Recently, I’ve been experimenting with some partnered writing. This goal of this partnership is to write a novella and turn it into a screenplay. As this will only be the second screenplay I’ve written, I’m guessing at some of the mile-markers that let me know if the project is meeting our goals or if we’ve wandered completely off-track. As a result, I’ve become slightly obsessed with the statistics of the work. I’m tracking how long chapters are, the character’s vital information (age, occupation, relationships, descriptions), how often each character appears in scenes and how long the screenplay is in comparison to the novella.
Some interesting statistics have emerged. From a forty-thousand-word manuscript it looks like we need to achieve a twenty-thousand-word screenplay. For those familiar with basic math that’s HALF! That has forced some necessary contractions in the story. Some characters have merged, some scenes got trimmed, and an entire sub-plot got deleted.
But as the process has progressed, keeping a sharp eye on the length has given me insight into where the story is running long and where it was going to need to be cut. This has been an interesting tactic for writing because knowing that you’re writing something that’s going to be cut later makes motivation a bit hard. However, it does free me to write more elaborately and descriptively then perhaps I might ordinarily for the novella since I know that scenery description is not generally included in a screenplay.
In all, writing for a specific goal has streamlined the process in many ways, but also created some interesting constraints. Hopefully, with information gleaned from this project my next attempts at screenplay writing will be easier still.
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Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous short stories. When she's not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and BookBub.