Everyone is an expert. Really. The moment you announce you’re a writer, for example, you’ll be recommended several must read books, you will be introduced to many different writing blogs, and everyone will have an opinion on how best to write a screenplay, even those who have yet to write one. You’ll end up confused, with a lot of conflicting information to sieve through. When it all gets a bit too much you’ll just slip away and form your own opinions of what style suits you best.
Photo by Taro Russell
Like me, you might decide there isn’t a right way or a wrong way, just your way and my way. My way of course, being the very complicated, long-winded way of doing things.
I did it my way.
I listened, I read and then I ignored it all. Well, I didn’t purposely ignore it all, I just didn’t understand why I needed so much preparation, I just wanted to write. I did not need a logline, an outline, a treatment or any preparation. The story was in my head, so why write it twice? Armed with a pen and paper, I sat down and wrote my first short. I put it aside and life happened. Ten years later, I re-read it and then I tore it. It was that bad. The story was still in my head but what I read on paper made absolutely no sense. There were so many flashbacks, and the story was so non-linear, I simply could not understand any of it. Thinking back, I think I was trying to make it Pulp Fiction-esque. Big Mistake. The dialogue wasn’t bad though; I’ll give myself that.
A year after that revealing moment, and a few scripts later, it’s incredible to look back and see how much I’ve changed my way and my beliefs. It’s gone from an all over the place unstructured mess to a more formulaic process in which I question the plot and characters in depth before jumping into the writing process. Although I have to admit, this really is a very recent development.
To err is human.
Going into anything for the first time we’re bound to get some things wrong, and it’s in an attempt to help prevent other writer’s from constantly going through the same mistakes, falling into the same traps, that there are so many experts out there. They all mean well, but who likes to be told what to do and how to do it? We are stubborn creatures, and learn best when we stumble and have to pick ourselves back up. I am of course generalising, when I say we, I just mean me – although, if it sounds like you too, then I mean we.
I’m sure that in a few years time I’ll be preaching to first timers about the rules of scriptwriting, and most of them will nod their head and then go learn for themselves. I’ve still got much to learn and one day will realise that I follow all the basic rules that I’ve steered away from, not for arrogance but ignorance – a need to learn for myself, whilst hopefully still remaining true to my voice, which I will have found by then. Repeat 100 times.
Had I maybe spent a little more time paying attention to those willing to share, rather than rushing into it, I would have a stronger selection of scripts to showcase my writing. As it stands though, I might just about have a couple.
It is all without regret though, as I am now more equipped and experienced to truly understand why certain aspects of the process, such as the preparation are so important. I am now happy that all the literature is out there, easier than ever to access.
In the words of Dr Seuss “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”