// March 15th, 2016 // On Writing

stop writingI came across a list of things a writer shouldn’t do. They were candid, yet useful, tips for writers.  Some of which I was like – whatever – some of them I was like EXACTLY!

Below are 7 of  tips of my own – with a link to the 50 I read online.

 

Tips for Writers

 

 

7 Things a Screen Writer shouldn’t do!

1. Don’t write like you know something when you really don’t. It just becomes shallow – and boring.
2. Don’t use words in description that I have to look up – then it becomes work and that gets boring.
3. Don’t think your great play means it will make a good movie – plays shot as  a movie are really boring!
4. Don’t bore me with the details – because it’s boring.
5. Don’t overwrite action and description – it’s not a novel – Reading a novel as a screenplay is boring.
6. Don’t give me 121 or more pages and say you’re done rewriting – after page 110 STARTS to get boring.
7. Don’t give me 89 or less pages and say it’s a feature film – You’ve bored me for 89 why not one more?

1. Don’t write like you know something when you really don’t. It just becomes shallow – and boring.

I recently read a  film written by someone who thought it would be a great idea to write about drama in an Emergency Room. I’m not a doctor, but really? Steal some dialogue from E.R. or Grey’s Anatomy or any medical show for that matter.

A ER Doc screaming: “Hand me the syringe!” while riding a gurney with a patient on it with the description, “He squirts liquid out of the syringe then plunges it into the patient’s chest…” isn’t smart writing – and just shows you don’t know what the heck you’re writing about.

2. Don’t use words in description that I have to look up – then it becomes work and that gets boring.

If you’re writing the above script and use medical terms I don’t know, I’ll buy it. I won’t have to look it up. But if you’re writing description and use the word “lugubrious” to describe the parent’s of a patient in surgery… well.. just tell me they are sad and dismal instead of me looking it up.

Overuse of a thesaurus can make you look like you’re trying too hard to impress – when all I care about is a great story that’s in a well written script.

3. Don’t think your great play means it will make a good movie – plays shot as  a movie are really boring!

Okay Okay…  Plays to Film aren’t ALWAYS boring… but the work has to be done. If all of a sudden you write a screenplay and everything happens in one scene till the act break – you’re gonna lose alot of your viewing audience.  In 5 minutes.

Dialogue from play to script is over dramatic, wordy, and ex positional. Movies should be seen! Show me, don’t tell me!

David Mamet’s play to screen, “Oleanna” really really really cuts it close to being a yawner. Why? It’s a friggen Play! And it PLAYS like one on the screen.

Funny I use David Mamet – yes, some of his great plays have made entertaining films. But again – that’s David Mamet… not Joe Smith neophyte screenwriter.

I just read a play where the writer/actor wanted to make it a movie and wanted my opinion. After 5 pages of the 25 page play I couldn’t even imagine anything close to being ‘shot’.

Two heads in a living room with dialogue that was neither interesting or compelling… It was a struggle. And it was only 25 pages long.

4. Don’t bore me with the details – because it’s boring.

I do like learning something when I watch a film. But if you’re going to bore with with every tiny detail especially late in the film, you’re gonna lose me. A great example of exposition – or detailed writing to ‘teach’ the audience something can be watched in Jurassic Park. You know the whole film and how they created Dinosaurs with DNA they found in a fossil? THAT is great writing and it’s not BORING DETAIL 60 minutes in.

5. Don’t overwrite action and description – it’s not a novel – Reading a novel as a screenplay is boring.

Novels aren’t boring. But there’s a reason you can go pages and pages of paragraphs in a novel – that’s what it is. If you open a page in a screenplay and it’s all ‘black’ – meaning there’s paragraphs and paragraphs of description or prose – you have alot of work today. THAT, my fellow screenwriter, is NOT a screenplay.

6. Don’t give me 121 or more pages and say you’re done rewriting – after page 110 STARTS to get boring.

120 pages for a screenplay is the most you should ever write. EVER. I don’t care if it’s an epic period piece, or the next Titanic. When you’re James Cameron than write a 200 pager. When you’re YOU – write one under 120 if you can. 110 is a nice goal. 110-120 tends to get long – for a read -unless it’s an exceptional piece of literary art and you absolutely need 10 more pages after 110 to finish the story.

7. Don’t give me 89 or less pages and say it’s a feature film – You’ve bored me for 89 why not one more?

90 pages minimum on a screenplay please. That’s value – a page a minute. Who wants to pay $20 to watch a movie that’s not even an hour and half long. If you think you’re gonna get extra time after you shoot your film, that’s a tall order. If you have only 89 pages, you don’t have enough story to keep anyone entertained and the story isn’t much of a story. Write a 30 page short film and produce it yourself.

I can’t see a finished 80 pager getting to page 90 unless fluffy pages or useless elongated scenes start to fill the pages. Rethink the A-story and the B-Story. And see if it’s worth a rewrite to make it a feature.

My 7 Tips for Writers are pretty snarky. I admit. But take them seriously.

It’ll help you going forward – especially if you want your story read.

I hope, if you are a writer, you do take note!

Here’s the article I read online that inspired my blog post: 50 Things a Writer Shouldn’t Do More for my reference than for anything else.

Related Articles:
Write to Write – and not to fill pages
Create Memorable Characters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply