“This industry is next to impossible to penetrate. You’ll need all the help you can get.
Even the big name screenwriters are constantly adjusting their approach and connections to stay in the game. But there are plenty of things they can teach you on your way into the business. It all boils down to your story. Is it worth telling?
Are you a passionate person who can take advice and implement it? Are you fun to be around? Imagine how many people shove their screenplays into the folded arms of these mentor types. Don’t be one of these people.
“The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget
Submerse yourself in reading screenplays from your genre. Read books, fiction and non-fiction. Good writers do things that others don’t. Figure out what those things are and what they mean to you as a writer. Then copy them and apply those techniques into your own writing. Discover what things you like about other writers, their pacing, style, etc. Then bring it home to your own writing.
Don't allow anyone to foolishly advise you against reading screenplays and books! You must learn from the best. Anyone who says that there is little gained by reading other screenplays and books - is trying to deprive you the opportunity to learn and grow. Can anyone seriously tell you there is nothing to gain by reading? I would strongly disagree.
Image courtesy of Stephanie Palmer's amazing website, GoodInAroom.com
Image courtesy of CrooksAndLiars.com
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
You must become the expert of your genre. That means you must first decide what genre you are best suited to excel with - and then study it feverishly. You not only need to see every single film in your genre, but you also need to read all of the screenplays you can get your hands on.
Reading is every bit as important as writing. You have to learn from what others have done, how they’ve handled situations, how they’ve formatted things, and what you can do to improve.
“I love to put my writing down and devour books.”
Simply the best way to improve your life as a writer, and as a human being for that matter, is to become a voracious reader and consumer of literature. Become the expert in your given genre, but also expand into the classics and the “must read” screenplays and books available to you (so readily).
Reading is learning. Reading is entertainment. Reading is leisure. Reading, next to writing, is life!
Image courtesy of nofilmschool.com
“Do not be told something is impossible. There is always a way.”
Don’t settle for anything less than your vision or dreams. This is your career. You can break in and become successful. You’ll need to constantly adjust and bend along the way, but there absolutely is room for you.
Follow your gut, and never give up trying. Go out of your way to help other people along your journey and then watch as the magic happens for you to accomplish your goals and dreams. You must find a way. And you will.
“My three Ps: passion, patience, perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.”
Screenwriting is not easy. If you’re fortunate enough to choose the stories that you write, pick something that drives you, gets you out of bed each morning excited for the new day’s adventures.
Passion for everyday writing comes with time and experience, but also from that incredible story inside you - bursting out and begging to be written. Discover what excites you as a person and put it on paper. Eventually it will find it’s way into a screenplay. Write the type of movie that you personally would want to watch.
Get excited! Go for it!
Image courtesy of NerdGoblin.com
“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.”
Don’t be boring. Don’t write about things that aren’t interesting to you. Ideas should flow to and from you. Write them down and review them often. Always pursue the most exciting (to you) while quietly cultivating the others as you go.
Use the excitement to get writing and maintain momentum. That will sustain you through some of the rough patches. But reflect back upon your exciting idea and take note of what it is that brings the positive energy. Focus on that and get writing!
“There are no dull subjects, only dull writers.”
The number one rule in filmmaking is not to bore the audience. That’s why your first ten pages of screenplay are so vital. Your audience is the reader (think producer), and they must be hooked from page one. Any subject can be tackled in a screenplay. Your job is to make it exciting and worthwhile.
Don’t fall for the formulaic. Press yourself to be original and creative - no matter the topic. Always leave the reader wanting to know what comes next, and keep them guessing!
“A typewriter needs only paper; a camera uses film, requires subsidiary equipment by the truckload and Wellington several hundreds of technicians. That is always the central fact about the filmmakers opposed to any other artist: he can never afford his own tools.”
Resources for writers and filmmakers
Every artist, filmmaker, writer, or creative professional needs to constantly be learning! Becoming better at your craft will change your life, it will invite unseen opportunities, and it will bless the lives of those around you - and those who work with you or benefit from your creativity. Here are several resources to foster learning and growth.
Here are some suggested tools for screenwriters that you should be able to afford:
These books should be on the shelf for quick reference, inspiration, the rules, and general reference.
THE SCREENWRITER'S BIBLE
The go to source for screenplay formatting, this is an invaluable book to have in your library. Want to know how to handle dual dialogue? Flashbacks? This book will make you an expert. Every serious screenwriter needs it in their arsenal. Here are some other, great resources:
SAVE THE CAT
THE FOUNDATIONS OF SCREENWRITING
YOUR SCREENPLAY SUCKS!
THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING
THE WRITER'S JOURNEY
THE 101 HABITS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITERS
These blogs are necessary for my writing and craft development. Follow them and you won't regret it.
BALLS OF STEEL
BEHIND THE LINES
GO INTO THE STORY
Tools for writing
Things that make my life as a writer and professor easier and bearable.
I'm not a disciple of the more trendy "Scrivener" software (although it is a great writing environment, with some excellent export options). But outside of screenwriting, I use Storyist. I love it's simplicity and organization. I love setting daily writing "targets" and watching my progress throughout the day. It's an all-around great writing tool that is similar to Scrivener in every way. It also has iOS apps that work well (especially the iPad app).
I mainly use this as an idea organizer. I love the cloud sync with all of my devices and I can easily access all of my thoughts and have them available at any time. I also use the web clipper tool quite a bit (it allows me to send a web page or article and immediately save it to a notebook of my choice).
MOVIE MAGIC SCREENWRITER
I am very aware that the industry standard is Final Draft. But Screenwriter just feels more like real software to me. It's archaic in it's own ways, but I love the outline feature and the ease of formatting on-the-fly by hitting Return or Tab. I realize that most screenwriting apps have the same tools and functionality, I just like this one better. It also exports directly into the EP Scheduling and Budgeting apps seamlessly (Final Draft has problems occasionally.
DAY ONE JOURNAL
Daily journaling is one of my better habits. I enjoy typing what's happened throughout the day. The interface is clean and easy to navigate. I'm not a big "markup" guy, but it's simple enough to get the basics down. The iOS apps work well and sync via Dropbox. The iCloud sync leaves a lot to be desired and I haven't figured it out yet - to be honest.
I'm fortunate enough to live in a city that has Google Fiber. One of the perks of signing up with Google TV, was a whopping 1TB of cloud drive storage. I use it for personal and for business. I store everything on the drive. Photos don't count against my storage limit, so I backup all of my photos (from my phone) onto Google Drive. I also use the documents and spreadsheets quite a bit (they also don't count against my storage plan). The iOS apps integrate well and overall I really like Google Drive. Because I store pretty much everything from my laptop onto Google Drive, it means that anywhere I go (as long as there's an internet connection) I will have access to all of my files, video clips, etc.
I've had a bit of a hard time settling down with just one GTD app. I really like Wunderlist, but it's not quite robust enough yet. Things allows me to have projects with multiple layers of tasks inside of them - which I like. The only drawback to the app is that it doesn't have a calendar view. I'm a visual type - and I would really like to see a calendar with my projects spread across multiple days and my tasks populating the future days of the month. But, overall it's a great tool that I use each day to plan my writing and personal projects.
There seem to be two types of writers. Those that just start writing (and see where the story takes them), and those, like me, who outline everything to death until it's just a matter of adding dialogue to the outline and calling it done. I strongly believe in a good outline. I want to figure the story out completely before I write it. Omnioutliner is probably a bit robust, but I'm liking it so far. It's very easy to add check boxes to each bullet point, and to add notes along side the outlined items. Good tool.
I'd love to hear what works for you and which tools you find useful. Please comment and let me know what you think. Thanks!
Writer of screenplays, fiction novels, inspirational stories, and short stories.