Archive for the ‘writing’ Category


See what everyone else is doing, and then don’t do that

January 7, 2010

I wrote this thing on my other site….

See what everyone else is doing, and then don’t do that


The Conversation

August 20, 2009


I’ve got another blog which seems to suit written pieces better, so I wrote something on it. Hope you enjoy.

The Conversation.


A writing lesson

January 31, 2009


If this is a fake, as I first assumed it was, it is a very clever one. It’s the postscript that makes me believe that, yes, Mom wrote this.

If it is fake, then that’s a niiiice piece of writing. (Ooh! And design!)


I manage to bore myself

July 10, 2008

Just in case you all think I enjoy pissing in the wind about the state of TV comedy, I should say that my comments on BBC3 in the Stage piece were part of a much larger discussion about the writing process. Turns out the journalist was only interested in a bit of argy-bargy. Because, you know, God forbid there should be anything that might actually be useful to writers in ‘The Stage’.

(Update: Matthew Hemley of The Stage says they will be publishing the full interview later on. I appreciate him taking the time to clarify things.)



June 19, 2008

Oh, you might like this–a piece I did for the Guardian on a terrible holiday my wife and I had. It’s 70% true. Link


Secret TV insider fact–most writers are lazy idiots.

March 30, 2008


A character on ‘Heartbeat’ just said of another character “Say what you like about him, he’s old school.” Because, you know, people were always using hip hop terms to describe each other in rural England in the fucking late Sixties.

Development! Epocalypse writes “Old School has been in common English usage since the mid Eighteenth Century. It may be a hip hop phrase to you but it’s distinctly old school to me.”

Fair enough. Except the context was some old dear saying “He’s old school.” Not “He’s of the old school” or “very much an old school style of gentleman.”. Just “He’s old school.” And I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.

Further development! Jake points out that the term was used in a 1952 episode of ‘Dragnet’. So perhaps I’m being unfair to the ‘Heartbeat’ writer. I still get a suspiciously modern scent from that line, but I may have been wrong to say it wouldn’t have been used at that time. The lazy idiot in the headline could well be me.


Why was school such a load of shit? (Give examples)

March 10, 2008

“Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done….Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.”

If you ever wondered why it was necessary for you to suffer so terribly
from the ages of eleven to seventeen, well, this man has taken the time
to explain everything in what I think is the best piece of prose I’ve yet found online. (That’s not such a great achievement, considering, but at least you know I’m not exaggerating.)

Read this essay. Seriously, it’s amazing. It’s long, so if you’re in a hurry just bookmark it for the moment. Later on, print it out, pour a glass of wine, put some good music and read it like you’re some kind of dude from the past, reading in your library because that is what you do for fun. You’ll thank me. Link


The disappearing writer

February 11, 2008

Looks like the writers are coming back to work. Amazing that the executives thought they could just do without them. It must have come as some shock to see everything slow to a stop. How could these scribbling nobodies have so much power?

In fact, writers should be flattered to be taken for granted. It means they’re doing their job properly. After all, it is only when you cease to sense a guiding hand behind a work of fiction that the fiction suddenly takes on life. ‘Characters’ become ‘people’, ‘scenes’ become ‘events’, and when something bad happens, you feel it at a gut level… none of this is possible if you sense that the writer is manipulating every last thing that happens (which he is). So you could say that the job of the writer is to disappear.

But to disappear from a script is one thing, to disappear from film history, or from the regard of those who hold the purse strings, is quite another. In ‘Adventures In The Screen Trade’, William Goldman blames the auteur theory for removing the writer from the picture. So Frank Capra is a God but Robert Riskin is…what? A technician of some sort; a typist, maybe. Certainly not someone worthy of attention or study. Gore Vidal pointed out that in David Thomson’s supposedly definitive ‘Biographical Dictionary of Film’, there is not a single writer in the book. Not a one. (Update: Shane points out that I’m wrong here. There are two writers in his book, Ben Hecht and Ernest Lehmann. However, I don’t count Garson Kanin because he was also a director). So Clint Eastwood is a genius for directing ‘Unforgiven’, but David Webb Peoples, who conjured the whole thing out of thin air, who created living, breathing, characters where hitherto there was, precisely, nothing, is, again, what? Certainly not someone who deserved an Oscar in the same year that the film received four.

What’s doubly strange is that it’s generally writers who participate in this removal process. Film critics fell for the auteur theory hook line and sinker and for years you never heard word one about the screenplay in a review (especially if it involved a name director who gave the author a jolly). When I was a film critic, I was as guilty of this as anyone else, and it’s only when I started writing scripts myself that I bothered to learn who wrote some of my favourite films.

Another writer, Joe Queenan, recently berated sitcom writers, stating that the sitcom hadn’t moved on since “I Love Lucy” (which I guess is true if you just completely ignore about thirty shows since, from ‘Bilko’ through to ‘The Simpsons’ to ‘Curb’). Of course, there are a lot of hacks out there, lazy writers who have a one-size-fits-all approach to writing sitcoms, but the least of them is still creating Something Where Before There Was Nothing, which is a Brazilian times more valuable than one of Joe Queenan’s never-quite-interesting- enough-to-make-you-think think-pieces.

That Queenan could have such contempt for creative writers speaks volumes as to his understanding of the process. That is to say, he has no understanding of the process, because if he did, he’d be a lot more humble. But again, it’s almost not his fault, because good writers are disguising their efforts so expertly that even the idea that there was a process disappears.

Draining the well was a valuable lesson for everyone involved, not least the writers themselves. Sure enough, Hollywood went 404 in no time at all, and at last the writers proved that they were actually an important part of the picture. Look what happens when the people who turn nothing into something aren’t working. Nothing happens. But nothing happens in a big, big way.


For ‘research paper’, read ‘IT Crowd 3’

February 7, 2008


If the woman and the dinosaur were playing poker, it’d be perfect.


Pure Pleasure

January 17, 2008

This early draft of Bottle Rocket is hugely enjoyable.