It’s done! I wrote a full first draft of my first feature-length screenplay in preparation for the ScreenCraft April summit in Chicago. It feels amazing to have done this. Now it goes away for a few weeks before editing begins.
Here are some thing I learned about screenwriting during this process:
1.) The months of research, reading, storyboarding, visualization, and treatment writing were incredibly helpful. More so than any other kind of writing, the planning and organization of a screenplay is critical. It makes the actual writing easier, clearer, cleaner, and faster.
2.) I wrote the first draft of my screenplay in two days, and not because the story poured out of me. It absolutely didn’t! It was the months of pre-work, that was actual work, that made all the difference.
3.) Dialogue is the main vehicle in live-action screenwriting. The look and feel of the live-action film is the director’s domain. The story and dialogue, not the visual rendering, is the domain of the writer, and the screenplay respects and reflects that.
4.) I watched Aaron Sorkin’s excellent Masterclass on screenwriting. He said that most of screenwriting is not writing at all, and that jumping in to writing too soon can complicate a screenplay in problematic ways. I had to fight the urge to jump into writing. I had to force myself to do all the upfront work before I put down a single word. I’m grateful for his advice, and though it was difficult to follow it was absolutely worth it. You can free write for a novel, short story, or journalism piece. Screenplays need a plan.
Have you written a screenplay? What did you learn in that writing process?
MasterClass recently had a Q&A on Instagram Live with Sara Blakely, Founder of SPANX. Sara offered up practical, immediately-actionable advice for anyone who is an entrepreneur, freelancer, or has goals they want to meet. I took notes and posted them over on Medium. If you like this post, please hop over to Medium, and give it some claps!
Thank you to Sara and to Masterclass for organizing this Q&A. It’s exactly the shot in the arm I needed today. Sign up for Masterclass at https://www.masterclass.com/ and follow Sara on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/sarablakely/
This year I’m working on better tracking the books I read. I created a year-long list on Goodreads and every time I hear of a book I want to read, I add it. This tracking is helping me to intentionally set aside more time for reading. If you’re interested in joining me, you can find my Goodreads profile here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17028034.Christa_Avampato
Do you intentionally put time into your calendar to read? Do you have any reading goals for 2020?
“I have a healthy relationship w/ the future. The future hasn’t been written yet…Remember we can do something. People need to show up. You feel terrible about climate change? Then do something about climate change.”
Have anxiety about the future? I’ve got something for you that will help. Listen to this Ologies Podcast episode about futurology with Rose Eveleth of the Flash Forward podcast. She is realistic and optimistic, and I love her message of empowerment and action. You will feel better after listening to this episode. Given the state of the world right now, we have to do everything we can to pick up ourselves and pick up others so we can all keep working together toward a brighter future.
Link to the podcast episode: https://www.alieward.com/ologies/futurology
Are you in the messy middle, at the gateway of contemplation (which is my tattoo!), in the space between “no more” and “not yet”? Then listen to my brilliant and inspiring friend and writing mentor, John Bucher, on the Story Gatherings podcast. Link to podcast episode here: http://storygathering.libsyn.com/a-conversation-with-john-bucher-on-liminal-space
I’ve been a huge fan of Walt Disney’s tenacity ever since I first learned his story. Of all his marvelous quotes about creativity and creative work, this one is my favorite. May you sleep to dream.
“And just like that, after a long wait, a day like any other, I decided to triumph, to look for the opportunities, not to wait. I decided to see every problem as the opportunity to find a solution. I decided to see every desert as the opportunity to find an oasis. I decided to see every night as a mystery to solve. I decided to see every day as a new opportunity to be happy. I stopped caring about who was the winner and who was the loser. Now I care only about knowing more than yesterday. I learned that the best triumph that I can have is to have the right of calling someone ‘my friend’. I discovered that love is a philosophy of life. That day I stopped being a reflection of the few triumphs in my past, and I started to be my own tenuous light of the present. That day I learned that dreams only exist to be made to come true. Since that day I don’t sleep to rest. Now, I dream just for dreams.”
As I’m working on my screenplay, I’m listening to the language of The West Wing and the Hamilton soundtrack. The rhythm and beat of the words, and the power of that language, are inspiring. Not a single word or line is wasted. They all matter. It’s writing we should all aspire to as writers and seek out as audience members.
What do you watch and listen to when you want to be inspired to write dialogue?
Yesterday was the first true workday back after the holidays so you know what means—many agents are open for queries again! I started sending queries for my second Emerson Page novel. Here are some tips for those new to queries:
– Follow every single guideline to the letter. Agents are flooded with queries so make yours stand out by following all their specifications. That might sound like a no-brainer but the number one complain I hear agents make is that people don’t follow their guidelines. Follow them, and you’re already ahead of many other submissions!
– Remember every query you send is one step closer to your dream agent. Querying can absolutely get discouraging. The process alone can be exhausting. And yet, unlike many fields, it’s the defined road to an agent which could lead to a possibility to get published. Do a little at a time. A few a day or a few a week. Whatever you can manage. It’s a long road so keep your spirits high and stay positive. We’ll get there.
Neil Gaiman often talks about the compost pile of writing, bits of information and small stories we collect even when we don’t know what we’ll do with them. I’ve got whole Trello boards, post-its, emails, file folders, and cut documents (documents where I place cuts I make from larger pieces of writing) filled with these.
These compost components hit me at the strangest times and in the strangest places. Sometimes, I dream about them and wake up in the middle of the night to scribble them down. This is the main reason that I have a notebook and pen on my nightstand.
Many times it takes years for these bits to become anything. Sometimes they end up strung together with other fragments. Many I’m still waiting to see if they become useful at all in any way. If everything I have in the compost pile now were to become something, I’d have enough material to last a lifetime, maybe two.
Do you have a compost pile of content? How do you sort and organize it? Have any of those fragments been turned into something larger you never imagined you’d write?
One of the most informative actions I’ve taken as a beginning screenwriter is to watch movies with their screenplays in my lap. I read a scene, watch that scene, and read it again to see how it translates from the page to the screen. Here’s what I’ve learned in this process:
If you’re writing a screenplay, reading screenplays and then watching their corresponding movies is the single greatest tool you can utilize. Are you writing a screenplay? Which screenplays do you recommend reading and watching?