Word Count 17: Do you have your stories straight? How to take notes, and Copurrnicus featured on My Cat’s Tail

by Suw on September 13, 2022

Hi there,

Summer is drawing to a close and finally we have rain. We’ve also had our first BBQ of the summer and started to let Copurrnicus explore the garden a little. I’m sure that he and I will have a lot of conversations about my inability to stop it raining in future.

Suw’s news

I’m quite surprised by how much has happened over the last two weeks.

A colleague of mine submitted a proposal for a short film plus TV pilot script and treatment to funders just before the last email, and we’re already arranging the first conference call to discuss the project. Long way to go before funding is approved, but this is a promising first step.

I also submitted the first ten pages of my novel to a literary agent who has specifically said that she’s interested in pandemic fiction, and was delighted to get a request for the next 40 pages. Unfortunately, a few days later she sent me a rejection. Bah and, indeed, humbug.

The agent in question has said on Twitter that she’s had 750 submissions and was sending out a lot of partial requests, so the odds were always against me. Still, this is the first time that I’ve had even a partial request, so I’m happy with that.

Now I’m focused on revising my TV pilot script so that I can submit it to the Channel 4 screenwriting course, about which, more below.

Do you have your stories straight?

I learnt a lot on Yvonne Grace’s script editing for TV course, but one of the most useful was how to think about the structure of a TV show. I realised pretty early on in the course that I would have to go back to Tag, my spec script, and plot it out properly, episode by episode. I have known that it needed a rewrite since I finished the first draft back in March, but knowing you need to rewrite and knowing how to rewrite are two different things.

The other day I had the epiphany I needed: Although I thought that I had a plot and subplot, I realised that I actually only had one story and the subplot was just another strand of that story. I need two more. I need an A, B and C story to create the richness that people expect from a modern TV show. And those two extra stories need to be driven by characters’ wants and needs, by subtext, rather than by plot.

I need to get the pilot script rewritten by the end of September so that I can enter it into the Channel 4 Screenwriting Course competition by 3 October. It’s not great timing. My mother’s 80th birthday is on 1 October, and Ada Lovelace Day is on 11 October, but I’m going to have to just knuckle down and try to get everything done.

Read this: Clive Thompson on how to take notes

Sometimes, you read a piece of advice so simple you wonder how you made it through life without coming up with it yourself. In this case, it is Coders author and journalist Clive Thompson’s advice on how to take notes when you’re doing desk research. If I end up going back into freelance journalism after ALD closes, this will be very useful!

Oh, and if you haven’t already seen Clive’s talk, How The Way You Write Changes the Way You Think, you really must. It’s fascinating, and possibly my favourite ever talk.

Obligatory cat picture

Back in issue 7, I introduced you to a new podcast about cats, My Cat’s Tale, by my friend Ewan Spence. I was delighted get the chance to talk about Copurrnicus and the challenges we’ve had with our darling feral boy. When we adopted him, we had no idea that he was feral, nor that he’d been taken from his mother too young. We soon learnt that Copurrnicus was going to take a bit more work than your average kitten, but we did finally bring him round. Please do give My Cats Tale a listen!

That’s it for this week! The next issue will be out in two weeks’ time, on 27 September. If you’ve missed any previous emails, I’ve now got the archives up on my blog, Chocolate and Vodka so you can go back and catch up at any time.

All the best,


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