Posts Tagged ‘Screenwriting’

on March 9, 2015 in Misc 6 Comments »

First off: The weather is sunny!  I’m getting out and about!  Still too busy to do anything exciting, but I’m getting in better shape (as in Layla fit) largely because my old left hip/leg muscle injuries FINALLY seem to be on the mend.  Being my own physical therapist and strengthening and diligently stretching certain muscles have made a big difference.

And now for an update on my screenplay.


I haven’t written many more pages, but I’ve turned out gobs of notes.  More challenging is how my head is overflowing with scenes, dialogue, and characters.  Sure, it’s fun having a movie play out in my head.  But it’s also a little freaky keeping so much of a story in my head BEFORE writing it down.

See, what I’m used to is letting a story flow out novel-style.  That can mean lots of exposition and description I’ll edit down later.  There’s room to maneuver.

But screenplays?  They’re a whole different animal.  They must be so lean that not one unnecessary word clutters any of the 105 to 120 pages.  You can use only a few words to evoke a world of emotions, actions and thoughts.  In the best screenplays, there isn’t even a single excess line of dialogue.  Every detail is significant, tells us something, has weight and heft.

Granted, years ago I wrote three screenplays and one TV script.  But I really didn’t know what I was doing (except for the TV Moonlighting script, which is pretty good).  This time around I’ve studied the art.  I’m carefully crafting each scene before moving on to the next one.

So really, even if my screenplay gets nowhere production-wise (gee, what are the odds?), I’ve gotta say that writing it seems to be improving my storytelling ability.

BTW, one of the best screenplays ever written is The Apartment by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond.  You can find it online at along with other screenplays. As experts  point out:  sure, it’s a classic film, but the script itself also READS beautifully.

Anyway, that’s it for this week.  Have you ever written a screenplay or short script?  Ever been tempted to?

broken mirror

You know what’s kinda incredible?  I might have a better chance at selling a screenplay than I do a novel.

As y’all know, I’ve recently become very discouraged about simply getting an agent.  What doesn’t help us novelists is that far more people than ever are writing books, so agents and publishers are overwhelmed with submissions.

old movie set

Yet the possibility of selling a screenplay is supposed to be far tougher, especially for feature films—the odds are about 50,000 to one. It can even be extremely tough selling a made-for-TV screenplay for, say, the WE or SciFi channels (home of such film classics as Sharknado and Big Ass Spider).

So it’s really kinda wild when I found out that the odds of selling a screenplay are now tilted ever so slightly in my favor.  Say, only 10,000 to one.  You know why?

Because I know someone who knows a couple people in “the business” and he said he’d be happy to pass on my screenplay to them.


Okay, sure, I still have to write the freaking thing.  I had only completed the first 15 minutes when I set it aside because I was too busy, too discouraged, and too much of a realist to think there was a chance in hell of selling it.  But the facts are these:

  1. If I finish my screenplay and it’s very good, someone who matters might read it.

  2. Since the story is set in Ireland, I can submit it to the Irish Film Commission and they might send it on to producers.

  3. I just plain love the story and want to write it.

irish sheep

So there you have it: a little bit of encouragement!  It’s kinda nice to head into the holidays with a faint glimmer of hope.

May all of you have a fantastic and happy Thanksgiving.  Please let me know how your own writing plans are for the upcoming holidays—I wish you the greatest of success.

screenplay page

A few weeks ago I wrote here that I had an idea for a screenplay.

Of course I also wrote a long time back that I was planning to give up writing.  I just can’t be trusted, can I?

But here’s the thing:  while I feel burnt out about novel writing (unless I get a massive advance and a fantastic publisher, and other delusions), I’m weirdly excited about writing a screenplay.

Maybe it’s because the story is developing visually in my mind, and also because a screenplay is shorter than a novel (about 120 pages with lots of white space) and has a radically different format.

By the way, did you know you can download some famous screenplays for free?  Turns out they’re all over the internet.  So far I’ve checked out the first 10-20 pages of several superb scripts, including Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, Peter Benchley’s adaptation of his own novel, Jaws, and my fave rave movie of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I also ordered cheap out-of-print paperbacks of two famous screenplays, Chinatown and The Exorcist.

That’s right.  The Exorcist.  Did you know it won the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation in 1973?

The exor

As critics point out, The Exorcist, far from being just some horror flick, was in fact a brilliant study of evil and perhaps should be ranked on the same level as other intelligent classic 1970’s movies—a decade that might be the best one for movies ever.

Then there’s The Exorcist‘s pacing, which is pretty much perfect.  I realized this when I recently watched the movie on cable after not having seen it in years.  I was really struck by the pacing of the story and the way it quietly and seamlessly unfolded in scene after scene and moved naturally from one character to another, until suddenly the confrontation between the priests and the possessed girl has begun and you find yourself white-knuckled with terror and OMG what’s happening and this is horrible and then… the terror is over… and the movie quietly, ominously ends…


This is the kind of suspenseful storytelling you would find in the best Hitchcock movie.  Except that Hitchcock, while giving me a thrill, never scarred the holy crap out of me.

The more I think about it and the more I read screenplay pages, the more I realize how much movies and TV have influenced my novel writing.  But that only makes sense, doesn’t it?  I mean, we grew up with movies and TV shows (scripted ones, not crappy “reality shows”), which are all about storytelling.  The best screenwriters all say the same thing:  that the most important elements in what they write are the story and the characters.  NOT special effects.  NOT gimmicks and marketing.

I bet a lot of you knew well before I did about how the screen has influenced your books, and about how they’ve inspired you as writers.  Any movies or shows really stand out for you?  I bet you could name a bunch of them.   Have a great week.