If you’re doing the #WRITE2021 Challenge it’s time to check in – and for the month of November I am also inviting anyone who is participating in National Novel Writing Month – and looking for a little extra NaNoWriMo accountability – to come and join us, by letting us know how you’re getting on in the comments section below. If you haven’t done so already, you can grab a copy of my NaNoWriMo word count tracker here. This week we have a special guest post from Enterprising Writer Janet Howard all about her recent experience with the Scriptly Writing Challenge.

I began the year 2021 as an emerging writer with a need to write, but with no idea what type of writer I could be and so a journey of exploration began.

Having participated in and enjoyed The Literal Challenge 28 Plays Later and Like The Prose challenge to write 30 short stories in 30 days, I found myself tempted by the third and final challenge for this year which promised “half the length and double the fun”. Called Scriptly Writing the challenge was simply to write 14 scripts in 14 days. Having never written a script before I felt this challenge would provide some new learning and hopefully some fun with writing.

I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the daily email and wasn’t disappointed by the variety of themes ranging from writing a screenplay set in a kitchen; a film about Indie pop, a script with no end and my favourite, to create an advert in the style of a TikTok video. Having never looked at TikTok I took some time to research this challenge and I was amazed by the creativity and the utter madness of some of the postings on the site.  I enjoyed coming up with titles for my work, A Short Video For A Short Song For A Short Mind, Matrimonial Madness and Tiktok Rola Cola are my favourites.

In the first week I tried to convince myself I was having fun and that my writing was purposeful, but the inner child got the better of me and after a major internal tantrum I withdrew from the challenge as to my surprise I found I wasn’t enjoying it at all. This left my adult self questioning what it was about script writing that wasn’t working for me.

The first thing is there are too many rules. If there are rules I am the person who always looks for the gap. Scripts have to be written in font Courier 12, I hate the way Courier 12 looks. The margins and spaces have to be uniform, characters must be written in CAPITAL LETTERS and a myriad of other technical rules apply.  But there is a reason for this.  Some clever person worked out that by using a strict script format one page of script will create 1 minute of film, so break the rules and no one is going to look at your script.

The second is that script writing for screen has to be a strong story that is very visual and action focused. You cannot write about the emotional aspects of a character, you have to show not tell, but part of the joy of writing for me is being able to use words to deep dive into the backgrounds, thoughts, emotions and psychological aspects of a character to bring the character alive in the minds of the reader and script writing does not allow for this.

While there are similarities between story and script writing, there is always a beginning, middle and end, the classic three act structure; screen play requires even more structure as a narrative blue print for cinematic interpretation.

Of course there can be a cross-over between story writing and script writing. The author of Dances with Wolves, Michael Blake originally wrote the story as a screenplay in the early 1980s but no production studio would produce it. Blake re-wrote it as a novel, it soon became a bestseller, which led it to become attractive to film makers and the rest is Oscar winning history.

I am never sure if I am free-spirited or just unruly, but present me with structure and technical constraint and I fight it and if I can’t win I just switch off. For me the joy of story and novel writing is the freedom to write in my own way and I feel as a new writer being free of constraints is an important aspect of freeing me up to just write.

So thank you Literal Challenge for Scriptly Writing but for me script writing is a different beast and not one that I am happy to play with at the moment.

Have you ever written a script, or is it something that you’d like to try? You can find out more about Scriptly Writing in our interview with Literal Challenge founder, Sebastian, And if you want to try your hand at screenwriting, we recommend this great free online course with the University of East Anglia that we tried and tested last year. Picture credit: Ron Lach on Pexels

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