Happy 2018! I hope all you writers and readers have fun projects lined up for this year. Care to share below? Following on from my last post, where I explained how I was failing at NaNoWriMo and why that was OK, this post is both an update and an attempt at accountability. In short, I’ve decided that 2018 is the year I will write a screenplay, my very first screenplay. And, yes, please hold me to that.
As I’ve never written a full play or screenplay, I’m both daunted and excited by the challenge. My closest stab at such a thing was a very short script written for a Writing Squad workshop back in… yikes, 2004 perhaps? I believe it involved a young woman wandering through a park thinking some (probably not at all) profound thoughts. Such was 2004. Also, note to 2018 self: profound internal monologue is almost certainly a terrible thing to include in an engrossing script.
All told, I’ve no illusions that my efforts will result in a script that sparks a bidding war and becomes a blockbuster movie or is made into an indie festival circuit favourite. But, I need a new challenge and, based on criticism of my novels, I apparently already write in a cinematic style, so why not embrace it!?
Learning how to write a screenplay
How exactly am I going to go from 0 to screenplay in twelve months? What will my project entail?
Well, I signed up to a short (paid) online course called How to Write a Screenplay You Can Sell, which offered an excellent, if scant, overview of what writing a movie script might involve. From there, I’ve resolved to read at least five movie scripts (of movies I’ve seen and liked) over the next month, pick one that resonates with me, then dig deep into that script to see how it works.
I’m going to set aside one morning a week to work on that script, when the time comes, and to do writing exercises such as coming up with possible titles and pitches in a variety of genres. By necessity, given freelancing, this will need to be a floating morning date with my new screenwriting self.
Over the course of the year, the work will get more focused and refined until… around September or so, I’ll use all the research and planning to write a screenplay.
2018 Writing Goals – Month by Month
To stay on track, I’ve laid out specific projects for each month in 2018. These amount to SMART goals, i.e. they’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented.
In January I plan to:
- Read five movie scripts and pick one to analyse
- Create 50 titles and 1-2 line blurbs for possible movies
- Read at least one book on screenwriting (ideally Save the Cat and/or Invisible Ink, but I’ll take what the library can give me)
In February I plan to:
- Analyse my chosen script using the technique given in the screenwriting course (create a beat sheet)
- Ask a group of friends for quick feedback on my movie ideas
- Refine these down to 5 top ideas
- Read another screenwriting book (Story, perhaps, or Save the Cat goes to the Movies)
In March I plan to:
- Put together an approx. 40-card board for my chosen script, detailing each scene
- Create a premise pitch for my 5 top ideas and ask for further feedback
- Refine down to 3 ideas, and create a verbal pitch for each
- Read another book on screenwriting (e.g. John Truby – The Anatomy of Story)
In April I plan to:
- Establish the transformation in each scene in my chosen movie, identifying how the movie accomplishes this
- Pitch my three movie ideas to friends and use feedback for further refinement
- Put together a one-page for at least one of my movie ideas
- Reread Save the Cat and/or read another screenwriting book
In May I plan to:
- Ask for feedback on my one-page and refine ideas
- Create a treatment (3-10 pages)
- Write a sample scene for any idea (to get the words flowing)
In June I plan to:
- Choose one of my ideas based on feedback from the treatments
- Identify the movie genre (based on Blake Snyder’s categories)
- Identify my 15 beats (based on Snyder)
The second half of the year – really getting into it!
With most of the planning and research done, it’s almost time to sit down and start the actual writing. Just in time for the rainy season in Vancouver. First though…
In July I plan to:
- Put together a board for the script outline (40 cards or so)
In August I plan to:
- Expand the board to create a 40 page outline
- Drink many beers in the sun.
In September I plan to:
- Write the first five scenes of the script
in October I plan to:
- Write at least fifteen scenes
In November I plan to:
- Write at least half of the screenplay
And, by the end of December I want to have:
- Written a complete screenplay
- Celebrated with whisky.
So, there you have it: my plan to write a screenplay in a year. Manageable? I think so. Fun? I hope so. A new challenge? Definitely.