Help for Beginning Screenwriters
Welcome to the world of screenwriting! Writing movies can be extremely fun, creative, and even exciting.
WARNING: Screenwriting can also be extremely boring and frustrating. As a produced screenwriter, I can only promise that the fun parts will outweigh the frustrating parts…most of the time.
How do you get started in screenwriting? First, know what a screenplay looks like. A great site that has a ton of free scripts is Drew’s Script-o-Rama. Read at least ten screenplays, then come back.
Oh, you think you’ve got it? Read ten more.
Alright, now you know some of the basic structure. Keep in mind, many of those screenplays are shooting scripts. (If you click that link Wikipedia will kindly explain the difference between shooting scripts and spec scripts.)
Ready to go? Not quite. Before you write a word, please read at least one book on screenwriting. Hundreds, if not thousands of books have been written on the subject – why wouldn’t you read at least one?
Which book do you start with? You can’t go wrong with Michael Hauge’s Writing Screenplays that Sell. Follow that with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and you’ll be off and running. Many people swear by The Screenwriter’s Bible, but it’s a bit much for beginners.
Next, you probably want to purchase screenwriting software. It just makes things easier. There is some debate between Movie Magic and Final Draft, but since now both of those programs convert your script into PDF, I don’t think it much matters any longer.
"But Eric, those programs cost over a hundred dollars…"
Oh, I thought you wanted to learn screenwriting? Like any hobby / potential career, you’re going to have to invest. If you’re in doubt, please read this piece by the Unknown Screenwriter (Unk). It’s a little crass, but you’ll get the picture.
If you still don’t want to spend money, there’s a free screenwriting program called Celtx, and you can check out screenwriting books from your library. But when you get serious, eventually you’ll have to spend a little cash.
Writing can be lonely, so you may want to find other scribes. Check out screenwriting community sites like Triggerstreet and others on the web. I have also linked a number of screenwriting sites from Script Doctor Eric. John August’s site is extremely informative, as is SellingYourScreenplay, especially the post How to Sell Your Screenplay
Beyond the internet, you might take a writing class at a local college – other writers are bound to be there. Maybe they don’t write screenplays, but fiction writers are good to bounce story ideas off and commiserate about the process.
As for Script Doctor Eric, I’m happy to help screenwriters just starting out. I’ll take a look at an outline or treatment if you’d like and give you a ton of ideas and directions to go. Contact me via email and we’ll arrange pricing, depending on the length of your treatment and type of feedback you are looking for. Don’t worry: like the rest of the services on the site, it’ll be extremely reasonable.
And I’m always happy to look at loglines for free. (A logline is a 1-2 sentence summary of the script). Email your logline and I’ll let you know what catches my attention and what things you may want to avoid. Or enter it into the Logline Friday competition and win free notes!
Free feedback on your logline from a produced screenwriter? That’s right – get it while it lasts.
But seriously, 1-2 sentences only. Condense!
That’s it. What are you doing still reading this? You should be writing.