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Learning to Write Screenplays: Research, Dedication, and Perseverance

Building the skills and habits to write screenplays successfully

A screenplay reel and slate board.'s script editors give amateur
scriptwriters advice on what it takes to get
started in the business of screenplays.

You are a movie and television buff who is finally ready to dive in and start the script writing process. You start writing down ideas, but life gets in the way, and before you know it, weeks have gone by and you haven't written so much as one scene. It's time to get real about writing screenplays. Just like novels, biographies, plays, or any other kinds of writing, screenplays don't just write themselves. The life of a serious screenwriter is one of dedication. Let's take a look at what you need to get started writing your own screenplays.

Watch, watch, and watch some more (and take notes!)

You will never write truly great screenplays unless you have experienced real movie magic. Everyone has favorite movies or television shows that they just can't help but watch over and over again. What are yours? It's time to get comfy on that couch and watch all of your favorites—but from a screenwriting perspective. Make notes about characters, plot, dialogue, and any other part of the writing that you find irresistibly great. When you're finished your very important viewing, compile all of your notes and look for common themes in the writing. What makes the characters so lovable? What genre do you tend to lean toward? How does the writer create suspense without leaving the audience completely in the dark? All of these aspects can help you decide what kind of screenplay you should be writing, and how you should be writing it.

But don't just watch—read!

Now that you've had a major movie marathon, it's time to get away from the finished product and closer to the starting point. It can be hard to remember sometimes that the script is what starts all the magic. Go online and actually read screenplays. There are several sites available for this purpose, including the Internet Movie Script Database. Once again, take notes and make connections. Reading screenplays will also help you learn about things like dialogue, character cues, and other components of proper screenplay format. The more you read, the better your writing will become.

Write regularly

Bad news: not all screenplays are masterpieces. In fact, most aren't. You're going to have to write a lot in order to reach your full screenwriter potential. The good news is that writing is very much like reading: the more you write, the better you will become. This is why you need to write on a regular basis. For some people, this means writing at the same time every day for set amounts of time; for others, it means using every ounce of available free time to write every thought in their heads and then going through and picking out the good thoughts later. Most writers who are trying to complete screenplays can benefit from the use of an editorial calendar to help them finish their work within a reasonable time frame. Completing a project, even if you decide that it's not a good project per se, is an accomplishment to be proud of. It is a stepping-stone on the path to better screenplays to come!

Don't be your own judge, jury, and executioner

It's very easy to become overly attached to your screenplays. Sometimes, however, screenwriters go the other direction. Some people can't stand their own work and refuse to show it to anyone, even to gain an objective opinion. For the sake of your own sanity and publication prospects, please don't be one of those people! Art is created so that it can be shared, and you should be sharing the screenplays that might have potential. Let your friends or family read your work, and send it in to the script editors at Scribendi. We'll help you out with things like grammar and formatting, but we'll also give you our honest opinions about your characters and story.