Here a Script, There a Script

Continuing with the theme of scriptwriting, set by a previous post, let’s touch upon a few “must know” / “must do” notes.  The dry yawny stuff.  But totally relevant and required.

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Here are some quick [painless] facts:

Fact:  Scripts/screenplays are typed on 8 ½” X 11” white paper.  Who knew it’s supposed to be 3-holed (obviously not me, LOL).  As I’m assuming you’re simplifying your life by using software like Final Draft, I’ll refrain from margin dimensions and page numbering (zzzzzzz).

Fact:  Courier 12 is the font of choice in the great U.S. of A.  Why?  Interesting enough, it’s all about timing. One script page with this font = 1 minute of on-screen time.

Fact:  The average feature film script is between 95 and 125 pages long, (with an average of 114).  Dramas are generally longer than comedies.

Fact:  Scripts are written in three acts.  (If you’re really curious, go on-line to check the actual number of pages per act in relation to a given genre.)  The first introduces characters and situation(s) and sets up the plot.  The second provides challenges and obstacles, and character development.  The third presents resolution.

Fact:  Action is written in present tense, active voice.  (Tom watches furtively from behind a curtain as Cecilia takes aim.)

This circles back to editing (something I thoroughly enjoy, though there can be some agonizing this-really-needs-to-go moments).  Check for dull dialog, nonsensical actions or reactions, flat characters.  Watch the number of scenes—is each one moving the story/plot forward?  If not, delete it.  You want a clean, crisp script . . . just as you want clean, crisp writing (be it a novel, article, or post).

All the dos and don’ts truly comprise a [big, fat] book.  But if you use scriptwriting software, you’re halfway on your exciting quest.  The rest comes from doing due diligence and practice.  Get feedback, too; don’t be scared to show your work to friends and colleagues.

Happy scriptwriting.

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Clarity & Verbosity – Friend & Foe

The former’s what you want to achieve and the latter’s what you want to crush—through editing.  Clarity is our friend; we like simplicity and clearness.  Verbosity is our foe; no one cares for longwindedness or wordiness (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

The previous post touched upon word usage, so let’s stay on point (to a point).

Editing is a great way to develop as a writer; it sharpens talent.  No matter what you’re writing books, yes, you’ll have to do a few edits.  Or not.  It’s entirely up to you.  An aside: I know someone who refuses to do even one edit.  Sadly, it shows.  “X” wonders why he’s never been able to attract an agent or traditional publisher, given X totally believes he’s an awesome writer.  (Kudos to confidence: reproach to arrogance.)

You’re a committed writer; as such, you’ll edit.  So write, write, write.  Put the finished product away for a while.  A few days at the very least.  Return to it with fresh eyes.  Then edit, edit, edit.

The process truly isn’t as daunting as you may imagine.  Sure, there might be some initial trepidation.  You may even think (with tremulous breath) what if:

  • my writing sucks
  • I can’t do a proper edit
  • I get overwhelmed, and/or
  • find 100 things wrong?

You know what?  You’ll do fine.  Just take your time; rushing is never good unless your aim is to be a contest winner.  If it’s a novel, do it in stages (not all at once).  Cut out unnecessary narrative and superfluous words.  Remove useless [“no value add”] information and passages.

But editing isn’t all about cutting, either.  It’s about adding—providing supplementary descriptions and depictions, or enhancing plot and augmenting information.  Think of yourself as an artist painting a picture (also known as masterpiece).  Which brings us back to . . . yup, clarity.

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Read your work like its creator, not a reader wanting to be entertained or enlightened.  Focus that critical eye—analytically and decisively.

Remember: you’re merely improving what you’ve done, which is already pretty darn good!

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What’s in a Word?

A lot.  Which takes us into a new post about editing, the first of several.

Too many words and you may lose your reader/viewer.  Too few words and writing may seem “static” (dull, stagnant, boring).  How you present ideas through written communication will be based on what you’re offering (fiction or nonfiction) and your audience (who you’re writing for).

Let’s begin with word usage.  Every word has its own nuance and merit.  Here’s a simple example:

  • Bradley said he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley divulged he’d start work on the project next week.
  • Bradley declared he’d start work on the project next week.

The bolded words relate to a form of verbal communication, yet each offers a different spin.  The first one tells us Bradley spoke; the tone isn’t conveyed so maybe he’s sad, angry, or bored out of his mind.  (If we add an adverb—dully, excitedly, sleepily—we have a better idea of what good ol’ Bradley is thinking or feeling.)  The second one suggests something secretive had been going on and our buddy has finally revealed this.  In the third example, Bradley Boy is stating something emphatically—i.e. making an official announcement.

Maybe you’re just starting out as a writer/blogger and you’re still getting a feel for your “voice”.  That’s fine.  It takes time to hone skills, just as it takes time to refine writing.

I love a good thesaurus, but years as a writer and editor have taught me to use it judiciously.  Feel free to utilize one and give thought to the following: 

Tip #1: Don’t throw in synonyms willy-nilly just to “jazz up” your post or writing (you may inadvertently “jam up”).   Tip #2:  Make certain that the synonym is appropriate; check the definition, even if the word is familiar.  Tip #3:  Ensure the synonym is recognizable and applicable to your audience.

Use the right words to correctly convey the message.  Write and edit (polish) accordingly.  Sure, it takes extra time: consider it an investment.  Clear and concise writing sells [much] better than that which is garbled and long-winded.  Trust me on this one—been there, done that (many a time).  Lesson [happily] learned.

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