Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Finding yourself blocked, unable to get into the writing flow or feeling stuck can be a writer’s nightmare. It is easy to lose confidence and then question whether this is something you should be doing as a career. Some people call this writer’s block. 

Sometimes it simply our approach, we’ve been so conditioned to think a certain way, so as adults writing may seem like a chore. One of the best courses I attended for really learning to expand your mind creatively was The Writers Gym. It really tackles creative blocks. Ellis Freeman is a superb teacher and writer and I can’t praise the course highly enough.  

These are exercises I’ve learned through reading and attending courses like The Writers Gym. Over time, I’ve adapted them to fit in with what I am doing on my courses to elevate the helplessness that new writers we can often feel. No one says writing is easy, if you try these it can add a bit of fun to the process.

My Ten Rocliffe Tips:
  1. Write a one page outline of the story using the following format - 100 words or less on the beginning, 300 words for the middle and 100 words on the resolution. If this doesn't work for you try using the 12 steps laid out in The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
  2. Change the protagonist and point of view of the story in the treatment. Telling a story from a different perspective or viewpoint, instead of the one expected, can create a fresher outlook or original take on a familiar story.  This is where the power of a word, be it a pronoun or the gender, can remarkably change the landscape of the story. When reading it back, ask what you need to add or take away? It's great to see how the emotional interactions of the characters change, and also how you will have piqued the interest of a reader. 
  3. Use WHAT IF questions that relate to characters. Try it with your character after each act. What if they did this... what if they did that... what if a meteor landed… what if they reacted this way instead of the way they do… what if the murderer is actually a figment of his imagination?  List a number of potential scenarios. Only allow yourself 10 minutes to do this and incorporate these ideas into your script.
  4. Spend ten minutes exploring the backstory of the protagonist and antagonist before the script begins - it only needs to be one page or ten minutes of writing. Now use these feelings within your script. 
  5. Spend 10 minutes writing the aftermath of the protagonist and antagonist when the script finishes.  Have they changed much or enough?
  6. In feedback we constantly use the phrase - show don't tell. To do this write down any emotions your characters are experiencing in the script, and then write a minimum of five actions that convey that emotion. Emotional actions are great because they describe what the character is feeling or internalizing. Think about how you can convey the emotion using the emotional state of the character and their point of view of what is happening without ever telling the reader what the emotional state is or what has motivated it.
  7. List 10 adjectives to describe the character traits of your protagonist, then on the same page list an adjective which is the complete opposite to create an antagonist or antagonistic forces.  Does your character adhere to these character traits and how do they influence the plot? 
  8. Sometimes the mere thought of writing can be isolating so tweet out a #writingsprint to see if any others out there in the world that want to write with you. There is no time limit or bad time to call it - makes you feel less isolated. Here is a blog about how to host a writing sprint.
  9. One of the great joys of writing is the time you can justifiably spend researching. You can watch documentaries, contact charities that deal with issues in your script, interview people, do a web-search on the subject matter, genre or theme of your stories as well as similar films or films in that genre. 
  10. Write the script without dialogue. How much visual imagery or emotional action can you create without words?  Can you use sound and colour to capture what is going on? 
I am often asked what can I do to make my work fresher, more original, less predictable? There is honestly no magic formula to freeing up a script but exercises help writers to think a little differently about how they are approaching an idea or thread. I can honestly say for me, that these exercises make the work richer and deeper. 

When faced with a writing blog don’t abandon writing. The one thing that separates those who succeed rests completely on not giving up. Should none of these exercises work, put the script away and come back to it in a week or later. Never give up the dream – and if all else fails, take a new story like a fairy tale and give it a modern twist just to do something a bit different. Commit to a career not a screenplay.
My quote of the week: 
“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” Kurt Vonnegut 
Write, keep writing and then rewrite - without screenwriters we would not have films.