As an aspiring screenwriter, you’re passionate about movies, TV, and storytelling in general. You’ve dreamt about expressing your creative vision, maybe even impacting the world.
But first – you must write.
This may be the hardest part. Simple, but not always easy. Sometimes a writer knows he or she wants to write, but hasn’t made room for it yet; life keeps getting in the way. Or perhaps he or she is still working up the courage to put words on the page.
It takes more than dreaming and hoping to become a writer. It takes action. The good news? Knowing what the next step is makes it easier to tackle.
With that in mind, here’s a plan of action to write your screenplay.
1. Choose an idea
You need an idea that will sustain your interest for the months (or even years) you’ll be working on the screenplay.
That said, if you’re a beginner it’s less helpful to be precious about your choice and more important to just work your way through the process of writing. Choose an idea that makes you feel excited about writing, and that you can picture as a movie.
Need some ideas to choose from? Here are Three Fun Games to Help You Find Better Screenplay Ideas.
2. Think about the big picture
Come up with a clear vision of what kind of movie you’re writing, to serve as a touchstone that will help you throughout the process. Think about what other movies are similar in tone, genre, and style. Where will your movie fit in the big picture of all the movies that exist?
3. Develop the logline
A solid logline will serve you well throughout the process, as it encapsulates your screenplay’s story. And experimenting with different versions of a logline makes it easy to quickly explore possible story directions and elements.
For an in-depth look at loglines, check out How to Write Effective Loglines.
4. Work out the structure in an outline
Maybe you think outlining will stifle your creativity. But it’s the rare screenwriter who doesn’t find an outline a useful, if not necessary, step in the process. Often, outlining is where the heavy lifting is done. It’s where much of the creative inspiration happens. And having an outline as a guide actually makes sitting down to write pages less daunting.
5. Read, read, read
Reading screenplays can show you how it’s done, as well as help you see what you need to do differently. Reading widely – news, personal essays, literature, trade magazines – can spark new ideas and refill the well when you’re feeling uninspired.
6. Commit to a due date
It’s far too easy to put off writing until things are less busy at work, or your family’s not visiting from out of town, or you’ve finished watching all eleven seasons (so far) of Supernatural.
But the truth is, screenwriting is a profession. If you’re preparing yourself for a screenwriting career, then it’s a good idea to develop a regular writing habit and commit to writing on a deadline.
One great way to make your due date feel real and urgent, is to choose one that IS real and urgent — like a contest deadline.
7. Write without editing
Great screenplays don’t happen in one draft. So let go of perfectionism and focus only on writing the first draft. That’s all you need to worry about in this step.
8. Rewrite, get feedback, and repeat
Then you can work on improving what you have. Writing is rewriting, after all. When you’ve rewritten your screenplay to the best of your ability, get feedback on it – and find out where it can still use improvement. The more you write, the more you’ll learn, and the better writer you’ll be.
When you don’t know what to do next, revisit these eight steps. Most importantly, keep writing.
And when you’ve made it through to the end, here are 5 Ways You Can Determine If Your Script Is Done.