Welcome to Writers in Various Stages of Development #047 with Amy Trevaskus.
Amy is a hugely talented writer, working across multiple genres and mediums and has established herself as a key member of the #WritingCommunity. A proactive networker and facilitator of discussions and writing spaces, Amy is an energetic and creative writer with a lot of insight to share.
When did you start writing?
I have multiple answers to this question!
I have always written. As a child I had a very vivid imagination and used to make up stories and write little plays to perform to my family (The horror!)
There were a few things that have happened in my life that made me want to write ‘properly’. Firstly, when I was fourteen, in an English lesson, we were set a task to write a science fiction story. The teacher said we could let our imaginations run riot; I was so pumped for it! I spent AGES writing this story and must have read over it a million times. I was so excited to hand it in, was totally convinced I was going to get an ‘A’.
A few weeks later we got our stories back. My pages were covered in red. Words crossed out, Asterix’s in the margins, big red lines through a whole paragraph. I was devastated. The teacher didn’t even mark it. When I read it through it was completely obvious that he hadn’t even read the story. What he had marked was the spelling, format and punctuation.
In a parent’s evening a few weeks later he advised my Mum and Dad that I shouldn’t consider taking English Language or Literature any further than GCSE level. When my Dad asked me later what I wanted to do at A-level and beyond I said I just wanted to tell stories. He simply said, “Do that then”. So, I worked super hard to prove that teacher wrong and went on to do English A Level and at Uni. That teacher made me want to be a writer more than anything!
I started writing poetry at Uni and was published shortly after – please don’t ask to see the book, it’s so angsty!
I wanted to write because I can’t not. It is literally all I have ever wanted to do.
What was your first credit as a writer and how did you land it?
I am awaiting my first credit! I have had an original series in development with ITV but as with many TV shows, it fell through at the last moment.
I was able to attach a production company by networking, by getting out there and talking to people. Sending emails and building relationships. I went completely out of my comfort zone but it absolutely paid off in the end.
When did you sign with your agent and how did it happen?
I was on a webinar call in January 2021 and after the call I emailed some of the people I had been chatting with to see if they wanted a one to one zoom chat. I connected with a fellow writer who I shared some of my scripts with and she introduced me to her agent – who is now my agent!
I was not expecting to get signed at that point – I was actually at a crucial moment in my life and career where I was starting to think about giving up on my dream. I had spent ten years approaching agents with no luck and the lockdown was doing a number on my mental health anyway. But then Louisa came along, said she believed in me and I haven’t looked back!
Are you a full-time writer or do you balance with a day job?
I’m a full-time writer (I can’t tell you how long I have wanted to say that!) I write during school hours which is an absolute dream.
I host four writing rooms a week for Scribe Lounge and I facilitate courses on a freelance basis for the John Yorke Screenwriting course
Do you follow a set routine with your writing?
I am trying! I’m better in the mornings so I do most of my writing before 1pm. I take my son to school for 8.30, I’m back by 8.45 so I’m trying to do a bit of exercise first thing so that I can start writing at 9.30am – this doesn’t always work out! But this is the routine I would like to maintain
It can be a challenge writing with a family. What’s your writing space like?
I’ve recently converted a room in our house into my very own office space. It is completely 100% my space and I LOVE it. I have all my books on my bookcase and my Dad’s guitar next to me (I don’t play, it just reminds me of him). I have a massive whiteboard set up on one wall which I use to plan out my ideas – they stay there on the board until I write it all down.
What writing software do you use and how important is it for new writers to equip themselves with these tools early on?
I use Final Draft. Oh my goodness it was a revelation when I was finally able to get Final Draft – until then I had a formatted document on Word!
It is so important for writers to have access to industry standard programmes and processes – It makes you feel like the industry is a bit more accessible when you know best practice.
What inspired you to write your children’s book series, Ping and Pong?
The children’s books I wrote are about a little girl called Lucy who has two imaginary friends who live in a clock. They go on loads of adventures and have loads of fun etc etc… I’ll let you into a secret… Ping and Pong were my imaginary friends when I was a kid! I told you I had a vivid imagination!
My Dad inspired me to write them. He passed away 8 years ago but during the last few years of his life I cared for him at home before it became too much of a medical challenge to have him home. I gave up my 9-5 and was able to have the time to spend with him (although tough to see his decline) and write the four Ping and Pong books.
He always encouraged me to write so I felt like I needed to get them written to preserve my own childhood in a way.
You’re the co-creator and writer of Ordinary Joe, an original comedy that’s currently in development. What can you tell us about the project?
Ordinary Joe is a comedy drama based around the great Bristolian Urban Myth of the Bristol Zoo Car Park attendant. The story goes that years ago a guy pitched up on a piece of land next to the zoo, he was there for 20 odd years collecting £5 per car. It is said that he told the zoo he worked for the council and the council he worked for the zoo. Somehow, he slipped through the net and is apparently sipping Pina Coladas on a beach in Barbados as we speak sitting on millions of pounds!
I approached Bristol legends, Actor Joe Sims and Filmmaker extraordinaire Paul Holbrook to help me put this story together – we’ve set it in the present and at the beginning of what could turn out to be the best British scam ever.
We write so well together we are now working on a number of Bristol centric stories for TV which we hope to get into development soon.
What’s your number one tip for creating characters?
Get to know them inside out before you start writing a script. I now do extensive character work before I put pen to paper or think about dialogue.
I need to know everything about my characters so that when I present them with a challenge on the page, I know exactly what they will do and say.
What else are you working on at the moment?
My current Work in Progress is a Sci-Fi Drama series – not my usual thing I have to say but I am LOVING creating this world and these characters. My imagination can really run free… in space!
I’m also working on an Historical feature set during WW1 – I’m a massive history nerd so I have really enjoyed the research part of this project.
I am almost ready to send out a comedy drama about a group of over 50’s women who form a synchronised swimming team, called Breast Stroke.
What are your current goals?
I’d like to get at least two of my original ideas into development by the end of the year.
You’re the co-host of The Writing Rooms (alongside Phil Davies). What does this involve and how can writers join in?
This is something awesome that came out of lockdown. We are now under the Scribe Lounge umbrella which is great because it’s opening the rooms up for so many more writers. It’s essentially a one hour writing sprint on Zoom.
We meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11am and we also have an evening session on Wednesdays at 7pm. We start by having a brief chat about what everyone is intending to work on for the hour, turn off mics and cameras, then get our heads down and write for an hour – it’s amazing what you can produce when you know you have a deadline and a bunch of other people waiting to hear about your progress!
You have to be a member of Scribe Lounge to join the Writing Rooms, but membership is free and it gives you access to so many resources in addition.
What advice do you have for writers who may be struggling to find new opportunities?
Join Scribe Lounge! Talk to other writers. One positive thing that came out of lockdown was the number of writers joining together online. Not just that but production companies, commissioners, top writers, and actors were out there giving advice and showing up – sharing knowledge and opportunities and that was amazing.
What have you learned about writers and the writing community through your involvement with The Writers Rooms?
The Writing Community is one of the most supportive out there. Being part of the writing community has completely changed the way I work; my confidence has grown massively and I feel like we all support each other in a lovely healthy way.
Whoever said “find your tribe” was right because when you do it just makes you feel part of something bigger. Let’s be honest, writing is a solitary and lonely experience sometimes (especially over the lockdown)
I’m assuming that you get to read a lot of scripts by new writers. What common mistakes do you see or are there certain stories/themes that are being overused?
Honestly, every single script I have read over the past few years from new writers have been so unique in style, tone and subject I can’t see a theme that is being overused at the moment.
I think we are all taught differently regarding format – Controversially I was always told to bold AND underline my slug lines so I don’t feel like I can weigh in on that one!
I think sharing your scripts and reading others is the only way to really figure out your style…
There’s been a lot of talk and debate over writing contests recently. What is your experience with competitions and where do you sit with them?
I have never entered a competition. I think they are great but at the moment I am working on making connections within the industry through my agent and networking.
Rejection is an unavoidable aspect of writing. How do you cope with it?
This is a tough one – one of those where I know I should take my own advice but don’t!
The most important thing is to understand that it’s not personal. There are so many reasons why ideas get rejected and sometimes we never know. I normally wallow for a bit, have a bit of a break from the project and then get back to it the next day. It’s easier said than done but I try to acknowledge the rejection, sit with it a bit, admit that it feels shit but then move on….
What are the shows/movies that inspire you?
The series that made me want to write for telly was The West Wing but I think that is impossible to reboot right now. The writing, the direction, the characters are all pretty damn perfect as they are.
Are there any books or scripts that you would recommend to other writers?
I would recommend:
John Yorke – Into The Woods as a starting point for any new writer.
There is a ton of information on Scribe Lounge.
Also, BBC Writers Room is great for reading scripts and finding out about comps.
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?
Click that send button!
I saw something on Instagram the other day and it hit home, I wish I had understood this ten years ago:
Instead of assuming you’re behind, you can ask:
“Where did I get the idea that I’m supposed to be following someone else’s timeline?”
It’s so true and something I will keep reminding myself over and over!
What’s the worst part of being a writer?
Waiting! You put your heart and soul into a project/script, it’s your world for ages and ages, you send it out into the world and then…. radio silence! You have to learn to be patient as well as hopeful and optimistic!
What makes you laugh more than anything?
At the moment – Ted Lasso
An evening with the school Mums. Ha ha.
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