The screenwriter Gene Fowler once said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Here’s how to make the process a little less painful.
You will need
- A formatting and pagination guide
- A realistic sense of limitations
- Source material
- Script formatting software
Step 1 Decide on source material Decide if you want to write a script from scratch, or adapt some other work, like a novel.
For adaptations, you’ll need to secure rights to anything that’s not in the public domain. Be prepared to pay dearly for the rights to popular books.
Step 2 Learn script formatting Learn how to format a script. This is very important—many studios won’t even look at a script if it doesn’t follow industry standard rules for spacing and style.
There are many scriptwriting programs that will automatically format what you’re writing, as well as adapt previously written scripts to the standard style.
Step 3 Brainstorm Come up with some ideas for a script. Everyone has his or her own creative process, but most people find that sitting down at a computer without some ideas just leads to writer’s block.
Step 4 Be realistic Be realistic. Don’t limit your imagination too much, but if you’re planning to film your own movie, remember that a sprawling war epic with battle scenes and period costumes is going to be difficult on a $50,000 budget.
Follow the old adage, ‘Write about what you know.’ But beware of writing about yourself—most people are not nearly as interesting as they think they are!
Step 5 Develop your characters Think about your characters before you start. Develop them deeply and then imagine them coming into conflict in interesting ways. Once writing, a good trick is to avoid having them say exactly what they’re thinking—how often does that happen in real life?
Step 6 Write a first draft Once you’ve got some ideas, sit down and write a first draft. Don’t obsess over the details or try to edit at this point; just get the framework of the story in place.
Step 7 Critique By yourself, or with the help of your director or others whose opinions you admire and trust, critique the draft. Only accept the unvarnished truth; you want a good script, not insincere compliments.
Listening to others’ advice is tricky—if you don’t think something is a good idea, don’t do it. But at the same time, be tolerant of criticism and open to suggestions.
Step 8 Write a second draft Write a second draft of the script, based on the feedback you’ve received and your own assessment of the first product.
Because movies rely on spoken words, pay close attention to your dialogue. A conversation between two people might look fine on paper but sound stilted and fake when spoken aloud.
Step 9 Critique it again Critique the second draft. Ideally, you or your partners will be more satisfied with this one, but if you’re not, don’t get discouraged; many scripts go through dozens of drafts.
Step 10 Write a final draft When you’re happy with the most recent critiques and you think you’re close, make a final draft of the script. It’ll probably still change, but calling it ‘final’ will give you a sense of accomplishment.
Did You Know:
Sony spent $20 million on the story rights and $10 million on the screenplay for Spider-Man 2.