Thursday, January 04, 2007

On screenwriting (Oh! And a new review comes tomorrow!)

Let me start off by staying how sorry I am for the delay in getting the next batch of reviews up, but I’ve had a lot of material to read through. As I’ve said, the overall quality of the submissions are much better now, and as a result, I’ve found myself reading more scripts from start to finish. This takes up quite a bit of my time.

I’ve noticed that most of the better submissions usually fall into one of two categories, with opposite strengths and weaknesses.

First are the scripts that, while well written, lack a strong story and/or characters. There may be a strong understanding of a screenplay’s structure—pacing, descriptions, dialog and action—but the core story that is supposed to bind it all together just isn’t there.

The other category is the exact opposite—one where the writer has a very, very strong concept or premise to work with, but fails in the execution. Screenwriting is a very challenging, limiting art, where even the most gifted and successful novelists can often trip up. (Take, for example, the awful screenplays written by one of the world’s most successful horror writers...not to name names, of course.)

Some people are great at writing novels. Some at screenplays. Few at both.

For those of you who struggle with one category or the other, the best advice is to seek out a writing partner—someone gifted in the areas that you are not, and who can also play to your strengths. For most of us this idea would seem unthinkable, but you’d be amazed how much you can profit from a creative collaboration. Who knows? Maybe you can even teach a thing or two to the other guy.

My other advice is this:

  • If you’re unaccustomed to the screenwriting format, try to get your hands on copies of screenplays to the films you love. Many scripts are available either online or can be bought at specialty stores. (Hollywood’s full of ‘em.) This way, you can see for yourself how scenes and actions are broken down, line by line.

  • If you’re already well versed in movies and screenwriting structure, do yourself a favor: go to your local library and open up a book or two. Choose a novel or a memoir written by someone you’ve never heard might prove to be a really great experience. (And no, you’re not allowed to select that STAR WARS novelization by James Kahn.)

The next, final batch of 2006 script reviews begins tomorrow! Aren't ya excited!

1 comment:

Unknown said...


I am so happy to have found your site!! It is exactly what I have been searching for...

One day, hopefully, you see/read my screenplay. I have been working on it for two long years. [I've been hurrying...] My main character has become my best friend. Maybe next year or late this year I will send you a query. But I'm just not ready yet.

Just wanted to stop by and tell you "GREAT SITE"...