All in one take

I recently watched the trailer for Sebastian Schipper’s new movie, VictoriaIt’s a heart-pounding trial of a film based around what sounds like the gimmicky trick of all two-point-three-hours of it being shot in a single take. Apparently it is very good.

It makes me think of my own approach to writing, because this past week I have been on a writing binge – which happens every so often but not enough to be notable as a ‘thing’. The last time it happened was in 2009 and I wrote fifteen thousand words in three days. But even then I didn’t do what I’m doing now.

My best friend from primary school had this uncanny knack of being able to write an entire story in chronological order, straight up from start to finish. While she might have taken breaks between writing scenes, the fact that she plunged straight in and didn’t stop until the whole thing was written was something I found astonishing, because I was much more slapdash – jumping around from middle to end to start, impulsively skipping ahead to the scenes I liked best and writing them first, then filling in the gaps. It’s how I’ve done every story so far.

So maybe this is just because of the fact that the story I’m currently writing already exists in screenplay form, or maybe it’s because of the strange mood of this week. But either way, I’ve realised after the first week and the first ten thousand words of Trees in November that I’ve written almost the entire thing in complete chronological order. It stands out because I’m not merely transcribing the screenplay; there’s things in the book version that, understandably, are more fleshed out from the film, and there’s new material too. Maybe it’s an easier thing to do since the whole novel takes place over the course of one month – November 2005 – and maybe this gives it structure that I don’t need to worry about so much. Either way, it’s interesting to note. I expect that by the end of the novel (or more likely, novella) I’ll have had to jump around a bit more just to flesh it out more and add more stuff in. But we’ll see where that goes.

It makes me wonder if anyone’s ever written an entire story (and I’m thinking novella or novel kind of length) both in one sitting and chronologically from start to finish. It would no doubt require a lot of planning (and the understandable toilet break, plus nearby snacks) but it would be interesting to see if anyone’s done it. I expect the quality of work might suffer, but looking at the raving reviews for this new film Victoria, it might just be possible to have this happen in a writing context too.


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