Is it scriptwriting or screenwriting?

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Greenwolf103

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This is my VERY first post in the Script Writing forum. Please be gentle.

I'm working on a book about making revisions to your writing. Included is a section on certain aspects of revising your script. I've been doing tons of research on scriptwriting and narrowed my chapters down to common mistakes screenwriters are complaining about in their blogs and on the Web. I have also been reading the threads in this forum like crazy. Just lurking here, mostly. Hoping to learn things.

But what I can't seem to get right is the difference between screenwriting and scriptwriting. Which one should I use? Also, as far as referring to the writer (screenwriter/scriptwriter) is concerned.

I know I really SHOULD have experience in scriptwriting/screenwriting before writing about revising it. Mostly I have just ONE script written, and revisions done with it there. But that's about it. I have wrestled with this in my writing blog and have ultimately decided to rely on my research and feedback from the experienced writers such as yourselves to get through the writing of this part of the book. (And I'm hoping a seasoned scriptwriter will go over what I wrote to make sure I got it right.)

But I really need to start at the beginning: Which word is the right one to use?

P.S. I DO plan on getting into scriptwriting/screenwriting eventually. :) I've been keeping an eye out for online courses to take and books to read.
 

odocoileus

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"Screenwriter" and "screenwriting" are far and away the more commonly used term in the US.

I googled "scriptwriter" and got 2.1 million hits. 1.37 million hits for "scriptwriting".

I googled "screenwriter" and got 6 million hits. 2.67 million hits for "screenwriting".
 
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Plot Device

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A "script" is written for the following mediums:

1) live stage in a live theatre

2) radio

3) television

4) cinema

5) computer programs

All of them are called "scripts." And anyone who writes for any of those five mediums is called a "scriptwriter."





Now ... how do you tell them all apart????

1) Scripts for the live stage are written by a playwright or a "stage writer," or a "scriptwriter."

2) Radio plays are written a "radio writer" or a "radio scriptwriter," or a "scriptwriter."

3) Scripts for television are called "television scripts" or "tele-screenplays" or "teleplays" and are written by a person called a "television screenwriter" or a "television scriptwriter" or a "scriptwriter."

4) Scripts for cinema are written by a "screenwriter," or "scriptwriter."

5) Scripts for computers are written by a person called a "programmer," or a "program writer," or a "scriptwriter."
 

Plot Device

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I'm working on a book about making revisions to your writing. Included is a section on certain aspects of revising your script.




P.S. I DO plan on getting into scriptwriting/screenwriting eventually. :) I've been keeping an eye out for online courses to take and books to read.

I've suggested this book easilly a dozen times here at AW. I will suggest it a dozen more times before I'm through:

J. Michael Straczynski's The Complete Book of Scriptwriting.


This is a standard textbook used in most film courses throughout the USA. In it he covers not just cinematic scripts, but also television scripts and radio plays and even stage plays.
 

Greenwolf103

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Thanks so much for all the info and suggestions. I guess I will go with "screenwriter" since, with the scripts, there'd be too many different variables for me to cover under each topic. I don't think I could get them all and it might be tiresome for readers to wade through it if that particular kinda writing isn't their "script" writing.
 

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Note also the name of this forum: Script Writing, which covers all types of scripts. Most threads discuss aspects of screenwriting but you'll have noticed there's also a Playwriting sub-forum. And in Share Your Work there's a sub-forum for Screenwriting and another for Plays, Radio Scripts. Subtle but necessary distinctions.

-Derek
 

Greenwolf103

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Thanks, Derek. :) Yeah, I did notice those things. I've been going through the threads in both and have noticed the different kinds of things discussed with the different aspect of script/screenwriting. It's been really interesting to learn about. Is there a link to screenwriting jargon? I've checked a few books and the jargon is kinda getting me confuzzled.
 

icerose

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I do feel the need to send out a warning since you do wish to write a chapter about revising scripts but know nothing about them. Screenwriting is completely different from novel writing. Their circles barely even touch. I started out novel writing then decided to write scripts as well. It's taken me 3 years and well over a dozen scripts to get the groove of it all and get paid work. I feel ill-equiped to tell people how to revise their scripts other than on a one on one basis and I even have some small credits to my name.

The next piece of warning. Though I'm there or close to there with screenwriting, I'm no where in the realm of any of the other forms, as plot mentioned there are various forms and they all have their own rules.

Also you'd be up against successful long standing scriptwriters who are experts in the field who have already written such books.

I'm not sure why you want to write a how to on something you know very little about, but my warning is there, it's a totally different animal than other forms of writing and script writing itself has many forms for the various venues.
 

Greenwolf103

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I understand. And it's a valid warning, at that. Like I said, I have been struggling with this. I do know some things as far as screenwriting goes -- for one, like you said it's not like writing novels. (That's a mistake I made with my own script).

The problem is that I can't shut my muse up. :D The book covers revising your writing and a friend of mine who's a screenwriter suggested that I should put a section about screenwriting in there. So, that's what I've been doing. I'm trying to bury myself in learning all about it, even though my experience in screenwriting is zilch. Icerose, you yourself would be more qualified to write these chapters than me! :)

I just don't know what to do as far as whether to keep the chapters in or keep them out. If I keep them out, it could be a glaring oversight. But at least I might be saving the more experienced screenwriters some eye-rolling.

I wonder if readers would forgive me if I kept screenwriting out of this book....

But if I kept it in? I don't know how else to effectively write that section short of asking questions, doing research and reading books. Something to think on, but, yeah, at this point in time, I'm not exactly qualified to write it.
 

Greenwolf103

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Book info

Also, I want to point out: The way this book is organized is that it includes comments and interviews with the pros in each field of writing. Also, blog posts, book excerpts, article reprints. Stuff that backs up and supports each topic discussed. So maybe I would be better off just offering a BRIEF commentary on each topic and letting the pros do most of the talking. :)

When I put this section of the book together, I did research to see what the common complaints were with spec scripts. This is what I came up with:

*Wordiness (here it touches on that whole "scripts are not like novels" thing)

*Characterization flaws (poor name choice for main characters, characters not researched fully enough, etc.)

*Continuity

*Stories that seem to go nowhere and have very little, if any, action

*Genre problems (changing genre in mid-script, scripts written for a genre that don't live up to it)

*Working out the right ending

Sorry to go off-topic there but this discussion with you all has helped me get a better idea of how to focus these chapters of the book. Like I said, it'll be less from me and more from the pros. Yay! No more struggling! :snoopy:
 

icerose

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Don't forget dialog and formatting. Those are two pretty big deals. If the dialog isn't there the whole script sounds like crap. And if the formatting isn't there it screams amature and they won't read past the first page. It's a total deal breaker unless there's something in the first few words that make a major impression. But if the writing is that amazing, then the writer is pretty much guarantteed to have the formatting right because to get there takes a great deal of work and effort and time.

I do think you might have found your solution with letting the pros do most of the talking because writers who are willing to follow the advice of a how to book are first going to look at credentials {if they're smart} and see if the person writing it even has the qualifications, and if you're able to have pros listed with their credentials you should be fine.
 

Greenwolf103

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Thank you soooo much!! You don't know how much this has helped.

I added your suggestions as new chapters. And I finished the first draft of the manuscript today. WOO-HOO!!

Expect to hear from me soonish asking for quotes and maybe even interview requests. :D

And thank you for accepting me in this forum. I'll be hanging around more often.
 

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Screenwriting has the legendary three acts paradigm. First act is the setup, second act is Confrontation and third act is Resolution.

First act is inciting incident and plot point 1.

Second act is midpoint and plot point 2

Third act is climax.

In a two hour movie

It will 30 minutes for 1st Act, 60 minutes for 2nd Act and 30 minutes for the 3rd Act.
 

icerose

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Not everyone follows the formula exactly though, not all scripts are precisely 120 pages either. It's a good general guideline to keep in mind because a lot of story problems come when you're either missing an act all together, (one script I was missing the entire second act!) or when they're too breif. (Again my second acts tend to get picked on.)

Some writers follow more of a 7 act guideline, it really depends on the writer and their style. The 3 act is the most common, but it isn't the only one out there either.
 

Plot Device

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Scripts are very deceptive to the newb, Greenwolf. Afterall, watching a movie seems like the most effortless activity in the world. And then downloading and reading the script also seems effortless. So it's easy to fall into the trap of "How hard can writing one of these actually be?" --especially to someone already seasoned in other fields of writing. But it took me four years of tackling the entire medium, and reading lots of how-to books, and hanging out on message forums with other screenwriters, and then STARTING LOTS OF SCRIPTS THAT I NEVER FINISHED before I finally completed my very first feature length script (and it was STILL a mess!). I made so many rookie mistakes along the way, and my only defense is that I was self-taught, not a film student. (And so I still have lots of stuff to iron out in my work.)

A few other things off the top of my head:

-- We do NOT count words when we write scripts, we count pages. And that's that.

-- 120 pages = 120 minutes. A page a minute, no messing with that formula. And don't you DARE allow the finished script to be even one line longer than 120 pages. It's deemed downright unprofessional in Hollywood to turn in a script longer than 120.

-- Most scripts today need to be about a minimum of 100 pages, and a maximum of 115. This shorter-than-two-full-hours preference allows a director plent of wiggle room to expand what he wants to expand, to dwell on certain scenes he finds dramatically compelling, toss in extensive action sequences, and even have fun with the opening and closing credits at the front and back end of the movie. And then when the exhibitors (that's the movie theatre chains) look at the final running time (like maybe 119 minutes) they are pleased when they realize they will be able to crank out six showings per day instead of just five, and still have time to sweep out the theatre in between each showing. Peter Jackson WANTED the third film from LotR to be about 3 hours and 10 minutes, but no one would allow it. So he trimmed it back to 2 hours 57 minutes. But then after he won his Oscar he could do anything he wanted, so when he did King Kong that film ran 3 hours and 7 minutes -- unheard of! (But hey! He's Peter Jackson!) That movie did NOT make as much money as it could have because it was limited to just 4 showings per day in most theatres, and few people had the stamina to go back for a second showing. Ditto for the outrageously long Grindhouse from last year -- as talented and popular as Quentin Tarantino is, few people could stomach a movie that long (I think it was 3 hours 47 minutes).

-- Getting back to discussing a "normal" script of just 100 to 115 pages, Act 1 needs to end somewhere between Page 17 up to Page 28 (Page 30 is pushing it). My mentor says that any script that needs fixing merely needs a rewrite in Act 1, and that usually solves about 90% of the problem.

-- Act 2 needs to end somewhere between Page 70 and Page 90.

-- Act 3 needs to end between Page 90 and Page 110, and the Epilogue and/or the Denouement needs to be no more than 5 pages.

-- The current preference is that each individual piece of dialogue should be no more than 3 lines long. And speeches are not allowed. (I hate this myself. I love a good speech, and actors love them too. But it's the prevailing trend.)

-- Novels are very introspective involving lots of interior thoughts. Plays are full of speeches and philosophical monologues. But movies are full of action and movement. The rookie screenwriter will inexpertly criss cross these and stick lots of speeches into his screenplay, as well as lots of voice-over dialogue (the voice-over dialogue is basically a narrator right out of a novel). Speeches and voice-over narrators are frowned upon.

-- Because the entire medium needs to be very concise, every single word in the screenplay needs to justify the amount of real estate it's sucking up on each precious page. So each scene needs to serve two or more purposes. It's not enough that a scene MERELY serves as character development, it also needs to pull double-duty by simultaneously furthering the plot or setting up the film's ending or establishing a geographic area that we need to become familiar with.




There's loads more I could prattle on about such as formatting and when to capitalize, etc. But the final upshot of all my rambling is that this whole medium takes a long time to get the hang of.

Would you possibly consider farming out this one chapter to someone else as a guest writer in the book? No, I am NOT volunteering since I don't feel qualified. But icerose might, or Derek, or NMStevens might be a good candidate as well as a dozen other regulars at this oe sub-forum.





.
 
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icerose

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Would you possibly consider farming out this one chapter to someone else as a guest writer in the book? No, I am NOT volunteering since I don't feel qualified. But icerose might, or Derek, or NMStevens might be a good candidate as well as a dozen other regulars at this oe sub-forum.

.

I'm flattered, Plot, but I'm not qualified either. When I no longer need other people to go over my scripts and tell me I'm doing this and this and this wrong, then I might start to be qualified, but editing my own stuff is a major weak point.
 

Plot Device

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I'm flattered, Plot, but I'm not qualified either. When I no longer need other people to go over my scripts and tell me I'm doing this and this and this wrong, then I might start to be qualified, but editing my own stuff is a major weak point.


Well you've certainly got a leg up on most of us here because you've actually SOLD stuff.
 

Greenwolf103

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Thank you for the information. That is really interesting stuff! I didn't realize it takes so much time to get the hang of screenwriting. This has been most helpful. :)

Would you possibly consider farming out this one chapter to someone else as a guest writer in the book? No, I am NOT volunteering since I don't feel qualified. But icerose might, or Derek, or NMStevens might be a good candidate as well as a dozen other regulars at this oe sub-forum..

I will ultimately see what the editor says. If he/she suggests those chapters might be better written by a pro. At this point, I don't want to change anything until the book is under contract, but I'll keep that suggetion in mind. :)
 

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