Sunday, April 8, 2012

Writing Scripts Vs. Novels

So, like I mentioned in my last entry, for the first time ever, I was going to participate in Script Frenzy (A Challenge to write a 100 Page Screen Play in the 30 days of April), and managed to get all 100 pages written by today, the 8th.

We all know how much I love stats

Now, I DID find it easier than NaNoWriMo (The challenge to write 50,000 words in a month), but keep in mind that I have off of work from April 1st - 10th, so having no work, or any other real obligations, writing for 4 - 5 hours a day was nothing to sneeze at.

Anyway, as I was writing this, I was thinking about the differences between writing a novel, and writing a screenplay. If you have written both, let me know what you think, and if you're thinking about writing one at some point here are some of my humble thoughts and opinions.

Pros of Writing a Novel:

- It's familiar. In school, when you wrote stories, you used the same format, but on a larger scale. You know how to use quotation marks, and when to start paragraphs, you also get to start and end chapters the way books do, and you know how to do that, because you have read a book. It is comforting and familiar

- It's descriptive. I love, LOVE describing things. I love using flowery language to describe something beautiful, and I love writing for pages on end about how someone feels about something else. In a script, you get to say "She has blond hair", which is something I could spend a paragraph writing about.

- It's something you can share. You can send your friends and family a finished novel, and it will essentially be complete. Reading a screenplay is fine, but it is not even close to the same thing as watching a movie.

- It's easier to 'get published'. Nowadays, anybody can get published (On things such as a Kindle, etc), and with being able to sell your novel for $0.99 a copy, if only 100 people 'buy' it, you've already made a good chunk of change. From there, you can certainly get your novel published by a publishing company if it gets enough publicity through a Kindle.

- It's good for your vocabulary. If you don't wanna say "Jane said, Jane said, Jane said" every other line for 200 pages, you're going to look into a thesaurus, and you're going to learn a lot of new words.

Pros of Writing a Screenplay

- It's just easier. No longer do you have to decide if someone tittered, chattered giggled or laughed, because you will write "JANE LAUGHS" and that's the end of that. How is it said? Doesn't matter. You write:

I don't like you.
 And that's the end of that. No modifiers of descriptions. Based on context, these things are implied. 

- It's shorter. The margins for dialogue are HUGE. I believe there is 3" of margin on both the right and left sides of dialogue, so writing through a page takes significantly less time than writing a page of a novel. Sometimes my brain works faster than I can type, but with a screenplay, it can definitely keep up.

- It's not descriptive. While I love writing out some flowery, or gorey, details, there's something raw and satisfying about writing "JOHN'S HEAD EXPLODES", and then being done with it, moving on to reactions and effects of John's Head explosion. The pacing moves quickly, and you can just go go go.

- A lesson in subtlely. In a script, you can't explain a characters thoughts, and even if you can, you certainly can't go on for pages and pages about his/her thoughts on life and 'everything that's been going on lately'. You have to learn to write out facial expressions, and subtle phrases, and certain keywords. For someone who is generally rather oblivious, this was a good exercise for not only my writing, but also my life.

Cons of Novel Writing:
Tendency to ramble. When you have pages to fill, there is a good chance you're going to write some nonsense, and you're going to get a little bored. When you're in the middle of a scene and just want to get out of it, it's really hard to write your way out of it, because as I said, you have to describe feeling and locations and people. In a script, if you want to write your way out of something, it's as easy as "AND THEN JOHN FALLS DOWN".

- It's descriptive. I don't know how much more I can express my love-hate relationship with vivid descriptions

- Grammar. I love grammar, I do. But sometimes when you're writing a paragraph about someone talking about what someone else said as a question to a cousin's sister's gets a little confusing. There is almost 0 grammar in a script, and I like being able to just push past these things

Cons of Script Writing:
- Pacing. One of the biggest pros I have for script writing is the ability to move along at lighting fast speed, but even still, things can move TOO quickly, and make for some awkward scenes if you read over them and see that they'd only be a minute and a half on the big screen.
- It's not descriptive. ....

- A lack of insight. As nice as it is to not delve deep into the mind of a character, sometimes it's kind of nice to write out: '"I never liked him, not after he shot my mother. Even if I don't tell people about it, it's on my mind everyday..." Jane thought', to just really drive a point home. Or to write out thoughts that give a third dimension to a character.

All in all, if I had to choose, I don't know which one I would pick. I've written three novels, and one screenplay, and I learned so much from myself from both, I think it depends on what you're writing. Some things can never be movies, and some things can never be books, I think it's up to you to decide which medium it would be better as.


  1. I first tried Script Frenzy this year too! It's a lot different from writing novels but I think you didn't consider a lot about scripts. I took drama in college and you can actually do a lot more with scripts than you think. You need to describe setting especially for a movie script where anything is possible. You can also say how someone speaks, you are the creator of this script after all and it should be done the way you see it. For me I add brackets with their tone after dialogue if I think it's important for what they're saying. Reading scripts there is a lot of dialogue and a lot of description. You can even do thoughts, either a character speaking to themselves or a voiceover going over their thoughts. I found Script Frenzy really went by fast for me too ^^

    1. Yeah, I certainly described a handful of things, but you can't describe, say, a sunset for a page and a half using metaphors and poetic verse, the most you can write is "Jane and Joe are looking at a beautiful, golden sunset", and that's it. It's where my love/hate comes in. It's so nice to just be done writing that, and to move onto what they are saying to each other, but part of me wants to express HOW beautiful the sunset is, and WHY it's important that it's so beautiful.

      I'm glad you tried Screnzy, too! Wish I had known your sn, we could have been writing buddies! I guess there's always next year ;)