What Novelists Can Learn From Screenwriters

Hello Jotters! We are less than two weeks away from Jot 3.

The Weaklings could not be more excited about the latest addition of Jot. Not only do we have an excellent line up of presenters, but are offering a free poetry workshop byMatthew Landrum, Poetry Editor of Structo Magazine (limited spaces available).

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Thomas McClurg. He’s a local indie author and is presenting on the topic of screenwriting.

1. I assume most of our attendees are book writers (fiction, nonfiction, memoir etc.) or poets. Tell me why you think Jot attendees should consider taking a stab at screen writing.

Short answer: Because I think it’s a fascinating discipline. I find the act of creating scenes and characters with words and imagining that they are being translated into a film by actors and directors to be a treat for the imagination. Doubly so for me because I have a great love of movies.

On a more practical side, I think the act of studying any discipline related to writing, be it fiction, non fiction, stageplays, screenplays, etc… is beneficial. They all have things that can help inform us on the discipline we love most, whatever that might be. You never know what might inspire you.

2. For novelists, there are staple books that all writers should read (Elements of Style, Bird by Bird, etc.). What books should screenwriters be reading?

The “Hollywood Standard” would be the only absolute must I can think of. Formatting is huge for screenplays. The book goes through in detail what the formatting requirements are for screenwriting.

“Save the Cat” is a highly regarded book on the topic. I personally enjoyed reading one by the name of “Your Screenplay Sucks” and the less provocative sounding “The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay”

3. What are some of the amateur mistakes a beginning screenwriter can make?

Being to wordy and writing like a novel. Novelistic writing will bloat your screenplay. Whittling things down to the barest and brightest of words is a big challenge. And then not understanding formatting. Formatting errors are the surest way to draw attention to the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing.

4. If a Jot attendee wanted to submit a screenplay, where do you think they should start?

It’s a very closed industry. Networking is huge, huge, huge. I would suggest taking courses somewhere. Chances are the instructors were in the business at one point (or still are) and can point you in the right direction. Outside of that realm, there are tons of competitions and festivals where people in the industry are looking for quality work. For example, a competition I entered had as the top prize the screenplay being optioned to agents and producers (along with $10,000.00)

And as extreme as it sounds, moving to LA. is another way. It’s cliche to say that someone packed their bags and moved to California to become a movie star, but that happens, for all parts of the industry, screenwriters included, because that’s where the industry is, that’s where the movers and shakers are.

5. What movies should I watch to see good examples of excellent screenwriting?

Bad movies don’t get made from good screenplays and good movies don’t get made from bad screenplays. Simple as that. There’s a lot more to it, quality actors and directors play enormous roles, but the screenplay still has to be solid.

Take any critically acclaimed film and there’s a good chance the screenplay is worth reading. Fun thing about screenwriting is you can read bunches of scripts online for free. www.simplyscripts.com http://www.script-o-rama.com are two huge databases of screenplays. They are generally quick reads and there’s no better way to learn then to just read the scripts to your favorite movies.

Please post any questions for Thomas below, or seek him out at the conference.

See you Friday March 14th!

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3 thoughts on “What Novelists Can Learn From Screenwriters

  1. Pingback: Part-Time Novel | Jot Presenter Interview – What Novelists Can Learn From Screenwriters

  2. Pingback: The Jot Conference Happens Tomorrow Night | Josh Mosey | Writer

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