My Advice For Screenwriters



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  • My Advice For Screenwriters

    Before you write the screenplay, before before you write the outline / treatment, please write a condensed 5 - 10 page summary of your story in novel form from beginning to end, this is so the creative process flows without worry about things like structure and formatting

  • #2
    Re: My Advice For Screenwriters

    Every writer will have, and develop, their own process.

    Sometimes that's in the form of handwritten notes to start, sometimes an outline, logline, beat sheet, or treatment. All of them are summaries to one degree or another.

    For me, I start with a logline, create a character grid breakdown that gives each character their own plot turns, I use a structure graph to mark off the big story plot points (inciting incident, pp1, mpt, pp2, climax).

    Once the premise line, theme, characters flaws, weaknesses, needs, wants and character traits are identified, I go to the beat sheet (hybrid STC, 8 seq structure) to outline the entire story.

    During the research process, I often take my laptop and a small notebook and I hand write important information, before i start creating image or information files in Scrivener.

    Then I add details to the beats until i get to a point where I feel I am ready to write. Location, character, function of the scene. Most of the time, I'm fighting the urge to start too soon, but I've learned over time, for me, I have to have a strong outline to avoid writing myself into a corner.

    A strong outline, isn't/shouldn't be a rigid document and if it is well thought out and designed it allows for plenty of flexibility and new ideas to emerge, because you know where the story is intended to go. This helps to keep the story and scenes on the spine of the story without derailing or diverging into areas that do not support the narrative.

    The outline is your guide. It may or may not be your end result, because as you write, and the more time you spend with your story, the more opportunities you will see to deepen character and plot.

    The point is that every writer will have a different process that works for them. If you feel there are inefficiencies with your process try on a new hat on and create you own new process-- maybe you're more like a cowboy hat, loose, fast and free, or more like a top hat, structured, sleek and refined. Don't try to wear someone else's hat. Create your own.

    I'm now using Scrivener (novel writing software) to research and outline my stories because it's an amazingly powerful tool to support not only my beat sheet format, but also allows for visual (video and images) files and internet links to articles to support the story in one file. You could write the entire script in Scrivener. It's really amazing.

    Once I have everything ready in Scrivener I copy and paste the beats into a Final Draft and away we go.

    That may sound like it takes a lot of time, but it doesn't. the last two scripts I wrote (one sci-fi epic, the other rom-com) took about 4 weeks on character work, research and outlining the beat sheet, then about 15 twelve hour days to get the first draft-- it's rough, but the story is there. For me, the key is a solid outline/beat sheet.

    Find your process.

    There is no ONE WAY, it's what works for YOU, and what works for one writer, may not work for another writer. Discover the process that works for you, as a writer, one that enables you to do your best work.

    For me, I would never write a 5 - 10 pages summary, because it's just as easy for me to write in a structured outline or beat sheet with software-- why do the work twice? That's me. That might not be you.

    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso