Impulsive Decision Revisited: This is my report on what went right and what went wrong following my last minute enrolment in the Script Frenzy challenge a little over a month ago. Within days of signing up, I posted a blog about my excitement over the prospect of attempting to write a 100-page screenplay in 30 days. Not to mention my uncertainty about my sanity! Well, the month of April has come and gone. And now it's time to debrief.
To recap a few of my reasons for giving in to the impulse: I've always had a hankering to learn the ropes of screenwriting and I knew that one good way of learning is by doing. Secondly, I have a first draft of a novel that might make a good film so I thought plotting would not be an issue. And finally, I was itching to do some revision of the story and felt that creating a screenplay version might help me to do that.
The hesitant side of my nature did warn me that April may not be the best month to attempt this adventure on the wild side. However, my muse seemed to be telling me to throw caution to the wind. Meaning, "Ignore the conflicts inherent in family commitments at Easter, deadlines for income tax returns, meetings committed to attending, and don't even think of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Consider the success of dashing off more than 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo in November." So I was drawn into the heady prospect of becoming a screenwriter. The possibility of running a fever, with accompanying aching muscles and no energy for a week or more, was something I could not have predicted either.
On the positive side (always apply the strokes first, before the chastising begins), I learned a lot in the process of writing ten scenes. I downloaded a software program that assisted greatly in formatting, but I spent an inordinate amount of time investigating the mechanics of writing in a new format. I admit I was a little intimidated, but it was very exciting to see the dialogue and action sections begin to develop. Eventually, I could see I was getting somewhere.
But the month was almost half over and I had only reached 10% of my goal. The fact that I had written that amount over a period of two days gave me hope that I could still be a "Winner" if I really applied myself. I wrote a few more pages. My count was edging up.
Then came the day when I came to two inescapable conclusions. One was a wall consisting, not of writer's block, but an absolute need to change too much from the original version of the story to complete the script in the time remaining. I knew then that I wanted to rewrite the story, taking it from a contemporary setting (with back story episodes from twenty years ago) and relocate it to begin in the fifties and flash forward to the seventies. This would require more research and changes to the action to bring my characters in line with the decades in which they were now living.
The other conclusion was simple. Although I was keen on the Script Frenzy challenge to begin with, I was now much more interested in the process of developing this new angle to my story. Although I read the periodic pep talks I received via emails with a certain amount of guilt, I no longer felt any pressure from myself to complete 100 pages and to verify that I had done so by April 30th. In that respect, the original feeling of frenzy had definitely fizzled out!
However -- and this is an outcome that both NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy applaud -- I accomplished more in the month of April than I would have if I had not signed up. Although I "failed" to get the certificate, I consider myself a Winner. I now know more about the mechanics of writing a script than I did at the beginning of April; I have 14 pages of an "original" script; I discovered that every scene written for film must have an intensity that is harder to capture than its equivalent in the novel; every word of dialogue has to evoke so much more for a viewer than words on the page, supported by narrative, do for a reader. These are my opinions, for what they are worth.
Late in April, I heard that Bill Boyle, a screenwriter from Los Angeles, is in Saskatchewan to lecture and offer workshops in June. In the past he has been here as a resident expert with SaskFilm. For a description of his lectures and workshops, check the website of his company,
All That Sky Productions. When he was here before, I wanted to take a workshop from him, but there always seemed to be a conflict with other commitments. This time I will make it a priority to attend, and I hope that my tentative dabbling in screenwriting will give me a small head start with more knowledge than I would have gone in with a couple of years ago.
I suppose my experience is not unique. Have you ever felt you had failed because you didn't meet your original expectations, only to discover that you had achieved something else instead? Possibly something more valuable? Isn't it true that no effort goes unrewarded, although the outcome may not be as expected or intended? What do you think?