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Anthony Minghella quotes

Here are some of my favourite Anthony Minghella quotes for writers and filmmakers:

1. “I’ve been writing for over twenty years, all my adult life, and so I suppose that I’ve made peace with myself and my hopeless, undisciplined technique. I’ve stopped unravelling everytime I’m unable to write. I wait. The drawer opens. Waiting is part of writing. When I write the word ‘waiting’ by hand it even looks like ‘writing.’”

2. “You know, you lose a lot of social skills if you’re a writer. You spend too long alone. And it’s forced me to address that.”

3. “The imaginative leap for me of writing for women is no more difficult than the one of writing for men. I’ve always wanted to have women well represented in the work that I’ve done because I’ve always been around them and around the way they look at the world.”

4. “Nobody wants to make any film, ever. I mean, you can assume that every head of every studio would be perfectly happy never to make another film, because making films is dangerous, costs too much money, none of them make sense, there’s absolutely no guarantee that they’re going to work – the best thing is not to make any; you can’t get fired for not making a film – you’re going to get fired for making the wrong film. And so you realise that the first words anybody in the movies wants to say is no, and the job of the director or producer or writer is finding the area of least resistance to get the film made. There’s never been any movie I’ve made that anybody’s wanted to make, ever.”

5. “I feel like such an amateur film-maker, but not an amateur writer. I will always feel like a writer who directs and not the other way round. An American studio don’t understand why I feel the need to write my own work because they don’t respect that the screenplay is everything. The screenplay is the musical notes, and then you play the notes to make the film”.

Anthony Minghella

6. “The writer has to be indifferent to the realities of filming. The well-behaved film writer, the writer who’s writing for his or her director, is of no use. There has to be a kind of antic level to writing, which the director then has to formalise in some way…I try to never censor myself when I’m writing”.

7. “The madman should be writing and the sane person should be trying to work out how to do it. You can’t be sane and insane simultaneously. I think that I’m a very rebellious writer of screenplays and a quite conservative director of them”.

8. “The film community has all these redefinitions of terms, often amusing: net profit means no profit, residuals means no profit, producer equals liar, lawyer equals frustrated agent, agent equals frustrated director, director equals frustrated actor.”

Anthony Minghella, 1954 – 2008

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First draft word vomit…

I recently met with someone who admired my bravery in pursuing writing.

They’ve known me since I was a small child and told me I’d always been writing. (They told me about things I don’t even remember writing.) They told me that they had wanted to be a writer when they were younger and still wish they could. When I asked what stopped them, they said everything they write is rubbish or seems trite.

I got news for you: most of first drafts are awful. It’s word vomit…

Here’s the good news: that’s okay!

You’ve got the ideas on paper or out of your head and in front of you. The more the merrier. That way you can work out what sounds good, what doesn’t sound good, what works and what doesn’t work. Just persevere and get it out.

That’s not to say it should all stay in the final draft. Hell no! sayeth I. But you’ve got out everything that’s been buzzing around in your head, you’ve laid the foundations on which you can build something amazing.

I recently completed a first draft of a sitcom. It was a sleep-deprived splurge of everything that had whizzed around my brain since I started thinking about it last year. Last year it was about a bunch of middle-aged men. Then I realised that patriarchy courses through my veins but I had a choice to write the same ol’ stories or write the stories I wanted to see. It’s now a female-centric sitcom.

The minute I hit send, the flaws came flooding in and the desire to consign it to the trash increased. I didn’t though. I didn’t do it because I’ve been talking about it for so long I have friends who want to read it so I can’t just archive it like I have with everything else. It’s time for me to be brave. To step up to the plate. To be the writer I know I can be. Without the wibbling.

I’ve got some feedback from an independent script editor so I’m going to take a break, take a step away, and go back to it next week.

There’s another project I’m working on for theatre to occupy my brain. I spent the entire day yesterday trawling through my research pile. I say pile because that’s what it is. It’s a pile of clippings, photos, postcards, scraps of paper, scraps of scenes and dialogue. I’ve found a lots of things I’d forgotten about. It was wonderful to go through it and rediscover gems, not to mention a rather cathartic tidy-up! So I think I have a direction to head in with a project two. I’m going to spend the rest of the weekend writing more scraps of dialogue, more word-vomit and a little digging through my collection of scraps and see what emerges.

It’s not that I think I’m a better writer than anyone else or that I might make a decent living from writing – far from it – I just have stories I want to tell.

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Night owl.

So last post I was embarking on a writing shift. I kept office hours of 8.30-4.30. Except these were the night shift hours. I don’t know if it’s good or bad but I found that my most productive time was 1.45 – 4.45am.

Not very sociable nor convenient if, like me, you happen to have a day job. Perhaps I can start sleeping in shifts…

At the moment, I’m lucky enough to be working part-time hours and so might try the overnight write again, see where it takes me.

What are your most productive writing hours?

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The consequences of writing…

According to the NHS website – no, not Web MD. Are you crazy? That just tells me I have something incurable and deadly – people who are prone to getting Vitamin D deficiency are, amongst others:

“people who are not exposed to much sun, such as people who cover up their skin when outdoors, or those who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods”

So that would be why I, a writer living in the UK, am Vitamin D deficient, wouldn’t it? (That and this ex-Goth isn’t a friend of sunshine.)

I spend long periods of the day inside. Even when it’s sunny. Anyone who’s tried to work on a laptop outside knows only too well that it’ll overheat like a thing possessed after a short while and I don’t want to have to replace mine.

Recently the sun has been shining on old Blighty and I’ve been trying to get out while I can but I have a looming deadline and a job to keep me in beer and baked beans.

Is it just me? Does anyone else write most effectively under pressure? I recently posted about writing every day. While I try to do that, I don’t always manage it and in order to finish something, I need a deadline, even if it’s further off in the distance; I need to have something to work towards.

Anthony Trollope worked full time as a civil servant and wrote every day, from 5.30am: a practice which allowed him “no mercy”. Trollope believed that three hours a day “will produce as much as a man ought to write.” (From An Autobiography, by Anthony Trollope)

True that. Anymore than that and I ramble!

The full three hours were not spent solely on writing; he would review the previous day’s work and take note of the sound and rhythm of the words. When he did write, Trollope challenged himself to write 250 words every 15 minutes.

I am in awe. I hope that one day I can both write like that, and drag myself from bed at some ungodly hour to write every day, with or without a deadline.

We’re all different and I keep trying to work out when is the best time for me to write. Is it the middle of the night? Mid-afternoon? First thing in the morning? It really has to be – until I’ve established a routine – a time when I can’t be distracted by Twitter conversations, Facebook debates or The-Buzzfeed-loop-of-lists.

HSleeping patternsey, I have limited self-control!

I found this infographic on the working habits of some of our most amazing creatives recently. I don’t know how true it is but I think it’s very telling that many of these creatives (including one of my favourite authors) writes overnight. How many disruptions do you think there are at that time of the night?

Along with sunshine, I need more discipline. And a workable plan. I’m willing to try anything so, after a day’s work, I’m about to put in another working day. It’s just that this time, it’s overnight…

See you on the other side!

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Emma Coats (@lawnrocket) 22 Basic Rules of storytelling.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for her or his successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about till you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard — get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what wouldn’t happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell this story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on — it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make you act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? [The] most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.


Twitter | Stephan Bugaj ( has analysed these 22 basic rules in a Bugaj’s free eBook.

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Writing is…

Writing is hard work.

I get asked when I first started writing. I used to think it was a breakthrough at uni. It wasn’t. I ploughed through my memory: I wrote my first illustrated novella at 6 about a dinosaur and the impending birth of her baby brother. I also wrote a French comic strip at 9.

Writing is found in different forms.

I spent countless hours daydreaming and creating worlds and dialogue for people I didn’t know but kinda, sorta did.

Writing is not always on paper.

I wrote countless scraps of stories that I deemed gobshite and threw away (as that was back in the day when we all worked with pen & paper as standard). I’ve written countless poems and songs; I am a writer. I just don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like it because I don’t think I’m very good so I get frightened.

Writing is scary.

The best writing I know is a process whereby you lay out your deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings about the world and hand them over for someone else to interrogate.

Writing is feeling naked.

I sat down with a dramaturg today and told him about me, my thoughts and my experiences.

Writing is cathartic.

In there, somewhere amongst the scribbles and the illegible scrawls, is the dog whistle that will help me unlock the play I’ve been working on for almost two years now. I feel like I’m getting closer to the seed of the play; I’m also getting closer to working out who I am as a writer.

Writing is a journey.

I currently have several project on the go so I need to focus. When an idea or a spark comes to mind, I need to start noting it down and putting it to one side, not go off on a tangent.

Writing is a war with many battles.

There is no magic secret to writing. It is a massive arseache at times. It has to become habitual for me and I need to start writing every day, without fail, but I wouldn’t have it any other way and there’s only one way to get better:

Writing is writing, and rewriting.