I've been meaning to do this for a while. Now that the gig I was supposed to be at tonight has been cancelled, I've started giving it some proper thought. And I'd be grateful for your help.
There are plenty of books out there - not to mention courses - which purport to lead the reader through the ins and outs of screenwriting. I've read quite a few of them. Some have interesting stuff in them, the odd nugget here and there, often surrounded by wads of less than useful information. Some are - to my mind, at least - absolutely bloody useless.
One of the problems is that the expert author feels the need to parade their phenomenal knowledge of the subject at great length. Even on screenwriting courses, I've been shocked at the sense of sinking in a sea of 'How To's and 'What Not to Do's and ever deeper layers of complication.
Screenwriting is hard work, but it should also be fun. There's a lot to learn, yes, but if the balance between creative and prescriptive is all wrong, aren't we in danger of crushing the imaginative spirit and the individual voice of the writer?
I've been mulling over this for a long time, and wondering whether it wouldn't be possible to produce a guide to the art and craft of screenwriting which emphasised creativity, which takes the reader on an enjoyable journey round the pitfalls of scripts, presents practical know-how and makes the whole process reasonably clear.
And there's another dimension. This has something to do with the ways our lives are defined by stories. We're surrounded by them; they tell us what to think, what to believe. We live our lives according to the stories we've been told, and the stories we've told ourselves.
So, theoretically at least, we can devise better stories to tell ourselves (and others), and by doing so we can alter our attitudes to the world around us.
Isn't that what practically every self-help manual and self-improvement course sets out to do? To get you to change your inner story, to tell yourself a different story?
The journey of the script is the writer's journey. The writer undertakes the adventure, and lives through the long dark night of the soul which lies at the heart of the story. The writer returns with the secret of the script, the experience of the story, and, like the hero, acquires a new understanding.
I'm thinking that the time has come for me to start putting together some worksheets, along the lines of a step-by-step process, which look at the journey of the script from start to finish. I'd like to keep it as simple, as straightforward, and as stimulating as possible. I'd like to present it as a month-long plan.
The result, if it comes out all right, will be available as a PDF document.
I could do with any input you have to offer, though.
What are the areas of screenwriting, or the issues involved, which interest or concern or confuse you the most?
What could my guide do differently that would really help?
What would you most like to know by the end of it?
And would you be interested in seeing these worksheets as they come rolling off the press?
Let me know what you think.