Scriptcat’s three more tips from the screenwriting trenches…
November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know, I’ve been offering my screenplay tips, tricks and tactics on MY BLANK PAGE and weekly short posts and share various survival tips. I do speak about these in the various articles on this blog, but this new feature will be a quick reference to glance over and consider as you navigate your screenwriting journey. So, in addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), I’ll be posting new ones here from time to time. Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!
When I consult on screenplays for screenwriters through my consultation service, I can’t tell you how many issues I repeatedly find that harm the overall screenplay. It will live or die by 1,000 tiny details. I know with a little knowledge and insight on the part of the screenwriter, these issues could be easily cleaned up and push the script to a professional level. It only takes one or two issues that repeatedly appear to make your project go from a “RECOMMEND” to a “PASS.”
Okay, on with three more survival tips that will help you on your screenwriting adventure…
Don’t overwrite and micromanage scenes by trying to put your imprint all over them for fear the actor or director “won’t understand” what you are trying to do. They’ll get it if your scene is properly written. Only include the most important action descriptions and avoid the unnecessary ones like: “Frank rolls his eyes, smiles, takes a deep breath, and turns toward the window.” Actors hate this and they will hate your writing even more on the set. The director and actors will figure out how stage the action in the scene from the character’s motivations, etc. Actors love to create their film character’s “business.” Try your best to stay out-of-the-way of the story.
Stay open to constructive criticism. A new writer’s rite of passage if feedback. You will always receive screenplay notes as the script is an ever-changing blueprint for a movie. Once producers, a director and actors get involved there will be many changes and you should welcome the creative input from your co-creators on a project. These fellow artisans will bring it to an entirely new level of creativity. But if the process gets dragged down by so many changes you can become frustrated and feel like throwing in the towel. Stay positive, focused and persistent at executing the notes and turning in a better script. Keep an eye on the bigger picture–getting the film produced and distributed. Find the passion you had for the first draft and put that energy into shaping a new draft that will please not only yourself, but the talent it will eventually attract.
Carve out a writing schedule and stick to it. You need to protect your precious writing time and treat it like a job because it will be exactly the same when you finally do get paid—but you’ll have the added pressure of being under contract, being paid and having the producer expecting “great things!” Hemingway said, “Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.” Working every day, even if it’s for a short period of time, creates discipline. The longer you write the more you’ll get to know yourself better as a writer. You’ll discover your strengths and weaknesses, if you write fast or slow, and if you’re easily distracted or if you can work in a crowded coffee shop. When the writing gets difficult, time becomes your enemy as you never know each day if your creative juices will flow or dry up. Do yourself a favor and always protect your precious writing time from the forces of interruption and distraction. You’ll keep on schedule, writing will become a habit, and you will be acting like the professional you’ve become.
Keep the faith and keep filling your blank pages.
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“Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.”—Akira Kurosawa
“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.”—William Faulkner
“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling