I’m in the midst of a writer’s journey. On 22 November, my first work of fiction (fit for public consumption) is making its debut at Taunton Literary Festival, in Somerset. With just over a month to go, I’m beginning to feel the pressure. This is the bit of writing we don’t think about, when we sit and put pen to paper. So here’s the story of my script’s journey from page to lit fest.
It all began last year, when I went on a ‘writing for radio’ workshop, in Bristol. I’d had an idea for what I’d always thought was a short story, but it had never really taken shape. However, when I turned it into an idea for a radio play, it suddenly flowered from a glimmer of an idea, to a full-blown story. By February I’d written a finished draft and taken it to Writer’s Anon for feedback. They liked it, which made me decide to record it myself.
Luckily, I have lots of talented friends. I pulled lots of favours and found myself an actor and a producer. With dreams of being the next Orson Welles, we gathered to do a script read through. It went well, it was April and we had no deadline, so all was well with the world. But that didn’t last.
Unfortunately, we were all holding down jobs and families etc. My actor is a school teacher, so term time was too busy to take time out. We were going to have to wait for the summer holidays to actually record the play. That was all fine, until I mentioned it to Lionel Ward, who runs Taunton Literary Festival and he offered me a spot to broadcast the play. All of a sudden, we had a November deadline and the summer was zooming by.
My producer had the brilliant idea of recording the play on location in my house and garden, rather than hiring a studio and then trying to fake the ambient effects. It saved me some cash and it gave us more flexibility. So, in August we gathered to perform the play for real and it was wonderful to hear those characters come to life. We thought a day would be enough, but it all took longer than we thought it would. We were going to need another day of recording.
Two weeks later, we squeezed in one last day to get the remaining scenes done, just a few days before our actor became a school teacher, once more. With all the takes recorded, it was time to hand things over to the producer and wait for him to put a rough edit together.
Meanwhile, the lit fest needed blurb on the play and photos of us all, for marketing and promotion. I also had to design a poster. With just over a month to go, tickets are now on sale and we’re still working on post production, with sound effects and music to record. We’ve got to pull this thing together and fast. But I’ve also got to start marketing to ensure we sell tickets for the event.
Of course the rough edit was just the start. Last week we went through three hours of takes to pick the best ones and this week, we overdubbed some dialogue and started the fun process of recording sound effects. But with still so much to do and my producer heading off for a business trip abroad, next week, I’m beginning to feel the pressure.
This is the part we don’t see, when we read a book or watch a film. We don’t sense the stress and the feeling of responsibility that comes with asking for people to part with their cash for the pleasure of experiencing your morsel of creativity. The fact that I’m doing it all myself, with no agent or publisher or production company makes it harder. Self-publishing sounds like an easy option, but it means you have to be editor, director, marketing and PR department, as well as sales and of course the writer.
Writing is a slightly mad endeavour. We never know if anyone will ever read the product of our labours, but we do it anyway. But writing is actually just the start of getting your product out there. I’ve just got to believe that the play will be done in time and we will have an audience. I’ll let you know.
You can also come and see or hear for yourself. The Garden is my radio play and will be at Taunton Literary Festival on 22 November, at 7pm at Brendon Books in Taunton, Somerset. Tickets are £7 and available here.