Script Frenzy is coming up next month, giving me an excuse to dust off those screenwriting skills that haven’t seen the light of day for way too long. I’ve noticed that it is not nearly as popular as its NaNoWriMo sibling.
I get it. Writing a book is every writer’s dream. It seems so easy when you think about it. You just write. Scripts use strange formatting. They have strange rules that no one seems to understand. Of course, any writer who has read much writing or dramatic theory knows there are just as many “rules” in writing prose, especially if you plan on formatting a manuscript for submission, but that is a whole different blog topic.
As writers, there is a danger of pigeon-holing yourself into a specific genre or medium. You start out to be a writer and suddenly you only write post-apocalyptic werewolf comedies. There are definite reasons for that. You find a style and a content you are comfortable with, that seems to work best, and you capitalize on it. Maybe you get readers who want to see werewolves making wisecracks in Thunderdome.
But, unless you are making a lot of money as a writer already (in that case, feel free to make a donation), then you should not be limiting yourself. There are many genres of writing, and nearly all of them have paying markets.
How can you say you can’t write poetry if you have never written a poem? Why not find a topic you are interested in and write an article to try to sell as a freelancer? Who says that script formatting is really all that difficult anyway? There is software that practically does it for you, and no shortage of books to tell you exactly what to do, especially for screenplays. Trust me. I have several.
You have ideas. A lot of them. Sometimes, you have ideas that don’t quite seem to work. Try them in a new medium. What may not be a sufficient premise to carry a novel may work as a screenplay. Screenplays are traditionally more in line with the length of a novella. Maybe you only have an image of an idea, not a full-featured premise. This might be enough to generate a poem.
Write prose of every length and genre. Try writing in every medium. You may find you have an innate talent you didn’t know you had. You may open yourself up to new readers and new ways to sell your writing, if you are trying to do so.
There are a lot of screenplays sold every year. While there are a lot of books being made into movies, someone is writing all of those screenplays, as well, and it is very rarely the writer of the books. The world needs writers who have diverse experience and technical expertise in a variety of mediums.
Participating in Script Frenzy would be a good start. I know you have an idea. Here’s how to make it a reality:
1) Go to the Script Frenzy website and set up an account, find your region, and join it.
2) Go to CeltX and get their free screenwriting software if you don’t already have Final Draft or the equivalent. If you use Scrivner for writing prose, it has a script feature.
3) Read some scripts. There are lots of places online to find them for free. Pick movies you really like and know well. Watch them scene by scene as you read the script. I use SimplyScripts.
4) If you feel you need some book help, check out Syd Field’s Screenwriter’s Workbook, which will give you a step by step process. His book Screenplay is wonderful. I also recommend Robert McKee’s Story regardless of whether you ever write a screenplay. I also learned a lot from Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 431. Your local library probably has some of these books.
There is a saying that you could lay a truly good screenplay on a restaurant table in Hollywood and it would get made. What do you have to lose? April could be your shot to try something new.
Also, check back here next week. I will outline the screenwriting process I use. I learned it from Ron Peterson in the first Screenwriting workshop I ever attended and it is a great way to make screenwriting more accessible.
Let’s spread the art of screenwriting to a new group of writers. April is the right time to give it a shot.