Lucy really needs no introduction – if you’re a writer and haven’t heard of BANG2WRITERS, then where have you been?! But just in case, Lucy’s…
A writer (latest novel, Gut Decision, published by Rowohlt, and latest writing guide, Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays, published by Creative Essentials), a screenwriter with several short films under her belt, a script editor who’s worked with the likes of J.K. Amalou, Stilleto Films and Embrace Productions, a script consultant, public speaker and director of education for the London Screenwriters’ Festival. Lucy is represented by the mighty Julian Friedmann at Blake Friedmann Literary, TV and Film Agency.
Phew! You’ve achieved a lot! When, where and how did it all begin?
I’ve written my whole life. I used to write “novels” (two thousand word random epics!) as a girl, but never finished anything.
As a teenager I became interested in journalism and did lots of work experience on various newspapers.
Then I had a baby when I was finishing off my A Levels. I thought that was the end of my writing dream; society insisted it was, telling my life was over now I was a teenage mother. But as I saw my little boy grow, I realised that if I wanted to him to follow his dreams (and of course, I did), I had to lead by example. A friend of my Mother’s gave me twenty pounds as a gift for me, “not the baby”. With that twenty pounds I bought two books, one of which was “Teach Yourself Screenwriting” by Raymond Frensham. The rest as they say is history.
We met through blogging back before social media went wild. At the time, it was *the* place to network, along with online forums. You were amongst the first on the blogging scene – how did it help your career move along?
I owe everything to blogging. Back then I was a single Mum working out my kitchen, first in Devon and later, Dorset (then back to Devon again!); I’ve never lived in London.
A strategic online presence means you don’t have to [live in London].
I was able to establish myself first as a script reader and editor, then as a writer. Social media means anything is possible now.
My blog has meant I have made great contacts, which in turn has created brilliant opportunities: it was through B2W I met my great friend and collaborator JK Amalou, plus my agent Julian Friedmann – and of course Chris Jones, which lead to London Screenwriters Festival! Some of my Bang2writers have been with me the whole time, from The Bang2write blog’s first incarnation as “The Write Stuff” over at AOL Hometown (remember that?? Haha). Others were with me a short while, before branching off into other adventures; others have stuck to me like glue and become trusted friends in real life, such as you!
I feel blessed to have found so many allies online and it seems only right I try and help them make their way, too as much as I can.
Bang2write has transformed a lot over the years, reacting to various changes in platforms and media, as well as challenges such as changes in readers’ expectations. This has meant I have taken B2W to various other social media sites like Quora, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc as well as Twitter and Facebook. Last year the B2W main site underwent its biggest change yet, becoming more “corporate” in feel (with the more informal chat taking place on the Facebook page): B2W now has a specific House Style, such as number and linkbait titles. This then means I can open up the floor for more guest posters (I try to schedule one a week) and a dedicated student social media intern each summer, but still enable the site and network to stay relevant and fresh for readers.
Initially you wanted to be a screenwriter and later moved on to novel writing as well. What made you decide to take the plunge into novel writing?
JK said to me when we first met I was great at writing treatments, so I should write a novel. I thought he was just being nice, but then Julian mentioned it too.
I had wanted to be a novelist when I was a little girl – I hadn’t known screenwriting was a job – but always figured I didn’t have the time to write a whole book.
Then I gave it a try and the first few were an unmitigated disaster, so I gave up for a while, thinking it was just a pipe dream. Then Julian took a meeting with a publisher who said she was bored of all the YA fiction that centered around vampires and how she wanted to see some about issues young women might face in real life. Julian emailed me and suggested I wrote about teenage pregnancy. So I did! The book became GUT DECISION, published by Rowohlt in Berlin.
You still work in both mediums as a writer and as a successful and popular script consultant/editor as well. What made you fall in love with the development side of things?
I love script editing because I am a communicator and a facilitator; it doesn’t feel like work to me. I never tire of talking with people about their ideas and genuinely love to see the light bulbs switch on above their heads as they take various threads and intertwine them together.
We all suffer our ups and downs as writers, but I read recently that, at one point, you had lost your enthusiasm and that it was Living Spirit Pictures’ Chris Jones who revved your engine again, so to speak…
It was 2008/9, which had not been a good year for me on a personal level. To make matters worse, none of my projects had come together. Not one.
I am not one to put my eggs all in one basket; I’d had many irons in the fire, but every single one had fizzled out.
Then a school called me up out the blue and offered me a really well paid job. I hadn’t even applied for it; they’d found me via word of mouth, so it felt like my first real validation in about a year. I decided I was wasting my time: I would take the job and give up writing. But just before I accepted, I happened to see Chris Jones doing a talk and he said, “There’s always money for the right project.” I thought, “Yeah right” but as he went on, I could see how animated he was and how much he believed this. So I went and talked to him afterwards.
That conversation changed my life.
He made me see we all have it in our hands to get out there and do what we need to.
What would your advice be to unconfident and/or disillusioned writers?
Never give up. If you do, you’ll never know how close you came.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
Everywhere, but largely from my family. I want my children to be proud of me and I want my husband to realise the time and empathy he has shown me in allowing me to express myself without judgement or strings attached is well founded.
When it comes to inspiration on a pure writing level, it’s important to remember ideas are ten a penny. You can always find another seemingly great idea – the real challenge is, does it become a fully fledged CONCEPT you can “hang” a story off?
Too many writers have a supposedly great idea and dive headfirst into a draft … They live to regret it, because they haven’t laid the foundations of their story properly.
Yet really work on those foundations and your drafts practically write themselves. And remember, if it doesn’t work? All is not lost. It’s a lot less traumatic to let go of an idea you’ve talked about for a couple of hours, than a whole screenplay you’ve invested literally hundreds of hours in!
Why do you write?
I can’t not. I’ve tried; in some ways it would be preferable if I didn’t want to be a writer, life would be much more straightforward! Whether it’s in my blood or some sort of mental compulsion, I don’t know.
Stories are my life.
I can’t think of anything else I would rather do and that’s the truth.
Has anyone, or anything (books, TV, film, websites, life experiences) had a major impact on your writing and/or your career strategy?
Yes, Chris as mentioned previously, but also JK. He’s taught me more about writing – or indeed life – than anyone else in my adult life. I also love the enthusiasm of another good friend Jared Kelly, who’s always good to bounce ideas off and have a laugh with. I know I can always count on their interest and support, which in turn boosts my confidence.
You’re a big advocate for strong female characters, but this can be difficult for writers to properly define. Whilst they cannot simply be male roles with female bodies, it must sometimes be hard for writers to draw a line between female clichés/tropes and female characters who happen to behave, or like doing things, stereotypically femininely. What’s your top tip to help writers see past the confusion?
It comes down to this: we don’t want “great FEMALE characters” – we want great characters who HAPPEN TO BE female.
So, relax. Don’t worry about signifying female empowerment or making your character stand for ALL women. Concentrate on making your characters feel real, doing authentic and plausible actions that drive the story forward and make sense within that storyworld – and guess what? You’ve got a great character [who happens to be female].
You’re a huge inspiration, and source of learning, to many many writers and other creatives in the industry. You’re a self-styled guru, and that’s awesome. But the question on everyone’s mind is how?! How on earth do you have such a prolific online presence, and such an active writing/editing, and family, life, when there are only so many hours in the day…
You’re very kind, but first things first, confession time: I forget EVERYTHING that’s not story-related or a case of life/death. This means I am totally switched on for your story’s problems and I remember to do the important things like feed myself and the children, take them to school (etc), but everything else in-between tends to get overlooked. My family is used to this and especially around “inspiration time” (at the start of the project) as I tend to “act weird” as far as the kids are concerned, so they give me a wide berth! I’m also extremely lucky to be married to a man who totally gets this, despite not being a creative himself. He never blames me for being preoccupied, or forgetting stuff; he accepts that’s just the way I am and I love him for that.
But otherwise, it’s all about strategy and routine.
I operate my life military style, to ensure everything gets done.
You’ll find me doing the same things at the same time, every day. Usually the morning is social media between 8am – 10am; then writing until 1pm; then script reading and/or more social media work until 5-6pm. I plan for the week ahead – never further than that generally, because otherwise I’d die of fear looking at the size of my To Do List. Plus if anyone wants me to do anything that’s NOT part of said weekly plan, I do it straight away else it gets forgotten.
Oh and I never, ever remember to return phone calls. Better to tweet or text me first, then call me straight after, else you may be in for a long wait!
What’s next in the pipeline for Lucy the writer, Lucy the script editor and Lucy the educator?
Well my book WRITING & SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS is out August 29th, can’t wait to see my first book in English!
I’m currently writing a Rom Com novel about three women who transform their lives (and not by meeting a man, thangyewverymuch) and I’m also writing a treatment for a Horror screenplay, my first script in three years. Like I said: I always ensure my ideas stand up to scrutiny and this is the first that has in all that time, I’m very picky!
I’m also working with JK on two genre pictures, both Thrillers, which should go both go into production in the autumn.
Oh and the usual London Screenwriters’ Festival workload and appearance!
Apart from that, I’m just twiddling my thumbs really, haha!
Ways you can connect with Lucy: