I mentioned my intention to write a screenplay on a messageboard website, and someone there pointed me to somewhere online that reviews them, with the intent to learn how to improve technique and storytelling, rather than just to be criticised.
When I visited there, they also suggested various different pieces of software to help with accurate formatting. This included a new program that was open source, and therefore free, so I thought "that's just within my budget!" and downloaded a copy.
It's called CeltX, and is an excellent way to get things looking professional, without having to labour over the small details. Basically you just keep writing, and it does the rest for you with barely any need for you to look up from your keyboard.
It also has scheduling tools, space for meta information like notes and tags, output to PDF, and loads more features than I could possibly want. Outstanding.
Having completed my second draft of Pegasus Rampant to my own satisfaction, I uploaded it to the reviews website. In order to get a response I need to review other scripts also, as that's a way to engender a positive and helpful community. It also meant I could learn from experienced writers how to do it properly.
Though it also showed what not to do, because a couple of the scripts I've reviewed so far are not especially well written. I personally thought my own script was much better than those, though admittedly not as good as the others I've read so far.
But then, probably most writers think that about their own work. Now that I have had some encouraging reviews of my script, I can also see what their suggestions and hints and guidance has shown me - that my first attempt really was full of first-time amateur's mistakes.
Having said that, they mostly seem to like the story, and enjoy the characters, but I did write them sometimes too inconsistently, and there are a few loose ends that ought to be tightened up or rewritten. It just needs more impact. I think it is a very even script, but that means dull and monotonous. It needs higher peaks, lower troughs, and more of them. I'm cool with that. I can see that most of what they said is spot on, and definitely needs addressing.
The key technical mistake I made is that there's a difference between a shooting script and a speculative script. A shooting script is for the director, cast, and crew to read, so it has camera information, shot angles, scene numbers, sound effects, music cues, etc. But it's not my job to put those in when there's no director to read it yet - my job is to write a script that entices and interests people, so that they read it to the end, and are desperate to sign me up as their screenwriter. Therefore a spec script must have no camera angle information, and instead concentrate entirely on the story, the characters, the action; basically the imagery and the emotional beats. My problem was I was mixing the two kinds of script up, which is a classic beginner's mistake.
One of the reviewers said "I note it is an early draft. You will find by about draft six that significant changes will have been made!" Draft six! Crikey!
But she is most likely right. In my next draft I probably will change a few plot points, but in doing so I will have to wrangle them into line with my main story, which is a thread I hope I won't have to change too much. But even if I do, and reading their ideas I think it's inevitable, then it will turn into something quite different. I'm actually quite excited about that, though, as it means I get to create some new stuff. I hope it won't collapse into a struggle for me to deal with, and it will flow as easily as it did originally.
One thing that is a little bit hard to explain to them, though, is that as I was inspired to write this by watching a low budget TV movie from the Sci-Fi Channel that I thought I could do a better job with, I'm intentionally not aiming very high. It's not meant to be an epic fantasy like Willow or NeverEnding Story, it's really meant to be filler for a Sunday evening's TV viewing. I'd be happy if it went straight to DVD and was only available in the bargain bin.
Not that I don't have some amount of pride in the effort, because I most definitely do. It contains characters and situations that I love, and I put a lot of effort in making them feel like the kind of things that I enjoy seeing, in the hope that people like me would have a good time watching it.
But I also know that it is no literary masterpiece or visual spectacle. It's just a bit of a laugh.
I will work on draft 3 over the next few weeks, and see if I can address all the criticisms so that I have a better spec script, and a better film, at the end of it.
4 days ago