Reading, Rates & ’Rithmetic
As you’ll see from my main web page (www.martinday.co.uk), I’m now offering to read people’s scripts (and short stories/novels, because I’ve had a few of those published over the years). Why am I doing this? Partly because I enjoy reading scripts, and I’ve had a reasonable reaction to my notes and written feedback in the past. Partly because I’ve sometimes been asked to do this for people, and at least I now know what I should be charging! And partly because I know my own work across the board has always benefited from external input. (Scriptwriting is by its nature collaborative – all my ‘spec’ scripts are read by readers at the agency that represents me, and I’ve also paid for script reports from readers I trust when I want more detail on a certain project. However, I’m not sure that much prose even is written in isolation these days. The world has moved on, for good or ill, and there aren’t too many writers who toil away in their garrets without any outside influence.)
But let’s be honest. I don’t think Stephen Moffat or David Nicholls have the time to offer to read other people’s work. Though freelance writers always write, most have gaps in their schedules from time to time – and most still have bills to pay and food to buy during those apparently fallow periods. And I’d rather proofread or read scripts than, say, stack shelves at Tesco. (Not that I have anything against people who stack shelves at Tesco, you understand. I’ve worked in retail…)
Of course, when someone sets themselves up as a reader (or proofreader), it is perfectly fair to ask about their track record and background. My experience comes from being a writer – from doing this ‘in the field’, as it were. I’m not like one of those people who make money from talking about script structure but have never sold a script (ooo, can of worms). My first job, post-degree, was in publishing; I spent two years as an editorial assistant and one of my major responsibilities was proofreading (The Guinness Book of Records, as it happens). Since then I’ve acted as de facto proofreader and project manager on a number of my books (I’ve written eleven novels and audiobooks and eight non-fiction books, often in collaboration, over about two decades).
With respect to scriptwriting, I’ve worked for an American production company, generating script reports for a number of well-known Hollywood execs. I have read countless scripts at various stages of development and for various individuals and organizations on a much more informal basis. As I hinted earlier, I’m not trying to make out I’m some sort of writing superstar – but I’ve been around the block, I think it’s fair to say. I’m a member of BAFTA, the Royal Television Society and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. I know how to get TV projects into development (of course, only a small percentage of what gets developed ends up getting made and transmitted…), and how to get a foot on the ladder – in publishing as well as television. I don’t pretend to have all the answers – but if I were to read your work, I’m sure we could work out a few together.
The other hypothetical question I posed over on the web page was What do you like reading? Lurking behind this question is my belief that (broadly speaking) a writer should be matched with a like-minded reader. As a writer I’ve had editors and script editors who are pretty much on the same wavelength as me – and whose only interest was ensuring that the end result is was good as it could possibly be. And I’ve one or two that weren’t… Bar proofreading, everything you get back from me will necessarily be subjective, so the least you want is a reader that ‘gets’ what you’re trying to do. Do have a butchers at my CV, and the things I’ve written, and see what you think. Does it help if I say my favourite directors run from Peter Jackson to Fellini and authors from Peter Ackroyd to Carlos Ruiz Zafón? (Probably not.) Or that I’ve strived to root my fantastical writing in the real world (I’m still chuffed I wrote a Doctor Who novel with a bipolar/suicidal teenager as its protagonist) while trying to bring the odd and the unusual to the world of continuing drama (my episodes of Doctors involved apparent time travel, the SS, and Goths getting tattoos)? I’ve sold thrillers and rom-coms; I’ve worked in children’s television and I’m currently writing a very adult novel that aspires to the literary end of the spectrum. And a thriller. And…
At the end of the day, I’ll read anything and offer my most constructive and honest thoughts (though for feedback on something as lengthy and personal as a novel you might want to send me a few chapters first, just to see if we have a similar perspective on things). The one exception I’d make is sitcom – it’s a very particular sub-genre, and you’re probably better off going to someone with a real track record in the field, such as the lovely Andrew Ellard (www.andrewellard.com).
If, having read all this, you’re interested, but still not sure, do drop me a line via my web page (www.martinday.co.uk), or leave a comment here. Hopefully a few of you reading this will think about sending something in. As I keep saying, writers don’t work at their best on their own. And at least maybe we can swap stories from the trenches.