Part 2: If you are a beginning screenwriter…

Recently I received an email from someone who wants to begin the process of learning the craft of screenwriting. I started my response with the advice to use this blog as a free resource. After all, there are over 13,000 posts in the archives…

Then it dawned on me: How would a new writer even know where to begin going through those archives?

So this week, I will run a daily series aimed at those of you who might consider yourself to be a beginning screenwriter. I will provide links to five sets of resources on the blog you can use to develop a solid foundation in your learning process.

All for free.

Part 2: A simple formula to be a more productive and better screenwriter

What is that formula? 1, 2, 7, 14.

1: Read 1 screenplay per week.

Pick out your favorite movies. Or do a genre study of several scripts in a row in one genre. Try scripts in genres you don’t particularly like to experience different tone and atmosphere. But every week, read at least 1 full-length movie screenplay.

2: Watch 2 movies per week.

Go to a theater and watch 1 movie for sheer entertainment value. Rub shoulders with a real crowd to remind you of your target audience. Then cue up Netflix or pop in a DVD, and watch 1 movie to study it. Note its major plot points. Better yet, do a scene-by-scene breakdown. Maybe 1 new movie, 1 classic movie. But every week, watch at least 2 feature-length movies.

7: Write 7 pages per week.

That’s one page per day. It may take you ten minutes, it may take you an hour, but however long it takes, you knock out a page per day so that every week, you produce 7 script pages.

14: Work 14 hours per week prepping a story.

While you are writing one story, you are prepping another. Research. Brainstorming. Character development. Plotting. Wake up early. Take an extended lunch break. Grab a few hours after dinner. Stay up late. Whatever it takes, carve out 2 hours per day for story prep. Create a master file Word doc. Or use a spiral notebook. Put everything you come up with into that file. You’d be amazed how much content you will generate in a month. Most professional screenwriters juggle multiple projects at the same time. Here’s how you can start learning that skill-set: Writing one project, prepping another. Two hours per day so that every week, you devote 14 hours to prep.

1, 2, 7, 14.

Those are simple, clear goals. Daily goals, weekly goals. Goals that will give a beginning screenwriter solid work practices and much more. Because if you do this, here’s what you will have done in one year’s time:

You will have read 52 screenplays.

You will have watched 104 movies

You will have written 2 feature-length screenplays.

Spread that out over 5 years: 260 screenplays, 520 movies, 10 original screenplays.

That means you could have read every one of the top 101 screenplays as voted by the WGA, plus 159 more.

That means you could have seen every one of the IMDB Top 250 movies, plus 270 more.

That means you could have written the exact number of original screenplays Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Bodyguard, The Big Chill, Grand Canyon) wrote before he sold his first one.

All by setting these simple goals: 1, 2, 7, 14.

Tomorrow: More GITS resources for beginning screenwriters.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please consider taking a few minutes to post them in comments. If you are a beginning writer, I’d love to hear from you and learn about your background, interests and aspirations.

The path to becoming a professional screenwriter is an arduous one and extremely competitive. To maximize your chances, a new writer needs solid information grounded in the realities of working in Hollywood’s front lines as well as a pragmatic form of inspiration.

You can find both here at Go Into The Story.

[Originally posted November 12, 2013]

UPDATE: There are actually over 18,000 posts on this site. Tons of information. All free! Use the Google search engine and archives to explore virtually any subject about the craft of writing.

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