One of if the most important aspects of screenwriting many first-time screenwriters tend to ignore is the WRITING.*
Half of screenwriting is WRITING
Actually, more than half: “SCREEN” has six letter, “WRITING” has seven. That’s a majority!
Revised one-liner advice:
Seven-thirteenths of “screenwriting” is “writing”
A well-written screenplay can make up for a lot of structural errors, plot holes, and character missteps.
A poorly-written screenplay will be thrown in the garbage after page twenty, if you’re lucky, page 10 if it’s an average day, and page 1 if the agent/manager/producer/assistant/reader is in a foul mood. (It happens.)
A common misconception from new screenwriters is:
The POWER of your ideas can overcome minor faults in your writing.
In other words, you can have the greatest idea for a movie, the highest concept, the richest characters, the most surprising plot twists. But if you can’t express that idea to someone else, it’s just a thought in your head.
The reader can ONLY experience ideas conveyed through the written word. No one in this business has time to read screenplays from writers who haven’t mastered the basics.
You don’t understand, Eric, I have a REALLY good idea.
Believe me, I understand. I’ve been reading scripts from up-and-comers for over 10 years now, and writing them for even longer.
No, really, my idea is really, REALLY good–
Okay, I’m still not convinced, but let’s say your idea IS that good. No one will know unless you can convey it on the page.
So how do you do that? How do you make sure your writing is top notch, or at least above average?**
First, pick up a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style from Amazon or your local library and read the first 33 pages. Yep, that’s homework.
Here’s some things you should know.
-“is” and “are”
-Varying your verbs
And more. Oh, so much more.
Will write more on this later. Meanwhile…got Strunk & White yet?
* There is a fear that when writing a blog post about writing the writer will be judged by the quality of writing in their post. (Ha! Look at that misspelled word! He’s lecturing ME about writing!?!) While such judgment has a sliver of merit, if you wish to improve in your own writing, it may be prudent to refrain from such a critique and concentrate instead on the advice as it applies to screenwriting. After all, this is a blog, not a screenplay. We’re screenwriters, not professional bloggers. (At least, not until I can figure out a way to monetize the bejesus out of ScriptDoctorEric.com!)
** The best way to improve your own writing is, literally, to read and write as much as possible. Read novels, non-fiction works, and of course, screenplays. Read anything that anyone calls “well-written,” or “a classic.” It may not be those things, but at least you’ll get a sense of what is considered great. And of course, write something. Every day. No excuses.