Screenwriting : Deciding on the writing format for your idea by Chris Todd

Chris Todd

Deciding on the writing format for your idea

It came up a couple of times in CJ Walley's post about our top 5 screenwriting accomplishments: "deciding not to write novels/short stories." It surprised me that forgoing certain formats would be seen as positive step forward. Writers have tons of ideas and there are tons of ways to package those ideas (full length screenplays, shorts, TV pilots, novels, short stories, blog posts, etc). How do you go about choosing which is the best fit for your ideas?

Dan MaxXx

write books and plays. new writers have 0 leverage in show biz (american Industry). need to collaborate, kill your 'babies", evolve to a Mercenary-for-hire.

Dan Guardino

Personally I would have preferred to write novels but unfortunately I couldn't write one to save my life so I decided to write screenplays instead which seemed a lot easier for me. However it is a lot tougher to break in that business but I guess someone has to do it.

Jody Ellis

I've had my own freelance writing business for 12+ years, which I do enjoy and helps pay the bills. I've dabbled in short stories and novels but when I discovered screenwriting I really felt like it was my true calling.

Erik Grossman

I think it's not always obvious. I've been 80 pages into a feature and realize, "this story really needs to be a pilot." It's all about the story you want to tell, and the pace in which you want to tell it. It's why novels and their film adaptations are fundamentally different and have so many differences between them. How does the story you want to tell best turn out?

Chris Todd

Good points, everyone. I guess it's likely different for those writing as a hobby and those writing to make a living. I have the luxury of using some of my time to write a humor essay that will never make me any money, when it probably could be adapted into a sellable short or expanded into a screenplay instead.

Richard Gustason

I think, my opinions here, that it depends on the project. "What are wanting to do with the project?" is a question I like to ask myself all the time before I write. If you feel that the plot is good for a short, then write it as a short. If you feel like it's a feature, then write it as such. I see the points made about paying the bills and making the dollars but then again not all shorts will make money but some do and the same goes with full length features or TV pilots. So I say before you think about the money (which you still should think about), think what will best fit this project. Then...write it. My opinions here.

Laurie Ashbourne

Books and screenplays are very different skill sets regardless of length, however that can drilled down to series vs. features and Novels and say, comic books or short stories. First you have to be clear on what your skill set is, then you have to decide what type of story you are telling, for instance a Novel is more internally driven (depending on voice and tense chosen), where we have to get inside the main character's head to understand the story. So for instance a schizophrenic lead may be easier to write as prose. A script (of any length) is active and visual where it takes a special mastery of craft to convey in words what we will both see on screen and feel, based on dialouge and action. Some stories are more visual than others and they should be on screen. Lastly, some story worlds are so expansive that they cannot be boiled down to a feature length film, OR they have a recurring device that we come at via the perspective of many characters, these should be series. Skill set POV Story World

William Martell

"I go all over. I write screenplays, short stories, articles, novels, I even write non-fiction. I don't care. Don't make no difference to me. It does to some. Some won't even write a synopsis. Don't make no difference to me. I'm God's lonely writer."

Jeff Lyons

I'm sure lots of people will chime in on this and give good advice. I just think it's really important to understand that the world of professional writing has completely changed in the last 5 years, and the days of saying "I only do screenplays" or "I only write novels" are over. Writers have to be in multiple arenas, forms, platforms, and genres to make a real career as a writer. Sure, there are always the outliers, but the vast vast vast majority of us won't have our lottery ticket hit by lightening on our birthdays in a leap year. Sorry, but just won't happen. If you want to make a real career as a creative writer you have to keep learning and expanding your repertoire. That means traditional publishing, self-publishing, films/TV and web. If you don't really care about a long-term career and you're just looking to write some stuff and have fun and get it out there, etc... then go for it. One size will fit all and you'll be fine, I guess. But, not so much if you want to make a living as a creative writer. I'm just sayin'...

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