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The Surprising Effects of Writing a Screenplay

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just around the corner. Last year, the annual November event did not result in a novel for me, yet it taught me more about novel writing than I could have ever imagined. See, November is also home to those crazy-addictive, sappily-happy Hallmark Christmas movies. And much to my chagrin—I don’t do romance—an adorable, sweetly romantic screenplay popped into my head. NaNoWriMo quickly became NaScreeWriMo.

I was not expecting that. Sinai Unhinged, my upcoming thriller, is the polar opposite of a Holiday romantic comedy. And, I had never written a screenplay. What was I supposed to do with this lovely vision twirling around inside my head?

Fortunately, I owned two great books, Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder and The Screenwriter’s Bible, by David Trottier. I studied up and I’m pleased with the finished product. In the process, I learned two valuable lessons: though I used to poo-poo romance, it was FUN to write; and a screenplay would serve as a wonderful outline/rough draft for a novel. I may consider writing the next book in the Sinai series in just that way.

Historically, I’m a “seat of the pants,” writer. I have an idea, a vague plot, and a vision of where I want to go. I let the writing guide me the rest of the way to a finished product, but something similar to the screenplay format, used as the basis for flushing out a novel, would be so much more efficient.

In writing a screenplay, I couldn’t get bogged down with the urge to fill in a bunch of lovely description. There’s no room. I was forced to be bare bones, nuts and bolts—just get the story out. For a future work, the scene headings, action, and dialogue would be akin to a very rough novel draft, yet still result in a fully plotted out story (with a movie version ready to go). Later, my novel revisions would focus on adding in the details, the thoughts, the feelings, and other areas of in need of development beyond the confining screenplay page limit.

Maybe future NaNoAWriMos will be more productive for me, like with an actual novel draft. Unless Christmas movies dig in again . . .

Joanna Evans

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