And it’s a……..screenplay!!!

Many writers I’ve talked to have likened the completion of a project to giving birth.  I’ve always thought that was strange, mostly because I could not possibly understand what it feels like to give birth, not to mention the nine months of upheaval that comes with it.  All I know is that tonight, I completed my fifth MAJOR writing project.  Sure there have been hundreds, maybe millions of little projects in between, but this is the fifth major one, and it’s a very personal achievement for me.

Three months ago I had an idea.  I wanted to write a screenplay.  I’ve always wanted to write a screenplay, always thought I would be good writing movies.  At first, it seemed as though it would be simple to do.  I mean, I wrote two major detective novels.  Each one ran about 500 pages, hundreds of thousands of words between them.  A screenplay is simply dialogue, that would be so easy.  All I ever do is talk.  I quickly learned that screenplays were so much more, and I had underestimated those who write them.

It took me until the beginning of this year to get up the courage to start again.  I studied every major work that was on bookshelves.  I memorized the words of Syd Field, I integrated the strategies of the late, great Blake Snyder.  I read and re-read every book I could get my hands on.  By January, I was ready.  I sat down at my laptop and began to type.  Every time it came out wrong.  I wasn’t doing something right.  Finally, after reading my tenth screenplay while watching the movie, I realized what it was.  I was not seeing it through the eyes of the camera.

When I write a book, I see the scenes play out, but writing a screenplay is very different.  It’s not just seeing the scene play out in your mind, it is recording the details of every movement, every facial expression.  I had to leave the character’s thoughts behind and focus on the intricacies of what they DID.  What’s more, I had to see it through the camera.  I had to see what the camera would see.  I had to write what the audience would see.

Suddenly, my little screenplay became so much more.  Thinking like the camera became like second nature to me.  I quickly learned what was possible and what was not possible.  I had to think of angles, images, lines, where characters were standing, what the audience was seeing and if it made sense in the image and story.  In spite of all of this, the story grew.  The basic structure of the story which I had worked and re-worked to fit outline of a beat sheet began to take new life as it grew off of the outline and became an actual story.  I could see each scene in my head, and soon I not only had the beginning, I had the middle and I could see the end.

In the middle of writing anything, there is real life.  There is the everyday that one must contend with in order to keep writing.  Work, school, being a husband, being a father, trying to succeed at all of them.  All of these things are so much more important than a simple writing project that may or may not (odds are against you) get noticed by someone and become a feature film.  There were the mood swings that accompany being called upon (Daddy, Daddy, Daddy) by your daughter who just wants you to listen to her play the guitar but you are “in the zone”. There is the going over storylines, ad nauseum, with your wife until she gets a glazed look in her eyes.  I don’t even think my wife knows what my screenplay is about!!

At the end, there is the deadline, whether self imposed or set upon you by an agent or studio (you lucky devil).  Mine was self imposed.  I knew if I didn’t set a final date, the screenplay would never come.  It would just continue growing in the womb of my mind until my brain exploded into a million pieces.  I sat down, I took 24 hours, and I pushed it out.  I typed, typed, typed, got tired, tried to go to sleep, couldn’t, typed, typed, typed and then finally, there were only 5 scenes left in the 3rd act.  Amazingly, everything was fitting neatly into the 40 scene, 90-110 paged requirements.  This couldn’t be right, but no, yep, it is.  This is happening.  We are almost there.

Finally, give it one last, three hour push.  On the second to last scene, I get teary because I am writing what I’ve heard in my head all along.  The culmination of all the sleepless nights, waking up at 3am just to jot down an idea, trying to convince your wife this it time well spent, telling your daughter to give you 5 more minutes and you’ll come up and listen to her song; it was all here on paper.  It is all as it is supposed to be, all as you were convinced it would be.  Now it’s there, you hit SAVE.  It’s done.

I’m left feeling a little empty right now.  I finished the screenplay a little over two hours ago, and I sit here writing to you because I feel like I would be swallowed up by the emptiness of no current project if I were not to sit and not type something.  There is so much more to do now.  Edit, re-work, submit to WGA and get copywrite protection, submit to agents, producers, anyone who will listen.  I know it is not over, I know that this is just the beginning.  I still have to nurture it and watch it grow into what it will become.  I have to guide it and set it on the path and hope that it will make the right decisions and end up as a happy little feature film.

I realize now that a writing project is like being pregnant, and finishing it is like giving birth.  You work so hard to make something perfect and not make any mistakes that will affect its development.  You go through the emotional pain of finishing and packaging a project you have nurtured for months, or sometimes years (props to James Cameron and his belief in Avatar), and then you are left with this screenplay that can be anything you want it to be, and you “parent” it along the way to becoming whatever it will become.

So tonight, I am the proud papa of a….screenplay!!

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About timothylassiter
I am a mystery/detective novel writer who has published two novels and I'm currently working on the third novel.

7 Responses to And it’s a……..screenplay!!!

  1. Alison Marie says:

    I can assure you that your wife knows exactly what your screenplay is about. Oh, and she loves you, too xx.

  2. She knows because all I’ve been talking about for the last for the last month is the screenplay. I’m surprised she hasn’t killed me in my sleep!! She is the best.

  3. Jackson says:

    Incredible post. I’ve never written anything myself, even though I know I have a very active imagination. I can’t understand how you can take a concept and see it through to a finished movie.

    Do you watch a lot of movies?

  4. Sunny Deuber says:

    Having been involved in theater much of my life, I’ve always played the movies in my head. That became absolutely necessary when I started directing. I had a whole stage to work with, so camera angles/shots were less important, but you still have to understand where the focus is.

    My current book should be a perfect candidate for a film (IMHO), but my secret wish is that somebody will buy the film rights and save me the trouble of learning how to turn it into a script myself! I’d rather consult. I’ll see how I feel about it when the novel is done.

    Congrats on getting your book and script done.

    • Thanks so much for your comments. I am very happy to have my first screenplay done and to be working on the second. Writing is so much a passion for me, that I often take the flow of ideas and creativity for granted. I felt the same way you did about writing a screenplay, as I feel that my second book, The Devil You Know, is very commercial and would do well as a movie. However, when I sat down to work on turning it into a screenplay, I felt as though I was destroying my baby. That was when I thought the best way to learn more about writing a screenplay was to write a completely original concept for myself. I fell in love with the process, as I seem to see results so much quicker than with writing a novel, and actually put the detective novels on the back burner.

      However, people have been asking when the third book is coming out and I have started to realize that the fan base for my Nicholas Grenier detective novels is something I underestimated. I have decided to complete my second screenplay, start prepping to finish my third novel and complete the third screenplay while I’m in the staging process for the book, then finish the book and submit it to a publisher. Hopefully, I will have the third novel done by the end of the year!! I’ll keep you posted.

  5. Janet says:

    Great post, you make me want to become a writer myself. Which do you enjoy more, screenwriting or writing novels?

    • Hey, thanks. You ask a really great question here, and it is one that I don’t really think I’ve put much thought into. I think, ultimately, as long as I am writing and creating in my mind, I am most happy. I could be writing a novel or a screenplay, it doesn’t matter (just not poetry, writing poetry makes me stressed!!). I’ve really come to enjoy writing screenplays, much more than I ever thought I would. However, in the end I am a big story man, and I know that I can’t stay away from writing books for too long!

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