Moving from novels to scripts: Graduate story

Tue 15 Aug 2023

Discover how a former pharmacist and novel writer found success in the screen industries.

Learn how the Falmouth Flexible MA Writing for Script & Screen helped Lorna Riley find her creative voice and transition from writing novels to scripts.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. 

I first trained as a pharmacist and spent about ten years working in hospitals, working my way up the career ladder. My writing career started out as hobby that quickly became a passion. At first, I was writing novels and managed to get numerous "full requests" (where the agent has seen a sample and asks to read the full manuscript), but I never got an offer of representation.  

It was frustrating spending months and sometimes years on a manuscript only for it to end up gathering dust on my hard drive. A writing friend of mine's husband is a screenwriter, and he kept telling her to tell us that we should be writing scripts… so I thought I'd give it a try. Lorna Riley featured

Why did you choose to study online with Falmouth Flexible? 

When I decided to try my hand at screenwriting, I looked at various different online courses. I'm a mum and life can be a bit hectic, so I needed something flexible, but I also wanted something that didn't just skirt over the fundamentals. 

What motivated you to study the MA Writing for Script & Screen? 

I liked the look of the Falmouth course. It was grounded and practical. When I applied, I wasn't even expecting to get in. Screenwriting is a long way from pharmacy, and I wasn't sure if I could go from a science undergraduate course to an arts masters, so I was thrilled when I was given an unconditional offer on the back of my script submission.  

Also it made a big difference that the admission team I spoke to were really friendly and helpful, and the Course Leader John Finnegan very kindly spoke to me as well to answer questions that I had. 

If you’re starting out in the screen industries, how has the course helped you progress? 

It's really grounded my knowledge and given me confidence in my own abilities. I also found my true voice on the course. I'd been writing very different material when I was writing novels. I feel like I know who I am as a writer now. 

Through everything I've learnt, I've gained various competition successes; found work with a local production company writing showreel scripts for up-and-coming actors; had a number of those scripts produced; and my first short film is in post-production right now, with some very exciting cast and crew involved.

Graduate Peter Salisbury has gone on to win international film competitions. Read his story:

Show me the interview >

Can you describe the ways in which the course has benefitted your creative practice since graduating? 

Obviously, different people will be impacted more by different parts of the course, but these are the things that I took away most from the course: 

In the first module, we started from the logline / premise, building up to an outline of the script. This really helped me to focus on the character / what they want / what they need / internal flaw / external obstacle / the stakes if they fail. I am a terror for jumping in and starting writing when a story first started to take shape, but it's so important to get these foundations right first.

Of course these things can still change through the process of writing, which means you need to reassess and readjust as you go along, but doing it from the start means you're much less likely to have to! 

In terms of story structure, I'd heard a lot of advice before through my novel writing, but there was something about the way it was explained during the course, and through applying it to short scripts first that really helped to drive it home.

In prose, short stories are often more like extended poems and often have less structure than novels. Applying story structure to fifteen pages helped me to "see" it better for myself.  And having the peer feedback and 1:1 sessions with the brilliantly supportive tutors also massively reinforced everything I learnt. 

Also, in terms of genre and tone, I massively appreciated the depth to which it was discussed. Of all the course material, this is often the teaching I go back to the most to refresh my memory. 

How has the course helped you keep up to date with screenwriting industry trends? 

Everything we learned was founded in practicality, so we were taught all about cinema: from its inception to the current trends. We used the knowledge we'd gained to critically appraise current films and streaming / television programmes that we'd viewed, which really helped to cement what we'd learned. 

What are networking opportunities like for online students? 

There were plenty of opportunities to interact with other students through feedback and group projects. We also had a face-to-face get together for in-person teaching and networking, which was great to properly connect with people, especially those from different cohorts. 

We also had outside speakers give online presentations. We were also expected to contact industry professionals to interview for one module. It gave us an excuse to get in touch and build our own network. That push encouraged me to send out my CV to various production companies and has led to paid work as well as in-person meetings with really helpful advice from people I can go back to time and again. 

Would you describe the course as a good investment?  

It's a lot of money to spend, so I can understand anyone's hesitation over it, but I can absolutely say that I wouldn't have the career or network that I have now without my MA for so many different reasons. And I had so much fun doing it! I was genuinely sad when it was over, but that's when the real hard work begins. 

During the Falmouth Flexible online MA Writing for Script & Screen, you will explore strategies for promoting yourself as a freelance scriptwriter and work on a major script development project:

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Writing for Script & Screen