This is a guest post by Ryan R. Reilly.
I love to write. I love creating worlds, populating them with characters, and throwing those characters into overwhelming situations. As a fan of this website, I'm assuming that you love reading, and that it is quite likely that you have a passion for writing, too. Like me, you probably have a favorite genre, the one that draws you in and refuses to let you escape. For me, that flavor is fantasy. High, epic, urban, paranormal, adventure... give me some level of fantastical make-believe, and I am deeply engrossed. I will stray occasionally—dabble in a little sci fi, court some historic thriller, dance with a bit of contemporary fiction, and even dive into a sampling of sports science—but I always find myself enthusiastically running back into the realm of fantasy.
That said, in recent years, I have stepped outside of my comfort zone of fantasy novels and attempted to write screenplays and graphic novels, and let me tell you: those things are hard. It is easy to criticize a show or movie from the outside looking in, but when you get into the writing trenches, it is a whole different animal! The number one rule for either medium is show, don't tell. Comics give you a bit more freedom through the use of narrative boxes and internal monologues, but screenplays—good screenplays—do not benefit from the same tools. Certainly, a character can have a voice-over and an exposition can feature on-the-nose explanation for setup, but if done wrong, those things can backfire in a big way.
A few years ago, I collaborated on the screenplay for three episodes of a television show (as well as a script bible, season outline, and a few other broad stroke accessories) with my best friend, Bill. We had the concept, but once we started writing the script, things got hairy. The story centered on a superhero with desire to join a big time super team, and he found himself getting his foot in the door via less-than-admirable means. Bill and I argued over so many aspects of that initial script. We fought over the use of voice-over to explain our protagonist's motivation; we rallied against each other over Tarantino-esque dialogue to move the story forward; we even pushed back and forth over scene descriptions! Somehow, despite all this, after some compromise and three drafts, we had a script we were proud of and a direction we agreed on. (Eventually, we will wipe the dust off what we worked on and try to get this thing made, but that is a tangent for another time.)
As a writer, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is play in a different park. Take off the novelist hat and try your hand at poetry, scripts, or even songs! The rules and expectations are different, and the experience can only make you better at your craft. If you love writing dialogue, try writing that same scene with your characters not saying a word. If you write everything in third-person, try your had at a little I- and you-driven prose. Jump into a different medium and give a shot at a stage play. It will be frustrating, heartbreaking, and absolutely maddening... but it will also be a load of fun, like a writer's vacation!