Screenwriting is essentially an art of writing stories for mass media like television, film, documentaries, or video games. This year COVID-19 has disrupted many industries, including filmmaking and entertainment. A lot of people who still have their jobs have started looking for alternative ways to make money in case a situation like this arises again.
What this shows is that it’s also an opportunity for writers to learn about the screenwriting industry. Eventually, production houses are going to need scriptwriters and storytellers. So why not make hay while the sun is shining.
“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
— Lawrence Kasdan
Screenwriting involves everything from exploring a story to writing and delivering the script in the correct format. So, this article shows 9 ways for upcoming screenwriters to use their time and be ready for the post-pandemic era with either a finished screenplay or a first draft.
1. Study Different Screenplays
The first thing you need to do before you sit down to write your script is to read some of the best screenplays. This will not only enhance your writing but will also give you a fresh perspective. Pick your favorite genre and start reading it. You can also get ideas from watching movies; however, as you already scriptwriting is entirely a unique process from writing a novel.
Screenplays are much shorter and have a specific screenwriting format compared to novels. Researching on how writers and directors like Quentin Tarantino, Charlie Kaufman, and the Coen brothers started writing will give you an idea of where to start. MasterClass has already made this list of 9 best screenplays to learn from.
This is by far the best tip for aspiring screenwriters like you, which will vastly improve the quality of your work.
2. Subscribe to Screenwriting and Filmmaking Youtube Channels
A lot of us watch videos on YouTube just because they are auto-suggested to us. On Instagram keep scrolling down till we get to an interesting video to watch.
But did you know there are some fantastic screenwriting channels on YouTube which every filmmaking fan and a wannabe writer should follow? Yeah, there’s a channel dedicated to ‘Lighting’ which has over 200k subscribers.
And just by watching interviews of writers and directors, you get ample of information along with inspiration to never give up.
3. Start using Screenwriting Software Tools
Some of the best writers wrote on typewriters. Fortunately for us, a good deal of screenwriting software tools exist today which can help you with formatting and plotting the story. Once you get the hang of them, you won’t feel like writing even a video commercial on a piece of paper again.
Some popular ones are Final Draft, Celtx, and Movie Magic Screenwriter. There are also free ones like WriterDuet and Causality. If you are using Google Docs or Word for writing scripts and plays, chances are you won’t get much farther down the road in this industry. You can use these software tools to improve your writing skills.
While writing, focus on different aspects like the style, flow, usage of words, characters, etc. to bring efficiency to your work.
4. Read Screenwriting Books
Books are unarguably the best source of learning. It is a fact that all outstanding writers are compulsive readers. The more you read, the more you learn, and the better you write. If you make reading a regular habit. Screenwriting books will teach you about various elements of writing and broaden your mind.
When it comes to writing, practice makes perfect. The more time you invest in it, trying out new techniques, the more engrossed you become. While books like ‘Foundations of Screenwriting’ are good for formatting and understanding the three-act structure, some others are on forming a character and the plot.
Start with any one book you feel will be the easiest first and make it a point to read 1-2 hours each day. Don’t read too fast; go slow, and get hold of the writing structure, formatting, and tips. Slowly, start incorporating them in your writing.
5. Try Screenwriting Courses
You can also sharpen your writing skills with the help of online screenwriting courses on Udemy and Coursera. In the past, these courses were only limited to film schools and universities. However, with the emergence of the internet, you can now study these courses from anywhere.
These courses are comprehensive and provide a quick way of developing your expertise in screenwriting. The guidance provided by people from these courses is the best for any individual who wishes to become a screenwriter.
If you always wanted to learn from the best of the best, there’s an option to sign up for the screenwriting MasterClass by Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet.
6. Follow Screenwriting Podcasts
According to a survey in 2020, 24% of people in the US listen to podcasts weekly. And this trend of podcasting is only going to increase year by year.
And Hollywood is way ahead in this sector since podcasts weren’t known outside of the US. There are over 40 podcasts on filmmaking alone which are widely popular in Europe and North America. Screenwriting podcasts are increasing month by month and they also provide a platform for upcoming writers to promote their work. The Six Page Script podcast surely does a good job of it.
Some hosts of the top podcasts are independent filmmakers and some have worked with big studios like Disney, 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks as script consultants.
Most of all, these podcasts are all free to listen!
7. Find Your Genre
You may be interested in various genres of writing like fiction, thrillers and romance, documentaries, etc. however, it is always better to be the master of one than being a jack of all trades. There are several genres to choose from – some people may be good at comedy, while others may write well on intense real-life stories.
Even if you are an aspiring novel writer how would you choose your writing genre? One way is by trying different genres will help recognize your style and make you understand what you are good at. Then pick the one where your capability and interest lie and build your niche in it.
There are greater chances of success when you are a specialist in one domain, instead of a generalist.
Also Read : When Should You Use Cut To in a Screenplay?
8. Jot Down Ideas
Traveling on a bus, train, or stuck in traffic was a normal thing for everyone in cities before this pandemic. Saying “I simply don’t have time for generating new ideas!”, was also quite normal. Sure, cities have opened up but there’s still less traffic and congestion, right?
So, start using this opportunity to jot down anything you can think of. Every single idea matters for creating a story. Connecting the dots comes later.
“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas”
— Linus Pauling
After that, pen down the original thoughts that come to your mind and create a rough piece. Or you can prepare an outline of your work before you write. That will give you clarity and allow you to write better.
One more thing to be noted is there’s no particular answer to where the most successful authors get their ideas from. They find it in their everyday life.
Networking is an essential practice in every field. Even if you have crafted an excellent piece of writing, it may not take you up the ladder if you do not socialize and market yourself well. Building connections with the right people will help to grow and make an identity of your own.
The bigger the network, the greater is the probability of achieving success in your writing business. These days, there are various online social media sites through which you can develop your network. LinkedIn, for instance, is one of the most widely used platforms by professionals.
You can also find a screenwriting partner on any of these networks. Stage 32 is an exceptional network to find screenwriters and filmmakers. Share your creative process, collaborate, find out what they are doing, and learn from it.
I understand screenwriting is not an effortless task. You may find several roadblocks in your journey to become a successful writer.
Running out of ideas, difficulty in finding words, or not being able to express your thoughts on a piece of paper are some hardships that might come your way, but you need to have confidence in yourself and a great deal of determination to stand out in the industry.
However, as listed down in this article above, if you follow any 2 steps I’ll bet you would be writing a novel or a script in the next 6 months for sure.
There are of course many more things to add here. Let me know your ways on how to make the most of your time learning to write screenplays.