So, fresh off my Live Script Edit at LondonSWF 2017, I’m going to be talking about WRITING CRAFT today. By ‘craft’ I mean the actual mechanics of writing – what’s physically there on the page. I always think of writing craft as something we BUILD, kind of like a wall or house – we lay the foundations first, then pile one brick on top of the other, until we get to the top and finish.
As writers, somewhat unsurprisingly, when it comes to craft we’re judged by what is on the page (or not, as the case may be). From the words we choose and the way we attempt to form the story, readers – like B2W – will form a notion of whether you are a ‘good’ writer or not.
(DO NOTE – some of these notions will be correct and/or fair; others will be incorrect and/or unfair. Subjectivity does happen; readers are not robots after all! And yes, it happens to all of us, even (especially?) pro writers).
Just 3 Things Separate Your Writing From Greatness
You probably know what they are already, BUT it hasn’t moved from your head to your heart to the page. These magic 3 things?? Check these out for size:
That’s right – structure, character, visuals.
If you thinking ‘Le Duh!’ – well, I don’t blame you. It IS obvious.
If you’re thinking ‘But where’s dialogue??’ – standby for a slap and this reminder.
Harsh But True
So yeah, it’s totally obvious that every great, well-written screenplay (or novel, now we mention it) should have an iron-clad structure; brilliant differentiated characters with clear motivations and role functions; and strong visuals that really paint a picture.
But most in the spec pile DON’T.
The reasons may be varied: structure may be skew-whiff; characters may be the same-old, same-old; there may be chains of dialogue and scene description that is underwritten, overwritten or just plain old BAD. Whatever. It all adds up to one thing:
PASS. No thanks. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
So Ask Yourself …
… How much do you know about:
- Visual writing?
Be honest with yourself now:
– How many screenplays and or movies or TV shows could you cite as being great examples of the above? Can you describe WHY, beyond just liking them (or not)?
– Have you received notes and feedback on your writing about the above, then gone on to research those craft elements yourself independently?
– How much have you read about these three elements of craft and writing? Do you have lots of notes about them you’ve made yourself … Or have you only ever read the one book? Or even just read ABOUT those books? How many seminars or workshops have you been to?
– Do you have the VOCABULARY as well as the understanding to talk confidently about craft – and WHY certain things work and others don’t?
– Can you offer more than just your opinion? Can you offer multiple ways of approaching characters, structure or visuals that have issues, linking them to things that HAVE worked in produced content?
Unless you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the above, with concrete examples, I would wager you need to learn more about structure, characters and visuals.
When writers say they are ‘always learning’, one thing they ALWAYS need to learn more about is craft … but many, shockingly, stay ‘still’ in their learning journey when it comes to this.
Those same writers may strive to learn more about submissions, careers strategies, marketing and what-have-you … But still operate on a NEWBIE LEVEL OF ACTUAL WRITING CRAFT! True story.
Whilst it’s true ‘practice makes perfect’, writers can vastly ACCELERATE their writing craft and stay up to date (and potentially advance their careers!) by actually taking the time to consciously learn more about what’s wrong with their OWN writing on the actual page.
So what NEEDS WORK in your writing? Structure … Characters … Visuals? All three?
By finding out yourself, you can take the reins for your own writing and not only improve your writing, but your CHANCES of getting your work picked up. Furrealz. Good luck!
More on this blog about CRAFT:
Take Your Writing To The NEXT LEVEL!
We all know format is the LEAST of our problems as screenwriters … but *how* do we improve our writing craft?? My course with LondonSWF, Advanced Fundamentals of Screenwriting at Ealing Studios, London (Oct 20th-21st, 2018). Over two days, we will put writing craft under the microscope & you will learn tricks to elevate your writing to the NEXT LEVEL. Don’t miss out!