Writers are storytellers. That is what we do. We use our words to capture the imagination and tell our stories to the world. But just how do we choose to tell those stories?\r\n\r\nWhen it comes to mediums, the writer has plenty of options at his or her fingertips. We could write a novel, a short story, a poem, a song lyric. But what about the more visual-minded?\r\n\r\nWhen it comes to visual storytelling, there\u2019s no better medium than screenwriting. Recently, Australia was lucky enough to play host to two of television\u2019s most successful screenwriters, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.\r\n\r\nThe pair are, of course, responsible for writing\/creating the BBC cult-hit show, Sherlock. They are also both heavily involved with long-running BBC series, Doctor Who, with Gatiss serving as a regular writer and Moffat taking the reigns as head writer\/showrunner.\r\n\r\nIn the last week of November, Moffat and Gatiss travelled to Australia for the Sydney Doctor Who Festival, as well as the \u201cSherlock: Script to Screen\u201d Panel at Melbourne\u2019s Regent Theatre. Here, they shared some of their tips, experiences, and advice on writing for television.\r\n\r\nBut before we discuss what industry professionals have to say, let\u2019s first take a look at screenwriting, and how to break into it.\r\n\r\nWriter Alyssa Boorman picked up some awesome tips at the recent Doctor Who festival. Image credit: Erin Hogan\r\nWhat is Screenwriting?\r\nScreenwriting is just what it sounds like: writing for the screen. Or, in other words, writing for film and\/or television.\r\n\r\nIt is a visual form of storytelling that allows the writer\u2019s work to be interpreted and brought to the audience through a collaborative process involving directors, actors, editors, producers, musical composers, and so on.\r\nWhy Choose Screenwriting?\r\nScreenwriting is a particularly unique form of storytelling, not only because of its highly visual nature, but also due to the level of collaboration involved. When a writer creates a script or screenplay, they allow their story to be blown into life by every individual involved in the filmmaking process.\r\n\r\nThis extensive collaboration allows the story to expand, in such a way that it seemingly takes on a life of its own. It lives, and breathes, and grows \u2013 like a person, from infancy to adulthood. Each collaborator makes an impact on the final state of the story.\r\n\r\nScreenwriting also allows you the potential of reaching a wide audience, all at the same time. For more on why to choose screenwriting, visit the Writers Store.\r\nHow to Write a Script\/Screenplay\r\nWhen it comes to writing a script or screenplay, there are particular rules and formatting that writers must abide by. This is because your script will need to be read by so many different people in the industry (i.e. directors, actors, editors, etc.).\r\n\r\nScripts and screenplays must therefore follow a standard format, recognisable to all involved in the filmmaking process.\r\n\r\nThe Writers Store provides a helpful example of the basic layout of a screenplay. However, for any writer who is thinking of screenwriting professionally, you may want to consider taking a short course to better understand the ins and outs of the medium.\r\n\r\nA selection of these courses are offered by such organisations as the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and the Australian Writers\u2019 Centre.\r\n\r\nScreen Australia also has a remarkable resource for screenwriters, in their publication I\u2019ve Got a Great Idea for a Film. Similarly, a list of helpful screenwriting books can be found here.\r\n\r\nBut now, to some writing advice from Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.\r\n\r\nScreenwriting is a highly visual and collaborative medium for writers. Image credit: Rafael Leonardo Re via Flickr Creative Commons\r\nScreenwriting Wisdom from Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat\r\nWriting Alone or Collaboratively\r\nBoth at the Doctor Who Festival and the \u201cSherlock: Script to Screen\u201d Panel, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat spoke about the different ways they compose screenplays.\r\n\r\nFrom what they discussed, the professional screenwriter must always be prepared to write either alone or collaboratively. For example, as a writer for Doctor Who, Gatiss revealed he is often approached with a pitch for a script, which he is then able to go off and write on his own.\r\n\r\nThis was the case for the \u201cRobot of Sherwood\u201d episode, where he was simply given the pitch \u201cThe Doctor meets Robin Hood\u201d. From there, Gatiss created a remarkable episode, involving a robot-alien invasion of Sherwood Forest, and an epic spoon fight between the Doctor and the Prince of Thieves.\r\n\r\nWhen it comes to Sherlock, however (which Gatiss and Moffat co-created), there are times when the two writers have come together in collaboration. Surprisingly, though, this collaboration has not often resulted in the two \u201cworking together\u201d.\r\n\r\nAt \u201cSherlock: Script to Screen\u201d, Moffat and Gatiss revealed that, although they have co-created episodes together before, the new Sherlock special, \u201cThe Abominable Bride\u201d (in Australian cinemas January 2nd), is the first episode they have written together where they have actually written together, in the same room, at the same time.\r\nWriter's Block with Mark Gatiss\r\nAhead of the Sydney Doctor Who Festival, Mark Gatiss recorded a short video, providing advice for new writers. At the Festival, however, he was able to share his advice in a much more interactive manner via his Writers\u2019 Masterclass Q&A panel.\r\n\r\nIt was during this panel that one audience member asked him about his secrets for conquering writer\u2019s block.\r\nI love having a hot bath,\u201d he revealed. \u201cI call it a \u2018think bath\u2019... Or I go running. It clears your head. It\u2019s good to think about something different. If you\u2019ve got another project on the go, if you start doing that, sometimes it frees [you] up.\u201d\r\nGatiss then shared some wisdom from his Sherlock co-creator and Doctor Who showrunner, Steven Moffat.\r\nI was talking to Steven Moffat about this the other day\u2026 and he said, \u2018Really, in the end, you\u2019re blocked because something you\u2019ve done isn\u2019t right. It\u2019s not working.\u2019 So you can unblock yourself by sort of admitting that, and going back and fixing it.\u201d\r\nMark Gatiss shares his best tips for overcoming writer's block. Image credit: Erin Hogan\r\nSharing Ideas with Mark Gatiss\r\nAs with any writing, it is important for screenwriters to be able to share their work and ideas with others. This is particularly true due to the highly collaborative nature of screenwriting.\r\n\r\nHowever, sharing ideas can be very difficult for writers. We can become protective of our writing, to the point where handing our ideas over to others for scrutiny can be horribly nerve-wracking.\r\n\r\nBut for any beginners who are grappling with this fear and anxiety, it is comforting to know that even the most experienced of professionals struggle with this problem.\r\n\r\nWhen asked how far along in the writing process he likes to share his ideas, Mark Gatiss exclaimed,\r\nNever! I hate sharing ideas. Everybody does. It\u2019s a terrifying moment.\u201d\r\nBut if the fear of sharing is something writers never get over, what exactly are we supposed to do about it? The answer: do it anyway!\r\n\r\nYou are always going to be nervous about showing your writing to people, so just do it anyway. No matter how fast your heart is beating, or how sick to the stomach that \u201csend\u201d button makes you feel \u2013 click it anyway.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s a terrifying moment handing your work over to someone else, but if we don\u2019t find the courage to press \u201csend\u201d, we\u2019ll never get our stories out into the world.\r\nConsidering Logistics with Mark Gatiss\r\nOne slightly peculiar thing about screenwriting is that once you have written a story, it becomes the responsibility of others to actually make your story a reality.\r\n\r\nSo what does this mean for the writing process? Is it down to the writer to consider such things as budget, special effects and possible locations? Should the writer be aware of how their screenplay can actually be realised on screen?\r\n\r\nAccording to Mark Gatiss, the answer to this question is a resounding \u201cno\u201d.\r\nYou never think about that. You can\u2019t really think about that. Because you\u2019d limit your imagination. I know you can\u2019t write bits, and think they\u2019re going to happen in that way, but it\u2019s amazing what we can do.\u201d\r\nHe then went on to share a story about fellow Doctor Who writer, Peter Harness, and his reservations about his script for a recent season nine episode, \u201cThe Zygon Invasion\u201d.\r\nPeter Harness was telling me he was a bit trepidatious writing the first part of the Zygon story, because it was taking place all over the world, but it was realised absolutely brilliantly,\u201d asserts Gatiss. \u201cYou can do a lot more these days. I think the key is to not limit yourself.\u201d\r\nMark Gatiss discusses the screenwriting process in a recent visit to Australia. Image credit: Erin Hogan\r\nThe Best Thing About Screenwriting with Steven Moffat\r\nAlthough much of this article has focussed on advice from Mark Gatiss, writer Steven Moffat also shared some excellent advice on his recent trip to Australia.\r\n\r\nAt the \u201cSherlock: Script to Screen\u201d event, I myself was able to ask Moffat a couple of questions on screenwriting. Namely, what advice does he have for hopeful screenwriters, and what is it that makes screenwriting so special?\r\n\r\nHere\u2019s what he had to say\u2026\r\n\r\nFirst of all, Moffat emphasised that, as a writer, there\u2019s nothing to hold you back.\r\nThere\u2019s really no excuses when it comes to writing\u2026 You can start writing now.\u201d\r\nHe also spoke about the way script\/screenwriters can learn from the very best in the industry, simply by sitting at home and watching different films and TV shows.\r\nOne of the great things about writing for television is\u2026 in the corner of your room, with the television on, you can watch, and you can learn, and you can see.\u201d\r\nSteven Moffat, the driving force behind two of TV's biggest series. Image credit: Erin Hogan\r\n\r\nHowever, the best advice Moffat had to offer was not necessarily in what he said, but rather in how he said it.\r\n\r\nAs he sat there on stage, the writer of two of today\u2019s biggest cult-hit TV shows, discussing what he does every single day, Steven Moffat was visibly ecstatic. His eyes lit up and his gestures became enthusiastically emphatic.\r\nThe best thing about being a writer, [rather] than any old job in television is, at the end of the day, you get to make it up. You know, that\u2019s your job\u2026 You get to make it up!\u201d\r\nAnd here, no doubt, is the secret to Steven Moffat\u2019s unfaltering success. At the end of the day, he is still as passionate about writing now as he must have been the day he first picked up a pen.\r\n\r\nSo if there\u2019s any piece of advice writers should take away from his words, it is this: never lose your passion. Steven Moffat still believes he has the best job in the world.\r\n\r\nAnd he is absolutely right.