Screenwriting: How Hard Can it be?

Celtx40I’m going to a meeting of local screenwriters and wannabe screenwriters (like me) tonight, to see if 1. I can learn anything, 2. If I can survive without being totally intimidated, and 3. If I might meet some interesting people.

My goal is not to write the next Hollywood blockbuster. Judging from the quality of most, I would be ashamed to do that. But I am concerned that fewer and fewer people read novels anymore, and into that diminishing crowd, fewer books are being sold.

The death of the novel has been pronounced many times, but always wrongly, and for good reason. It’s a vibrant, expressive art form that serves a real human need. Novels will live on. However, that doesn’t mean writing and selling novels will continue to be a viable economic enterprise.

Some people enjoy watercolor painting and some like singing 19th century music, and those art forms aren’t going to die out either, because they serve a need. But how large an audience can you hope to reach with those forms? The world is changing and the written word is not the great form of entertainment it once was.

But people do watch movies – any kind of video. People will watch cute cat videos until you’d think their heads would explode. But they don’t. There seems to be no limit to public interest in video story-telling.  If I want to be a storyteller who has an audience, I should be looking to the screen – some screen, any screen.  Thus my interest in tonight’s meeting.

I took a class years ago on how to format a script and how to feel some of the beats. I wrote two 10-minute plays, which were “performed” (read aloud) in class, one on death, one on sex. But compared to other students’ submissions, mine were obviously one-dimensional. So I learned I was no good at it and never tried again.

But I still have the interest.  Maybe I can learn.

My current novel is halfway through the third chapter. I have 6500 actual words, with which I am unnaturally and unjustifiably pleased.  And I was thinking, how hard would it be to write a screenplay, more or less in parallel with the novel? Is that impossible?

Usually, one novelizes a screenplay or screen-writes a novel. But if you’re writing from an outline, why couldn’t you draft a series of small screenplays, based on groups of chapters and the major beats of the novel, as it progressed?

I think it wouldn’t work. But, I think trying it would be a great way for me to learn screenwriting, and I think it might improve the quality of dialog in my novel. I’m going to assess that opportunity.

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