With a background in journalism I learned to write tight. This is a field that I believe every writer should spend time in. At least those that wants to make a living by pushing the pen. The skills learned I as a journalist adapted well to writing screenplays, as it requires me to condense and refine a verbose thought into exactly the correct term, or a single word.
With my columns, blog and novel writing I’m able to “ramble” a bit. Expounding on a single point and mulling it over, rather than simply cutting to the quick. It is through these other forms of writing that I’m at liberty to play around with the words, structure and rules. In writing a screenplay, I find that the key is to be exacting as possible, leaving the expansive descriptions to a chapter in my novels.
Back to the topic of journalism, it also brings an understanding of deadlines and adapting the writing practices to hit them. Even on the fly. I find that many screenplay writers often have what can only be described as a meltdown when they realize the deadline is around the corner. I do not. Not because I wouldn’t like to, but simply for the fact that I take that energy and plunge into the deep end and get it done. This attitude is created through training and not some grand design and the mind set of a Buddhist.
I love to procrastinate, don’t get me wrong. Rolling an idea around, studying it from all angles is truly an enjoyable writers privilege. Yet, if it is a paid gig, the job is to complete the task. I’m paid to push the pen and hit the deadline.
Yes, there are times that the deadline simply can’t be met. Often this is when others start contributing their input to the process. Too often this turns into a massive time suck. My only advice here is to be brutally honest with yourself and your client by state it will take longer to incorporate the extra ideas.
And that brings me to my next topic. The extra input, changes and feedback. Read carefully, as this is one of the most valuable pieces of advice that I can pass on to those that want to make a living by writing for the film industry.
BE COMMITTED TO THE PROJECT AND NOT THE WORDS!
Do not get caught up in the words. Be dedicated to the writing process, the ideas that others contribute and moving the project forward. When it comes to writing screenplays, moving the project forward should be your singular focus.
I have found that all too often writers get tied up in their emotional connection to a particular scene, or turn of phrase. By doing so they risk the project being shut down. Be committed and dedicated to the forward movement of a project and check your emotions for the words at the door. This work isn’t for those that can’t let others take control of a project.
As a screenwriter, you’re being hired to write the words they want. Yes, you get to do it in your own way to start, but the final product is their baby to do with as they see fit. Just feel lucky to be apart of any project and focus on helping it to get made.
As I bring this first part to a close, remember to keep pushing the pen. Writing as a profession is a combination of both natural ability and paracticed artform. The first is where the desire to tell a story comes from. The second is how to make that story readable. It is only with a continued effort to improve, as a writer, that the story you are trying to tell will find an audience!