This is topic How difficult is it to write a screenplay? in forum Open Discussions About Writing at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by Smaug (Member # 2807) on :
Have any of you ever tried to write a screen play? I have what I believe is a great idea for one, but have no idea of how to go about writing one.
Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
I kinda wrote a hybrid form in my Internet Fan Fiction days, a form that looks like a screenplay but is something that's just read...but it's not quite the same thing.

Of the form's many dissimilarities (and of my attempts at it,) the chief ones I remember are that (1) there are too many stage and camera directions---things the director would ultimately decide on, and (2) I never tried to time it---they've got to know just how long something is when they shoot.

Posted by WouldBe (Member # 5682) on :
I think a rule of thumb is that about one page of a screenplay roughs out to about one minute of film. This refers to the writer's screenplay, rather than the director's script.

Robert spoke about the director's script that has a lot of stage directions that the screenwriter need not worry about. Why? That's the director's craft, and it's nearly impossible to write one without a budget. (If you can't afford to blow up something, there's no point in putting every detail how it won't be done.) You'll only annoy your reader if you put that detail in. You'd only hint at detailed stage directions for particularly important aspects of the story.

There are quite a few books about screenwriting. It's well worth the cost of one to avoid time-eating miss-starts. No doubt, there are many Internet articles, too. When I was fooling around with the form, I found a web site that publishes all screenplays considered by Hollywood (whether produced or not) up to about the previous year. Quite a resource if you can find it...wish I could remember the name of the web site . This site has *a lot* of screenplays, though, in text or PDF form.



There are some special-purpose programs and add-ons for word processors for editing screenplays since the format is gnarly.


Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
Yeah...get one of the books, and also look at some of the authentic screenplays floating around on the web or in book form.

In particular, look for draft versions of something you liked...screenplays go through rewrite after rewrite...see where it changed and try to figure out why...

***** other oddity. Last I heard, the powers-that-be wanted screenplays typed out in twelve-point type...has to do with the abovementioned "timing" issues, I gathered.

It's an oddity, 'cause some of you may still remember some of the things I've said about Times New Roman and odd demands from editors about this case, it's one of the areas where it does matter...or, at least, it did the last I heard.

Posted by walexander (Member # 9151) on :
Script writing is different.

You need to study all the basics there very important to the formatting.

It helps if you have a good command of technical jargon or comedic skill.

There are community websites dedicated to scriptwriting. Just be careful because there are false ones that promise you the world.

Good luck,


[This message has been edited by walexander (edited November 17, 2010).]

Posted by rich (Member # 8140) on :
The first screenplay I wrote, I had CUT TO and other camera directions 'cause I read a lot of William Goldman books. Turns out they don't write 'em like that anymore (if they ever did; when your first produced screenplay stars Paul Newman, you can write it using ketchup and mustard, if you want).

Here's a few sites you can use:

ETA: And your idea has been done before. The main difference I can see with screenplays and novels is that the screenplay really IS the idea (almost like a short story in that regard) so you're going to find that your idea has been done at least 20 times. It's the execution that'll set you apart. Maybe.

[This message has been edited by rich (edited November 17, 2010).]

Posted by Smaug (Member # 2807) on :
Hey, thanks for the pointers. If I write it, it's going to be based upon my short story that I've written in verse. It's a cowboy poem that tells a story with some fantasy elements in it based around Christmas. I don't know. Maybe I'm fooling myself, but I think the thing has great potential as some kind of Christmas film if I can handle it the right way...and sell it.
Posted by axeminister (Member # 8991) on :
Nothing wrong with writing a script.
Besides, it's still counts as writing and will make you better overall. I found it helpful in my action scenes, and for word paring. (as does writing flash fiction)

I studied this art for years. Wrote a bunch of scripts, then switched to stories and novels. However, nothing wrong with doing it the other way round.

Scripts are very satisfying to complete. When you're done - you can say, and rightly so, that you have written a complete movie. If someone reads it, they have effectively seen your movie. (they just fill in the images on their own)

Yeah, definitely cool.


Posted by Robert Nowall (Member # 2764) on :
Ultimately, the real burden will be selling a's not like selling to the magazines, or book publishers...
Posted by rich (Member # 8140) on :
Yeah, selling a spec script is rare. It obviously does happen, but there are far fewer outlets/buyers for screenplays than there are for short stories or even novels.

The other thing is that with short stories and novels, one (eventually and hopefully) can build a fan base. The more you create, the more people that will read. With screenplays, you're not building anything other than a moment in time. Is it good enough to attract a star? Or a director? Or a producer with money? And though that screenplay may have its admirers, once its turned down because no star wants to be in it, and no director wants to work on it, and no producer thinks it'll make money...that's it. You write another one, and the only thing you're guaranteed is a read from those admirers.

I went to the Austin Film Festival recently, and there was a panelist who was making a pretty good living at punching up scripts, having people buy his work even though they weren't produced. He mentioned that his son's friends never really believed that his dad was a writer 'cause they never saw any of his work onscreen, or his name in the credits. If he was a writer, how come his work wasn't in bookstores? And if he wrote movies, how come they never saw his name in any of the movies?

Apologies up front as I think I may have given information you didn't necessarily want to have or hear. Anyway, good luck with it.

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