Lesson Plans and Resources for Script Frenzy

Day 30 - Fade In:If you are thinking of challenging students to take part in the Young Writers Program (YWP) for Script Frenzy, you’ll want some resources to support the project.

As I explained in more detail yesterday, Script Frenzy is the free event that asks writers to spend April writing a script for a screenplay, stage play, TV show, short film, comic, or graphic novel.

The YWP site has information for teachers that includes lesson plans for all age levels walk students through the basic tasks from setting their goals to building conflict and developing dialogue. You can even apply to borrow computers for classroom use during the month—deadline March 15, so hurry!

Help students find the focus for their scripts by trying one of these ReadWriteThink lessons (plus one from Thinkfinity partner EDSITEment):


Cross-posted to the Reading and Language Arts Discussion Group in the Thinkfinity Community and to the NCTE Community ReadWriteThink eGroup and Graphic Novels eGroup.


[Photo: Day 30 – Fade In: by Kurt Thomas Hunt, on Flickr]

Challenge students to take part in Script Frenzy!

P170409_20.38Script Frenzy is a free event that challenges writers to compose an entire script during the month of April. There are many more official details on the site’s About Page. All kinds of scripts are welcome: screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, comics, and graphic novels.

Students from elementary, middle, and high schools can take part in the Young Writers Program. These writers set a personal page-count goal, begin writing on April 1, and upload evidence that they’ve met their goal by April 30. There’s a step-by-step page of instructions as well as information for teachers. You can even use the letter to families to keep everyone in the loop.

College students and the rest of us can take part in the adult program, which challenges writers to compose a 100-page script. All the details for adults are on the site.

The site includes how-to’s for all the genres, like this Intro to Graphic Novels, and there’s even a Plot Machine to check out on the homepage. Here’s the first plot I got:

In an attempt to evade taxes
a disgruntled child actor
must cross a ravine on a tightrope

Obviously, they may not all be classroom-friendly :-)

The event is the dramatic cousin of the National Novel Writer’s Month project, which takes place in November.

So are you interested? Will you tell students? Thinking of organizing class participation? I’d love to hear some stories from other teachers thinking about getting into a script frenzy.


Cross-posted to the NCTE Community Teaching Writing eGroup and Graphic Novels eGroup.

[Photo: P170409_20.38 by robbelaw, on Flickr]

Turning Blog Posts Into a Book Draft

2010 NaNoWriMo Winner BadgeAfter thirty days of thinking, sorting, and scribbling, I turned a variety of notes and blog posts into a very rough and informal book draft of 52,967 words.

Now as I confessed a month ago, I went about the process as a rebel—writing a nonfiction, academic piece and borrowing from existing work as appropriate. Fortunately, rebellion is sanctioned in this contest, and I am now officially a National Novel Writing Month winner for 2010.

The Secret to My Success
I would never have taken on this project without a little nudge from Literature & Latte’s Scrivener NaNoWriMo 2010 Trial, a special trial version of a wonderful word processing program for Mac (and coming soon for Windows). Ryan Cordell reviewed Scrivener for ProfHacker, and that’s when the program initially caught my attention. When I saw that the Literature & Latte folks were offering a discount for NaNoWriMo participants, I knew I had to download the program and give the month-long writing event a try.

After a few days, I realized that Scrivener had completely changed the way I work on a longer document. Honestly, the program made it possible for me to see how my practice of writing short pieces could work in the context of producing a larger document.

I write dozens of short documents every month, almost always blog entries composed in Dreamweaver for upload to a blog platform like WordPress. When I’m not writing blog entries, I am writing very structured pieces like lesson plans and strategy guides for ReadWriteThink.

My greatest fear has been that I would never figure out how to write another book. I’ve become so used to these shorter, structured pieces, that I just couldn’t think through the problem far enough to understand how to structure and write a fluid, longer piece.

After playing with Scrivener a bit, I realized that I could create and import dozens of shorter pieces as Texts, arranging them in folders, and dragging them around on the cork boards until I had what I wanted. I soon had six chapters sketched out, and I ultimately ended up with 73 short texts sorted into those folders.

Admittedly, the draft is not close to finished. There’s little flow or consistency at this point, but when I realize that I went from 0 words to a fleshed-out folder outline and over 50,000 words in a month, I know it wasn’t just the pressure of the NaNoWriMo deadline that did it. The secret to my success was that Scrivener allowed me to collect my existing blog posts, compose some additional short texts, and end up with a book draft.

My Take-Away Lesson
After participating in NaNoWriMo, I realize that I was letting my belief that I had to have a finished idea for a book in my head block me from getting started. Working with Scrivener helped me recognize that my practice of writing short pieces could still work when I composed a larger book-length manuscript.

As I worked on my draft, I quickly learned that I could turn my blog posts into a very rough book draft simply by sorting things into reasonable categories and adding some missing pieces. My take-away lesson is to remember that I don’t need that finished piece figured out to create a longer text. I just need to be open and creative about how I fit my ideas together.

The Outcome
So here it is 30 days later, I have a roughly-arranged manuscript, which I’m currently calling Designing Digital Writing Assignments.

I’m not sure when I’ll get the manuscript finished or if I can find a publisher. I’m trying not to worry about that right now. It’s enough of an accomplishment to realize that I now know how to turn my blog posts into a book draft. I even know what I want to write a third book about and how to do that. Besides, I need to get back to anxiously checking my email for that 50% off discount for Scrivener that I should get from Literature & Latte as a NaNoWriMo winner.


NaNoWriMo Underway

NaNoWriMo Participant 2010I’m a rebel. I’m doing what I want, and ignoring the rules. Usually I’m the goody-two-shoes perfectionist, but as far as writing a manuscript was going, that wasn’t working for me.

I readily confess that I can’t remember how I ever wrote a book in the first place. Somehow I did, but as I’ve thought about writing a second manuscript, I kept returning to the feeling that it was a fluke. I didn’t feel I’d ever be able to do it again. Even restoring the mysteriously deleted companion website felt beyond me.

Then NaNoWriMo came along. November is National Novel Writing Month. This is the twelfth year of the event that encourages writers of all ages to write a 50,000-word piece of fiction by midnight November 30.

I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for several years, but never considered trying it. Just don’t feel like I have a plot in me, though I’d love to be a novelist or poet. Inspired by the special deal on Scrivener for NaNoWriMo participants though, I looked around a bit more yesterday, and I found that the rules are really a good bit looser. You can be a rebel and write nonfiction if you want. The goal is just 50,000 words of whatever. As the seed post on the Rebel forum explains, “This is a self-challenge. The REAL prize of NaNoWriMo is the accomplishment, and the big new manuscript you have at the end. Everything beyond that is icing on the cake.”

So I decided to set up a profile and try to crank out a book draft. Not sure that I will make 50,000 extra words since I have many other things I need to write this month. Still I can try. After midnight on November 1, I created a working outline, based on revisiting my first book, Designing Writing Assignments. Scrivener made this so easy. I created a bunch of folders and tucked some text inside the jotted out what I was thinking of putting there. Done.

In the wee hours of today, November 2, I collected notes and ideas from a few places to copy & paste some very rough ideas into place. That’s where the cheating part comes in. Technically, people write all new text for NaNoWriMo. For my purposes, that’s a silly restriction. I reread sections of Designing Writing Assignments last night, probably for the first time in more than a year. I realized how much of the book had been culled from things that I’d written elsewhere.

That artificially inflates my word count, I know. The thing is that I know I’ll edit it back down as I make all that pasted stuff fit in properly. Even though I know my draft is nothing but a collection of jottings and pastings, it feels remarkable to have collected 12,263 words of stuff. I can actually believe book in my head.

It’s only been two days, but so far NaNo has helped me remember how to write a longer work. And I’ve been freewriting like a fiend—I have the most typo-filled mess ever, but I typed things down. I gave my permission not to be to clean and neat. I just want to gather a bunch of text. I can edit later. If I do nothing else, I’ve accomplished a great deal.