Saturday, November 2, 2013

The FUNdamentals of Screenwriting – Setting

I have a confession to make. I’m a fussy and ill-disciplined writer. Those people who write every day between x and y hours; nup, can’t do that. When I’m on, I’m on. When I’m off, I’m about as useful as Tony Abbott in a musical. One of the great joys of listening to Jeff Goldsmith’s podcasts is to discover I am not alone in having procrastination as a constant friend. 

But there’s also this. Where I write is just as important as when.  

And boy, am I fussy!  

Let’s rule out a few places. Namely, HOME. I have an awfully comfortable couch and a new bed and internet and a DVD collection and a television and the internet and iTunes and did I mention the internet and damn that couch is comfortable. The only time I write at home is up against a deadline and it’s 2am. Otherwise there are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many distractions. 

So generally I look for external locations to write. But there are places to avoid: 

The wrong vibe. Hard to explain this one but some places just don’t feel right. You know what I mean? Too clean, too antiseptic, too corporate, too… something. If I’m not comfortable then it ain’t going to happen. 

The State Library is a classic example. I am old enough to remember a time when “Shooooooooooooooosh” ruled the airwaves at libraries. Now, if you’re not in a study group of twenty people discussing, I dunno, Twilight or something at the top of your lungs, you’re just not trying hard enough. This is guaranteed to make me mad as hell and stomping out with muttered-under-breath disgust. Paradoxically, the café downstairs used to be a regular place to write on weekends as I expect people to talk there so it doesn’t bother me. Told you I was fussy. 

If you’re a writer and spend a lot of time in cafes and occasionally pubs, I gotta tell you, you overhear some great conversations but most of the time you hear the most banal, coma-inducing, dispiriting pap. When I’m in the zone I don’t hear anything. When I’m struggling to find that magical place, inane conversation bugs the hell out of me.  

Especially avoid middle-aged, lycra clad, latte drinking bicycling associations. 

They are Satan’s spawn.  

Same goes with music. Generally I don’t like music playing when I write. I especially don’t like it when bored staff members have it cranked up and you can’t hear yourself think. Those places I avoid like musicals with Tony Abbott in the lead role. 

What’s with all the negativity, Richard? 

Okay, okay… here are the places you will currently finding me writing at regularly: 

The courtyard at the Bookshop Caffe
This used to be my spiritual writing home when I wasn’t working fulltime. Within walking distance of home with a lovely courtyard… and books! The staff have always been good to me there even though I hadn’t been for a looooong time since returning to corporate enslavement.

Then I discovered that early afternoon after the lunch crowd leaves on a Sunday is the sweet spot. Otherwise you battle to find a seat on the weekends. 
Secret greenery everywhere.

The Secret Garden is my Sunday morning brunch and writing spot. It is within walking distance if I’m feeling suitably motivated and has a lovely, yep, you guessed it, garden setting out the back. Tends to get busy from mid-morning but is quite peaceful if you get there early enough.  

The main workhorse though is the big Dome in East Victoria Park next to the Balmoral (which I still have never set foot in). It’s spacious, has comfortable booths, decent free parking and also doubles as the prime meeting place for creative sessions. I will go there for a few hours after work and battle the mental tiredness on weekdays. Generally go there Saturday mornings using the above two for Sundays. 

Other places that get a run – Rifo’s in Maylands for meetings with people north and east of the river; occasionally The Windsor Hotel in South Perth; and very infrequently now, Clancy’s in Fremantle if I’m down there for other purposes.  

I write this on a Saturday morning at the Dome after a three hour writing session and it’s warm, the doors are all open, there’s a nice breeze, and jazz/classics are softly playing. It’s comfortable. Above all else that’s what I crave when I write.

Do you have a favourite spot? A favourite time of day to write? A lucky charm? Magic potions? Favourite song? Words of encouragement? Tips to avoid procrastina-- oh please, dear [insert deity of choice] let the words flow...


  1. Interesting. I need music to create and when working on a specific piece, match the music to my characters. I'm most effective on my computer in my study (it's hard to get me out of the 'bat cave') but because I take a notebook everywhere, can write wherever my muse takes me. Unfortunately, my writing is atrocious so it's often difficult to read back! LOL! I have a large collection of notebooks growing by the day!

  2. Sounds like we are total opposites, Sue! :-)

    Though I do like to do edits and rewrites off paper copies of drafts instead of on screen. I like the tactile nature of scribbling and going back and forth and the red pen!

    Hence I'm not a big fan of tablets. Too clinical for mine.