The drive to finish and the will to begin.

I’m very much in awe of Russell. He’s unstoppable and raw. It’s all there in Russell’s letters to Ben. You get the angst and the torment; illness; fatigue. And yet, he pushes onward through all of that. The poor man is miserable with chicken pox, even to the point where he had to get rushed to hospital, and still, he writes on because that script isn’t perfect. He won’t let it slide. It has to be done right and he won’t accept anything less from himself. I can see why he was so worried Doctor Who might kill him.

It’s actually fascinating. Because I read the struggle Russell had with the scene where he returns Rose to Bad Wolf Bay with his other self, the half-human doctor; and I went back and watched the scene to see how he resolves it and cry all over again, maybe even more than I cried when I first watched the episode because there is that added dimension that the brilliant writer got it right. He solved the problem and made the scene perfect. He did it through chicken pox, and an allergic reaction to the medication, and emergency visits to the hospital. He pushed through all that life dealt him and he worked that scene until he found a solution; he pushed to find a way to make it work. And when you see it come together on the screen it does work. It’s not perfect, I think even Russell would still feel it could have been better, but it works and it’s real, it’s touching, it’s Rose. Loose end tied in a bow.

Thinking of all Russell goes through in his scripts makes it really daunting for me just beginning this journey. In a way, I have an advantage because it’s all so fresh and new to me. I have an advantage because I don’t have tone meetings on Monday that need a script. I have an advantage because I’m not responsible for thousands of jobs and millions of dollars. I have an advantage because I’m not contracted to anyone or beholden to anything. But all of those advantages are disadvantages too. I can see the drive they must have given Russell. He’s an honourable man, deep integrity. So all those obligations and responsibilities help drive him, even when the world is crashing down around him he won’t let down his crew. I don’t have that same responsibility. I don’t even have friends asking to read my writing. I don’t have anyone showing an interest in whether I write, if I succeed, if I’m really happy with what I’m doing in life. I’m not going to go down that road because it really is depressing and I just might talk myself out of the whole idea, again, like I often do. Deep, deep in my gut, and burrowing deeper is this soul-sense that I am meant to write. These stories that exist only in me that would bring incredible wonder to others if I put them on the page are only in me. If I don’t write these stories, I’ll always wonder if I really followed my life where it was supposed to go. It is so easy to bury myself in the Educational Psychology study I am doing at university. It’s interesting. I can see myself studying for years to come. I can see myself researching. But I don’t want to make that my career. I don’t see myself making money as a teacher. I’m not that person.

I’m a writer. And the idea of writing screenplays works. There is all that, behind the scenes, that is daunting, but even that, amazingly, I see myself handling. And because I’m a writer people forgive my strangeness and my social awkwardness. And when I get out there, when I’ve pushed past the fear because I had to get out there, I know I sparkle. People love being around me. I can be that social butterfly. Like Russell, I’d feel a fraud doing it, or maybe it’ll feel like I’m blossoming, the real me. I know that’s how I felt when I played Second Life. That vivacious, outgoing girl who charmed the boys, rocked the club scene, and was everyone’s friend really did feel more like the me I’m meant to be. So, I think I’ve just talked myself back into this path.

Russell said something at the end of book one that felt deliberate and staged. It actually felt a little too constructed; a little too scripted. Probably because, in the other letters Ben’s questions evolved out of the situation and what was happening in the moment and yet this last question, about voice, doesn’t have that same connection. So, I suspect there was some creative license in the format to allow them to come to a solid close on a call to action that might inspire future writers. But even so, it felt like it was directed at me.

I’ve been toying with this sense that “I’m not ready”. I don’t know how to write a screenplay. It’s a format, a structure. I don’t mean the three acts, fifteen beats, forty scenes, heroes journey kinds of structures. I mean the way the scene is portrayed, the headers, the FX and TO and CU and INT. All those key elements that people in the business understand but I don’t know anything much about. How does a script start? I’ve seen those title pages. I guess the script starts there, with a title page. But then what?

And is that really where it starts or is there more planning? Do screenwriters board? I’m sure some must. In fact I know some do because Save The Cat talks about The Board. Does Russell board? Does he have notes? Does he just scroll to the top of the page and write Scene 1.? This sort of obsession with details and how everyone else does it is really just my doubts and insecurities because the truth is, it doesn’t matter how you start. But I do feel that I’m not ready. I am just dipping my feet into this. I’ve been reading Russell’s letters, and reading Save The Cat. I’ve glanced at a few scripts and compared them against their respective T.V. outcomes. But I haven’t pulled apart the scripts yet. I haven’t got a feel for how they are constructed. How do they come together?

I will make time to start doing that tomorrow.

Published by

Rebecca Laffar-Smith

Rebecca Laffar-Smith is a publisher, children's writer, and novelist. In 2010 she gave up a successful 12-year freelance career to focus on her three loves; family, community, and fiction. She self-published her debut novel The Flight of Torque in June 2014 and the first three titles in the P.I. Penguin series in from Aulexic in May 2015. At The Craft of Writing Fiction, Rebecca shares her journey of creation and learning with readers. She loves getting to know her fellow readers and writers and can be contacted through Twitter and Facebook, or Email.