My top five critical elements to consider when writing scripts for profit or pleasure:
1. Format or fail: Scripts are formatted in a specific manner when writing for television or the big screen. Where the margins are, what side of the page you are writing your content on, whether or not you took the time to spell-check your writing, these things can come back to haunt you if you haven’t invested the time to both learn them and do them.
The positions of the text on the script are the difference between camera shots, action, dialogue, parentheticals and so forth. Really great screenwriting software is helpful.
2. Write once for pleasure, once in pain, there’s your treasure, start again:
Pleasure: The first draft is affectionately coined in the screenwriting industry as the vomit draft. Do not show it to your parents, your husband, wife, best friend. It is not ready to be read by your audience unless that audience happens to be beta readers in which case you should already have had the script reviewed by an editor.
If you go ahead and show your work to your peers brace yourself and keep your feet firmly on the ground. You are not necessarily going to like everything people have to say about your work all the time. At this point it’s your right not to do anything with the feedback you get. Other peoples’ opinions and what you do with them or don’t do with them to help shape your work is entirely your call at this point.
Pain: Moving on from (hopefully) constructive criticisms, rewrites are a lot easier once you have accepted that your characters cannot live in glass houses. They cannot always be pretty and protected, there needs to be elements of conflict to create a memorable story. (See my last blog Make it Memorable).There’s a period after the second parentheses because, this is how it’s done grammatically. You know who you are.
Treasure: You’ve written and polished the final draft. Et voila, you’re done and ready to enter contests, pitch to producers and (at your discretion) show around the great masterpiece you’ve created. A critical note: if you haven’t already done this, back up the script on a separate file, a separate electronic device, use a separate usb drive, or something that you are going to be able to retrieve if wherever you happen to have it saved should decide to crash. Speaking of which…I’m back. Okay. Moving on…
So now you’re ready to start working on something new. But wait – before you do, reward yourself for working so hard to reach that goal. (Whatever your writing goal was it should be acknowledged you should take the time to acknowledge your hard work). Writing is a solitary occupation. I think this is why someone got smart and invented writers’ groups.
Entering contests: To pay a fee or not to pay a fee? At this point my vote is still undecided and I have settled for doing both. I am more inclined to enter free competitions as the number of entries going into most competitions besides my own adds up quickly and if I do the math, winning some of these writing competitions would be kind of like winning the film industry lottery (if there were one).
3. Creating characters with depth and their own voice is imperative when you want potential audiences to be able to relate to your work. If all your characters speak in full sentences, use small words, have the same dialect, the same gait, wear the same type of clothing and so on you are going to bore the bleep out of people. Yes, I said bleep. This is a kid friendly blog for any aspiring young writers out there as well as you seasoned professionals that may just be passing your time to see if anything has changed in the industry when it comes to writing scripts. Let me save you some time: the rules of writing great scripts never changes. Mastering the formula, what formula there is, is the real challenge.
4. Story development is like the size of things, I can guess what some of you were thinking. Pay cheques for optioned scripts no doubt. Story development matters and the formula for creating a thorough storyline always stays the same. You need a great beginning, an intriguing middle and a more than satisfactory ending. In the beginning you need to introduce the characters and identify the problem or the conflict that needs to be resolved. In the middle, let things almost resolve and then create further complications. Finally, sum things up in a way that answers the protagonist’s dilemma.
5. In creating a script whether for the screen or personal contentment, put your all into it, if you don’t, in the end, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. Finally, if you don’t enter contests or take a chance and pitch to producers you will never know whether or not your script might have been a big hit; unless you produce your script yourself. A sentence from me to you; take a chance on your writing skills today. Write something you that will make you happy.