Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Scene 46: Three Scriptwriting Problems and How to Tackle Them

I am going to be honest. I had difficulty sitting down to write this post this week, hence why this post is late again. Last week I really had no excuse, I had plenty to write about. This week I just had no idea what to write about, I couldn't settle on a subject. 

Well now I have one, inspired in fact by the fact I didn't know what to write - today I am going to look at how to tackle the different problems involved in sitting down and writing a script. By this I mean, problems the writer has writing, rather problems with the script itself, like structure, dialogue, spelling and grammar. 

1] Starting It

The first problem you might encounter is actually sitting down and starting to write the script. 

One of the reasons for this might be lack of confidence, as mentioned in the Raindance Writers' Lab book by Elliot Grove - who describes lack of confidence as when you may be filled with inspired to write, but can't when faced with a blank page. 

His suggestion is not to give into this feelings, as it'll just stop you from writing and points out that: 

"...no one said that your end result was going to be any good - so take away that pressure right now. Forget the pressure of winning an Oscar. Writing this script will be challenging and exciting. Enjoy!" 

I would further suggest that if the lack of confidence comes from the idea then going back and developing the idea further until you're happier with it, might be a good idea. You can do this by testing it out on a few friends, or writing it up as a premise or a treatment.

If you lack confidence in your abilities as scriptwriter, well, ability is going to vary from person to person - we can't all be Oscar winners - but you can improve and hone your skills by reading up on the craft. There are plenty of websites offering advice on scriptwriting - the BBC Writersroom has a guide to scriptwriting essentials - and lots of books too. I have also been told that reading lots of scripts can help, and to write regularly - as after all practise makes perfect. 

2] Finishing It

A second common problem is finishing a script once you've started it. Writing requires quite a lot of motivation and discipline, and if you're a scriptwriter starting out, all that has to come from you - there will be no one giving you deadlines or making sure you keep on track. 

This where another of Elliot Grove's reasons you won't wrote you screenplay comes in - procrastination. Procrastinating over the script is generally due to either worries about the script, hitting an obstacle and not knowing how to resolve it, or because you want to avoid the hard work of finishing it. 

Lots of writers seem to have encountered the procrastination problem. In Russell T Davies' book The Writer's Tale - which I recommend for want-to-be television writers -  he mentions spending the day watching television instead of writing the latest Doctor Who script. Whilst Elliot Groves gives himself as an example, saying how he realised that whilst 'writing' a book he had actually ended up cleaning his whole apartment instead. 

One of the best ways to tackle procrastination is discipline and to make sure you write a little everyday. I've already mentioned the three pages a day idea in my Five Scriptwriting Tips post, which can be useful for getting a script done within a set time. 

Setting goals and planning to give yourself a reward every time you reach them may also help keep you writing. 

3] Writer's Block

Writer's block is defined as the inability to write, and in the case of scriptwriters, it's normally that moment when suddenly you don't know what's going to happen next, or how to write the next scene. 

The best I know to overcome this type of sticking point, is to move on to different part of the script, a part where you know what's happening or you're more excited to write, and do that before returning and linking it with the missing scene later. I actually did this with a 45 page script I was writing once. I kept getting stuck on the opening scene, to the point that I wasn't actually moving along with the script. I knew how it ended, and the middle bit, so in the end I started in the middle and wrote to the end, before skipping back to fill in the beginning - and it worked! 

That is if you believe in writer's block anyway - most of the writers in this video about Writer's Block from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website, don't seem to think so. 

Also check out 17 Writing Tricks to Help Get You Through Your Screenplay, which has some good advice on how to keep going with a script when you get stuck. 

Please tell me if any of this advice was helpful in the comments box below, thanks! 

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