This list of ten tips for screenwriters from FilmScriptWriting.com is a useful resource for avoiding writer’s block and inspiring creativity. The list is hardly perfect — I wouldn’t take these tips as gospel — but it’s a good starting point for getting those typing-fingers working:
1. Read more scripts.
That’s what the sample script section of the site is for. We’ve also got a link to a site that is chock full of scripts in the use resources section.
There are many advantages to reading scripts. First is it allows you to become very knowledgeable when it comes to formatting. When you read an original draft of a screenplay that you’ve already seen then you get to see what was changed from the initial script. You will also get a better idea how to layout and transition between scenes.
Read a couple of scripts over the weekend and write down everything you’ve learned. Keep it blue tacked to the wall behind your monitor to remind you until it is ingrained in your brain.
2. Create a writing routine.
Until you’ve established a good routine it can be absolute torture to sit down and write. Do whatever it is you need to do to get yourself in the mood to write your script. Go for a jog, make yourself a cup of coffee, listen to a hypnosis session, etc.
Once you’ve got your head in the game then you need to work out what is the optimum time for your writing sessions as well as the length. Some people can write 12 hours straight, others like to break sessions into 30 minute chunks. Experiment and find what works best for you.
3. Make something happen.
Always keep your screenplay ticking along. If you’re writing a scene, or reading one back, and notice that you’ve got two ‘talking heads’ (characters stood around doing nothing) then get them into action. Even if they’re just walking to the next scene, get the story moving along!
4. Keep dialogue punchy.
This means no monologues, or lengthy exchanges. Dialogue should be short and snappy, try to keep any dialogue between one and two lines. A screenplay is action orientated, not dialogue driven.
5. Play to your strengths.
When you start the initial planning stage for writing your screenplay then you should play to your strengths, especially if this is your first script. If you’re a naturally funny person that it’d probably be a good idea to write a comedy. If you eat up costume dramas then write one of those.
6. Use your best idea now.
In talking to some prospective scriptwriters I’ve come across a common negative. They struggle for ideas…yet they have one which sounds great. When I ask them why they don’t just write that they say that they don’t want to write that idea until they’re a better scriptwriter!
It’s a lot easier to write a selling script first time using your best idea than it is your second best idea. Remember that most scripts are bought purely for their concept rather than their content.
7. Redundant words and -ings.
There’s certain words in your narrative that you should avoid or delete if they’re already there. ‘And’, ‘then’, ‘we see’, can go as well as ‘look’ or ‘listen’ at the start of dialogue.
Also, when you’re writing the narrative, you shouldn’t be using -ing words:
Matt is walking…
8. Jab before the knockout punch.
Ten earth shaking explosions aren’t as effective as one. A boxer who throws only huge haymakers is predictable and will quickly tire himself out. The same will happen to your screenplay. Jab the story along with smaller events leading to “the big one”.
9. Learn how to write hypnotically.
I’m going to go into this one in a lot of depth in a future article. When you write your query letter or any sort of general introduction you should do so in a hypnotic manner, make the reader need to buy whatever you’re trying to sell.
Don’t be general. Refer to the reader directly, either by name or “you”. Keep paragraphs small. Ask the reader questions. Offer them something.
10. Give your script to as many people as possible.
This applies to two periods when you’ve finished your script. After you’ve finished your first draft give it to as many trust friends and family members as you can. The more opinions you can get the better, it gives you more ideas on how to improve your script.
When you’re actually trying to sell your script there’s no rule saying you can’t send it to absolutely everyone in Hollywood. The only thing you should hold back on is sending your script to multiple agents in the same company. You may also like to send your screenplay to six or so people at the time, making it easier for you to keep track of who should be reading your script at that time.
Keep on scriptwriting!