I like script meetings - gets me out of the house, I get to talk to real people (as opposed to virtual ones on Facebook). Writing is a solitary occupation, not lonely, not with all those characters vying for attention in my head - but I do spend a lot of time alone. It can leave me feeling a bit doo lally.
So when my script editor emailed to say if arranging child care was a problem, he could email the notes over instead, 'Nooooo!' I emailed back. Let me come in! I'd love to speak to you all!
All the after school pick ups were in place with military precision. I relished the walk to the tube, the stop off at Farringdon to grab a Costa before getting the overground to Elstree.
Did I hear someone say 'Get a life?'
One of the best things about script meetings at Elstree is the small retail complex you have to walk through to get there. Quite functional - a WHSmith for stationery, although I tend to be a bit more hardcore, preferring to while a way a whole day in Staples. There are a handful of clothes shops useful for bits and pieces (I've bought 2 necklaces and earrings and several pairs of trousers over the past year or so). There's an M&S food hall - great for picking up tea on the way home.
And the Piece de Resistance .. Shutopia.
Yep, it's a shoe shop. Sounding like something from Napoleon Dynamite - "Yeah I work in Shutopia. It's like, a Shoe Utopia..." This is every cheap shoe shop you'd find on the High Street, rolled into one.
Know what else Elstree has got? Know why I long for script meetings to come around? There is an old fashioned Wool Shop. Nowadays these are few and far between, the staff knows their fibres for sure, retro patterns sit in big navy files, it's an oasis of calm.
I was in this shop a while ago when my mobile rang in the wool-stocked hush. My god was I late for the meeting? No, they were early - if I was around would I like a coffee before hand? What could I say? They may not realise just how rock 'n' roll knitting has become (Google 'Stitch 'n' Bitch' if you don't believe me), what would they think of me? Cutting edge, gritty Northern Soapwriter that I am.
I went to the meeting with my needles buried in the bottom of my bag.
So far this archaic little shop has enabled me to knock out a funky green cardy and a natty red cowboy scraf/neckachief. I craft. No shame in that.
My Holby script has grown. After blogging recently that my first draft came in 'under' I now have a monster of a 4th draft with over 70 scenes. This is due in part to my (over) use of intercutting a scene with another one - layering meanings and visuals. If I do this though, each time I say for example, CUT TO: Elliot fumbling with some paper clips as Connie's dialogue continues... it's another scene. Then CUT BACK TO: Connie in her office talking about Elliot ... another scene - It all adds up.
What wasn't adding up in my Holby script, was my 'B' Story. A typical Holby episode has three or more stories running in tandem, hopefully crossing at some point. The A story, or 'medical story of the week' was in fairly good shape, but the B story was looking a little sickly. It was ploddy. Lacking narrative drive. My editor, the producer, the researcher, et al and I all prodded my flabby B story, proffered diagnosis, wondered about a cure. I made notes.
It's important to stress that this is by no means 're-drafting by committee' people fall over themselves apologising for the suggestions they're just about to make in these meetings, 'this may be crap..' they preface, 'I'm no writer..' they continue. As I am the writer, it's up to me to be in control - all ideas are valuable and welcome. Accept and Build. But it's my responsibility to knock the script into shape, and sorting the wheat from the chaff is all part of the process.
Once home (with a new crochet hook and two balls of yarn) I restructured my B story. Rather than twiddle with dialogue, which fixes very little, I extracted the story in its entirety, put it in isolation then worked on its bare bones. I find this very satisfying - it panders to my sense of order, I love to fix things. Once the B story had been operated on like this, I could replant it back into my episode and re-attach all the little capillaries that bled into the other stories (enough of the medical analogy, already...).
I'm hoping this left the script in better shape, but sometimes it is just hard to tell. I trust my editor to skilfully forward the subsequent notes from the Exec Producer with tact and compassion. I may need some retail therapy in Shutopia, however. Watch this space.