How buying the I.T guy a beer can improve your writing

Okay maybe not improve your writing but create a decent environment for writing when you should be doing other things.  This post is about how technology can help you as a writer.  Lets be perfectly clear all you really need to be a writer is a piece of paper, a pen, and a story to tell.  But you also need time, and that’s what this is really about, making the most of your time.  Lets say you have a 9-5 day job with an hour lunch break, you have a family at home and other commitments how do you make the time to write.  Well you have a PC at work and a pair of headphones, should you get to work a bit early and leave a bit late you could get two hours of writing time to yourself every day.  Lets face it when you sit on that comfy sofa with the remote control in your hand and the kids finally in bed the motivation to get working is tough to come across.

So back to work, and technology.  You could quite easily write using pen and paper in your new found writing time, or use MS Word, OR you could try and justify or bribe the IT guy to put a few legal and free programmes on to your computer

Celtx and Dropbox


Celtx is a free and open source screen writing programme a kind of Final Draft for the masses, dropbox is an online cloud storage site, which also allows you to install a folder on to your PC (or Mac or Linux) which will automatically sync to everywhere else you have the folder installed such as your home PC.  So you could start writing at home and pick it up at work and vice versa.

The use of these two programmes has been fantastic for me, as I write with a partner so we can collaborate on scripts and see instantly when the other is updating something, we just have two tabs in each project (a his and hers if you will) and we can make whatever changes we want to that whilst being able to see what the other is up to.

A PDF Reader

Another amazingly useful tool, as if you are going to be a script writer you need to be a script reader.  Not in the professional sense, but you need to read scripts.  You wouldn’t become a novelist and never read books, or a film maker without watching films.  Scripts are easily available online and google is your friend, sites such as mypdfscripts have a huge supply of professional scripts in PDF form.

So once you have a stack to read, how do you read them?  Well for me the best way is on my phone.  Most smartphones have a PDF reader built in such as ibooks for iphone or goodreader for older iphones and ipods or even Adobe reader for Android phones.  A phone is always with you (unlike an expensive tablet), waiting for a bus, have a look at a script, on the loo, have a look at a script, just really bored in a meeting, pretend to check your emails but actualy have a look at a script.  Whist we’re on the subject of phones it should also be noted there is a Celtx iPhone app which means you can do all of the above with your own script and make changes though I wouldn’t advise actually tring to write something with that virtual keyboard.

Twitter and the Internet

When I first logged on to Twitter I didn’t really know what to do with it, it seemed a bit like an RSS reader for celebrity nonsense and for some; that is exactly what it is.  It’s also an amazing networking tool, there are tonnes of film makers and writers on Twitter that are in exactly the same boat as you, day job, struggling to make it, learning.  MEET THESE PEOPLE or at least virtually meet them look for hashtags to do with film making or writing, check out their blogs.  The UK Scriptwriters podcast by Danny Stack and Tim Clague is a great use of your time on the way to work, Chris Jones author of the Guerilla Film Makers Handbook is amazingly generous with advice on his blog.  Scott Myers Go Into The Story Blog is full of inspiration and experience.  Lucy Hay  has a fountain of knowledge at Write Here Write Now.  Not to mention something I have become involved with #scriptchat which is a gathering of writers online every Sunday night at 8pm on Twitter to talk through various writing topics and speak to guests.  Once a month those of us who can, meet in person in London.  It’s networking made easy as we’ve all met “virtually” and have something to talk about straight away (at least I hope, being one of the new moderators my first tweet up is a week on Thursday ).  It’s really quite amazing how helpful and open other writers can be, and why not start a blog of your own and share your own experiences, it might be a form of procrastination but it’s still writing and it gets you thinking.

In terms of tech these are a few things I rely on, and are basically, Writing, Reading, Networking.  No matter how you do it, these three things really go hand in hand to make you a better writer, leave one out (I’m looking at YOU networking) and you really are missing out, technology is just one way that can help you do all of those a little bit easier, you still need talent and motivation

All the blogs I’ve mentioned should have links embedded and here’s a list of a few film related Twitter people to follow, not forgetting you can join us every Sunday at 8 by following #sciptchat


And the Ball is finally Rolling…

As always it’s been a while and as always much has happened, finally I’ve got the ball rolling.

I’m getting more and more active in the world of scriptwriting with my Wife and scriptwriting partner, with a couple of Sitcom pilots done, one a first draft, one a third draft that’s already been entered and rejected at a BAFTA competition. It was never about winning though, there was a small fee with the promise of notes on what we had written, and that’s what we’ve been waiting for, some first professional feedback, I just hope it’s not too scathing. Being the first thing we have written together I’m sure there are problems and some good constructive criticism will hopefully spur us on for draft four.

On the subject of writing I’ve also been doing a lot 140 characters at a time. Twitter has become an invaluable support network for writing and making contacts, (go on have a gander over on the top right over there, yup that’s a twitter feed, and oh look a follow button, off you go press away and you too can hear my ramblings and links). Every Sunday night at 8pm I’ve become involved in #Scriptchat where writers get together online and talk about writing, or films, or interrogate a guest. Teenie and I have also been asked to become the Euro moderators for this which involves moving the conversation along and making sure everything stays civil, we also need to pick topics and find guests. Doing this together is great as invariably one of us is being called upstairs by the kids who refuse to sleep whilst it’s all going on.

I see the other people involved in scriptchat and I compare them to greyhounds, knowing what they want rushing to the finish line full of talent and knowledge, me, I’m a Golden Retriever, perfectly happy and enthusiastic chasing my own tail full of enthusiasm, I don’t know as much as a lot of people there, but I’m enjoying myself. Hopefully we can get some interesting guests lined up, I have a few ideas.

Also on the Film Making front, I attended the Guerilla Film Making Masterclass a two and a half day event giving a whirlwind of information about making an ultra low budget film, what to do with it, and what to do next. Chris Jones was talking the entire time over two very long days and held everyone’s attention the whole time which is no mean feat in a room of know it all film makers. It was fantastic to attend not just for the information and inspiration but to be surrounded by all these film makers for the weekend, some very experienced, some had never even made a short and I met some fantastic people, and hopefully collaborators in the future.

The networking then continued last weekend with an impromptu barbecue where I’d arranged to meet someone to talk about a project and before I knew it I’m directing a weekly Sci-Fi news show for the Sci-Fi London film festival, we had a meeting last night and it all looks very promising and interesting, lots of good entusiastic people involved, and unlike writing features, directing is something I know a huge amount about as it’s basically my day job making short turn around features and promos. Also there’s a producer on board which is fantastic as I hate the whole organising aspect of shoots, I can just go and make stuff, and it’s in an area I really enjoy.

And that all pretty much came out of the Guerilla Film Making masterclass, so definitely money well spent.

So what’s on the to do list, well we’ve committed to the first 20 minute Sci-Fi show by the end of the month, I’m officially being harassed by Teenie for a second draft of our sitcom, and #Sciptchat continues every Sunday. There’s also a short script I’d like to rework and I’ve been meaning to sign up to Radar Music Videos to pitch and direct some music promos. Now I’ve got the ball rolling lets hope I don’t get squished by it.