book.
I've been earmarking choice quotes from Davies, little bursts of wisdom that stand out. Here's a sampling:
Action might be a bastard to write but at the same time, if you follow it, it solves a lot of problems. Plainly and suddenly, there are things that must happen. Keep control of them, and you've got a rope to pull you through, I think.
I've spent my career reading documents upside-down on people's desks and it's got me an awful long way, let me tell you.
The only way to write is to write. For all my banging on about what to do if you're really stuck on something, there's nothing dumber than sitting there writing nothing at all. Stupid bastard job.
I love a good note because it's like someone has articulated that voice at the back of your head.
Every new writer, every single one of them, describes at least one character with the phrase, "He doesn't suffer fools gladly." That seems to to be the Number One Character Type. I'm so fed up of reading it. I mentally delete it.
New scriptwriters often give you these long paragraphs of (character) description, and while it's each to his own and all that, I really would stick to three adjectives. It's brief, concise and accurate.
Cutting doesn't simply mean drawing a line through speeches. That's the easy bit. It means being ruthless and concise in your approach to every line, every scene, every character. You have to keep your mind as tight as a vice. Because a commission is lucky. If you get asked to write an hour's worth of TV, you're the luckiest bastard in the world, and you shouldn't waste a single eighth of a page with ping-pong, or flim-flam, or ornate curlicues, or lengthy descriptions of a man's jumper. You must make every word count.
Most writers sitting in pubs saying, "They've destroyed my work," caused the problem themselves, because they weren't vigorous enough, because their scripts invited changes. Producers are trying to build something tangible out of something that's simply an act of the imagination, and very often a flawed act. Of course idiots can do damage, but most of them are trying to help. Everyone's happy if the script works. Everyone's life is easier.
I read an interview with Alan Moore recently, in which he said -- I'm paraphrasing -- "When you're young, you plan everything. As you get more experienced, you fly on instinct. This means putting things in scripts that you've got no idea why they're there, but as you work at it, as you write, they rise up, they assert themselves, they become more and more vital, like they were always meant to be there." Less mystically, what he means is, you use ideas once you've created them, you work at them and bind them in.