We love us some NaNoWriMo. NaNo what, you say? National Novel Writing Month. Since 1999, every November, writers from coast to coast have been writing 50,000 word novels. In a month. Last year, over 200,000 inspired lunatics took keyboard in hand and tried to perform this seemingly impossible task. Over the years lots of writers have gotten their NaNoWriMo novels published by major publishers, but that’s not the point. NaNoWriMo is about chasing your dream, letting your creativity run wild, having a blast, ingesting massive amounts of caffeine and ignoring your family.
Five years ago, the nonprofit behind NaNoWriMo launched a sister event, Script Frenzy. And this year, we’ve decided to take the plunge and write a script. In a month. While on tour. With a three-year-old. So we asked Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, co-founder of Script Frenzy and author of No Plot? No Problem: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide To Writing a Novel, to tell us what the event is all about, why it’s attracting so many participants, and, most importantly, give us some tips on how to write a movie script in 30 days while not losing our minds.
The Book Doctors: How did Script Frenzy come about?
Chris Baty: We had been running NaNoWriMo for six years and it had grown
larger than we’d ever dreamed. We’d witnessed the power of combining a terrifying creative deadline with a supportive community. And we were getting more and more requests to do an event that helped people write movies and plays. Once we had enough staff to support an event outside of NaNoWriMo, we launched Script Frenzy.
The Book Doctors: What do you find most exciting about Script Frenzy?
Chris Baty: Scriptwriting has the reputation of being impenetrable by amateurs. People think you have to have expensive software, an MFA in directing, and an insider knowledge of complex scriptwriting jargon. We see scriptwriting as a great, rewarding writing adventure for people of all ages and experience levels. It’s been exciting watching thousands of people spending April discovering one of the awesome movies or play we all have within us. If you love movies, plays, TV shows or graphic novels, you really should be writing one. And even if you don’t see yourself as a scriptwriter — I’m thinking of novelists here — writing a movie or play is an unbeatable exercise in stripped-down storytelling, and a fantastic way to sharpen your dialogue.
The Book Doctors: What’s the main difference between NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy?
Chris Baty: In NaNoWriMo, everyone writes their own novels, and collaboration is punishable by visitation from our flying guilt monkeys. In Script Frenzy, we leave the guilt monkeys at home and encourage participants to share writing duties with a partner. Script Frenzy also encompasses a bunch of different formats: Folks write screenplays, stage plays, shorts, graphic novels, radio dramas, musicals… you name it.
The Book Doctors: When you analyze your statistics related to Script Frenzy, is there anything that stands out as interesting?
Chris Baty: For one, it attracts more women than men. And it also attracts a lot of people outside of LA/NY. We have volunteer-run Script Frenzy groups in over 100 cities and towns around the world, including big bases in the Bay Area, Chicago and London. Interestingly, Germany and Mexico also field a lot of Script Frenzy participants.
The Book Doctors: Is it true that you also have first graders writing scripts?!
Chris Baty: It is! We have a Young Writers Program for Script Frenzy. We provide Common Core-aligned curriculum, scriptwriting kits, downloadable workbooks, and an online boot camp for K-12 classrooms — all for FREE — to prepare kids for Script Frenzy. This year, we have hundreds of classes tackling the challenge together. Some of the favorite plots we’ve heard so far are a musical where pirates battle ninjas (while singing, of course), a math-based crime caper, and a tale of everyday kids getting transmogrified into time-traveling Romans. One middle school in Kentucky has 190 students all writing scripts — they even made a video documenting their school’s preparation for the challenge.
The Book Doctors: Is it true that you’re not only the co-founder, but also a participant?! And what do you plan to do with these babies?
Chris Baty: You bet — I’ll be writing my third screenplay for Script Frenzy this April. The first script I wrote was a zombie thriller about an evil pharmaceutical company that was a kind of unthrilling mess by the end of the movie. But I still loved the writing process and learned a ton from it. Last year’s script was much better (thanks largely to having a great collaborator who did most of the work). We’re hoping to send that one out into the marketplace this year.
The Book Doctors: May we ask what your Hollywood pitch is?
Chris Baty: It’s High Fidelity meets (500) Days of Summer.
The Book Doctors: Now that’s a movie we want to see!
If you’re clueless about how to write a script, learn how in less than an hour by clicking here. On Friday, we’re going to start our own script that we’ve been talking about forever. Right now, here’s our pitch: Ferris Bueller meets American Graffiti. But we’re still working on it. Check out our blog to find out our whether we finish our script, lose our minds, or both. Happy writing!
David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut, a.k.a. The Book Doctors, are the authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.