If you just stumbled upon screenwriting, or think you have a great idea and don’t know where to start, and before your fingers hit the keyboard, here’s a few tips to ease your way in… these are things that you, at the very least, should consider doing. This list is my opinion in case you have a problem with any of them…
1. Get screenwriting software. Celtx is free and easy to use. There are others. You don’t have to use Word, and you really shouldn’t. It’s kinda ugly for formatting. Upgrade later to something more professional when you’re sure this is something you’re going to stick with for the long haul (like more than a few years…)
2. Read some modern screenwriting books – like Crafty Screenwriting, or Save the Cat, or The Way of the Screenwriter. (I’ll add here, read books, period. All kinds of books, but mostly good ones. It’ll make you a better writer.)
3. Read modern screenplays (if you can find them online…). They’re not only a good indication of the types of things that get made, but they will provide you a wealth of information about how to construct your screenplay (which will mostly be taken care of when you get software…but still…)
4. Watch movies that you like and ones you don’t like. Try to figure out why there is a difference. Deconstruct the story, once you know the elements (see #2 above).
5. Follow screenwriting podcasts and blogs to keep up to date on what is going on in the world of the pros. They were once in our shoes. I follow John August (US) and Alex Epstein (Canada), among others. These two guys have been online for years now, and have covered everything you will need to know, and then some.
6. Get out and meet other writers and people doing the same thing you want to do. Talk to them. Meet directors, attend movie gatherings. Get involved. Writing is a solitary business, most of the time. It’s the only way you are going to say sane.
7. Outline your stuff and pitch it to someone. Get their feedback. This is where the real work is done. Refine the story at this stage and the rest will be easier.
8. Write shitty stuff. Who cares. Unless you show it to someone, it never happened…right?
9. Rewrite better stuff. Search each line for the nugget that’s going to make it POP. Hear the characters in your head.
10. Don’t let anyone tell you that (insert your vice here) is not part of the writing process. It most certainly is.
That’s all for now!