How to Start Writing for Screen

Hello, everyone! If you follow me regularly you may have noticed I did not post last week, that is because I have been super busy with some exciting projects! The Nightriders campaign running, frantically applying for jobs (which I got a job interview yesterday – yay!) and I have been working on lots of my own writing, with some projects in development. All things are a go, but I will try to be more consistent with posting again(:

So for today, since scriptwriting has been a very big topic for me at the moment, I thought I would share some of my tips and learning experiences if you are thinking of becoming a scriptwriter.

The Idea

Okay, this seems pretty obvious, right? But without a solid idea, how are you going to come up with a compelling story for your script? If you are just starting out, I suggest writing more of what you know. Think about the stories you like, the genre you feel most comfortable with and what it is you want to say. What I like to do is have a notebook dedicated to writing to take notes in, storyboard and a place to write down all my ideas — you never know when that could come in handy.

You may have a few ideas already and trying to decide which one to choose. My advice to you is, choose the one you believe you can make a story out of. An idea is only a seed of the equation. You will live with that idea throughout the entire writing process and longer into production – so make sure you like it. Also, not only do you have to feel passionate about it but ensure that you can develop it enough to have strong characters, conflict and story arcs.

There have been numerous times where I have started something that I thought was a good idea, but I couldn’t make anything out of it or I didn’t feel passionate about it. Last year, the summer before I started writing Awakened Minds, I was trying to develop a tv series that was completely wrong for me. I really loved the idea, but one it was two complicated for me to even wrap my head around as a new writer and two I lost passion in it. My Awakened Minds script came to me after doing a month of yoga lessons and a new interest about the mind. I was already knowledgable about some of the topics, but I also did lots of research to develop plot points and to get further inspiration. Because I was so passionate about it I wrote the whole pilot episode in less than a month and storyboarded the whole rest of the series! But of course, then it goes into revision and that alone can take months, if not years.

Characters

Who is your protagonist? Who is your antagonist?

When creating your characters make sure you make them believable, relatable and originality. Keep them fresh and give them a unique voice/personality. When you write your script you don’t want all your character’s sounding the same, so make sure they each stand out in their own way. What really helps is to plan all your characters out that you want in the story and give them little character bios. Get to know them, so when you begin to write you should just know how they would respond.

Outlining the Story

Now that you have your characters and story idea, it’s time to outline. Keep in mind your genre and your protagonist’s goal. A three-act structure is the most common across all mediums – whether you want to write for TV, film or just do short film. Note: If you are writing for TV make sure you can make multiple episodes and leave room for your story to grow and develop into multiple seasons. Always leave your audience wanting more.

Here’s an easy guide for you below.

Story Outline Structure

What is Your Goal?

Ask your self, “what are you trying to achieve with my script?” Do you want to enter it into a competition, maybe try and pitch it to someone, crowdfund to put it into production or maybe just to practice and build a portfolio. Whatever your reason, pick a goal and set yourself a deadline. Having something to work towards gives you that much more motivation to see it to the end. There will be days when you don’t feel inspired to write, but like anything, it’s a skill you have to practice and keep developing. Don’t give up!

Formatting

Screenplays have a very specific format that you will need to follow. I highly recommend software such as Celtx, or there is also Final Draft. Either one works great, but if you are just starting out and don’t want to pay for a software, give it a go on Celtx. I’m sure there are plenty of other softwares as well but those are the two I am familiar with.

Screencraft Formatting Example

Are you Ready to Write?

So are you finally ready to start writing? What I believe the best thing to do is, just let it all flow out of you. Get it all out on paper, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember this is your first draft, you will have plenty of time to go back through and clean scenes up or take things out. Don’t be to harsh on yourself the first time round either. When I started writing my scripts, sometimes I just have to write everything to the end to see where it’s going, and then I will go back through and see where sections need more clarity or additions.

Find what works for you. I’ll never forget watching the Shonda Rhimes Masterclass on scriptwriting and hearing how she loves to write with big headphones on while listening to music. Personally, I need dead silence and no distractions. But, everyone is different. I’ll have days where I can’t get up till I finish the whole script because all the ideas are fresh in my head and I’m on a roll. Other days I’ll write one scene and have a massive writer’s block. The writing process can be tedious sometimes, but don’t give up. And if you need some more help on how you can get creative – I have a blog post for that(:

Helpful Resources

With the help of the World Wide Web, you have access to SOOO many resources to help you get started and help you out. Here are just a few I’ve kindly listed for you:

Shore Scripts : A great website to download scripts to read, advice from writers, and courses. Plus, download a FREE guide to formatting your screenplay. You can also submit into their screenplay contest when you are done. I currently have two in the contests(:

Final Draft & Celtx : Scriptwriting Software

Screencraft : Screenwriting software, blog posts and script consultations

Studio Binder : Script breakdown sheets and all your production template essentials

Film Courage : Videos on Youtube giving top tips on a range of topics from industry professionals!

There are plenty more, but these are a few I use quite often that have helped me. Also, I did a two year scriptwriting at university that really helped me get started. But you don’t have to go to university if you want a course, there are plenty of them online you can sign up to.

I hope that helps a little bit, and happy writing!

Be sure to follow my blog for more posts and follow me on instagram @Double_j_creative

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