Thursday 1 April not only saw far too many people sucked in by (and irrationally annoyed by) Philip Bloom‘s masterful April Fool on Canon DSLRs, but also the launch of the month-long Twitter-based #scriptfrenzy.

In essence, the plan for Script Frenzy is to churn out 100 pages of an original screenplay in the 30 days of April.  But just how useful is it to hammer out a first draft in a frenzy?  I took some time to weigh up my own personal pros and cons:

PROs

We all like a deadline.  Actually, most writers hate deadlines, but it can’t be denied that setting one focuses the mind.  And by sharing that deadline with all the other “frenziers” out there, not to mention all of your other Twitter followers, you’re binding yourself into a loose contract to say you’ll at least have something on paper at the beginning of May.

Sometimes it’s good just to write.  Far too many writers – especially those just starting out who are struggling to find the time for wordsmithing alongside busy and demanding day-jobs – put off starting that new piece because there are “other things” in the way.  By forcing yourself to sit down and hammer out an average of just 4 pages a day for a 1st draft, you get those creative juices flowing.

CONs

Thinking time. Former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies talks about the majority of his writing time being time spent in “the Maybe” – that etheral neverland of thoughts, shapes and possibilities where stories solidify and conform in the brain before you actually sit down to hammer out the pages on Final Draft.  Similarly, Paul Schrader, writer of modern classics like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, has a Maybe that exists in his meticulous outlining and documenting of the entire story prior to the 1st draft.  How do you account for thinking time in a frenzied rush to hammer out your 100 pages? Do you need to have put that all in place before April 1st, or do you build that into your month-of-crazy?

Arbitrary page counts. Yes, a feature film script should come in somewhere around 100 pages, but – more importantly – a script needs to be the right length to tell the story, whether that be 75 pages or, God forbid, 150 pages.  100 is a good guideline, but is it an appropriate target?

Forcing the words out. All screenplays need a little time to digest as you go.  Undoubtedly, sometimes you do just need to sit down and hammer your way through a stumbling block, but other times you need to be free to step back and recognise when simply bashing the keys is wasted time until you’ve worked out why the scene isn’t working for you.

I don’t have anything against #scriptfrenzy and certainly not against those taking part. But I know that it’s not the way that I can sit and hammer out a first draft of anything. I need the time to consider it, the time to plan it and then to set myself a deadline that’s reachable at a daily page count that works for me, my working time and my goals for the script.

How about you? Are you a frenzier, a plodder or a somewhere-in-the-middle?

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