Monday 2 June 2014

'My Writing Process' Blog Tour

This is kind-of like a writer's chain letter, but not really. Having made that clear, I can tell you that I was invited to participate by Anne Flournoy, the writer/director/producer of (possibly) the longest-running webseries on the planet; it started in 2007 and is still going strong.
     Anyway, the idea is that I answer four questions about myself, then pass the baton to three other writer/bloggers.

1. What are you working on?

I'm currently in the writer's valley-of-decision. Last December I published a novel, Play the Devil, which left me feeling flat. I publish a daily blog (this one!) and I am in the process of selecting my next major project. Some people think I am procrastinating. They may be right, or maybe I'm wise to winnow out the dross, and find a task I can wrestle to happy fulfillment. All my unsatisfactory/incomplete screenplays are calling for attention. Play the Devil is begging to be turned into a TV series. The heist story I have long mulled over is crying out for a serious commitment. A series of private detective novels are patiently awaiting completion. Meanwhile, I'm publishing this blog, searching out screenwriting quotes to tweet, making minor contributions to Wikipedia and IMDb, and pruning the roses.

2. How does your work differ from others?

All my writing is Adelaide-centred. I've lived here since 1975 and am beginning to feel comfortable with the place. Beyond that, my work reflects my personality: serious, intense, irreverent, and sometimes funny.

3. How does your writing process work?

I don't really understand the process. I mull over things, but can't form a sentence in my head, until... I sit in front of the computer and then, as I tap the keys, sentences form and—on the good days—hundreds of readable words gush forth. Of course, behind all this lies decades of getting up early and wrestling with the blank page. I have deleted hundreds of thousands of words, many of them part of complete sentences. I once deleted a 50,000 word subplot which threatened to take over a novel. That's where I discovered my interest in romance. A romance between two very minor characters was so much fun to write that I got carried away with it all. Which is how I came to start writing rom/coms. If there is any secret to my 'process,' it is this: Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. There's gotta be a better way to say this. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, REWRITE!

4. Why do you write what you do?

I first decided to write a novel when I was seventeen. I had a brother who was just beginning a career of short term prison sentences and I was inspired by various stories he brought home during his regular hiatus from a range of houses of correction. I came up with a heist story involving a schoolboy (surprise, surprise) who robs a T.A.B. That's a government-controlled betting shop. During the robbery, he wears coveralls and balaclava, so, once outside, when he strips back to his school uniform, he is ignored as a possible suspect. When I sat down to write it, I ran into the fact that I had close-to-zero life experience to draw on. After a brief struggle I surrendered and filed Writing under 'Tasks for the Future.'
    Long story short... Twenty years later I was mulling over my life, when I remembered that novel. I knew nothing about the theory of writing, but figured my first attempt would be a mess, so I set the heist story aside and went to work on what, years later, became Play the Devil.
    A side-effect of that was a new interest in romance. I came up with what I thought was a great idea for a rom/com; so good, in fact, that I was afraid to touch it for about two years. Then, somewhere between being diagnosed with leukaemia and starting chemotherapy, I punched out a first draft screenplay in just eight days. When you have clarity and urgency, it is amazing what you can do.
    In the years that followed, I made an attempt at the original heist story, and hated the result. I wrote a series of private detective novels which have never seen the light of day. I enjoyed the exercise, but Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett have nothing to fear. I started several screenplays, but never finished them, or was dissatisfied with the result.
    In the middle of all that, I decided it was time to read the theory books. I've worked my way through at least three dozen of them. I created my own chart listing the various schemes in parallel. The language varies and the emphasis of each is on different elements, but they all boil down to a common understanding of how a story works. I'm not in thrall to any of them; I'm happy to tell my own stories in my own way. I'm looking forward to my next big project, whatever that turns out to be.

Here are three writers whom I've invited to join this tour. They will post their entries on June 9:

Paul Zeidman is a screenwriter based in San Francisco. His fantasy-adventure script DREAMSHIP was a semifinalist in the 2013 Tracking Board Launchpad competition. When not writing or rewriting, Paul works as a traffic reporter on the radio (but doesn't fly in the airplane), enjoys running half-marathons and makes what could possibly be the best pecan pie west of the Mississippi. He likes to talk about these and other assorted topics on his blog Maximum Z.

Anne Lower worked as assistant to Blake Snyder (Save the Cat!) until his death, and continues to contribute to the company’s vision and mission. She was selected to create content for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s 125th Jubilee videos, which were streamed during the celebration, to a standing-room-only audience at L.A. Live. She blogs about filmmaking at Princess Scribe, recently named one of the "Top Screenwriting Web Sites” by SCRIPT magazine and Screenwriting Spark.

Xander Bennett is an Australian screenwriter and author of "Screenwriting Tips, You Hack" from Focal Press. He blogs at


Ed Love said...

Nice to read a bit about you!

Anne Flournoy said...

OMG HENRY. You're even funnier than I remembered! LOVED reading about your life and process. Your experience, strength and hope are gold. Thank you so much for writing this!

Unknown said...

I agree with Anne, it's great reading a writer talk about their own writing, when they bring wit and humility to the process. I look forward to more of the tour on Jun 9.