Tag Archives: writing a screenplay

Can “Save The Cat” save my screenplay?

I've been saving this one for years, but it hasn't helped anything yet....

The first half of this year has been a bit odd. Not in a “Two-headed dog” kind of way, but because I’ve concentrated a lot of effort in writing and publicising this blog. It’s been fun, developing a network of fellow bloggers, meeting people on purpose by commenting on their blogs, and meeting people by accident through blog strings or comments. While I know my parents would think that’s all plenty odd, that wasn’t what I was thinking about. It’s odd because this blog is meant to be my shopfront, my public face, the place where I promote my plays. That’s what it’s all about, telling people I’m a playwright, that I write good plays that community theatre groups would enjoy performing. Plays that have won awards.

The odd bit is that, thanks to this tireless work on my blog, I haven’t actually written any new plays, as such. I’ve chipped in my required scenes for the latest TLC Pantomime, “Snow White and the Magnificent Seven”, but even there I was slower than usual.

Of course, it’s easy to blame the blog, but maybe it’s something more sinister. A lot of blogs about writing discuss writer’s block. It’s a bit like the Loch Ness Monster, I think. Some folks believe in it absolutely, can tell you the history of it, show you their photographs. Others deny it exists and won’t hear anything to the contrary.

A one-in-a-million shot, I know : who do you know that still wears a cagoul?

I keep telling Mrs Dim that I’m not bothered. That if something occurs to me and I want to write it, then I’ll write it. But time’s gone by and I’ve reviewed dozens of other people’s scripts for my publisher, run others through the Script Appraisal Service, and seen friends like Richard James produce two full length plays (good ones, curse him!) in the time I’ve written…er…well, a couple of cheques and a lot of shopping lists.

And there is something I want to write. Something I’ve been wanting to write for around five years now. But it’s not a play, or a pantomime, or a sketch. It’s a screenplay. And I really, really want to get it right.

More than any other type of writing, screenplays have rules. There’s the format, where you put the character names, what gets put in CAPS, the stupid typewriter font you HAVE to use or be cast into outer darkness. There’s the mysterious three act structure, the beats, the scenes, you mustn’t give camera directions, don’t use more than four lines of descriptions, more dialogue than direction, on and on and on and on.

I’ve read about five good books on screenplay writing. They all made sense, right up until the moment when I tried to use their advice to write the story I was thinking of. My story was already too complete to fit their model, and I was too set, too determined to allow any changes. That’s why, after five years, I only have two drafts, and the second one drifts off into drivel.

Blake Snyder is my last chance. It’s a lot to ask of someone who died two years ago, but his books live on, and they’re friendly and encouraging and THEY MAKE SENSE. I’m reading “Save the Cat!”, his first book, and I think the combination of good advice, friendly tone and five years of bending the story back and forth may finally allow me to rebuild it according to Blake’s model.

I really hope so. The ever-saintly Lucy V Hay was kind enough to report on the first ten pages of draft two and called it a “very original” idea. From someone who reads scripts for a living, that’s high praise. It’s a little late in the day to be making New Year’s Resolutions (and you know what I think of them anyway – see here) but I’d like to end this year with a shiny new draft of “Tribute”, written with the posthumous help of Blake Snyder.

Ask me how I got on in January, will you?

What project has taken you the longest? Do ideas age like fine wine, or do they go rotten like old running shoes left in the schoolbag over the summer? My e-book “Writing a play for community theatre” only took a year from beginning to end, even though you could probably read it in an afternoon. If you’d like to read it in an afternoon, why not download a copy from the TLC website?

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