So you’ve got your basic premise for a script, well now it’s time to write that script out! When a lot of people think about scriptwriting they imagine a dusty old writer sat in a lonesome place with a cup of coffee and typewriter for years before they’ve finished their work.
That doesn’t have to be the case though. Sylvester Stallone finished his script for Rocky in just three days after being inspired by seeing unknown Chuck Wepner push Muhammed Ali to fifteenth round before finally being bested. Rocky went on to win 3 Oscars and spawn an entire franchise. Not bad for just three days of scriptwriting, eh?
Of course not every one can do this but I truly believe that by following this guide nearly anyone can produce a script in a month. The key to this method is to be very loose, you don’t have to get everything down perfect first time, that’s what the second script draft is for!
Scriptwriting Day 1 and 2: The First 10 Pages
The opening is probably the most important part of any script. If it’s dull then any agent or producer reading your script will toss it in the trash, whether the next 110 pages are pure genius or not. Think of this first 10 pages as a chance to show your skills and ability to create interest and intrigue. I believe this is why Quentin Tarantino edits his movies the way he does. You are immediately thrust into hard hitting, fast paced action which keeps you hooked right to the end.
In your first 10 pages you should be answering these questions:
What’s the story?
Who’s the main protagonist?
What does the hero want and what does he/she need?
Scriptwriting Day 3 and 4: Finish Act 1 – 20 Pages
Now you’ve written the first 10 pages of your script it’s time to work on the next 20. You should have already done a great deal of “set-up” work on your script, letting the viewer know who your hero is and their goals. With these twenty pages you should now be aiming to advance the story and enhance your characters and send your main character on a journey towards the turning point of the script.
Scriptwriting Day 5: Read your script so far
At this point you don’t want to go back and edit anything yet. You should use this day as a chance to immerse yourself in your script as it stands so far. Try to develop a better understanding of your characters and the world they live in.
Today’s the day. Today something BIG happens. You decide what it is but some big event or action will send your main character on a path towards what they want and need. I like to do this part in one day as I feel it improves the flow of the event and by now you‘re into the swing of scriptwriting. At this point you need to decide what has happened to your character, how it will affect them and what they will do about it.
Scriptwriting Day 7: Pages 45-60
Enough is enough, it’s time for a change…sort of. You’re reaching the middle of your script now and this is where your main character should be slowly changing, wanting to change but resisting it at the same time. Obstacles and conflict are starting to become tougher for your protagonist but as they do your character is starting to deal with them more convincingly. This is also where your main character becomes more focused on achieving their goals.
Scriptwriting Day 8: Pages 60-75
Your main character has got their act together. They’ve stated their goal and by God are they going to achieve it! The obstacles and conflict keep coming, hard and faster and your main character is struggling once more. Your main character might have to enter foreign territory in your script now, go a place they thought they’d never go either literally or metaphorically. The going is getting tough, so tough that by the end of today’s work your character may be broken, beaten and almost ready to give up.
Scriptwriting Day 9: Pages 75-90
Your main character needs to regroup. Times are hard, so hard that they’d have destroyed your main character earlier in your script. But now they’ve changed for the better. It may be an unexpected change but now this character is moving fast and hitting hard. Maybe they have found a friend or romantic partner who is helping them out a great deal. Offering words of encouragement or even helping in the action. You might like to include some small twists or turns here because you’re quickly careering towards the solution of your script.
Scriptwriting Day 10 and 11: Pages 90-120 (The End!)
For some people this can be the easiest part of scriptwriting, for others it’s by far the hardest. Your entire script should have been working up to this final act. It’s time to put it to bed. All those problems, obstacles and conflicts you’ve thrown at your main character need to be resolved. Normally there will be a very warm, heartfelt scene between two or more characters. If you’re writing an action movie this is where the good guy finally overcomes the bad guy and the equilibrium in your world is restored.
Congratulations! You’ve finished your script!
Scriptwriting Day 12, 13 and 14: Rest and Relax
This can be harder than writing the script. Have a long weekend and try and completely forget your script. Don’t look at it, don’t think about it…don’t even think about your script. Reward yourself in some way. Go for a drink with friends, buy yourself some new clothes, play a round of golf, get a haircut, whatever it is give yourself a treat.
Scriptwriting Day 15: Read ‘til Your Eyes Bleed!
Read through your written script as many times as you can. Take in all the information you have written down. Try to think back to your original plans for the script, are you on course? What you don’t want to do at this point is negatively judge your scriptwriting abilities. You’re only halfway through the month after all!
Scriptwriting Day 16-29: Rewrite, Tweak and Shriek
Thirteen is unlucky for some and it’s going to feel that way for you because this can be a long, painful process. Thirteen days of working your script into a sell-able commodity can make you want to scream but the personal satisfaction and (hopefully) financial reward will more than make up for it.
You might want to follow a similar pattern to when you were writing the script. Do one block (Page 0-10, 45-60, etc) every two days. Use the first day to do the bulk of the work. Correct any spelling errors, tighten dialogue and remove any scenes which you now deem unnecessary. Then use the second day to clean it up a little.
Scriptwriting Day 30: Start Taking The Next Step
It’s been quite a journey. You’ve written your script and re-drafted it. No matter what you can consider yourself a scriptwriter now, you’ll always have proof of that in the form of a (roughly) 120 page bundle. Now you’re on the next step of your journey, find two or three friends you trust and give them a copy each. Once they’ve read through your script ask them to critique it. Don’t take it personally, it’s much better to have shortcomings pointed out now than after sending the script to an agent or producer.
You might need to do another re-draft before your script is ready to be sold. Maybe even two or three but it is well worth the time because it is only in the struggle that success has any meaning.