Pre ScriptFrenzy Frenzy

If you’ve ever tried to write a 90 page script or a 50,000 word novel from conception to completion in 30 days, you’re just as crazy as me. What I’ve found from multiple attempts is that it can’t be done. At least, not with anything worth a damn at the end of the month. I’ve read different blogs and posts by participants that all say the same thing: they went off on tangents just to hit the word count. They wrote characters who had no purpose, they wrote plots that led nowhere, and they often wrote a mess that was not even rewritable let alone revisable when they were done because they did not want to fail.

What is the purpose of this? Isn’t the point of writing to express yourself in some way? And hopefully to become published? Do we really have time to write a bunch of crap that is basically useless and would take way more effort to fix than to just spend quality time writing quality prose? Granted the allure of finishing a feature-length screenplay or a novel is enticing especially if, like me, it takes you years to complete one, but I find ScriptFrenzy and NaNoWriMo incredibly stressful. I blame that on poor planning. (Plus the fact that I always start late anyway.)

Last year, I tried to participate in ScriptFrenzy by writing a screenplay I had conceived of at age 11. The only problem was, I had tons of research to do for it because obviously it had changed in concept in some ways, and I labored over the opening scene for about three weeks until I decided that it just wasn’t gonna happen.  Had I taken the time to get all of my pre-writing done ahead of time, I might have had a better shot.

Likewise, I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo one year. I’m used to writing novels, so I didn’t think it would be that bad. And although I tend to write without a whole lot of focus, I do spend much of my time editing as I write, which does not work well with time constraints. It could take me an entire weekend to write one chapter of 7-10 pages. But it’s a damn good chapter.

So the advent of 2012’s ScriptFrenzy is almost upon us. (It starts on April 1st in case you’re wondering.) And I vow to complete a screenplay based on my WoW character’s secret life. (If you’re interested in what this entails, follow my blog at But in order to complete this insane quest, I’m going to spend the month of March doing all my pre-writing exercises. And I’m going to share them with you, so you too can succeed at ScriptFrenzy.

I know what you’re thinking. “Why should I take advice from this nobody? She can’t even finish a screenplay in 30 days?” Well, I’ll tell you. I am somewhat adept at the art of screenwriting. I’ve studied it at UCLA and I’ve taught Introduction to Screenwriting courses at Westfield State University. I even presented my Capstone seminar on screenwriting.

So there you have it. I’m an expert and you should listen to me.

For the next four weeks, I’ll be posting a series of exercises meant to focus your ideas into a cohesive and fluid storyline. You’ll learn how to write a premise and create a beat sheet, how to create characters and scenes, and how to structure your story using the ten elements of screenwriting.

And if you don’t want to listen to me, you should listen to this guy: Robert McKee, screenwriting guru and author of Story.

I can’t promise anything, but if you join me, you might just finish that script after all!

Script Frenzy

A friend of mine turned me on to a little thing called Script Frenzy.  It’s like NaNoWriMo except it’s for screenplays, stage plays, teleplays, graphic novels and such.  The goal is to write a 100-page script in 30 days in the month of April.  She asked me to be her writing buddy, so I signed up.  I mean, how hard can it be?  It’s not like writing a 50,000-word novel in a month.  And I have written screenplays before and even taught an introductory course on screenwriting.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I used to write for fun during my childhood.  I had no intention of being a writer back then; I simply wrote to escape the real world.  I didn’t have a clue about form, elements of the craft, or even what would come next on the page.  I started with an idea and just wrote whatever came to mind.  I had complete freedom to do whatever I wanted, be whatever I wanted, without having to abide by any pesky rules.  It was liberating and not at all the way I write now.  Now I know what I’m doing, or rather what I’m supposed to be doing, in regards to plot, pacing, setting, character, etc.  And I feel more stifled than ever.

I don’t allow myself to write crap.  I’m a self-editing dominatrix.  Everything has to be perfect before it hits the page.  Each thought is strangled, each sentence is whipped, each word is bound and tied until it becomes my slave.  But let’s face it–I suck at being a Mistress.  Me, I’m all about freedom and beauty and equality.  This way of writing has got to stop because it’s definitely not getting me anywhere, except maybe some chafing from that damn leathery g-string.

So it’s Day 8 of Script Frenzy.  And according to my caluculations, I should have 26.4 pages written.  How many do I actually have?  Zero.  But I was never one to write religiously every day (even though all the great writers say you should).  No, I save up all my writing time for one long extended bout.  At least that’s how I got through graduate school.  But I have a plot, so that’s a start.

I’m reverting back to my childhood and using an idea that, in retrospect, had actually been my first attempt at a screenplay.  Unfortunately, I never finished it, so I have no idea where it was going or how it was going to end.  But I will work through all that on my bulletin board as the time comes.  First, I’m just going to get my story down in script format and fill in the blanks later.  After all, good stories are not written; they are rewritten.