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Friday, June 14, 2013

Don't believe you can't: Write in as many media as you want

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because life is too short to look for split infinitives with your bare eyes.

Here’s something I hear a lot: a writer will say, “novelists don’t make good screenwriters,” or “screenwriters shouldn't try to write games,” or “comic book writers shouldn't try to write novels.”
We know these sentences are nonsense (I could choose a coarser label) because when someone who does something for a living offers you advice that happens to discourage you from joining their profession, they probably have their own and not your interests at heart. And that might not be completely conscious; a lot of people don’t realize the philosophies they hold dearest are heartily buttressed by convenience. So if you hear someone say that, nod and smile and whatever it is you want to write.

Because here’s why it’s really nonsense: different kinds of writing are different, no doubt about it. But a good writer can excel at more than one kind of writing. You might have the medium you’re best in, but if you’re a writer, you’re probably a few steps ahead in another medium than someone who has no felicity for language.

The rest is just details, rhythms, styles.   I actually thrill to the difference-- a screenplay is not a novel is not a game script.

This week I worked on a script for IDW comics, the first issue of a miniseries about a popular TV character.  Comic book scripts mostly offer challenges about space and pace: a comic book script usually runs exactly 20 or 22 pages, usually 5-7 scenes. I usually outline in Word or Excel, write comic scripts using Final Draft, the screenwriting tool, then deliver the script to the editor in Word, where we do the editing.  Another comic I wrote with Tony Salvaggio, Clockwerx from Humanoids, is coming out in hardback, and I wrote several interview responses.

  • Medium: Comic book script
  • Format: Feature Screenplay Derivative
  • Tools: Final Draft, Excel, Word

Meanwhile, I worked on a novel. Genre novels like the modern horror book I’m writing usually run 300-400 pages long. There’s no set number of chapters or pages—unlike in comics, you have to hew closer to a sense of how the story is going and when you need to turn. I outline in Excel and write in Word.

  • Medium: Prose Novel
  • Format: Long form prose
  • Tools: Word, Excel

I also host a podcast, the Castle Dracula Horror Movie Podcast. For that,  I have to write an introductory script each week and prepare my questions. I intro the show; the rest is a panel-type discussion.

  • Medium: Podcast Script
  • Format: Radio Script
  • Tools: Word

At the same time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which I wrote the game screenplay for, got announced as part of the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade 2013. Game scripts are a different beast—I wrote those partly in Final Draft and partly in Excel.

  • Medium: Game Script
  • Format: Feature Screenplay Derivative for cutscenes, Database for incidental dialogue
  • Tools: Final Draft, Word, Excel

I’m going to spend some time blogging on each. They’re all different and they all offer challenges. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, and you shouldn’t either. If you write, you work with words. The rest is skill, and if you’re still alive, there’s wondrous time to learn.

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