Blogs by John DeDakis
Writing a Screenplay
2/17/2009 2:36:21 AM
Now that Bob Gelinas, my publisher at ArcheBooks, has agreed to publish "Bluff" (sometime this year, probably the fall), I'm turning my attention to writing the screenplay adaptation of "Fast Track." I wrote two drafts of it about five years ago, but they were way too long and talky, but now I'm trying again because an agent with some serious Hollywood connections is interested. (Not gonna say more than that just now because I don't want to jinx it.)
I started working on the screenplay about a month ago. The formatting for screenplays is very specific, so I found a free script-writing program online and downloaded it. Now I don't have to worry about complicated margins and indentations.
Here are some of the things I'm learning about writing a screenplay as I work through the first draft:
1. It's not as hard as I expected, but it's agonizing.
2. I have to make tough choices.
3. Scenes need to be short.
4. I need to think visually.
Let me explain:
In some ways, writing a screenplay is no different than writing a book: you see the scene in your head and you describe it. What makes the process agony is that the screenplay can't be as long as the book, so you have to choose what to leave out. It's awful. The rule of thumb is every page of a script translates to one minute on the screen, so trying to keep it to 120 pages is tough. My early attempts a few years ago stretched to a bloated 180 pages.
One way to stay on track (no pun intended) is to know where to put the pivot points of the plot. These are key scenes where something important happens that propels the story in a new direction. Back to the Internet, where I found guidance on how to structure a screenplay. But that only provides a template. I still have to make choices about what goes where -- and what goes on the cutting room floor, so to speak.
For me, making choices about what to cut is the hardest thing to do. Why? Because I made all those decisions when I first wrote the book. Now, to take something out, is like removing a critical piece that will cause the whole thing to collapse.
Right now, I'm nearing the end of the first draft. At first, I thought I was doing a good job keeping things tight and visual, but it's now feeling like the script is going to go way over my 120 page limit because of all I still need (or want) to get in. Something's gonna have to die. I think I know what must go, but I can't bring myself to kill it just yet.
So here's the plan: I'll continue to the end, putting in all that I want, then loop back and read it fresh, looking critically at pacing and how the story feels as it unspools. I'll probably try a second draft in which I "cut" ruthlessly, knowing that it won't really be dead -- it'll just be in a different file and can be resurrected if needed.
Watch this space. I'll keep you posted. Eventually.
More Blogs by John DeDakis
Ode to a Mentor....Or Letter from the Grave - Thursday, September 23, 2010
You Should Write a Book - Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Ever Feel Inadequate? - Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Change is Good - Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Overcoming the Fear of Rejection - Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Beating Writer's Block - Tuesday, October 27, 2009
What a Manuscript Editor Does (and Doesn't) Do - Monday, September 07, 2009
Confessions of a Cross-gender Writer - Saturday, July 04, 2009
5 Ways to Stay Organized While Writing a Novel - Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Writing for the Ear; Writing for the Eye - Sunday, May 17, 2009
Plan a Little; Write a Little - Friday, May 01, 2009
Building a Novel - Friday, April 10, 2009
Writing a Screenplay - Tuesday, February 17, 2009
VICTORY! - Wednesday, January 07, 2009
A Creative Setback...and Opportunity - Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Heading to the Inca Trail - Saturday, September 15, 2007
Solving the Time Problem - Thursday, April 05, 2007
Simmer Mode - Saturday, March 31, 2007
The Art of Flitting - Friday, February 02, 2007
Brooding - Monday, January 29, 2007
Scene Building - Sunday, January 14, 2007
Getting Stuff Done - Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Connecting - Sunday, December 03, 2006
Making Revisions - Friday, December 01, 2006
In Search of Balance - Sunday, November 12, 2006
The (sort of) Daily Muse - Thursday, November 09, 2006