The ideal situation is to be rejected based on subjective criteria such as concept or story appeal and not based on lacking the screenwriting basics covered in this project. Not that rejection can ever be an ideal. And those basics are not something you learn once, you have to keep reinforcing them until they become second nature.
There is a consensus on those basics and I haven't just plucked them out of thin air. Even though there might be differences about how you create good characters or which type of structure works best there's no dispute about the need for good characters and structure.
If you had writer's block, as I mentioned at the beginning, then you should now be cured. Hallelujah! It's a miracle! Except it isn't. You've already done the hard part, working on your characters and outline, and now it's just the dialogue to do and who gets blocked doing that? That's the fun bit. You get blocked because you don't know where you're going and lack confidence that it will make a good script.
For those of you worrying if you have enough time, the writing can now be quite quick and it should be possible to do at least 10 pages, if not 30 or 60, in a couple of weeks.
Some things to bear in mind for your scenes:
- start late and get out early
- each scene should advance the plot and develop the character
- show don't tell
- end your scenes at the dramatic highpoint
- every scene should have well-defined conflict
The characters have been gagged for so long that they can't wait to speak and because of the gestation period they will speak like themselves and not you. One of the most obvious signs of the new writer is that all the characters speak the same - not just the same worldview but the same vocabulary and the same cadence to their speech.
Some things to bear in mind for your dialogue:
- consider the character's age, education and background
- consider the emotional changes i.e. how they speak when they are angry or happy
- don't use boring and unnecessary dialogue
- it should move the story forward
- characters shouldn't explain their feelings but act it out
Regarding your descriptions these should be simple, clear and active. Instead of 'We see Malcolm pick up the green garbage bag which is tied with a yellow ribbon and takes it outside using his left hand where he puts it inside the black bin for collection the following day by refuse collectors who work for the city council', use 'Malcolm takes out the garbage'.
The most important thing is to get your first draft finished. I repeat, get your first draft finished. Do not stop. Not even for food or sleep or sex. Once that's done we'll look at re-writing the first ten pages.
You have two weeks to do this. If you're not confident about writing the full 30 minutes or 60 minutes in that time then just do as much as you can - the rest can be completed in September, don't worry about it.
Finishing the first draft in two weeks is to allow another two weeks for re-writing and peer review but by using the project method there will be a lot less re-writing to do and you might not need as long. So focus on what you need to focus on and don't worry about the schedule I'm suggesting.
You know where you're going now, so get going already! You can do it.
If you're a new writer without an agent and you still have doubts about your ability, here's some words of encouragement - not from the wonderful Paris this time but Oliver Dennis from when he was a producer at Hewland:
"99% of scripts have come through agents. Frankly I was staggered by how poor the majority of these scripts were. The main problem with them was that they were very hard to get into. The script might introduce ten characters or more in the first few pages or there would be no apparent story. You need to hit the ground running with the story; you want a page turner. I have read so few that are page turners. I have to force my way through them.
"I'm looking for someone who can write snappy, witty dialogue and a story. I see very few examples of that. I'm looking for writers who can give their characters a voice, who can introduce characters in such a way that I don't have to keep returning to the first page to check who is who. I should be able to tell from the dialogue who is speaking. I also want the writer to give me a story, to get me hooked. It's all very obvious stuff but it's amazing how many forests have been cut down to send me useless scripts.
"Producers don't want to ask for huge changes to a script for the sake of it or in order to make their mark on a script. They do so because either there's a flaw in the storyline or a flaw in the writing. Now if there's a flaw in the storyline, the writer should probably have noticed and made more of an effort to change the storyline before they wrote it. Alternatively, if it's a flaw in the writing then it's the writers fault."
Yes, that was meant to be encouraging. Even if we don't win the Red Planet Prize then having a good calling card script will still stand us in good stead for other opportunities. It's in our own hands. Good luck.
The Incompetence of Others Makes You Comparatively Better! - Jane Espenson
Be the Writer You Want to Be Now - Michael Lent
Dare to Dream - Write Anyway! - Marilyn Beker
The Writer's True Self and Success - Howard M. Gluss
The Six Essential Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters - Karl Iglesias
13 Things Bad Screenwriters Commonly Do - Brad Schreiber
Six Opening Moves - Bill Martell
16 Steps to Better Description - Bill Martell
Minor Characters Don't Need Major Introductions - Christina Hamlett
Does Your Script Smell - Bill Martell
How to Keep Your Story From Stalling - Jonathan Dorf
Create Scenes That Sizzle – 7 Essential Elements - Martha Alderson
The New Spec Style - David Trottier
What a Writer Doesn't Write - Danny
What Not to Write - Ellin Stein
The Most Serious Screenwriting Mistakes - Charles Deemer
Scene Description - Yankee Classic Pictures
Subtext - Robin
Dialogue - Danny
Write Better Dialogue - TW
Point of View - Terry Rossio