a blog by J.M. Cottle
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On screenwriting

Sometimes I think that I should write movies instead of novels. My fiction tends to be visual and active, and while I’m writing I often picture the scene in my head — music included — as if it’s a movie. Some of my ideas for novels would be much better as movies.

The strange thing is that it never occurred to me that I could possibly write scripts until 2009, when the Office of Letters and Light (the non-profit organization responsible for NaNoWriMo) introduced me to their 30-day writing marathon called Script Frenzy. 100 pages of script in the month of April? Why not? I gave it a try.

It turns out that when you write a script, you have to leave room for all the people who actually make the movie. Like the director, for example. And the camera operators, and the actors. They apparently get to do whatever they want with your script once you pass it over to them. Bah. My script was basically a novel written in the action sections, because I could not bear to give up even the smallest amount of control.

Upon reflection, I have realized that I completely missed the point of screenwriting. The great thing about movies is the collaboration. In the special features of every DVD you hear the cast and crew talking about how fantastic it was working together, and it sounds sappy and you wonder what it was really like on set, but in fact I think that the best movies are probably the best because they had so many talented people working together on them.

As a novelist, especially one planning to self-publish, I have control over every single detail. If I want to I can keep it a complete secret until I hit the publish button. It can be mine and mine alone. It was difficult for me to break out of that mindset and accept the fact that I was not the only person who was working on this (imaginary) film.

I wonder if it would have gone any differently if I approached it the way I approach roleplaying and collaborative novel writing. When I enter into one of these projects, I relish the opportunity to mix my ideas with other people’s and create something that none of us would have done on our own. Maybe it was too hard for me to do this during Script Frenzy, when there would never be any directors and actors and editors. There was just me, sitting at my laptop, trying to figure out why I wasn’t writing a novel.

April has come around once more, and I’ve been thinking about giving scriptwriting another try. I’m sure I’d do better this time. But I think I’ll stick to what I do best and keep working on my novel. I’m at 40,000 words since I deleted all the superfluous stuff from my NaNo adventures. It’s probably about halfway done. No sense in stopping now!

If you’re interested in writing movies, plays, TV shows, comics, or any other kind of script, go check out Script Frenzy. You have one week to prepare. That’s plenty of time. And I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines. Ready? Go.

One Response to On screenwriting

  1. Hi,

    Thank you for sharing your valuable insight. That is what knowledge is. Warning the others about the pitfall they are about to jump in.

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