Last month, I took part in Zero Draft 30 (ZD30 for short). For those who don’t know, it’s a challenge that many screenwriters across the world take part in, to write a “vomit draft” of a screenplay in thirty days (a vomit draft being a draft of a screenplay where you just write and don’t worry about if any of it makes any sense). The whole purpose is to get you actually writing, not caring about the quality necessarily, but ending the month with something that you actually got to the end of. It’s the brain-child of screenwriter and screenwriting instructor Scott Meyers, and more information about it can be found here.
I used the challenge as an opportunity to write a first draft of a screenplay I had been planning for several weeks, entitled The Forgotten:
When families start disappearing from a town, replaced overnight by a whole new family, forgotten about as if they were never really there, an inquisitive group of children must find out what’s happening and stop it before they, too, get forgotten.
Before reaching the 1st March, I had written quite a detailed outline, and I’d actually written the first 6 pages of the screenplay a few weeks beforehand, so I had a little bit of a head-start, but I was also away for four days of March, so I needed that small amount of breathing room.
At first, I followed my outline fairly meticulously, but it was only when I started writing the screenplay that things really started coming to life. The characters changed, did their own thing, and it was quite late on when I realised that the story should have a whole new focus. Too late to go back and change anything (the point, after all, was just to reach the finish line), I carried on. The last 60 pages or so diverge wildly from my original plan, but it’s those last 60 pages where I actually found the true story. The planning was hugely useful, but it was just a plan, and plans are made to be broken (or something), so I ended up throwing my outline out of the window.
I think those last 60 pages will make a decent second half of a screenplay, and with a good deal of re-jigging, tidying up, possibly even rewriting from page 1, the first half could work nicely alongside it.
The final script came in at a whopping 147 pages, so it clearly needs a great deal of editing, but I think somewhere in there is a decent story that needs carving out of the slab of clay I now have sat in front of me.
If anyone wants to feel challenged to achieve something, get something actually finished, I couldn’t recommend the ZD30 challenge highly enough. It’s hard work – there are some days when you don’t feel you can do anything, and indeed some days I wrote nothing at all, but other days I wrote 10, 11, 12 pages. Across thirty days, you only need to average four pages a day to write a 120 page screenplay. Yes, sometimes that’s easier said than done, but if you keep going, you’ll find that it’s more than achievable.