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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I got an email from Jennifer Arzt telling me about Script Frenzy, which is an offshoot of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The idea is you write 100 pages of script in a month.

Personally, once I have an outline I like, I usually bang out a 110-page feature script in about 20 days. But I understand a lot of aspiring writers have trouble completing scripts.

I think the key to finishing your script is not reading it. I rarely read what I've written till I've finished. Oh, I'll go back and tinker with a scene if I need to set something up that I've just written. But I don't read more than a scene until I've written it.

You can fritter away endless time and energy tinkering with the pages you've just written. Don't. They will still be there when you write THE END. And you'll have a better sense of the pacing you need, and the tone, and the rhythm, once you have the whole thing done.

Get your beat sheet or outline in as good shape as you can. (My book CRAFTY SCREENWRITING has a section on step outlines and beat sheets.) Once you start writing, write 5-12 pages a day. Don't let yourself write less than five, or you're slacking. Don't write more than 12, or you may be writing absolute garbage. Stop writing any time after five pages that you feel done for the day.

Your first few days you may write only a page or two. That's normal, as you find the voices of the characters. After page ten, you ought to be in the land of five pages a day minimum.

Five pages a day gives you a 120 page script in 24 days.

Note that I spend much more than 20 days working on the script. I probably spend more time rewriting than I do writing. When people talk about how they "wrote the script in three days," they are talking about the first draft, not the shooting script. Writing is rewriting. But rewriting before you've done the writing can be crippling. Not to mention you can't meaningfully show it to anyone until you've told the whole story.

As Satchel Paige said, "Don't look back. Someone might be gaining on you."

(As always: ignore as much of this or any other advice as doesn't work for you.)

Labels: ,

4 Comments:

"Run, Forrest, run!"

Doubt is right behind you!

By Blogger Cunningham, at 4:18 PM  

This looks like a lot of fun... I've got a question on second-draft though.

I wrote a first draft of a comic project, in screenplay format. By the end of it, I actually knew what I was writing about! With the knowledge of what the story was ABOUT in hand, I went back, made a bunch of notes, and have got a pretty solid idea of the story landmarks.

Looking at going into second draft, though... very little from the first draft is usable, since a lot of it was pointless wandering while I figured out what I was doing. Would you think I should treat second draft as another first draft -- in that I would power through it and then go back in and rewrite..?

To summarize, Is It Cheating If I Write Second Draft for Scriptfrenzy, Even If It Is Really A First Draft If You Think About It?

You always have great stuff on the blog, it's on my five-blog morning checklist.

By Blogger Emma, at 6:28 PM  

Who cares if it's cheating? If it works for you, cheat away.

(But seriously, it sounds like you should treat the second draft as a first.)

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:48 PM  

Hey Alex,

I totally dig your advice. I participated in Script Frenzy last year and reread and edited NOTHING. It's how I was able to get past the 20,000 word count. In fact, nearly every book/blog/teacher I've had on screenwriting have recommended the same thing. Works for me.

Are you participating in Script Frenzy this year?

By Blogger Angela, at 11:47 PM  

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