For the last couple of years I’ve been trying to get together a radio play. Aimed at Radio 4’s Afternoon Play slot, it’s called The Trans Woman’s Wife and basically does what it says on the tin, being the story of my experiences since the whole trans thing erupted. It’s a story that needs to be told, though whether the BBC will agree remains to be seen; anyway, I managed to write about two thirds of it but was then stumped by not knowing how it ended. How does this story end? I don’t know how it ends in real life so I couldn’t finish the play. I was well and truly stuck.
And then it came to me. That’s it! That’s the ending, not knowing what happens! So now it finishes with the main character saying ‘I don’t know how it ends.’ It begins with a voice-over and ends with a voice-over. Perfect! I was able to put the play to bed (at least until I edit it further down the line) and go down to dinner feeling a deep sense of satisfaction and release.
It’s not often I feel that in writing. I generally get little spurts of release followed by yet another bloody great brick wall. I generally go down to dinner with a sense of deep frustration and blockage. Not this week. This was a good week.
On the down side, my book arrived – and it’s not my book. It’s the story of a lawyer hired to trace the provenance of a painting and nothing to do with the writing process at all. Turns out there are two books called The War of Art. Who knew? So now if I still want it I shall have to order it again.
Aaaand, if you have a parcel to send, don’t use DHL. They picked up our parcel OK and gave us a delivery slot for the next day but then weren’t able to deliver. Instead of telling us, they took it back to the depot and filed it away, forcing me to chase it up with the hospital and then DHL themselves. When I complained to the woman on the line about it she said in a dull, robotic voice, ‘that must be very frustrating for you.’ I wonder how many times a day she has to say that phrase. Anyway the upshot is the parcel will eventually arrive back here – and we will not be using DHL again.
During lockdown I’ve been writing mostly poetry but today I couldn’t get down to any of my usual routine stuff. I couldn’t come up with a blog post, I couldn’t get on with writing my diary or composing poems or doing Greek; I couldn’t focus on anything. But I know from experience that days like this which seem problematic at first, are in fact opportunities for something new to emerge. So I sat down with pad and pen and waited for something to happen. And lo! My radio play happened.
I’ve had several stabs at radio plays in the past and have even completed one or two but I’ve never been totally happy with them. And it came to me today that this is because I’ve yet to develop my own method. I have an idea in my head of how I want it to sound, but between the planning and the execution lies a great gulf which I don’t know how to fill. Even when I do start to write I get bogged down in stage directions and sound effects, all of which ought to come much later.
So I sat and thought about this for a while and then I went and fetched my flip-chart and post-it notes which contained The Story So Far. There was a gap at the beginning of Act 2 and it suddenly came to me what should fill that gap. An old flame suddenly comes back from the past! I filled in the gap and could see that from the post-it notes I was now in a position to evolve an outline of what should happen in each act. Having done that, I could begin to break it down into scenes – and then the whole thing would write itself. I’d do the dialogues first and worry about the rest – sound effects and stage directions – later. I then transferred this outline to the computer and for the first time I could really see my way ahead. I began to write Act 1, Scene 1.
And I saw that it was good.
So that was this morning – apart from the fact that OH, who’s a little confused these days, came in and asked me if I’d now decided to work weekends. ‘It’s Friday!’ I said, whereupon OH smote the forehead in remembrance, since we’d already had a conversation about this earlier:
‘What day is it today?
‘I keep thinking it’s Saturday.‘
‘Well, perhaps you could forget to phone your Mum a day early.’
Happy Friday. Don’t let’s get ahead of ourselves.
Sometimes in life things just keep coming atcha till you take notice. At first I was all, like, no – I don’t need a recipe to write a novel, thank you; I’ll just use my imagination but sometime the universe just keeps on nudging you till you take notice. And when I was struggling with the highs and lows of my radio play (I’ve got the storyline, I just need the structure) I thought hey ho, and off to Alibris I went, throwing in a fairly recent Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and a guide to getting published while I was at it.
There is a Save the Cat guide to novel-writing but I plumped for the screenwriting original, thinking that some of it at least would be relevant to writing radio plays and whatever wasn’t would be a fascinating insight in its own right. For the dedicated writer, no experience is ever wasted: you can always work it in somewhere and it adds to your store of knowledge about the world. I’ve only read a couple of chapters but so far so good; it’s approachable and down-to-earth.
I hate to go there, but sometimes you gotta realise that all the talent and imagination in the world just might not be enough and that one has to engage with ‘beat sheets’ and what have you (I don’t even know the technical terms yet so bear with me) in order to break through. It’s a case of know thine enemy I suppose, or possibly know thy pet…
I’ll keep you posted about what I learn. Oh, and my 500th follower has plumped for an ebook of poetry which will shortly be winging its way to them. And soon after that it will be available to all, for a very reasonable fee.
Watch this space!
I am unreasonably, excessively happy at the moment. The cause? I have just sorted out a problem with the central heating. I know that doesn’t sound like much cause for deep rejoicing but somehow the sense of empowerment that I could actually suss out what was going on and find out how to deal with it and deal with it! – all without having to call in an engineer, has made me high as a kite.
OK well, if I’m honest I had help on this one. For a few weeks now after coming on the boiler has been making a rather fearsome rattling noise. Mark makes a similar noise in the mornings but it goes away after the application of coffee: I did not think this solution would work with the boiler. But it was starting to unnerve me. What if it was a death rattle? What if it was the prelude to the thing blowing up and scattering boiling water all over the kitchen? So I consulted my Facebook friends. The consensus was that it was down to the pressure; on looking at the gauge I saw it was at zero. Oh dear. Steve opined that the boiler would need to be topped up.
Now, I relish these jobs about as much as root-canal work, since I don’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to do it right. So I checked the company’s website where they had a helpful video on how to top up your boiler using a hose which ought to be located nearby. I couldn’t find a hose but did see a little valve. I wonder? I thought. I turned it gingerly, wincing, and heard the rush of water. Then I had a sudden panic: what if I’m emptying the boiler and not filling it? So I called the helpline, got straight through (!!!) and was told quite simply and straightforwardly that this was indeed the right thing to do, so off I popped and did it and Bob was most definitely my uncle.
I went and worked in the library this morning as it was so cold. Twelve degrees in the kitchen (twelve! That’s fifty-three in the old money) and in the library it must have been about twenty-five (77). Lovely. The radio play is taking shape.