Damn, That’s a Spec Script

I think it was Chuck Wendig who suggested that all novelists try their hand at screenwriting and all screenwriters try their hand at noveling.

It’s funny to me because I started writing screenplays when I was 11 ish and I switched to books at 13 and switch back and forth between the two whenever I’m inspired.

The thing is, I’ve completed a bunch of TV spec scripts, a couple of movies, and a couple original pieces for both TV and film.

I have a pretty good portfolio.

It’s funny because I find that for me, I can do a script way way way faster than I can do a book. It might honestly be because I have a lot more practice writing scripts, and there’s a lot less words, but I dunno.

The point is that yep, I’ve completed yet another spec script. I think that makes 3 this year. I dunno, I kinda lost count.

Don’t go laughing. Screenwriting is just as difficult as noveling. In fact, I’d say it’s more difficult because there’s a whole different pace and tone to the way a screenplay flows in comparison to the way a novel flows. There’s a lot less room for play in a script. A TV spec should be around 42-43 pages. PAGES, not words. And then there’s proper formatting to consider. (Thank GOODNESS for Scrivener, it’s so much simpler to format that anything else I’ve tried.)

And let’s no forget to mention the language used. You want to keep your language terse and tot he point. It has to flow and description isn’t the screenwriter’s job. You only need to put in the important details. Like, if there’s supposed to be a shot of a dead body on a hotel bed with blood on the sheets. You don’t need to describe the room dressings, because you’re not the set dresser. That’s not your job. It’s only your job to tell the story. The actors then make your words come to life. The screenwriter is only responsible for writing the story. It forces you, as a writer, to reevaluate what’s important in your dialogue, in your cues, and in your visuals.

If the antique vase in Great Aunt Mildred’s room isn’t important to the plot, don’t write it in.

I feel like writing screenplays has really influenced the way that I write novels. I find that my novels are almost always coming up short on the desired word count because I’m used to the flow and pacing of a screenplay. I write in prose that gets my point across without being flowery. I choose more powerful words than ‘pretty’ or ‘nice’ to describe my things in my books (most of the time, I mean, we all have lazy passages and word count padding tricks, right?) I find it difficult to get most of my stories above 80,000 words, just because of the way that I write, and the way that screenwriting forces you to think. Hell, even my short stories are oftentimes below word count minimums because the screenwriting methods are so ingrained into my mind! It’s a great way to get your point across without being wordy and long-winded. It’s probably why it’s next-to-impossible for me to write high fantasy anymore!

I really do think that it’s fabulous practice for ANYONE who considers themselves a writer. Even if you never show it to anyone else, except maybe a beta reader or critique partner, just for feedback, the things you’ll learn about pacing and writing from writing a screenplay are completely invaluable.

So now you know, if you see a film or TV show and the STORY sucks, that’s on the writer. Bad acting is on the director and the actors. It really makes you take a look at film in a new light. Try it. Separate the story from the acting and visuals and see if it changes your opinion of the movie or TV show you’re watching.

Am I off my mark? Do you think screenwriting and novel writing can go hand in hand?

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About kaikiriyama

I'm a writer. I write everything from shorts, to novels to screenplays and then some. I like comic books, ponies, zombies, pokemon, monsters, demons, vampires and mythology. I walk a fine line between badass, scary and girly. View all posts by kaikiriyama

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