What Maniac Enters A Screen Writing Competition With No Idea How To Write A Screenplay??? Oh Right. Me!

So yesterday morning I opened my inbox to find a shiny email from NYC Midnight The Screen Writing Challenge to say that the first round was officially open and we had eight days to write our twelve page screen plays based on the genre, subject, and character we have been assigned.

Well I had the following:

Genre: Action/Adventure

Subject: Earthquake

Character: Witness To A Crime

So everything should be fine right? I mean, eight days to write twelve pages? That should be easy. That’s a pretty nice genre to get, pretty broad ranging if you think about it. Witness to a crime, well that’s pretty broad as well. Earthquake is a little odder but not impossible to work with. What’s the problem?

The morning agenda

Oh yes, I’ve not done this before and I don’t know how to write a screenplay.


That might be an issue.

Now let me clarify something before we continue. I’ve written two screenplays in my life. Both were during six form. That’s now six years in the past.

The first was part of a extra-circular project in school and was a national competition. I wrote a piece about my Grandmother’s experience of moving over England when she was eighteen and starting to study nursing.

I don’t remember the exact plot but I do remember the playwright who was mentoring our school said I should included a bit about women’s suffrage. I nodded at the time but later realized that a) it was the wrong time period and b) my Grandmother was Irish so trying to shoehorn in English politics might be a bit of a stretch.

Screen play number two was written in a tea fueled haze at three in the morning, based on a collection of notes that I’d been given by a group of lads who wanted to shoot a zombie movie. They wanted someone to write dialogue and that was about it. I wrote it, they seemed to like it, they only ever shot the trailer.

Luckily for me there’s a short ‘how-to’ manual on the NYC Midnight site that explains clearly, and concisely how a screenplay should be formatted. It’s helpfully called ‘How To Write A Screenplay – The Basis’. If you’re thinking about trying to write a screenplay for the first time, or you want to make sure your formatting is correct, then I’d highly recommend printing off a copy.  It was a lifesaver for me as I couldn’t dredge up a single memory on how a screenplay is supposed to be laid out on the page and as it turns out, there are quite a few rules to follow.

It’s actually a little surprising how quickly you get used to writing in the format. I thought I would struggle quite a bit as it’s a completely different style of writing from what I usual do.

For example. Take the following opening to my short story ‘The Last Of The Embers’:

Sunrise was not for another hour but already the sky had taken on the grey haze that suggested morning was just around the corner. Elaine let her rucksack slip from her shoulder and hang in the crook of her arm while she fumbled with the knackered zip. The bottle inside was almost half empty, not enough to see her back down the mountain, but enough to see her to the top. She wrestled it free and used her teeth to pry to cap open.

‘Are you coming?’

Damien watched from where he’d stopped further up on the steps, bare legs and arms, tanned and muscled. He was younger, fitter as well but that had little to do with age, at least that was what Elaine told herself.

‘Just give me a minute,’ she called. The water was lukewarm and sour on her tongue but she swallowed it and snapped the cap shut. Her sweat had her clothes sticking, every crease and fold in the fabric welding itself to her limbs. She could swear the last time she’d made this climb it had been easier, but then again, the last time she had more faith to help things along. A little more faith and a little more time.

‘Do you remember before?’ Damien asked. He held out a hand when she finally reached him. She let him help her and paused for a breath, lungs hitching as she dragged each mouthful of air in.

‘Which before?’ she gasped. ‘The one before this or the one before that? There have been too many changes, too many befores to count or to know which before you mean.’ She pulled her hand out of his and forced her legs to push ahead, ignoring the way she had to lock her knees on each step.

‘I mean the before when we were strong,’ he said. ‘When we were still gods.’

If this was written as a screenplay it would look more like this:

Script Example

There is very little in the way of description in this apart from the scene heading and the action lines at the top. There is one other action line part way down where Elaine drinks from her bottle but the rest is all dialogue. This means if the dialogue falls flat, the whole piece falls flat.

Typing this piece out into a screenplay format also made me read this piece in a different light. When you write something and proofread it, you can miss certain blips simply from being too close to the work. By looking at it through a different lens you can sometimes catch those blips. The thing for me with this piece was noticing that the speaker isn’t always crystal clear when you’re reading the dialogue. You can be halfway through reading a piece of speech and notice that the other character was the one talking the whole time.

Aside from playing around with the format to analyse the dialogue quality of old short stories, I did manage to type up twelve pages of what I hope is a semi-decent screenplay that I can polish and tidy over the next few days.


The bit that got me, is how short twelve pages actually is. I could have written a much longer screenplay and as it is I’m worried I might have skimmed over too much in an attempt to fit more in within the page limit.

Either way, I have until Saturday to work up a final draft and submit it for the First Round and today has been a new learning curb for my writing, something that I don’t find to such a degree these days.

Also, there’s nothing to stop me going back to this screenplay when the competition is done and making it longer then. Actually, I think I might do just that.


Shadow Dawn Snapshot And Rejection Blues

There had been little warning and no defence. From the saddle of her horse Tara could see the bodies lying around the village, their corpses moved to create a macabre circle around the cobbled together cottages. The ones who still had hands, lay with them folded across their chests. The ones who didn’t…

Tara turned her head away.

‘My Lady?’ The soldiers shifted behind her, their mounts unnerved by the tension.

‘Bury them,’ she ordered, and wheeled her horse away from the carnage.

‘But my Lady!’ He was young, his cheeks still a little chubby and Tara could see where he’d gnawed his bottom lip raw. ‘The curse.’

Ilia spat and the boy flinched.

‘There’s no curse,’ said Tara. ‘Bury them as they should have been already.’ Her horse started forward with a slight nudge from her heels. ‘Keep your eyes open when you’re down there though.’

The soldiers bowed their heads and complied, even the boy, though Tara could see him chewing his lip.

‘Children.’ Ilia shook her head. ‘He’s been listening to the whispers.’

Tara heard the leather of her reigns creaking beneath her grip.

‘They all have,’ she said. ‘He’s just the first one who dared to speak up.’ With a kick she urged the horse to go faster, leaving the village behind them and the voices whispering in her ears.

He won’t be the last, she told herself. He’s the first, but he won’t be the last.

So tonight I wanted to be really productive and gets lots of writing done. Instead I managed the bit of a drabble above which I’m not sure I’ll even use in Shadow Dawn, and a half arsed short story that barely links to the prompt it was supposed to be for.

I suppose today hasn’t exactly been the best day creativity wise.

I did have a weird, proud-ish moment earlier today. I received an email to say that my poem had, unfortunately, not been accepted for the next issue of Interpreter’s House. To be honest, I’d forgotten that I’d even submitted to them and I can’t remember what I sent, but it got me thinking. You can’t get a rejection if you don’t try and trying is part of progressing, so getting an email to say you’ve not been accepted is really evidence that you’re making an effort to begin with. Does that make any sense? It’s left me feeling a little blue of course. I never like the idea that I’m not good enough, but I suppose that just means I need to keep working and improving so I can try again.

I’m hoping to find some more competitions and literary journals to send some writing off to in the next few months and I’m planning on attacking that massive pile of poetry that needs redrafting, but today has been a bit of a reminder that I’ll need to really kick things up a gear if I want to succeed. This blog has been somewhere that I can hone my writing skills and it also provides a forum to build presence as a writer.

Each night I need to come home and get something, no matter how small, down on paper. I need to have something tangible for each evening. Tonight that is a short story that’s no where near done and a piece of writing I’ll probably never use, but it’s tangible and I wrote both of them.

I’m building, and that’s what matters.


If We Were Having Coffee

Hi everyone, it’s that time of the week again when we you get to hear me ramble at you about my week. For once I’ve had a pretty eventful week and managed to get quite a bit done so it’s going to be a pretty full post.

So if we were having coffee I’d tell you all about…



Okay, so that’s probably not the most important part of my week, but I actually went out and bought them, brought them home, sorted out the tanks and got everything sorted out by myself. Fiancée was asleep for the whole duration of my going out, buying said fish, returning and putting them in the tank.


‘Yes, fish.’

‘Couldn’t you have bought some better one?’

Apparently he isn’t the biggest fan of platty fish but oh well. They’re mine and I love them. I bought three, one oranda called Danny and two platty who I’ve named Thelma and Louise. Thelma and Louise seem pretty happy with their new tank, Danny however has decided that the tiny space beneath the filter column is the best place in the world to hide out from the world.

In other less fishy news, I’ve managed to complete the first 50,000 words of my novel! Yay me. This only brings me up to chapter sixteen and the second half of the novel is terrifying me because I keep remembering bits from the first 50,000 words that I haven’t come back to yet, that seem to have no resolution in sight. I’m going to keep going though and in the end I’ll have a finished manuscript ready to send out to readers. I’m defiantly getting there with my writing, I just need to remember that it takes time to write a book and just because I’m not finished yet, doesn’t mean I’m never going to finish.

This week also marked the first full week of NaPoWriMo. For those of you following my blog you will have seen my attempts at responding to the first seven days of prompts for this event. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t been the best poems, what matters is that I’ve got some poetry down on the screen and my readers seem to be enjoying it.

my_family_and_other_superheroes_covercosta_quicksand coverWhich brings me nicely to my next point. As of Monday, I am hosting a guest-post-a-day marathon for poets! If you are a poet or you know a poet then let me know if you’re interested in writing a post about why you write poetry, how you got into it and who inspires you. I have three poets lined up for the first three days so there are still plenty of spaces to be filled. Email me at caroljforrester@hotmail.com.

Poetry has defiantly been the theme of this week and I actually managed to get my butt back to the wonderful Shrewsbury Poetry night that takes place on the first Thursday of each month. Alongside the normal array of wonderful local poets, this month saw Jonathan Edwards taking to the stage to share some of his work. Winner of the 2014 Costa Poetry Award, this Welsh Poet was something to behold. He was funny and clever, reading us some fantastic poetry. I even picked up a signed copy of his book ‘My Family And Other Superheroes’ which I’m taking great joy in making through.

Also taking the stage was Kate Innes, author of ‘The Errant Hours’, a historical fiction set in the thirteenth century.

Welsh Marches, July 1284 – the uprising in Wales is over, the leaders gruesomely executed, the dead are buried. But for Illesa Arrowsmith, the war’s aftermath is just as brutal. When is brother is thrown into the Forester’s prison on false charges, she is left impoverished and alone. All Illesa has left is the secret manuscript entrusted to her – a book so powerful it can save lives, a book so valuable that its discovery could lead to her death.

When the bailiff’s daughter finds it, Illessa decides to run, and break her brother out of jail by whatever means. But the powerful Forester tracks them down, and Illesa must put herself and the book at the mercy of an scrupulous knight who threatens to reveal all their secrets, one by one.

Inspired by the seductive art of illuminated manuscripts, The Errant Hours draws from the deep well of medieval legend to weave a story of survival and courage, trickery and love.

If you want to check out Kate Innes’ website the link is here.

That’s about it for this week, not a whole lot more has happened. I’ve been getting more hits on my writing, but that could be because I’ve been more active. All in all this week has been productive and I’m hoping next week will be productive too.

How are all of the rest of you?


If We Were Having Coffee…


Good afternoon wonderful readers. Now I did quite a chatty blog post yesterday when I talked about NaPoWriMo Day One, but since I’m trying to have a super productive blogging day today and I do love this weekly feature, I see no reason why not to write another one.

So, if we were have coffee tea, I’d let you know that while things are moving on as productively as I like, they are moving!

I’m in the middle of redrafting what was chapter ten and is now chapter sixteen. Most of the redraft so far has been me writing chapters from scratch again, which I find a lot easier than sitting down and going through an older chapter to try and rework it. However, chapter ten has pretty much stayed the same and it would be silly for me to start again from scratch. Instead I’m trying to cut out all the major points that don’t fit with the new draft, bash some order into the chapter and then I’ll go through it start to finish and rework what is left over. That way I’m not bouncing between writing and slicing and finding the paragraph I just added completely changes the way in which the chapter was heading. This chapter will also take me past the 50,000 word mark which is halfway to my target wordcount for the novel but if I’m honest I might go above that if the first 50,000 words are anything to go on. I’m still not 100% sure where I want to end the book. I know it’s going to be one of a series so I’ve got some flexibility in it but I don’t want to leave things too incomplete, but I also don’t want to make it too long. For those of you wondering how long 50,000 words is in pages, it’s about 140 A4 pages double spaced. I always print double spaced because it makes editing easier in the long run.

This week I have also managed to get some more studying done. I’m working my way through module two of my AAT Accounting Technicians course. I did want to spend most of today on it as well but instead I ended up blogging and reading. I don’t want to call today a wasted day because it wasn’t, but I certainly don’t feel like it was as productive as it should have been.

I am also now the proud owner of two shrimp. Someone I know wanted to get rid of their fish tank after a run of bad luck with goldfish so now we have a fourth tank and two shrimp. I’m planning on popping out in the morning to buy a couple of goldfish to keep them company. For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you might have seen me post about the six koi carp that live in the sitting room. [Monsieur, Doubloon, Carrot, Shadow, Noir & ‘one that Sean named and can never remember’] The fourth tank, which is about the same size as the koi one is out in the shed at the moment. Our little house literally doesn’t have enough room at the moment.

Lastly, this week saw the beginning of NaPoWriMo. For anyone who enjoys writing poetry, NaPoWriMo is a great way of getting a month’s worth of practice in. No need to follow the prompts if you don’t want to, all you need to do is write a poem a day for April. Day One’s challenge was to write a lune, day two a family portrait and so far so good. I wrote a poem for both days and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s less pressure than taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo so I don’t feel like I’m going to be over-stretching myself by taking part.

So that’s me all rambled out for the week. How are the rest of you?

If We Were Having Coffee

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Saturday Coffee post but to be honest, not a lot has really gone on. At the beginning of February all of my productivity stalled and coupled with every cold going, and even a chest infection, I’m not really done very much at all since January.

The second draft of the novel has now reached 40,000 words but progress is a little slow. I’m trying to focus more on my AAT course than the writing and that means I spend a lot less time at the keyboard than I would like. The course is what needs my attention however and the sooner I finish the sooner I can get back to focusing on my writing. Even if it does seem like Darkened Daughter is just getting longer and longer with every passing day.

The fiancée and I have just got our mortgage-in-principal so we can start making choices about where we want to buy in earnest. Trying to get my head around legal fees and surveys is more tricky that I was expecting. Being the first time buying a house I’ve got no context to put costs against and not having context really stresses me out. I like to know what I’m getting myself into and at the moment I don’t.

Hopefully with spring now in the UK, though it has arrived with storms and rain as always, I’ll find some way of being a bit more creatively productive. I’ve decided to give Camp Nanowrimo a miss this April due to the workload. I’m hoping that if I reduce the areas that I’m focusing on the more I can get done on those areas.

However! I have managed to get Headquarters up on its own site! I’m also working on the next update for the story which I haven’t updated in about two years so I’m feeling pretty good about myself. Reading back through the stories I can remember what I loved about writing Headquarters. I can’t spend as much time as I want on it but I’m hoping to spend some time here and there.

Progress is progress, no matter how small.