With all of the focus on the writers’ strike in Hollywood, the writer’s role in creating the films we see has finally come to the forefront, albeit not in the way the writers would prefer. It has also probably made more than a few people dust off the idea of writing a screenplay. It’s not as common a thought as writing the Great American Novel, but most of us at sometime have watched a movie and thought “I could write a story better than that.” Here’s your chance.
Beginning April 1st, the second annual Script Frenzy will give would-be screenwriters the jump-start they need to make the dream of writing a screenplay a reality. Script Frenzy is run by the same lunatics who began National Novel Writing Month nine years ago and built that “noveling contest” into a national phenomenon. The premise is similar to NaNoWriMo: write a rough draft of a script in 30 days. Last year over 7,000 writers participated, and 1,073 finished their script.
There are two major changes from last year’s inaugural event. First, the start date was moved from June 1 to April 1, mainly so that kids could participate as part of school writing projects and to line up with the submission dates for most screenplay contests. Second, they changed the target 20,000 words (which mirrored the novel writing goal) to 100 pages, since screenplays are counted in terms of pages, not words, with each page corresponding to roughly one minute of screen time.
Here are the 5 Basic Rules of Script Frenzy direct from their website:
1. To be crowned an official Script Frenzy winner, you must write a script of at least 100 pages and verify this total on ScriptFrenzy.org.
2. You may write individually or in teams of two. Writer teams will have a 100-page total goal for their single co-written script.
3. Script writing may begin no earlier than 12:00:01 AM on April 1 and must cease no later than 11:59:59 PM on April 30, local time.
4. You may write screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comic book scripts, adaptations of novels, or any other type of script your heart desires.
5. You must, at some point, have ridiculous amounts of fun.
Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? And that’s what could trip up a number of participants, especially those who have completed National Novel Writing Month one or more times. The word-count requirement for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 words per day. The 100 pages in 30 days required by Script Frenzy a little less than half the normal page count for WriMo; for AC Content Producers, it’s about the same as doing one 3-page article a day
The difference is that novels allow for a good deal of meandering wordiness. Even the best of them may run off on the occasional rabbit-trail with no ill effect on the overall story. Not so with a screenplay. In a screenplay every word matters, whether it is dialogue or description or camera direction. Of course you can write a rambling, wordy script (the British do it all the time), but good luck getting anyone to take a serious look at it.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from taking this challenge; my whole purpose in writing this article is to encourage people to participate. Half the fun of NaNoWriMo is the sense of community that develops knowing that people all over the world are writing at the exact same time you are. Rather, I want to encourage everyone who participates to know at least a little about the screenwriting process before things kick off in April. There are hundreds of books that will give you the basics, but there is one in particular that I recommend. Writing Movies, from the acclaimed Gotham Writers’ Workshop is the best one-volume book on screenwriting I have found to date. It is as informative about the screenwriting process as their Writing Fiction is for novels.
So if you want to write a screenplay, you can go to the Script Frenzy website and register now. It should be a great month of writing, and even if you want to write only novels or short stories, the brevity demanded by a screenplay can at least be an exercise in how to tighten up your writing.
And just in case you were counting, this article ended up at 2 pages, even without camera directions. Good luck.