Writing a feature-length screenplay (or tv pilot) is definitely a fun idea, but when you finally get down to actually doing it, well, not only does getting to the bottom of page one suddenly seem a little intimidating, reaching the end 95-110-pages later can almost feel impossible!
Getting stuck is part and parcel of the game, as is changing things around, cutting out characters, and having another brilliant idea halfway through (we’ve all been there), and it isn’t difficult to find yourself going around in circles and getting nowhere in the process.
So, how can you make this seemingly monumental task more achievable?
Whether you’re about to start a new project or are struggling to complete your current one, here are 4 quick-fire tips to get you started.
Outline. There are three types of writers. Those who outline, those who make it up as they go along, and those who do both. All are valid ways to write a screenplay, so it’s a case of finding which way works best for you. That said, having an outline (or blueprint) at the beginning of the process can save you a lot of time and it can help you iron out issues before you’ve spent all that time writing the script. Filling out a beat sheet, such as Black Snyder’s, the Hero’s Journey, or a mash-up of the two is a great place to start when pinpointing all of the major story beats and turning points that will help you to construct a gripping story. Or at the very least, know the ending to your story and use that to work backward by figuring out what occurred to lead the protagonist there. Outlines can be as detailed or sparse as you want and remember, they’re not set in stone, so you can still change things if needed. But putting in the planning and preparation beforehand could save you a lot of time further down the road.
Logline. Not everyone writes their logline before they write their screenplay, but this is another great way to help you keep the essence of your story in your mind while your write, plus it’s a great way to figure out your movie’s big selling point too. Constructing a logline first gives you a fast way to brainstorm who the best character is to focus on, to find a compelling goal to give them, to create big stakes that will grab the viewers, to discover the best flaws, weaknesses, and limitations that will hamper their success, and to develop the central antagonistic force on your story. A logline will also help you write the first act, as everything you’ve promised in your logline needs to be delivered as quickly as possible, meaning that your logline is basically the outline for your first 12-15-pages.
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