Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Please... At Least Make An Effort

So I've been reading and writing scripts (mostly reading I have to admit) for the better part of 15 years now. Overall, the worst thing I've come across is the half-assed effort some people seem to put into a script. People wanting - hell, expecting, this writing to be good enough to earn hard cash. Maybe not immediately, but they believe this can all be theirs (since the last thing they saw on the silver screen just stunk).

These people come in with a format not even recognizable as a script. If, by some miracle, it is in script format, then there are orphan sluglines and Tarantino-esque diatribes (with none of the skill) and narration out of a Stephen King novel. Fifteen years ago, this wasn't hard to do. You really had to do some looking to get information. Books were scarce, there were about 5 sites on the internet, and about 60% fewer computers even on the internet. Scripts were obtainable only through the script stores and local film offices.

Now, though? You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a script. They're in film offices, all over the web, in book stores... all over the place. How can you *not* find a script when you want to learn to write one? To make matters even more pathetic, there is even *free* screenwriting software now. I'll admit that Page2Stage isn't the most full featured software, but compared to Notepad or Wordpad - hell, even Word or Wordperfect, it's a godsend.

The absolute total lack of professional effort astounds me. I know why readers are so ill tempered sometimes. If you had to read one of these full scripts, you'd want to torture the writer in some equally painful way, also. Even worse is to inflict one of these mental turds on a writer's group. Here, a group of your peers who will provide free feedback are being asked to just casually burn 1-2 hours on some drek a person didn't have the respect to even fully think out.

I know I waste a lot of my time on things I have no business doing. But it's my time and my life. Asking that of another should command some sense of pride in yourself and some respect for that other person's time. The following are *musts* if you submit your screenplay to somebody else:

1) You must have read at least 5 scripts written by professional writers.
2) You must write in standard screenplay format
3) You must have proofread your script at least once *after* you believe it's ready for submission
4) You will have no narrative passages of more than 5 lines.
5) You will have no more than 3 passages of dialog more than 4 lines
6) You will always have narration after an Int/Ext slugline
7) You will always use courier new font - 12 point
8) You will always have fewer than 10 speaking parts in 30 pages
9) You will use flashbacks as a last resort
10) You will not use a montage until you have written 3 scripts
11) Curse words are to be used only by characters, and not as commonly as vowels.

If at all possible:

1) Have the story be about somebody doing something that we can identify in 15 pages
2) Have your main character actually DO something. Not walk and talk for 30 pages.
3) Have some sort of jeopardy for the main character. It has to matter to them or it sure won't to us.

If you can do the above, your reader should at least talk to you again.

I haven't written for awhile now because I've just been thinking "how many times can you just repeat the same rules over and over?" I mean, nothing is really changing. But in light of the last four months and what I've come across. It would appear that a) somebody is always learning something new and b) some people are just hard headed and are not getting this the first 100 times.

Power to the writers. Go WGA.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Fred said...

Thanks for the list! I copied and will follow. As a new screenwriter (a screwbie?), I want to put out the best I can possibly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 9:48:00 PM EST  
Blogger Rhea said...

I was once a judge in a screenwriting contest, so I had a chance to read dozens and dozens of scripts. I found that the format and that kind of thing were correct on most of the submissions. But you know what the main problem was? The stories were BORING.

Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 6:46:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dave said...

Fred... Thank you. Please do. Although, I must say, the worse other writers are, the better I look.

Rhea, I've been in a writing group, so I've seen some of the worst. I know that years ago, contests were just the worst punishment. It would appear that the bevy of computer assisted programs have at least helped with format.

Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 11:23:00 PM EST  

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